If I throw a ball to you, your brain performs some fairly sophisticated calculus in order to catch it.
But at no point are you formally running through equations with acceleration vectors and parabolas and all that shit.
It’s automatic. And fun.
You can use physics to describe playing catch with your kid. But math isn’t the point of catch. Fun is the point of catch.
We’re gonna talk about some semi-advanced “musical calculus” here, but keep in mind that the point isn’t math, it’s music. Our goal here is to get you beyond math and into music as soon as humanly possible.
It’s about having fun.
All of these exercises and formulas are intended to break you out of any hesitation you feel about playing “wrong” notes en route to the right ones.
As you do more of this, you’ll naturally develop a sense of how many “filler” notes you’ll need in order for the chord tone to land on the exact beat where the new chord comes in.
And again: we do it because this shit is fun as hell.
The Three Levels Of Soloing
This is a silly oversimplification, but let’s pretend there are three levels to soloing:
- Level 1 Playing: using the blues box or major scale
- Level 2 Playing: playing chord tones to outline the chord changes
- Level 3 Playing: connecting chord tones with chromatic notes
The Sølo app is all about taking you from Level 1 to Level 2.
It’s a huge conceptual leap, but if you approach it the right way it’s not that hard to do.
The lesson you’re reading now is about making the leap from Level 2 to Level 3, where anything is fair game in the proper context.
The Sølo app has Voice Leading in Workout Options
With it engaged, Sølo won’t move on until you’ve played:
- the note one fret below the target tone
- the target tone
But it appears to only be available with Random order engaged.
That’s ok though. You don’t need to select any options. Sølo is only listening for one note at a time, and you’re free to play as many “wrong” notes as you want on your way to the target tone.
Six cool ways to practice this:
- 1-note chromatic from below
- 2-note chromatic from below
- 1-note chromatic from above
- 2-note chromatic from above
- 2-note enclosure (above-below-target)
- 3-note enclosure (above-two below-target)
Let’s use a simple root-3rd-5th A chord voicing in fifth position to demonstrate each of these.
1-note chromatic from below
- You want the chord tone on the beat.
- Put the chromatic approach note before the beat.
- This isn’t some rule handed down by the theory gods atop Mt. Olympus.
- It just sounds better in most cases, so now it’s part of our collective expectation.
- If breaking this “rule” sounds good to you, then guess what: it is good.
2-note chromatic from below
- If you’re gonna land that target tone on the beat, you need to start the lead-in earlier.
- Or play the approaches with a smaller subdivision—sixteenths instead of eights.
- Experiment with it. Find what sounds good to you.
1-note chromatic from above
- Same as before—our ear tends to hear “home” on the beat, so it makes sense if the “arrow” points us home. Chord tones on the beat.
- You might also notice that I’ve labelled the chord tones (R, 3, 5) but not the neighbor tones.
- The neighbor tones all have names too (b2, 4, b6, etc).
- But it’s a lot easier if you think of them as fungible setup “filler.”
- You get lots of leeway in how you setup a joke, but you have to nail the punchline. Same thing here.
2-note chromatic from above
- Again, if you’re gonna land the chord tone on the beat, you gotta start earlier than you did when it was just one approach note. Or play a smaller rhythmic subdivision.
- 👉 The 2-note chromatics from above & below are built into Cory Wong’s warmup, which I’ve tabbed & gridded for you here.
2-note enclosure (above-below-target)
- These are super cool—like threading the basketball between your legs before you dunk.
- You play the note above the target note (shown in orange)…
- …then you play the note below the target note (shown in red)…
- …then you play the target note (shown in black).
- Use the same rhythmic phrasing you used for the 2-note chromatics.
3-note enclosure (above-two below-target)
- Starts the same as the 2-note enclosure:
- Play the note above the target tone (shown in orange)…
- …but this time jump 2 frets/a whole step below the target tone (shown in red)…
- …and walk up chromatically: blue, then black.
- This four-note phrase needs more rhythmic space than the rest, so experiment with how to make the chord tones land on the beat.