Many musicians begin improvising with scales. It’s a great place to start since most music is composed in a specific key, with a limited set of notes. But are you ready for the next step to creating improvised melodies that sound natural, meaningful, and meshed with the harmonies that surround them? It’s time to take your improv to the next level and learn how to improvise with chord tones.

In this December’s Instrument Packs we tapped into the wisdom of our master improviser Resident Pros to explore chord tones and how to mix them into your improvisations.

Guitar

Resident Pro Dylan Welsh believes that soloing using chord tones is an awesome way to sound more melodic in your solos, and to improve your choice of notes when soloing over chord progressions:

Including:

  • How to play every diatonic triad and seventh chord arpeggio in the key, all based within the major scale box you already know.
  • How to use these arpeggios to target chord tones while soloing.
  • How to use diatonic notes from the scale to connect chord tones while moving from chord to chord.
  • MP3 Practice Tracks that include recordings of Dylan demonstrating the exercises, and backing tracks so you can practice your own chord-tone targeting.

As usual, Dylan is ready with a wealth of well-organized guitar wisdom to up your fretboard fluency to higher and higher planes.

Bass

What exactly are chord tones?  Resident Pro Steve Lawson demonstrates truly innovative ways to think about and practice chord tone improvisation:

Including:

  • What exactly are chord tones? (The answer may surprise you…)
  • Ways to navigate around every note in the chord.
  • Why harmonic function matters.
  • A fascinating star diagram that will have you thinking about chords and scales in a whole new way.
  • Chord progression exercises and MP3 tracks.

In this resource pack, you’ll learn to wield the ruling power of the bass to decide chord quality and how to go deep in both your hearing and playing with chord tones.

Singing

For this resource pack, we welcome guest Resident Pro Meghan Nixon of How to Sing Smarter – a classically-trained vocalist with a degree in Jazz Performance who has performed in Jazz, Rock, Funk, R&B, Bluegrass and Folk bands. In the past 15 years, Meghan has helped hundreds of people become better singers and musicians:

Including:

  • How to hear and sing the chord tones in all five types of 7th chords using solfege.
  • How to sing up the chords in the context of a real song.
  • How to create melodies and patterns using just chord tones.
  • How to challenge your ear and experiment with on the spot improvisation.
  • MP3s to practice with.

Meghan also introduces the concept “footholds” to ground you as you venture into uncharted improvisational areas. Learn how you too can find a stronger connection with the harmonic structures of the music you love to sing.

Piano

In this resource pack, Resident Pro Sara Campbell looks at one of the most useful (but sometimes tricky) methods: improvising with chord tones:

Including:

  • Triad Basics: How to find the correct chord tones using chord symbols.
  • Seventh Chords: Taking chord improv a step further with a variety of seventh chords.
  • More tips, tricks, and cool stuff to simplify the process of playing with chord tones.
  • MP3 backing tracks and guided exercises.

Not sure why you should learn how to improvise with chord tones? Take a look at the sheet music of some of your favorite songs. (A version with chord symbols above the piano part would be best!) You’ll see that the majority of notes in the melody can also be found within the chord structure. If you want your improvised melody to sound as natural as the original, improvising with chord tones is your ticket!

Coming up next month…

We’re turning our attention to rhythm – swing rhythm to be precise! You’ll learn the subtle art of how to make your instrument swing in a natural flowing way, and all the genres (jazz isn’t the only one!) where swing will be found.

Interested in getting access to these resources and much more, with an Instrument Pack membership? Just choose that option during checkout when you join Musical U, or upgrade your existing membership to get instant access!

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