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Neo Soul Guitar Lesson

Neo-Soul is a genre of music that comprises of elements of Gospel, RnB, Funk, Jazz and Hip Hop. Before we dive into some essential chords and how to apply them, listen to these three Instagram examples of Neo Soul playing.

The first example is recorded by Mark Lettieri, who along with being one of the finest solo guitar players in the world, plays for the jazz fusion grammy award winning band Snarky Puppy.

Mark L

The second example is from my good friend and incredible player Kristof Neyens.


The third example is played by myself Simon Pratt.


Now that you have an understanding of the sound of Neo Soul let’s look at some fundamental aspects of the chords involved in this genre.

In example one I have demonstrated three-note shapes for an E major 6 chord and an E major 7 chord, both held for four beats.

Example 1

Understanding jazz guitar chords 1a

The hammer-on demonstrated in example two is a key sound in Neo-Soul. By hammering the 6th to the 8th frets on the ‘G’ string, you change the chord from an E major 6 to an E major 7. I recommend barring the 6th frets with your first finger and hammering on to your fourth finger. If you practice this example in this way, the following examples won’t feel as challenging.

Example 2

Understanding jazz guitar chords 1b

One of the most common chord shapes used in Neo-Soul is the major 9 shape with the root note on the ‘A’ string as shown in example three.

Understanding jazz guitar chords 1c

Now apply the hammer-on pattern learnt in example two to the full E major 9 chord shape.


Understanding jazz guitar chords 1d

Often in Neo-Soul, a chord shape will move around the neck with minimal regard for theory, preferring the ‘if it sounds good, it is good’ approach. Example five shows how to move the major 9 hammer-on progression around the fretboard to create a classic Neo-Soul sound. Once you have learnt this example, play it along with the drum track below.

Understanding jazz guitar chords 1e

A common sound used in Neo-Soul is using what are called ‘Quartal’ voicings. Simply speaking, chords that are made up entirely of 4ths. They sound very modern and provide one of the main elements of the final piece seen in example seven.

Understanding jazz guitar chords 1f

I created a mini Neo-Soul chordal piece to round out this lesson. The piece starts off with a legato sequence which combines hammer-ons and pull-offs around minor 7 chords. I recommend practicing the hammer-ons and pull-offs without the full chord shape being played at first. In bar three an A/B or B11 chord is played followed by a B13b9 chord, which creates dissonance and is a classic chord voicing used in Neo Soul. The piece is then rounded out with a variety of ‘quartal’ voicings over a ringing low E bass note. The piece finishes with some plucked harmonics twelve frets above the E major 9 chord. Be sure to watch the Facebook live video to see how this example looks.

Understanding jazz guitar chords 1g

Neo Soul Guitar chords

Simon Pratt Guitar Teacher

Author - Simon Pratt

Simon Pratt attended the Guitar Institute (now called the Institute Of Contemporary Music Performance) in London where he excelled in his Diploma of Popular music performance and graduated in 2005. His passion for funk music continued while studying privately with top funk player and editor of Future publishing magazines Jason Sidwell. Always keen to learn, Simon has attended…

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6 responses to “Neo Soul Guitar Lesson”

  1. Garrett Moser says:

    Please, feed us some more Neo Soul lessons, or a whole lesson book on it.

  2. M. Cumberbatch says:

    Here’s another who would love to see a book on Neo Soul guitar! I have an ever growing collection of your books, Joseph. Can’t wait to see this next one on Neo Soul. Any hint as to when next year we might see the book– earlier, later? Either way I’m really excited, I think it’ll be great for me and many others. Thanks to you and Simon for the lesson as well.

  3. readerrandom says:

    Is the book out yet ?

  4. Raffa says:

    Me too!!!!!

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This guy really knows how to write an instruction book that is actually useful. After buying a few titles on Amazon and being disappointed, Joseph’s books have been by far the most useful (at this time I have three of his books).

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