Chord Tone Targeting-sculpting your lead playing.

Generally, players often start out with lead guitar and improvisation by getting a scale that fits over a certain set of chords. If chords are all taken from one key, you can play that scale’s key over them, as a starting point. But this can lead to ‘scalic’ sounding lines, and note choices that don’t always sound intentional or necessarily that good. If this is the only way you approach playing lead guitar, you may find that the result is quite hit and miss.

If you play a note from the actual chord while that chord is playing, it will sound really consonant and like it fits closely with the chord. The effect will be that your lines have more shape to them and sound like you know what you’re doing. You might not always want that very closely matched sound in every solo you play, but without understanding how to get it, there will always be a slightly random element to how good notes from a given scale sound over chords from the same key. Even if you start by just targeting notes from the chord that comes at the end of a repeating sequence, your phrases will sound like they have come to a deliberate conclusion.

Try this out now – there are a selection of backing tracks below using the chords G, D, and C. First, find the root note of the chord (G, D, and C) on the top three strings. Play the root while the chord is playing. For beginning guitarists or more experienced players who haven’t started investigating note names yet, this is plenty-you’ll start learning where the notes are and you’ll also start identifying the sound of a root note being played against its chord. Next, try playing any one chord tone over each chord for a bar. Next, play any two chord tones over each chord. Once you have that down (and this may take a little while), play a chord tone and one passing note (from the scale) into the next chord.

Once you’re comfortable doing that, try playing the root note over G, then play a couple of passing notes from G major over the next chord, aiming to end back on a chord tone on the third chord. Compare the effect. Here are some backing tracks.

G to D 80 bpm

G to C 80 bpm

G C D G 80 bpm