In this article, I want to suggest some simple exercises useful for developing chord tone solos and note targeting ability in a Blues context.
We will be using dominant chords, which are at the foundation of the Blues; to get chord tones under our skin, we're going to play dominant arpeggios focusing on different target notes.
Practice these exercises until the movements from one chord to another become second nature, and your Blues lead guitar skills will benefit a lot.
On your free download page you find the tabs and the Guitar Pro files for all the exercises.
Arpeggio Shapes Used In The Exercises
For these exercises, we want to stay in one fretboard position, (around the 5th fret), using different fingerings, so here below are the arpeggio shapes that we're going to use.
A7 Dominant Chord Shape
The A7 dominant chord is composed of A (1), C# (3), E (5), and G (b7).
D7 Dominant Chord Shape
D (1), F# (3), A (5), and C (b7) are the notes in a D7 chord.
E7 Dominant Chord Shape
The E Dominant Seventh chord is made up of the notes E (1), G# (3), B (5), and D (b7).
Why do we have to use arpeggios instead of scales?
Chord tones soloing, which consists in playing melodic lines using the notes of the backing chords as main notes, is a very effective way to generate solos that perfectly fit with the harmony.
In fact, using chord tones as building blocks in our phrasing, has a nice effect to make perceiving the harmony in the lead guitar part.
Of course, you are free to use also any other notes, like notes in the scales and even chromatic passages, but your melodic lines should be mostly based on chord tones.
The base structure of a 12 bar Blues song is:
To allow you to focus on chord tones targeting, the following exercise will be based on the main chord changes that usually appear in a 12 bar blues song:
- I to IV (A7 to D7)
- I to V (A7 to E7)
- V to IV and to I (E7, D7, A7)
Try to hear the chord changes in your melodic lines.
Blues Chord Tones Soloing Exercises
I to IV Movement (A7 to D7)
I-IV Exercise 1 - Ascending Arpeggios
In this first warmup exercise you'll be playing ascending A7 and D7 arpeggio starting from the root of each chord. Notice how well the chord change is highlighted by the solo guitar.
I-IV Exercise 2 - Descending Arpeggios
Same as the exercise before, but this time we're going to play descending arpeggios. To start each bar from the corresponding chord root, we have to make a shift to fret 10th (D):
I-IV Exercise 3 - Targeting the 3rd
Here we will be targeting the 3rd of D7 chord, which is F#, when the chord change appears.
I-IV Exercise 4 - Targeting the b7
In this last I to IV chords exercise, we will play the b7 (C) on the D7 chord.
I to V Movement (A7 to E7)
I-V Exercise 1 - Ascending Arpeggios
Here we play two ascending arpeggios, A7 and E7, starting from each root.
Notice the resolution feeling when the song ends, moving from E7 to A major.
I-V Exercise 2 - Descending Arpeggios
Here we play two descending arpeggios, A7 and E7, starting from the upper octave roots.
I-V Exercise 3 - Targeting the 3rd
Here, on E7 we're going to target the 3rd, G#:
I-V Exercise 4 - Targeting the b7
Finally, when the A7 to E7 switch appears, we target the b7 (D)
I IV I Movement (E7 to D7 and A7)
V-IV-I Exercise 1 - Ascending Arpeggios
In this exercise, we're going to play an ascending arpeggios starting from each root: E7, D7 and A7.
V-IV-I Exercise 2 - Ascending and descending arpeggios mix
In this exercise, we play an ascending arpeggio on E7, then a descending arpeggio starting from the b7 on D7 (C), and a descending arpeggio from the root on A7.
V-IV-I Exercise 3 - Ascending and descending arpeggios mix, targeting the 3rd of A7
Same as the exercise above, but on the A7 chord we will be targeting the 3rd (C#):
V-IV-I Exercise 4 - Ascending and descending arpeggios mix, targeting the b7 of A7
Finally, we will land on the b7 (G) when the A7 chord is played.
Blues Chord Tones Exercises - Moving Forward
I hope you get some inspiration from these simple exercises.
Chord tones are the Holy Grail of great guitar solos: instead of playing boring scales up and down, we can mostly focus on certain notes (guess which they are? use this tool) and come out with melodic lines that flow nicely with the harmony of the tunes.
There are a lot of things you could do starting from these concepts:
- Use other arpeggios, built on other types of dominant chords, such as 9, 11 and 13
- Mix arpeggios and pentatonic scales
- Add chromatic passages to get a Jazz feel.
In my complete ebook, Scales Over Chords | Learn How To Play The Right Scales Over Any Chord, you'll find some tables showing which scales match well with the chord tones of any kind of chord.
That's all for today, we can download the Guitar Pro files and the guitar tabs in pdf format on your free download page (if you are already a subscriber you should have received the link, check your email or write me).