Waking the Neighbors

By Brewster, David | Guitar Player, July 2016 | Go to article overview

Waking the Neighbors


Brewster, David, Guitar Player


THE USE OF NEIGHBOR TONES IN music can be traced back hundreds of years, to early classical compositions. Neighbor tones are chromatic passing tones performed by approaching a melody, scale, or arpeggio using chromatic half-step movements from below (known as lower neighbor tones), or chromatic half-step movements from above (known as upper neighbor tones).

Well, what's old is new again. You can find this cool performance technique in plenty of guitar music, as numerous guitarists have adapted this idea to the fretboard, including such diverse players as Django Reinhardt, Randy Rhoads, Pat Metheny, and Marty Friedman.

The unique sound that neighbor tones deliver, in combination with the fretting-hand fingering challenge they pose, makes them an interesting and useful concept to explore. A great place to start involves outlining the basic Dm arpeggio shown in Ex. 1a, and then expanding on it using lower neighbor tones in Ex. 1b, and upper neighbor tones in Ex. 1c.

You should visualize the arpeggio fingering shown in Ex. 1 a as you play through Examples 1b and 1c, each demonstrating a different neighbor tone approach. Keep the concept in mind as you get used to what these tones sound like and look like: Lower neighbor tones target chromatic passing tones a half-step below each note, upper neighbor tones target from a half-step above each note of the arpeggio.

Moving on, notice that the basic melodic idea shown in Ex. 2a is transformed using a lower neighbor tone approach in Ex. 2b. Dig how adding a passing tone before each note of this melodic phrase modifies the melody in an unusual and ear-catching way. As you start to become comfortable with this technique, experiment with additional half-step movements to uncover even more licks and phrases.

The next example [Ex. 3] features a finger-twisting phrase that produces a cool sound that you can employ during a fill or solo, but it also serves as a great workout and warm-up exercise. …

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