Neo-Sou/R&B Guitar | 3 Levels of Muted Notes

Neo-Soul/R&B Guitar

The 3 levels of Muted Notes Technic

Neo-Soul/R&B music is a very special genre.
It incorporates groove with Jazz harmonies thus creating an intelligent yet super cool and contemporary genre.

☝️ Studying Neo-Soul guitar is highly recommended because, in this genre, we come across complex harmonies and intricate guitar parts.

    But what's so special in Neo-Soul?

    Neo-Soul is built around beats and loops so we can learn and develop as musicians in smaller steps while still exploring complex playing and growing as guitar players. Perfect!

    neo-soul guitar

    Let’s Begin!

    The place of guitar in Neo-Soul 🎸

    In Neo-Soul, we guitar players have to fit ourselves inside a beat or a certain groove (unlike Blues or Rock where the guitar takes the frontline), this is a whole different attitude, this is your chance as a guitar player to really be a part of the rhythm section.

    Muted Notes Technic 🤫

    Playing style, playing this technic in Neo-Soul is a very common thing, and you can get very creative with it, as long as you are a part of the beat!

    Usually, it means that you have to find some kind of repetitive guitar part that you can fit in the groove, it is usually something very simple. You know... you’ll notice that sometimes these parts are harder to write than gigantic solos, in Neo-Soul you have to show that you are not just good but mature as well!

    When learning this technic, we divide the process into 3 steps:

    Step #1 - Doubling the Bassline

    This is a very basic and common thing in R&B/Neo-Soul music, it gives the bass line a sharp edge without clogging the mix. It can be also useful in live scenarios when playing in places with bad acoustics, shifting to doubling the Bass part can clean up a song and help everyone on stage and can be useful in the studio if you want to enrich the bassline.

    Step #2 - Learning the scales

    When it comes to Neo-Soul, learning the theory behind what you’re playing is crucial because this genre is built on jazzy complex harmony changes!
    Playing simple pentatonic scales won’t work here just like that and the phrasing style in Neo-Soul is actually a fusion of jazz, soul, and blues.

    The best way to learn Neo-Soul guitar is to start breaking down what is actually happening inside these harmonies and understanding how you can navigate inside them.

    For this article, we chose a simple 4 chord loop, this loop, as in almost every Neo-Soul song, has some intricacies in it.
    neo soul guitar

    For the PDF with ALL the positions CLICK HERE

    Okay, let’s see what we have here…

    The loop starts with the Cm7 chord, this chord is the 1st degree (Im7) of the Cm scale, therefore we can play the Cm scale over this chord.
    c minor scale
    The 2nd chord of this loop is Fm7 which is the IV degree (IVm7) in the Cm scale. The scale you would want to play on this chord will be F Dorian (which has the same notes as Cm scale).
    F Dorian scale
    The 3rd chord of this groove comes from a different scale, it comes from the C Major scale, therefore its matching scale is D Dorian (IIm7).
    D Dorian scale
    The last chord is called a subV7 because it replaces a chord a Tritone away from it. The scale it gets is Lydian b7 (which is the 4th degree of the Melodic Minor and the 5th of the Altered scale).
    Db lydian b7

    For more information see: “The Tritone Substitute”, “Modal Interchange” (soon), and the “The Melodic Minor scale” (soon) articles.

    If you like Neo-Soul music, be sure to check out the "Neo-Soul Guitar Tone" article.

    In order to play freely in this groove, we need to learn the positions of the scales we are using and the arpeggios of the chords in every given moment. This way we can see the way ahead of us and emphasize the correct notes for a cohesive guitar part.

    Important to remember, not everything fits everywhere all the time, music is a living creature and in some moments notes will work better than others even if the “rules” say different. Your ears are your best instrument! 

    Step #3 - Playing a 2 voice muted guitar line

    After learning all the scales, we know how to navigate inside the groove so we will start by building a simple line and then harmonize it and create something more interesting.

    BONUS TIP - Muted notes with an envelope filter

    This is a very common thing in Neo-Soul music, this funky smooth sound goes extremely well with the genre’s colors and especially when playing muted notes.

    Our recommended envelope filter effect is:

    Subdecay Prometheus DLX Filter Pedal - CHECK PRICE


    It is just so versatile... It can be used in Funk as well as in Dubstep or any type of psychedelic music! It is a really fun one and will make your pedalboard space-worthy! 

    Check out this demo, (and it shows just a part of what you can do with the Prometheus).

    Practice what we've just learned with this playback! 👇

    That's all for now!

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