Great Melodies Using NEIGHBOR Notes On Your Guitar

Great Melodies Using NEIGHBOR Notes On Your Guitar

Tommaso Zillio

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neighbor notes guitar

One more video for the series “how to write a melody.”

(Given how well the previous video was received… I had to do more!)

Today we see an idea that is periodically “rediscovered” in music. And every time they discover it, they give it a different name.

  • English-speaking people call it “neighbour notes.”

  • (Americans, of course, call it “neighbor notes” instead. No extra u’s in the US!)

  • Italians call it “note di volta”.

  • The German equivalent (though not exactly the same) is “Nebennote.”

  • They are related - but again not precisely the same - to what Jazz musicians call “enclosure.”

The beauty of all this? Once you’ve heard them, you won’t forget how they sound. You will recognize this trick in all styles of music.

Watch the video here:

But how do you do this in real-time? How do you know where all the chords are on your fretboard and recall them effortlessly and instantaneously? Why, you just need to take the Complete Chord Mastery guitar course


Hello, internet. So nice to see you.

Today we talk about one of the most versatile, little tricks in music theory.

It’s a little trick in the sense that it’s super easy to understand. But it’s versatile because there are 1000s and 1000s of variations of this thing.

And indeed, as you’re gonna see, people have called those variations with different names. And so it’s kind of a mess.

If you go on Google and search those things, it’s kind of a mess, everybody defines it in a different way. So I’m gonna give you the skinny, I’m gonna give you a simple version that works and you can apply it immediately.

And this trick I’m going to show you works great for melodies. It also works great for chords, if you use this on the top voice of a chord, but it works great for melodies, too, again, so what is this?

The trick I’m going to show you today is called “neighbor notes”, okay, which is a very non-sexy name if you want, okay, really, we should find better names for all those things because I would call it “sexy tones”.

But I mean, that’s what we are stuck with: “neighbor notes”.

What is a neighbor note? So let’s say you are playing over one chord. Okay, let’s start with the one chord. So it’s easy. And let’s say this chord is C major, okay.

Now, I can play a neighbor note by playing one of the notes in this chord and I’m going to take the C note, then playing the note that is one step up or down, in the scale from this note. I’m going to go up to a D. And then immediately going down again to a C, so over the C major chord, I’m going to play C, then D, then C. And this D is our neighbor note to C.

Of course, I can also go down I can go C, B, C. Now again, this may seem like a small thing, okay, but let’s hear how this works in the hands of a master. Let me take this very same thing and move everything down two frets. So let’s play a B flat major and make the B flat note go down to an A and up again.

So you see, this trick looks very simple at first, but if you apply it, you can get great melodies out of it, you definitely didn’t expect this little trick to create this great melody.

Of course, you’re gonna tell me it’s also because the chord underneath are changing and all this kind of thing. And I would agree with you, but everything started with that neighbor note.

So that’s the basic trick. So let’s see some variation.

The first variation is that we can go up and down following the scale, but we can also go up and down following the chromatic scale instead. Now to be fair, the chromatic scale is used only on one side.

Let me take the C major chord with the E note at the top. And now I’m going to go up and down. If I go down, I’m gonna go E, D, E. But I can go down chromatically, meaning E, D sharp, E.

When we go up in this specific situation with the E note over the C major chord, F is both the note in the scale and the note in the chromatic scale, so nothing changes there.

Let’s try this again with a C note over the C major chord. If I go down again, it’s CBC. So again, in this case, it’s the same for diatonic and chromatic.

But if I go up, I have C D C, which is different if I’m using the chromatic scale C, D flat, C.

Now here is where the opinion of musician differ sharply because most people like diatonic above, diatonic below, and chromatic below, but only a few people like the chromatic above.

I have no problem with you if you like or if you don’t like the sound of the upper chromatic neighbor note. I’m just remarking here that in most manuals and sources of music theory, these notes are discouraged because again, some people like them, some people don’t like them and they are pretty hard on the ear.

On the other hand, if you play something like, I don’t know, technical death metal, those kinds of notes are there all the time. Okay.

So it’s completely up to you if you want to use them or not.

Now, all the examples we’ve seen so far are what we call complete neighbor notes. With “complete” means that first we play the original chord tone. Then we play the neighbor and then we resolve again back to the original chord note.

There is also such a thing as incomplete neighbor note, when you don’t play the original chord tone, you go straight on the neighbor node, and then just after you resolve it to the original chord note. Those sound a little bit more dissonant, which could be a good thing for you. Okay.

For instance, let’s see what happens if I take an F major chord with the root on top of the F. And rather than playing the F immediately, I play a G before so that’s an upper diatonic neighbor note.

So again, a super simple trick, but the opening of Yesterday is iconic, and it is just an incomplete upper diatonic neighbor note. So yeah, totally and definitely worth be studying.

Another typical trick is to use an incomplete chromatic lower neighbor note, meaning every time you change chord, don’t just play coordinate as a top voice, but play the note one fret below and then resolve it into your chord. Note, when you do something like that, you get something sounds kinda like Mozart.

Another very popular variation is to play both the upper and the lower neighbor, not whether you have them chromatic or diatonic. So again, optionally, you play the original chord note, then you play either the upper or the lower neighbor node, then you play the other neighbor node, and then you resolve both of them into the chord note.

So for instance, if I play a C chord with an E note on top, it sounds this way.

This is with diatonic notes. With chromatic notes with sound this other way.

And, of course, you can omit the first note and get an incomplete double neighbor note.

Those are all fragments of melodies that you can use in your song. And indeed, if you sit down with a chord or two, and start doing this with the notes of those two chords, you’re going to have tons and tons of ideas for your songs.

Now before we go on ahead, what I just played, the double neighbor note, gets several different names in the literature. Some people call this a “Cambiata”. Some people on the other hand call “Cambiata” a completely different thing, which we’re going to cover in a different video.

Some people, especially jazz players call these an Enclosure, meaning that those two notes enclose our chord tone. Now, all that we did today doesn’t make any sense until you grab your guitar and start to play those things on your instrument.

Because one thing is to talk about that and one thing is to actually play, hear their sounds, and make them work.

Again, if you just listen to this video and see all this, you go away from this video thinking “well, so what is just a trick”, but when you grab your guitar and start playing those things, you notice that the ideas start flowing and you can start writing music with that.

Now of course, all of this gets way way way easier if you know where all your chords are because I mean if it takes half an hour for you to find out the correct position for the C major chord so that you have an E note on top and you can play the other two notes… Well then it’s no fun, right? Because you’re spending most of your time trying to find the position of the chord.

So if this is your problem and you want to resolve this I recommend you guys check out my course Complete Chord Mastery where in the very beginning of the course I am fixing this problem by showing you how to see chords all over your fretboard.

Okay, so, again I know I may sound like an infomercial, and in a sense I am, but this course helped a lot of people and if you need help on this, by all means, go check it out and let me know if you like it.

And if you have questions, of course, write me and I can answer all your questions. And if you like this video, please smash that like button. “Smash” sounds so 2016 at this point no? But smash that like button, and crush the subscribe button. Do some other horrible thing to the comments. Write your comments and write all your questions because I love reading your questions and answering them.

And again if you need anything, just write something in the comments, and let’s see what I can do for you.

And this is Tommaso Zillio of And until next time, enjoy

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