Note targeting is the most basic level of chord tone soloing. By that approach, guitarists will structure their lines to land on specific notes that they have ‘targetted’ on the fretboard. They would land on these notes on the first beat of the chord change to accentuate this effect. Note targeting can be used to land on chord tones or on tensions. The former will create the impression that the solo melody is always landing on the ‘right’ notes of the underlying chord. Note targeting requires some preparation beforehand such as analysing the chord progression and the individual chords used. The general steps are:

The General Steps are:


  1. Analysis of Chord Progression
  2. Deciding on which Chord to land on
  3. Identifying the Chord Tones
  4. Deciding which Chord Tone to land on
  5. Pinpointing this Chord Tone on the Fretboard
Note Targeting

The Thought Process of Note Targeting

Let us take the standard II-V-I progression in C major as an example.

Step 1: Analysis of the actual chords in the progression

The chords used would be Dmin7, G7 and Cmaj7.

The chords would be easily inferred if the player was familiar with the key of C major.  If this progression was in an unfamiliar key, then this step would require some effort in the analysis. For instance in the key of Gb major, such a key will make anyone stop for a moment to analyse.

Step 2: Deciding which chord to land on

Of the 3 chords in C major, Cmaj7 is the obvious choice because it is the resolution of the progression.

Step 3: Identify the chord tones in this chord 

Cmaj7 comprises the notes C, E, G, and B.

Guitar players can do this instinctively or analytically depending on how well he knows his theory and his instrument.

Step 4: Deciding which Chord Tone to land on

While all of these notes will work, the choice of which note to target largely depends on the player and the style of the music. A jazz guitarist would probably choose the 3rd or the 7th i.e. E or B notes, as these are more characteristic of the chord. A rock player might gravitate towards the root or the 5th particularly if he is using the progression in a rock song.

Step 5: Pinpointing This Chord Tone on the Fretboard

Let’s say we want to hit the E note on the Cmaj7 chord. The next step would be to identify where on the fretboard this E note sits in relation to the scale pattern we are using, If we are playing around the 5th position, we would be using the Amin scale shape (or G CAGED scale shape for you CAGED guys)

Note targeting has gone by different names depending on where you learnt it and who’s teaching. Most notably, a great exponent of this approach is guitarist, and Berklee Professor Jon Finn, who although calls it Target Note Improv or “Improv Target Notes”, the approach is essentially the same. However, he uses it beyond just the context of chord tone soloing. In any case, let us begin our journey in mastering chord tone soloing with this approach.  

The next level of chord tone soloing in this series is what I call “Shape Targeting”


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