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I’ve talked a lot about chords in the last few posts. I want to focus on the individual notes in those chords now.

I’ve talked about how we get the notes of a chord (Take every other note of the scale).

And I’ve talked about what to name those notes. For example…


Key of C:


C                 D            E           F            G             A          B

Root          2nd        3rd        4th          5th           6th        7th


So the C major chord has a C, E, and G, also known as the root, 3rd, and 5th.

Start the C major scale from D and you have the dorian mode.


D                E             F           G         A              B             C

Root         2nd          3rd        4th       5th          6th          7th


…and the notes of the D minor chord are D, F, and A.



Why am I talking about all this? Because the notes of any chord (called chord tones) can be used to make solos and riffs sound like they make sense (i.e. good)

How? By placing chord tones in strategic places in the solo or riff. This is called targeting. You’re targeting notes in the chord

And how do you do that? Take a look at your progression. Figure out the notes in each chord by taking the root, 3rd, and 5th of that chord. Then place those notes in important places in your solo or riff.


The important places

Where are the important places? Perhaps the most important place in a solo or riff is at the end. When you put a chord tone there, any tension you’ve created gets resolved. Everything sounds complete.

Of course, you may not want it to sound complete. But that’s another post.

So, an example…


simple progression


The first thing to notice is where the chord tones are. I’ve started the whole thing on the root of the first chord. The root is the most stable chord tone so it always works at the beginning. It communicates solidity. That doesn’t mean it’s the right thing every time, but it’s not a bad place to start.



The second note is the 5th of the chord, and I end the first bar on the 3rd (E). In between those notes are non-chord tones (F and D); these communicate less stability, and are great for transitions to chord tones. To make things interesting, it’s important to create tension and then resolve it (which going from non-chord tones to chord tones does).


Do some analysis

Analyse the rest of the progression keeping in mind what chord you’re on, and what chord tones you’re looking for. Which bar creates the most tension (i.e. has the most non-chord tones)? Notice how a non-chord tone on one chord (E on the G chord, bar 3) turns into a chord tone on the next chord.


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