How to Play a Melody on the Guitar

Melodic guitar for beginners! Learn any melody by ear and duet beautifully on the acoustic guitar.

View the full lesson at How to Play a Melody on Guitar | JustinGuitar

Does this have to be done with fingerstyle? I struggle with that and prefer to use a pick

First time I’ve ever tried transcribing melodies. Difficult but quite satisfying when you succeed. Have done all but Wish You Were Here so far. For some reason I’m finding that one extremely tricky.

super hard to get. I’m struggling for sure on Let it Be where some of the sections seem easy but others are seem really hard

I wish there were a couple of tips for people struggling or maybe even the complete tab just to check our progress against something

Finding the melody is tricky enough but when Justin plays the Chords and the Melody…wow…that’s where I want to be…but it seems quite advanced.

One thing that really helps me with this…

Be able to sing the melody before you try to play it

I think Justin touches on this in the video, but perhaps he could have stressed it more.

This can be difficult if the part you are working on is outside of your easy singing range, so how well works for you may depend on the song.

I’m finding doing it this way is improving both my guitar playing and my singing.

Songsterr is a good place to start.

The website has tabs that you can view and play online.

Let it be.

To check if the vocals have been tabbed press this button.

In this case the vocals have been tabbed so select it.

Now you can see a tabbed version of the vocals.

Justin is my hero! He has helped an old man make some somewhat musical sounds on his guitar! However, this Melody lesson has got me completely baffled. I wonder if he could take one song and use it as an example? This is one I may have to set on the shelf for a while… In any event, thank you for all you do Justin, it is greatly appreciated!

Don’t feel too bad about that, it’s very hard. I ended up doing the same months ago and haven’t come back to it yet, the future transcribing lessons are much easier.

Thank you for the reply. I guess I get spoiled by Justin’s elegant style and breakdown in lessons. The Melody bit was especially interesting to me because as a little child, I thought that was how the guitar was supposed to be played, like the instrument was singing the song. Ha. I will hang tight and keep plugging away.


Wow this is even harder than trying to transcribe chords, which I was already rubbish at.

This is the one aspect of guitar practice that I absolutely dread, it’s miserable.

@Matt125 Great idea ! The Songsterr website seems cool.

This lesson is a big jump. I have followed all the lessons but this is very hard. I have tried listening to and transcribing house of the rising sun but just don’t get it. I can play from sheet music or tab but just can’t pick up notes from listening to the song, even with the chords. I think It would have helped if Justin had concentrated on one song and ran through it completely, then shown the basics in a second to help get started . I’m skipping this for now and might come back to it later, not a good fit for me just now although I’d love to do some of the fills and playing as Justin did in the video


This YouTube channel has only easy guitar melodies. It’s very accessible for beginners. Tabs and scrolling lyrics.

I’m not sure how regularly he adds tabs, but there are enough songs to get started with.
Of course, as Justin says we should also try to learn the chords/notes/scales and work out the melodies on our own.
I hope this helps


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Agree with the comments. I was excited when I saw Justin’s video on this but then tried to emulate his House of the Rising Sun and couldn’t figure out what he was doing. I think a simpler start, like recommended by Andrew (Easyguitarmelodies on Youtube) will be a good way to dip one’s toe in, rather than completely giving up or deferring until later. At least that’s what I’m going to try.

First of all I’m really happy that lessons are being added to grade 3.

The lesson on writing melodies for well known songs is too complex though and it feels I am missing a vital part of information.

I am talking about this lesson:

Justin teaches us how to play melodies but I am unsure what exactly he is doing … For example in the song ‘Let it Be’ he starts playing certain kind of notes, however there is no guide on what and more importantly why he is playing that certain note.

Is it just improvisation and always playing the root note on the first ‘beat’ ?

Thanks for the help !

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Looks like he’s just hearing/singing the melody and finding the notes that correspond.

The chords to the song are a starting point. The melody will usually (not always) be a note in the chord.

Take Let it Be for example. Starts on a C major chord. Notes in the C major triad are C, E, and G. The chord is only three notes even though it’s played across 5 strings. The notes just repeat. CEGCe. Same with all major chord shapes basically.

The starting note is G for the vocal melody (played over a C chord). Then goes to A (not part of C major), then E (part of C major). There’s a chord change on the word “times” to a G. The notes in G major triad are G, B, D. Melody is G on the word “times.” Then the next note in the melody is C ( not part of G major) then up to D (part of G major). So on…

Mostly about listening and being able to play what you hear.


@CorynF to add to what Joe has already mentioned the
melody note are out of the C major scale.

I’ve not been through Grade 1 and 2 since Justin revamped the Beginner Course. So I am not sure how much theory people coming into this lesson would have? Referencing scales and notes that make up chords may be theory not yet covered?

Having watched the lesson, the crux (as Joe said) is about hearing the melody and finding the notes on the neck. Justin recommended finding the notes in the open position ie first 4 frets. Practical one can explore playing notes from the chord, without needing to know all the theory explicitly.

If I were doing this I think I would prepare by writing the lyrics out, splitting words into syllables. I think for these suggested songs generally one note per syllable. Then add the bars and the chords, which give clues to what the melody notes might be ie the notes you are playing as you strum the chord (as Joe said).

If not one of those then try others, without needing to worry if they are notes from the scale, though (as Stitch said) that would be helpful. But I can’t recall what key each suggested song is in. And Justin did say that knowing the key and the chords in the key would be helpful but not a necessity (for those people reaching this point but not yet working through additional theory)

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Hi @CorynF

You do not need theory, scales, super deep knowledge.
The main point is made early on when Justin says:
He also says, decide if the next melody note is higher or lower.

You are literally listening to the melody, really good listening, not superficial listening that is only half engaged because you already ‘know’ the melody.
Then you find the start note.
And playing the start chord is the biggest guide on that as the start note will be somewhere in or near to the chord notes.
Then you find the next note.
Is it higher? Lower?
By a lot or a little?
One fret?
Two frets?
Can I put my finger down and find it?
Ah yes, got it. It was actually four frets higher - could be thought of as four semitones higher if you moved to an adjacent string.
What about the next note?

Wash, rinse, repeat.
It is going to be slow and methodical.
But The principle is basic.

Hope that helps.
Cheers :+1:
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