Learn 4 great guitar chords for neo-soul

Melanie Faye performs during FORM Arcosanti 2019 at at Arcosanti Urban Laboratory on May 10, 2019 in Arcosanti, Arizona
(Image credit: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

Neo Soul is a genre that is hard to escape from; it’s everywhere from Instagram and Tik Tok to mainstream pop, bringing guitar talent and inspiring chord playing to new audiences.  

Neo Soul is a style of music that combines elements of Motown and soul with contemporary elements from R&B, hip-hop and electronic elements. In the guitar world, you can expect to see lots of interesting chord voicings and extensions as well as some smooth jazz guitar lines.

In this lesson we’re going to check out four chords you can use to give your chord progressions a Neo Soul twist. All the chords are in C, but they are all transposable shapes.

We’re doing to also use some shell chords, which are chords that have some fundamental elements removed from them, such as the 3rd or the 5th, to make space for other parts of the arrangement.


Neo soul chord

(Image credit: Future)

The minor9 chord is one of the most typical Neo Soul chords. This is a pretty easy chord to play. Think of it as a minor 7 barre chord, but you’re losing the 5th interval on the A string in favour of the 9 on the high E.

You can barre the higher strings with your index finger and play the root with your thumb to ensure the A is muted.


Neo soul chord

(Image credit: Future)

This Major 9 is a shell chord. This chord shape is easily transposable, but it will never contain the major 3rd of the chord as that has been removed. If you’re playing this in the C position as per this diagram, you can easily add the major 3rd as it would be the open high E.

In other positions it would be impossible to fret the major 3rd.


Neo soul chord

(Image credit: Future)

The 7b13 chord is an interesting sounding chord. It shares a lot with the dominant 7, but the addition of the b13 note pulls it to a darker tonality.

The b13 note in a major context would be the b6 note in a minor scale. This note pulls the dominant 7 sound towards a minor sound.


Neo soul chord

(Image credit: Future)

The min11 chord is another shell chord as you’re once again dropping the 3rd, in this case the minor 3rd.  

This chord has a very strong jazz sound and works great as a substitute for any minor chord that appears in your progression.  It also features the 9th degree of the scale which gives the chord a slightly sus2 vibe.

Leigh Fuge

Leigh Fuge is a guitar player and content creator with a love for all things '80s. When he’s not creating gear demos for his Youtube channel he’s teaching students via his online guitar course Right Notes Music Tuition. Off camera he spends most of his time travelling around the UK performing at functions and corporate events.  www.instagram.com/leighfugeguitar