Chord Melody is Melody with Chords, so you take a melody and then you add chords to it. This is a way to play both harmony and melody of a song and you can do a lot of different things with chord melody arrangements and really add a beautiful other dimension to the song you are playing, making it a solo performance.
I am going to go over 3 things that are really important if you want to make your own chord melody arrangements and that you will also find in the arrangements and playing of people who are great at chord melody like Joe Pass and Ted Greene.
#1 Play The Melody on the top strings.
If you want to harmonize a melody then you need to add harmony under the melody. For the guitar This makes it more practical to play the melody on the top strings.
I would suggest aiming for having as much of the melody as possible placed on the E and B strings. That way it is a lot easier to add a chord under it and most of the time you can even use the same voicings you usually do for comping.
In example 1 I have written out the melody for body and soul on the top strings
And if you want to add chords under it you can do so in this way:
#2 Add Chords on the heavy beats
Be practical! Go for the arrangement that is playable. It will get you further and it is important that you can perform your arrangement as a piece of music, not just a technical exercise.
As an example of a melody that moves a lot here is a harmonization of Fly Me To The Moon. Notice how I only use chords when the chords are changing.
#3 Dynamics: I need to hear the melody
In many ways this is almost the most important thing to keep in mind: You are playing a melody and adding some chords when that is possible. Not playing chords and occasionally hinting at a melody that is also there.
The main thing to practice here is to get used to emphasizing the top note in the chord, a skill that you will also find very useful for comping and chord soloing.
The way to work on this is to learn to play the chords while not so much making the top note louder but more making the chord softer. This is both easier and will sound more natural. Another thing that is important is that you want to have some dynamic range to phrase the melody.
Check out an Easy Chord Melody
If you want to explore another chord melody arrangement to work on these skills then you can check out this lesson: Easy Autumn Leaves Chord Melody and Quick How-to-Play!
And of course if you really want to work on your chord melody skills:
Chord Melody Survival Kit
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