Learning how to use non-chord notes in soloing and non-key notes to spice up

By Michael Korte

If your solos sound lame and boring to you, because you are playing the same scale up and down the fretboard, this article is here to introduce you to one way how to use more than just the notes from a scale for your soloing.

First let me establish a concept: main beats and sub-beats.

This concept shall only serve the purpose to explain my approach.

In a 4/4-Measure the main beats can pretty much be, what you define them. This depends to a wide extent on the rhythm of your song. It can be that the 1, 2, 3 and 4 are nearly the same accentuation, it can be that only the 1 and 3 are emphasised or it can be that only the 2 and 4 are emphasised. Listen closely, tap your foot and count out loud to identify which beats are stressed according to your impression.

Let us go with an imaginary drum beat that emphasises the 1 and 3 for now.

For starters, we want to try to hit chord tones on those beats and play with more freedom on every other beat. So, on beats 2 and 4 you can choose to play a chord tone, or you play another tone of the scale, that you are in.

Here is how it works:

Pick a familiar scale and play one chord from the key that you are in, in a looper or play them back with guitar-pro or record them or get a backing track with one chord only.

First play chord notes on the important beats and non-chord notes on the unimportant beats but starting simple, with 2 notes.

Pick two notes of the scale where one of which is in the chord and one is not.

Then listen how the notes sound and repeat this with several notes in different areas of the fretboard, start exploring and get clear of the note names and more importantly about the note function (1-7).

Here is an example.
Let us assume you are playing the G-Major Scale. You can start by playing the G-Major chord (although any other chord, that belongs to G-Major can be chosen and SHOULD be chosen at one point: A-Minor, B-Minor, C-Major, D-Major, E-Minor).

The chord tones from G-Major are G B and D. Find them on the fretboard in as many positions as you can.
Now play your backing track and play ONE note from the chord to begin with. For example, the G. Now listen to the sound and how the chord tone works with the background.

Continue by playing the neighbour notes from the G: F# and A, compare the sound over the backing track and understand how they feel. This can take some time and you don’t need to rush.

After you got somewhat familiar with the notes that you are supposed to play in this little exercise, pay attention to the rhythm and try to play the G on beat 1 and 3 and the other two notes on beats 2 and 4. Repeat the same for every other chord tone and for every other chord of the key.

When you got some success with this method, you can expand your repertoire of notes with every note on the fretboard and try to play the non-chord or non-key tones on the “unimportant” beats and the chord notes on the stressed beats.

This is not to be taken as a general rule, you don’t always have to do it like this. This is only there to help you to control consonance and dissonance when you do not have a lot of experience with this matter.

About the Author:
Michael Korte is a renowned musician from Tampere, Finland and teaches
metal kitaratunnit tampere at his guitar school KitaristiTampere. He is very passionate in teaching creativity and technique to his guitar students.