Playing Over Changes – Part 3

In this video, Colin demonstrates how to practice targeting specifc chord tones through the chord changes of “Blues For Alice”.

Targeting specific chord tones is a tried and true practice in many styles of music. For us as improvisers, gaining this skill in real-time is vital to our ability to solo over chord changes well. In this episode, I’ll show you an exercise to practice targeting chord tones to help you know your guitar inside out.

I hope the chord tone exercises from the first two videos is helping to improve your skill at soloing over chord changes. If you haven’t watched the earlier chord tone exercise videos yet, take a look at those first for a better understanding of what I’ll be covering here.

Another way to hone your ability to improvise over changes is to practice targeting specific chord tones. Let’s take the chord changes to “Blues For Alice” again and practice targeting each chord tone one at a time. For this exercise, let’s focus on playing the chord tones on our top 4 strings. This will keep us in a register that is conducive for soloing.

The exercise is simple. We will play one chord tone for each chord change with the song in real-time. I recommend looking at a chord chart as you do this exercise, but rather than writing in the pitch names to play, think of each chord tone as you go. This will improve your ability to think of the correct chord tones from any chord symbol you see.  As always, we want to start slow and work our way up. So let’s cue up the backing track at 120bpm and see how it goes. First up, let’s play the roots of each chord.

When doing this exercise, try finding new places on the fretboard to play the pitches that are repeated. For example, the first time we see Gm7, we could play the root on the 3rd fret of our E-string. But when we see that chord again in measure 12, play it somewhere else on your fretboard, like the 8th fret of your B-string. This will help you see chord tones all over your fretboard. Let’s target the 3rd of each chord now, a little faster.

The 3rd of a chord is a great tone to target because it conveys more of the chord’s character than some of the other chord tones. Let’s move on to playing the 5th of every chord now, even faster.

Be sure to give each of these steps many repetitions to master them before moving on to the next chord tone. You’ll know you’re getting solid at them if you can play through the exercise at least 10 times in a row without making a single mistake. Finally, let’s target the 7th of each chord now at a brisk tempo.

From here, play all 4 exercises back-to-back to test your accuracy. After that, apply this exercise to other songs you want to master the chord changes on. Thanks for watching, happy practicing, and I’ll see you next time on Inside Out Guitar.

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