Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting/Singing using notes and chords and guide


Hi Penny.  

When i sing over sheet music that i've created for guitar do i change my voice to the same pitch as the chord change?  What are the rules for writing vocal parts? Do i start on one of the notes of he chord that's being played, or some other technique. I have for instance sung a B note (I have an mobile phone app that tells me what pitch i'm singing )where the chord change for guitar is G major.  Is this acceptable or should it match the change.


Hi Sunny: There are 3 notes (at least) in every chord, so you can sing any one of the 3 notes in a chord as part of a melody.  As the chord progresses, the melody notes may change, but they will always be to one of the notes in the chord.  When you sing a B note in a G major chord, you are singing the middle note of the G chord, or the 3rd of the chord.  See if you can find an ear training app for your phone or an ear training class at a local college.

Best wishes,Penny Nichols

Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting

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Penny Nichols


I can answer all kinds of questions regarding singing techniques, practice, performance, vocal recording technique and harmony vocal arranging.


I have been a professional singer/songwriter and vocal arranger and teacher in the music business since 1965.

BMI, Folk Alliance, SummerSongs, Inc. (I am the founding director)

Singer Magazine

I have a doctorate in Music Education from Harvard.

Awards and Honors
Platinum record for my vocals on Jimmy Buffett's Son of a Son of a Sailor, 3 times nominated for a Grammy in the background singing category, MVP in the motivational singing category of the Assoc. of Multi-image Assoc. Annual awards two years in a row.

Past/Present Clients
I have sung with, recorded with or opened shows for Mort Sahl, The Byrds, The Dillards, Dillard and Clark Expedition, John Kay (Steppenwolf), The Association and Big Brother and the Holding Co. (Janis Joplin), Steve Miller, Quicksilver Messenger Service, 13th Floor Elevator, Chocolate Watchband, Jefferson Airplane, Dan Hicks & his Hot Licks, Cream (the Santa Monica Civic auditorium 1968), Little Feat in concert.  I wrote and performed commercials for Toyota's campaign to plant a tree for every car bought, Carnation Dairies, and produced a public service announcement for the Navajo Nation called "Black Mesa" to protest the misuse of the land around the Four Corners power stations in Arizona. In 1977, while working with Emitt Rhodes on a record for Elektra, I joined Jimmy Buffett & the Coral Reefers.  I appeared in the movie FM with the band, toured the U.S. and earned a Platinum Record for my singing on Son of a Son of a Sailor. Also, I've recorded with Art Garfunkle (Fate for Breakfast) Suzi Quatro, Danny O'Keefe, Yvonne Elliman, Jennifer Warnes, Albert Brooks, The Credibility Gap, Steve Gillette and earned a Grammy nomination for my work on Arlo Guthrie's album The Power of Love.  In addition, I have recorded a series of singing lessons which have been sold world-wide by Homespun Tapes since 1985.

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