Have you ever wondered how great guitarists are able to play solos that blend seamlessly with the underlying progression?
From jazz to heavy metal, there are always two types of guitarists; guitarists whose solos fit, and guitarists whose solos don’t fit.
In the latter case, sometimes it can be just one or two notes that sound out of place. Sometimes it can be quite a bit more. In this article, we will discuss one sure way to make your solos fit every single time; through the use of chord tones.
Chord tones are the tones within a chord. Altogether there are three chord tones in every chord. The first is the root. The second is the third. The last is the fifth. You may notice that the chord tones make up the triad of the chord. Chord tone soloing is the act of using a chord’s tones to solo.
While this may seem limiting (you only have three notes per chord) remember that you also have octaves which stretch your limits. The purpose of chord tone soloing is to make it easier to play along to a more complex progression. Take for instance a C Major I-IV-vi-I-V-ii progression.
This particular progression involves a lot of changes for a progression. What’s more is that the progression doesn’t repeat chords in a sequential manner. This makes it difficult to solo over as the note that fit the I chord won’t necessarily fit the IV chord or the vi chord as they all have different properties.
So let’s break down this progression and take out our chord tones:
I IV vi I V ii
C F a C G d
CEG FAC ace CEG GBD dfa
Now that we know our chord tones, we can begin to solo. During the I chord, we know that our available notes are C, E, and G. This helps limit us so that we aren’t stumbling around the fret board looking for magic notes. Chord tones, since they are part of the original chord itself, fit perfectly every time.
If we were to use the chord tones given (the triads) to solo over the progression, we would already have an outline of which notes we can use. If we were playing over a progression consisting of seventh chords, our chord tones would have the seventh added to them.
For instance, in the case of the I chord, our C, E, G triad would change to C, E, G, B. Having these notes outlined for us makes soloing over progressions with rapid and extreme changes less difficult.
The best way to improve your chord tone guitar soloing is to practice. Take a block of time each day and use it to practice your chord tone soloing. Never guess a chord; make sure that you know the exact chord you will be playing.
This helps to avoid key mix ups (confusing C Major for A minor, or any other relative scales). If you already have a practice routine, dedicate a portion of it to chord tone soloing. Have fun, and good luck.
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