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Fretboard Workshop: Non-Chord-Tone Soloing


As an aside, enclosures are a fantastic way to resolve to a chord tone. The name itself just sounds fitting. Non-chord tones circle around their target resolution before landing. You'll find enclosures in music by J.S. Bach, Charlie Parker, the Beach Boys, and beyond.

There are many more possible patterns. Exploring them on your own will solidify—in your hands, ears, and eyes—where the target chord tones are and how to resolve to them from non-chord tones. Do this exercise with the other three chords from Fig. 12, and then work your way up the neck to the other two positions found in Fig. 10 (measures 5-8 and 9-12).

When you’re creating a solo, you won’t necessarily play any of these patterns in a long enough sequence to recognize a pattern. Instead, you’d combine them into something like a descending approach to an arpeggio to an enclosure. That might look something like Fig. 14.

Notice how most of the notes outline a G major triad. The remaining notes connect and outline the harmony while creating small instances of tension and release.

Melodic Behavior

Fig. 14 also demonstrates three of the four possible behaviors of a melody. That is to say, as a single-note melody moves along, each note has four options for going to the next note.

  • Step . This is simply moving up or down a scale, like the passing tones and neighbor tones we talked about earlier. This happens in the first three notes.
  • Arpeggio . If the note is a chord tone, it could move up or down to the adjacent chord tone, as demonstrated in the G–B–D sequence that starts on beat two.
  • Leap . Any time a note moves in an interval larger than a step, and is not an arpeggio, it is a leap, such as the E to A on the “and” of beat three. Appoggiaturas and escape tones, which are basically variations on the appoggiatura, fall under this category.
  • Repeat . Although not demonstrated in Fig. 14, a note can repeat. We can also expand this idea and create repetition in groups of notes or phrases, sometimes making slight alterations to outline chord changes.
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