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Fretboard Workshop: Non-Chord-Tone Soloing


This time, however, you won’t be restricted to playing chord tones exclusively. Any of the notes from all four triads are allowed. To make this work, you have to know how to resolve to them from the non-chord tones.

Let’s break that idea down into an example. Look back at the first four measures of Fig. 9. Now imagine the four triad shapes overlaying each other on your fretboard. Some of the notes overlap while others are exclusive to just one chord.

If we write these notes out like a scale, we get Fig. 10.

Let’s add one more note at the top and bottom of that scale so we cover all the notes in a G major scale in 2nd position on the top four strings ( Fig. 11).

Fig. 12 shows four diagrams using the scale above, but with a black line connecting the chord tones for each chord in the progression. The other notes are your non-chord tones. Notice the chord tones that are shared from one chord to the next. Other chord tones become non-chord tones as the chord changes.

Resolving Non-Chord Tones

Now let’s examine only the G chord (the first fret diagram above) and play a few exercises to get a feel for how non-chord tones resolve to chord tones.

In Fig. 13, each measure explores a different method of approaching the chord tones of a G major triad.

  • Measure one is simply an arpeggio in the 3rd position.
  • Measure two approaches each chord tone from a step below while we approach the chord tones from a step above in the next measure. These are the appoggiaturas that we mentioned earlier.
  • In measures four and five we are using enclosures to circle around the chord tone before the resolution.
  • The directions of the enclosures are reversed for the final two measures.

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