How To Create Soulful Guitar Solos: Chord Tone Soloing

Are you tired of the same old guitar licks, tricks and scale sequences that sound great when played fast, but sometimes don't really fit well into all slower song?

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Are you tired of the same old guitar licks, tricks and scale sequences that sound great when played fast, but sometimes don't really fit well into all slower song? Do you envy all those great guitarists who achieve more by playing a single note than another guitarist achieved by playing 100? Very often these guys are referred to as soulful players.

Is it fair that they take all the glory whilst you have invested so much time to be able to play at a technical level that they wouldn't be able to? Of course it's not fair! But you can simply apply a few different aspects to your playing and not only be a competent technical player but also someone who plays with feeling!

I am going to give you some simple but very powerful strategies on how to achieve more by playing less. It doesn't mean however that you are going to have to work less to get there. It will involve investing some of your time into a more intellectual process but I promise that it's worth it! The good news is that you can do it away from your guitar during your lunch break or while commuting to work, so you don't actually have to have a guitar with you to make the most of this lesson.

First of all we are going to analyse the commonly overlooked soloing strategy of chord tone soloing. This strategy is just as applicable to both beginner guitarists and advanced players. Regardless if you are a blues, country, jazz or metal guitarist this lesson is for you.

Chord tone soloing is based around the chords from the progression of the song or piece we are soloing over. It is imperative to know what these chords are or at least to be able to identify them whilst playing over them. This can take some time to develop with ear training sessions, but again the plus side to this is that this can happen again away from your guitar.

Chord tone soloing is just one strategy to help you create and play great solos, so it is great to integrate it with other strategies to achieve even greater results. For this reason we will be adding some extra notes from the scale we use to create more tension in our melodies. Let's get started!

Step one: Let's pick a key I chose the guitarist friendly key of C Major/A minor (No sharps and flats) for this example.

The chords are:C Dm Em F G Am B C Roman numerals: I ii iii IV V vi vii I

Step two: Creating a chord progression. Generally I prefer using chords that have a lot of common notes. For example Am C Dm G are all quite similar with their chord tones.

Now it's time to extract the notes (chord tones) from each chord

Am ( A C E) C (C EG) Dm (D F A) G ( G B D)

In example one you will be playing only one note over each chord of the progression. This will be the root note of each chord. At this point it's not what phrasing strategy you are going to use but what notes you are going to play.

In example two we are going to play only the third note of the chord this will assure a very emotional feeling to the melody.

In example three we will play only the perfect fifth of each chord:

Example four is my attempt to play two chord tones over each chord to make the solo more interesting. Please note that in all of these examples I let the chord ring out first before playing any notes so these very basic solo ideas are a direct response to the chord of the rhythm guitar. This example will sound great if you use your whammy bar. You can even let both notes ringing together.

Example five is another possibility of the application of different notes that change the melody drastically.

Example six will be another option. It will also serve as the melody structure for the next example

In this final example (example seven), I have used the same chord tones as above but this time I have included some extra notes, which we refer to as passing tones. These notes are part of the key and they help to create or maintain some tension to the music and add some nice colours to the main structure and sound of the melody.

I decided to keep this lesson very simple as the main objective should be to figure out the notes of any chord that you play. Practicing these concepts will help you to build some unique phrases and in many cases inspire you to create something quite amazing. Practicing the guitar is occasionally more intellectual than physical so don't overlook this area of your playing as it often yields the best results.

If you happen to be a more advanced player why not use different phrasing concepts such as hammer-ons, pull-offs, vibrato bends etc? Try to play these ideas in different positions on guitar neck and get creative! You can also fit in more notes in between these chord tones to create some even more interesting phrases.

Make sure you watch this chord tone soloing video lesson to see how I phrase these examples. I have also included a special backing track for you that can be downloaded from my Wimbledon School of Guitar Website so that you can really get the most out of this lesson. Thanks for reading and happy playing!

Greg X is a professional guitarist, composer, recording artist and guitar instructor based in London, UK. He specialises in neoclassical metal and 80's rock. He is influenced by the great guitar heroes such as Ritchie Blackmore, Yngwie Malmsteen, Vinnie Moore, Jason Becker and recently Tom Hess.

Greg X has taught over one thousand guitar students. He is also a founder of the Wimbledon School of Guitar in London, UK where he teaches all rock based styles to students of all levels. Greg writes guitar instructional articles and does guitar gear presentations that can be found across the internet.

Greg X studied music at Goldsmiths College in London, UK and he is being mentored by World's top guitarist and music business coach Tom Hess who helps him through his Music Careers Mentoring Program.

Greg X is featured on a limited edition compilation CD called Under the Same Sky' released in Spring 2008 in 10,000 copies, His track Twilight Etude' of the opening for the album.

Against all the current trends he is working on music he has always loved; 80's rock. Unlike other artists he is not denying all his influences, such as Rainbow, Whitesnake, MSG, Europe, Van Halen, Bon Jovi. His melodic rock album is due to release in early 2011. It features many accomplished 80's rock artists from USA and Europe.

Greg is also involved in many side projects that are to be announced later this year.

Greg would like to thank all his fans, students and friends for the support in making his music dreams keep happening. He would like to invite you to become his friend too. To stay tuned for his free guitar tips, video tutorials, gear presentations and other free stuff make sure to sign up for his newsletter.

27 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Wing00
    I agree a little bit with the over zelous credit to the creator of the article. But I must also commend them for hitting me over the head with an obvious club. Just made a great Am progression based off of his.
    ozzymbs
    SORRY THIS POST GOT TWISTED AROUND SMITTY. JUST KNOW THAT I AGREE WITH YOU
    ozzymbs
    SmittyMan90 wrote: ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT, YES HE IS...CAN REALLY LOSE YOURSELF IN HIS SOULFUL SOUND David Gilmour is a brilliantly soulful player!
    btbamaddict
    N_J_B_B wrote: Awesome lesson but what does this symbol mean?
    half diminished a diminished chord with a minor 7th so a b would be BDFA
    RadioMuse
    DKMfreak410 wrote: SmittyMan90 wrote: David Gilmour is a brilliantly soulful player! The Best! Hes the one that inspired me to play using chord tones
    Same here. Dave Mustaine once said (of Gilmour) "He does more with one note than most guitarists do with the entire fretboard". I have to agree. This article is a good introduction to the concept; however, it sadly fails to expand it into any territory that would help me. :-/
    Zeppelin Addict
    archerkoala wrote: Good article I suppose, just maybe a bit misleading, as there's much more to "soulful" playing than the root, 3rd, and 5th.
    agreed, you can make any notes sound 'soulful' or colorful in how you phrase them, you dont have to just stick to arpeggios ( playing chord tones).. i would caution anyone to take this lesson with a grain of salt.. use it but do not over use it.. typically you want to use chord tones beginning and finishing bars that link chord changes... what you include between those notes is completely up to you and is what allows guitar players, like Gilmour, to play the way he does.. there are no soulful notes, just soulful combinations of notes
    archerkoala
    Well, I don't really understand how you could expect to solo without using chord tones...granted I play jazz trumpet way more than I do guitar...so maybe this is a concept I'm just more familiar with? I just think that the soloing out of the chord tones/passing tones by someone unknowing of how to do so, would only sound random and atonal. Also while I understand this is probably meant to be an introductory article, I wouldn't consider 1,3,5 to be very "soulful", however I suppose those new to not-random-note-soloing might find that hard enough. Good article I suppose, just maybe a bit misleading, as there's much more to "soulful" playing than the root, 3rd, and 5th.
    crazysam23_Atax
    SilverSpurs616 wrote: crazysam23_Atax wrote: I'm not sure how this could be considered soulful? I'm thoroughly confused. Do you envy all those great guitarists who achieve more by playing a single note than another guitarist achieved by playing 100? Very often these guys are referred to as soulful players. He's showing you the method they use to create "soulful" music.
    I got that. I'm just saying I wish he'd have gone further with this lesson a little more. For example, maybe get through the basics and then go into playing a flat 7th and how that sounds and works. Or how a 9th sounds and works. Etc. Just like one or two examples, in the same way he did with the actual simple chord tones. Because a lot of soulfulness comes from doing the unexpected I think.
    SilverSpurs616
    crazysam23_Atax wrote: I'm not sure how this could be considered soulful? I'm thoroughly confused.
    Do you envy all those great guitarists who achieve more by playing a single note than another guitarist achieved by playing 100? Very often these guys are referred to as soulful players.
    He's showing you the method they use to create "soulful" music.
    crazysam23_Atax
    I mean, just the way the lesson presents it. I get what you're trying to put forward. I just don't see how the lesson shows that. Yet...
    SilverSpurs616
    Very fruitful article, I've been trying to focus on this recently and it works fantastic. With this article I'm sure I can put chord tones to even greater use!
    RockInPeaceDime
    HendrixClaptonP wrote: Good intro to the concept, but since when was Tom Hess in the same league as Malmsteen and Becker?? And why is your about the author section almost as long as the article, self promotion is great, but isn't there a bit of a limit taste wise as to how much you can do in one article? Nevertheless very good points, the use of arpeggiation, broken arpeggiation and suggested cordal extensions are also reall cool, maybe you could cover them in another article?
    The about section is like 1/6 of the article. How is that remotely close to the length of the article?
    corrda00
    Bout time UG gets a lesson like this. Chord tones are probably the most important but most underlooked part of guitar soloing. Great article!
    Pick53766
    I would recommend anyone who is able to play keyboards at least a little (lame level will do) to explore this concept over the keys, too. A keyboard is a music theory diagram of a sort and helps grasping theoretical ideas quite well. (uhm... imho
    HendrixClaptonP
    Good intro to the concept, but since when was Tom Hess in the same league as Malmsteen and Becker?? And why is your about the author section almost as long as the article, self promotion is great, but isn't there a bit of a limit taste wise as to how much you can do in one article? Nevertheless very good points, the use of arpeggiation, broken arpeggiation and suggested cordal extensions are also reall cool, maybe you could cover them in another article?
    turtlewax
    Basically, you kind of need to do this anyway. Cause it won't sound as nice if you hover on "bad" notes anyway. Unless that's the effect you want of course
    Kwote
    Great lesson Greg. Definitely very worthwhile. +1 about David Gilmour.
    DKMfreak410
    SmittyMan90 wrote: David Gilmour is a brilliantly soulful player!
    The Best! Hes the one that inspired me to play using chord tones