Play Smart: How to Connect the Chord Tones | Hub Guitar

Play Smart: How to Connect the Chord Tones

In a previous lesson on improvising with chord tones we worked on the concept of playing individual notes from chords as they pass by, allowing us to improvise by choosing sounds that will work within each chord.

In this lesson, we’ll examine how we can connect those chord tones, creating full melodies. There are several ways to connect two notes in a melody like this. These techniques have held up well after several hundred years of use.

Beginning Melody

We’ll use this melody as a starting point. It is written by only using the sevenths of the chords.

Technique #1: Connect The Dots

One option is to connect the notes by filling in the C major notes in between. Originally, the B in the first measure goes to a D in the next measure, but there is no C tone connecting them. Filling in this tone connects the two notes more smoothly. We can fill in several more notes using this method.

Technique #2: Neighbor Tones

The D in the second measure goes directly to E in the third measure. To create more interest, we can leap up to E’s “upper neighbor”, F, so called because it lives just above on the staff. Then we can resolve back down to the E in the next measure. This principle works in reverse, too, with the lower neighbor, if the melody is descending.

Technique #3: Wander and Return

The E of the third measure goes directly up to F. We can have it step down and then back up before it makes this transition, filling the melody in with two notes.

Technique #4: Upper and Lower Neighbor

Also called a “cambiata”. The target note is approached from both directions. The F in the fourth measure is ultimately going to the G in the fifth measure. It can skip to the note above G, then return to the note below G before finally resolving to G.

Lame guitar teacher analogy coming!

(It’s like making a sandwich: top slice, bottom slice, and then the filling.)

Backing Track

This backing track follows the chords used in the exercise in the key of C.

Note: the track has double the harmonic rhythm as the exercise (each chord sounds for two measures). This is intended to make it easier to play along with.

Key Tasks

  1. Write out a new chord progression: I, IV, V, I, ii, vi, V, I.
  2. Write the “initial” melody of the chord progression using whole notes from the chord tones: root, third, fifth, seventh.
  3. Decorate this melody using any combination of the techniques above.
  4. Ultimate goal: be able to do this in real time, with chords you’ve never seen before.
As the creator of Hub Guitar, Grey has compiled hundreds of guitar lessons, written several books, and filmed hundreds of video lessons. He teaches private lessons in his Boston studio, as well as via video chat through TakeLessons.

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