If you want your solos to sound less like scales, and more in alignment with the chords, then you need to learn how to target chord tones! The best tool to help visualise chord tones on guitar is The CAGED System. It’s without a doubt one of the most vital things to learn on your guitar journey.
In the video above, I share with you a preview from my CAGED Fretboard Visualisation Masterclass, where we will explore how to apply The CAGED System over chord changes. While many guitarists think about key centers and scales when playing over chord progressions, it’s crucial to recognise that not all notes are equal. Some notes are stronger and more stable than others, and this is a continuously changing factor chord progressions.
There are two examples that I want you to explore and consider in your music practice.
Example 1: Scales
Consider a I-IV-vi-V progression in E major. Regardless of the progression, most guitar players would opt to solo using notes from the E major scale or E major pentatonic scale. While this works fine, you may notice that some notes from the scale sound better over certain chords more than others.
You can test this out yourself by playing what you consider to be a good lick over every chord. You’ll notice that that same lick won’t sound equally as good over all of the chords. So, what’s the problem? Well, the function of the notes you play change on a per-chord basis. Over one chord, the lick will be more complimentary of the underlying chord. Over another chord, perhaps not so much. To fix this, we need to consider chord tones.
Example 2: Target Chord Tones
To play chord tones, it’s important that you’re able to visualise the notes of the underlying chord in addition to your chosen scale, as a separate and independent musical device. If you’re able to do that, then you will have the power to alternate between chord tones and tension tones on command.
The easiest way to visualise the chord tones that belong to each chord is to practice visualising the triad arpeggios that correspond to each chord. The CAGED System is the best tool for this, as demonstrated in my CAGED Fretboard Visualisation Masterclass.
A good way to practice this is to consider the “parent” scale, for example the major pentatonic scale, to be your safety net. On occasion, step out of that safety net to target tones from each of the underlying chord. Ideally it’s best to hit these chord tones notes on the first beat of each bar or chord. This demonstrates to the listener that you’re closely following the chord progression.
How To Practice Chord Tones
I recommend practicing these skills in one small position of the neck. Avoid jumping around the neck to find chord tones. Instead, try to identify the chord tones of each chord in one position of the neck. Once you’re able to do this confidently, you can move on to another position of the neck. By using The CAGED System, you’ll be able to identify 5 critical positions of the guitar neck.
Gain A Deeper Insight Into The CAGED System
If you would like to learn more about chord tones and The CAGED System, consider joining my most popular course on Fretwise: the CAGED Fretboard Visualisation Masterclass! It’s designed to help you master The CAGED System and gain a deeper understanding of music theory, fretboard visualisation, and more. For me, the knowledge shared in this class has revolutionised my perspective and understanding of the guitar!
Until next time – keep practicing, and stay curious 🏆