Improvising with Chord Tones

Learn how you can use chord tones to guide and shape your improvised melodies.

After completing this module: you will be able to improvise melodies that fit well with simple chord progressions.

Once you have an improvisational mindset, and a grasp of improvising melodies you can step your solos up to the next level of musicality by learning to sync your melodic line with the harmonic environment that surrounds it.

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Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. What are chord tones?
  3. From Scales to Chord Tones
  4. And From Chord Tones Back to Scales
  5. Rock Your Scales and Chords
  6. Improvise with Chord Tones

Follow the chords

You can make your solo sound more interesting and melodic by following the chords. How do we do this?

We need to find out which notes are in each chord. First, start with the root note of each chord. You know the root note from the name of the chord. For example, the A major chord has the root note of A:

When you are comfortable playing root notes along with the song – move on to thirds!

What are thirds?

A third (3rd) is simply the third note of the scale. If we start on the root note of each chord and count up three notes we will land on the 3rd of the chord:

Note 1 (“root”)Note 2Note 3 (“3rd”)
ABC#
BC#D
F#G#A
DEF#

Thirds are very important as they determine the quality of the chord: Major or Minor. Major and Minor chords have a very different character and a big influence on the sound of a song. So 3rds are important! Play the 3rds in of Halo along with the track:

Then, play through the roots and 3rds:

So far we have found the root notes and 3rds. It is a good idea now to play through the scale and land on either a root note of the chord or the 3rd. Improvise your own lines! Use your ear to guide the resolution from one chord to the next.

Improv Exercise:

  • Play the major scale up and down with the song
  • Locate and play the root note of each chord
  • Locate and play the 3rd of each chord
  • Combine root notes and 3rds together

Member Success

“I was happy to notice how easily I could create beautiful sounding melodies using chord tones in my improvisation. Especially always coming back to the 3rd when playing a chord sounded very nice.”
“Good lesson… very clear and pedagogic!”

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