Chord Tones?

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by jony2, Jul 29, 2008.

  1. jony2

    jony2 Member

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    What exactly are they?

    I hear this term being used abit when it comes to playing changes and such... Guess I'm starting out on my journey now...
     
  2. 5E3

    5E3 Member

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    I hope you'll get a better explanation than this, but here goes :)

    Say you are playing a I, IV, V 12 bar blues progression in A, so the I chord is A and IV=D, V=E. You would find the "strong" notes of each chord, then during your solo riffs play those notes in conjunction with the I, IV or V.

    So when the band is playing the I, you play the strong notes of the A chord, when the band is on the IV you play the strong notes of the D chord, etc.

    Here is an example of the A7 chord tones:
    [​IMG]

    There are good education materials (books, CD, DVD) that explains it with demos. You might start by searching YouTube.
     
  3. Aj_rocker

    Aj_rocker Member

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    chord tones are the note in the chord.

    for example if you were soloing over a G major 7 chord you could play a F# as that is the major 7.

    Chord tones come from the scale which surounds the chord and thus make up the chord. so in a G major 7 we have the Root, 3, 5, 7 = G,B,D,F# these all come from the G major Scale (G,A,B,C,D,E,F#,G)


    i hope that helps


    AJ
     
  4. Tom Gross

    Tom Gross Supporting Member

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    generally, the 3rd, 7th, and any altered notes are the cool ones that spell out the chord.
    To get a feel for it, try this:

    Play a slow I-IV-V blues progression in say, A (A7-D9 & E9)
    Now just pick at the middle two strings, playing those notes instead of the chords.
    Notice how the notes move around.
    Listen to how cool it sounds

    Then take any chord progression, and follow the chords, but only find & play the 3rd or 7th note of each chord. Nice tasty solo!
     
  5. willhutch

    willhutch Supporting Member

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    Yes. They are the notes that make up a chord. So, for another example, if the band is playing a C chord, the chord tones are C, E and G.

    The reason that people talk about chord tones in the context playing leads is that they sound good. Specifically, when a melodies contain a lot of chord tones, they reflect the underlying harmony. This tends to give a melody body. It has contours that move with the chords. It can accentuate the sweetness, or bitterness, of an interesting chord progression.

    This is nothing fancy or exotic. Pretty much any common melody you can think of - three blind mice, mary had a little lamb, twinkle twinkle, frere jacque, doe a deer, tenor madness - make extensive use of chord tones. Playing a chord tone on the beat that the chord changes is especially useful and common.

    Being steeped in Western culture (I presume), this will come naturally to you. If you try to sing an improvised melody over chord changes, you will naturally land on plenty of chord tones - they just sound right to most of us.

    We guitarists tend to learn by playing shapes, not melodies. This retards most of us in terms of understanding melodies. As a result, chord tone soloing strikes us as something exotic. In fact it is one of the basic "rules" (as laid out by my high school theory teacher) of making melodies.
     
  6. decay-o-caster

    decay-o-caster Member

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    A very simple place to start is in the blues mentioned above - (A7 - D9 - E9). Most guitar players hang out on the minor pentatonic for their solos. But the I chord (A7) is a major chord. So play the major 3rd - C# - over the A7 instead of the minor 3rd that's in the pentatonic scale.

    Then on the IV chord (D9), switch to the minor 3rd in the A pentatonic - C natural in A - and you will be playing the (dominant/flat) 7th of the D9 chord. The major 3rd of the D9 chord (F#) is already in the A pentatonic, so you don't have to change anything for that.

    For the E9, either C/C# works (neither is part of the E chord so you're not in conflict with anyone), so alternate them in your choruses. But you might want to play the G# - the natural 7 in A - instead of the G that's in the minor pentatonic. Or not, lots of people don't change the 7th, not sure why).

    If you have never used the major 3rd in your soloing you'll suddenly feel like you're playing music for the first time. You can hear the chord change from the I to the IV in your solo just by nailing the change between the C# in the A7 and the C in the D9, which is the difference between the major 3rd over the A7 and the flat 7 over the D9.

    As stated above, the 3 (major or minor) and the 7 (flat or natural) are the most important notes for defining chords, since the 1 and the 5 stay the same on the chords you'll actually use (until you start into that wacky jazz stuff, when you get the altered 2s and 5s - it's the DEVIL'S MUSIC!!! :) ). So I pretty much try not to think about scales at all anymore in my playing. I do my best to nail the correct 3 and 7, and let the rest of the notes fall where they will. Not that I'm any good at it, but at least I have a theory and a plan and I can hope for the best. :)
     
  7. Tom Gross

    Tom Gross Supporting Member

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    Great post, Excellent explanation of what I was hinting at above.

    Yes, one can start over Blues and Rock to play the changes. Once you recognize those great notes to hit just when the chord changes, you can emphasize them and use them to really play musically.

    Another example:
    On minor blues, say in Am.
    When it goes from Am to Dm, go from 5th fret 2nd string (E) to 6th fret 2nd string (F). This highlites the b3rd of Dm, nailing the chord change. This is what Page is doing on Since I've Been Lovin You, and Gary Moore does it a lot as well.

    Once you find these key notes, it's easy to make them your own. As you play along, finding what you dig and expressing yourself, you can land in key spots at key moments and thus tie your solo to the underlying changes in all kinds of cool ways.
     
  8. MGT

    MGT Member

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    Love this post...it's what I've been working on to help me break out of my dependence on scales & patterns.

    Just thought I'd add that a good way to be able to easily identify chord tones is to learn triads (and inversions) up & across the neck.
     
  9. decay-o-caster

    decay-o-caster Member

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    C-A-G-E-D can really be your pal in all of this. I'll wank pentatonically for hours unless stopped too, but when I'm thinking about soloing, I'm thinking chord shapes with other notes tossed in for spice.
     
  10. jony2

    jony2 Member

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    Wow. Thanks alot guys! Looks like I have material to work on and can finally stop thinking about those darned pedals. =p
     
  11. decay-o-caster

    decay-o-caster Member

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    Now wait just a damn minute - we never told you to stop thinking about pedals! That's not something we'd ever tell anyone! ;)
     
  12. 9fingers

    9fingers Supporting Member

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    decay-o-caster, thanks - I never saw it explained better or more simply & clearly!
     
  13. iMatt

    iMatt Member

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    I have nothing much to add to this except to say that pretty much everything here strikes a chord and is very clear and right on the money. After 25yrs of playing a took a few lessons last year to try and get me out of a rut. The concept of working with chord tones, and forgetting about "paterns" made a huge differance to me. As I think someone above suggests, it is not so much scales that is our pit fall as guitarists, its more the fingerboard "patterns" the become so familiar and seem to lead us to let our fingers do the improvising rather than our ears. Think about the melody, your ears will lead you to the chord tones - and their extensions. Don't listen to those fingers.
     
  14. theHoss

    theHoss Member

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  15. Tom Gross

    Tom Gross Supporting Member

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    LOL!

    Seriously, tho, I hate when folks say that they should quit buying gear and spend the energy learning to be a better player. They are not mutually exclusive.
    I always encourage folks to learn more about playing and technique so that they will get more enjoyment out of the gear they have and will get in the future.
    It's all good!
     
  16. pfrischmann

    pfrischmann Member

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    I was tought that chord tones are simply the note in a scale that make up a chord. the 1,3,5,7. The 3 and the 7 are really the defining tones as they will tell you the quality of the chord.

    To me this is different than guide tone lines, which is how these tones outline the essential parts of the progression.....the stuff that gives it movement.

    Then you have the tensions of course. They give it the spice...

    That's more of less the way I learned it anyway.
     
  17. Swain

    Swain Member

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    Great advice so far. Maybe I can add something:

    Here's a fairly easy, quick and practical way to incorporate "Chord Tones".

    In the "A Blues" example from the other posts, you can just visualize whichever chord is being played at that moment.

    Then, look for the notes of the Chord that are not part of the Pentatonic Scale you're playing. (I'm assuming that you may choose the Am Pentatonic, or A Blues Scale for your Improvisation, on this tune.)

    Play one or more of the notes from the Chord-Of-The-Moment, that aren't in the Scale. See how they feel right?

    Many times, Chord Tones really help to define a Phrase. Ever notice how many "Classic" Blues licks, use notes that aren't part of the Blues Scale?

    In a very general sense:

    Ending a Phrase on a Non-Chord Tone will sound unresolved.

    Ending a Phrase on a Chord Tone, will give a sense of resolution.


    I would highly recommend you explore the advice of the other posts on this thread. But, I thought that you may get some instant gratification from this Technique.

    Happy Hunting!
     
  18. Powderfinger

    Powderfinger Gold Supporting Member

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    I'm no theory maven, but in thinking about chord tones, it's useful to know the arpeggios. That's all they are--chord tones. So if you're playing over A7 and you know your A7 arps, you don't have to think about where the chord tones are. They're the ones in the arp!
     
  19. iMatt

    iMatt Member

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    Not to get too buried in theory, not least because I will rapidly get out of my depth, but it is worth mentioning that although we are happy to think of the I IV V blues as a simple progression it isn't really that simple a progression at all and we are all more sophisticated than we might think we are. First off we tend to play dominant 7ths for each chord - so right away we are playing chords, and thus come chord tones, that don't fit in any single diatonic scale. Then we throw in minor thirds over major chords (and mix them up with major thirds) and the flattened 5th "blue" note for good measure, and to cap it off, as guitarists we can bend to all kind of notes "inbetween" that your piano player can only dream of. The theory behind this has the capacity to scare us rigid but doesn't because the sounds are so familiar to us and we've been doing it a while, and because at least at the outset, before our fingers got stuck in their ruts, we let our ears be our guide.

    I find it invaluable to try to understand the theory. Not only does it help me understand why what I just played sounds the way it does, but also it can prompt me to try things I might not otherwise, and is also helpful in working out what others are doing because you have a framework to set it against. My rut was to get too stuck in the theory and let my ears take the back seat. The chord tone thing really helped with that because as someone above says its the most natural place to start if you are thinking about the melody and put your ears back in the driving seat. I can get my 7yr old daughter to sing over a three chord progression and she will nail chord tones all day long.

    Anyway, back to the issue of learning chord tones and building melodies around them - given that the "simple" blues progression is in reality not that simple a progression at all from a theoretical standpoint, I think there is some merit in practicing the chord tone approach over diatonic major and minor progressions where at least every note of every chord in the progression falls into one key (scale). In terms of theory at least this is the easier place to start. Also, for those of us who tend to the blues when we pick up the guitar there is no harm in using this excercise to spend a little more time in the world of the major diatonic progressions and the major scale where most (good, bad or indifferent) Western music lives.
     

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