Chord Tone Soloing – Review

Author: Barrett Tagliarino
Level: Beginner to Advanced

Chord tone soloing

I finally got round to buying this book a few months ago but I’ve only just managed to take a good look through it. So what’s the verdict? The book gets a very big thumbs up from me, but before I go any further, it’s important you understand the purpose of the book. If you don’t, then you may end up buying it for the wrong reasons. In short, mastering the art of using chord tones can take a few years of dedicated practice. If you are after a quick fix then this isn’t the book for you. If you aren’t prepared to put in the effort then the best you’ll get out of it is an understanding of the concepts of creating melodic solos. If however your goals are more realistic then this book will help you with the following.

  • Master the ability to create melodic phrases with ease
  • Improvise on the fly and play guitar solos that fit perfectly with the underlying chords, as though they were pre-prepared and practiced.
  • See the entire fretboard as a series of endless possibilities virtually on autopilot over any chord progression.

All of these things are traits of the professional guitarists that most amateur guitarists only dream of. The reality however is that any guitarist can accomplish these goals, and the aim of this book is to help you get there through a well structured series of exercises. It would be very easy to underestimate the value of these exercises / lessons if you don’t understand the purpose of them. Everything in the book is easy to play, even the beginner could get through the entire book without too much difficulty. It’s this simplicity that could lead you to underestimating the value of the book.

Chord tone soloing goes well beyond targeting notes that simply belong to the underlying chord of the moment. Making your solos flow melodically through a piece of music requires you to understand the many ways that chords, scales, modulation, tension etc., all tie together. Playing a great solo is much more than knowing a bunch of scales and licks that you can pull out of the hat at random. Sure, that method has it’s place but if it’s all you’ve got then not only will you run out of ideas quickly, you are always playing with limitations that can often leave you stumped.

Mastering this skill takes time because it has to work on autopilot to be useful. Repetition is the key to success here and this is why the exercises do not need to be played fast or complicated. They are designed to make you play great sounding guitar solos that always fit the music, almost at a subconscious level.

The exercises take you from dead simple root notes to leading tones, the CAGED system, mixing chord tones with scales, playing over chord progressions that stay in one key signature as well as mixed keys, recognising and finding the keys, modes and more. There is an awful lot to learn in this book but it will pretty much guarantee you to master this skill as long as you stick with it. Some of it will be down to you to work creatively with the ideas you are given. This will happen naturally once you have been through a lot of the exercises. Remember, the key to mastery is practice and repetition. All of the exercises in the book could be played within a few days by any reasonably determined guitarist but that is not how it works. It’s the repetition that embeds familiarity into your unconscious thinking. Realistically you could work with the ideas in this book for many years and still be improving as a guitarist. Once you develop a new way of thinking about the way you play guitar, one that goes beyond basic scale sequences and licks, a whole new world will open up to you.

Everything is straightforward and easy to follow. The only thing I can see being a problem is understanding some of the theory which could get a bit confusing if your music theory knowledge is very limited. Although it’s reasonably basic stuff, theory has proven itself to be a complicated subject that many guitarists struggle with. If this happens to you then firstly, it doesn’t need to stop you doing the exercises. Sometimes just listening and playing something a few times helps to make sense of things just by example. If not, then it doesn’t matter, like I said you could work with this book for years and still learn from it but if your theory is weak then something like the idiots guide to music theory will help you out. Great guitar playing comes simply by doing, the more you do it, the more you understand it. It can take a few years but one day it all snaps together and makes sense.

Most of the examples in the book are on the CD for you to listen to. The CD might be my only gripe here. There are no separate practice tracks which is a shame. The examples all have the lead part panned to one side of the stereo channel so you can balance it out if it’s distracting. Only problem with that is some of the examples are very short. Another minor detail is one of personal choice. Each example has an eight beat count, which I think is too long, but that might just be me. So with short example tracks and long count ins, the easy way to practice through the examples will be to create your own backing tracks. This can easily be done by recording yourself playing the guitar chords, use a looper or do whatever method you prefer to lay down some backing. This would be a good idea (actually, a must) even if the supplied backing tracks were better, so it’s not really a big deal.

The bottom line is this. If you are serious about mastering this skill and you have the discipline then this book is not going to disappoint you and is pretty much guaranteed to make big changes to the way you play guitar. Get ready to start turning heads!


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