Soul to Neo Soul: Instagram vs Reality

Dive into some quintessentially neo-soul chords and textures with us!

Ad feature with Elixir Strings

In this video we are going to share some concepts that we hope will inspire you to explore the sort of new and exotic chords and textures that neo soul players absolutely love!

So much more than a gratuitous 15 second Instagram flex – neo soul guitar as we know it today carries on a tradition of inventive chord and rhythm playing that has its roots set firmly in the jazz and RnB styles of players like Joe Pass, Barney Kessell, Cornell Dupree and Steve Cropper.

This video is made in association with Elixir Strings and today we are using a Fender Telecaster that we have strung with a set of OPTIWEB Coated 09-42 nickel plated strings which we love for their long-lasting great sound that gives us all the clarity and nuance that this approach demands.

This style of music encourages nuances and vibrato in your playing and you may find that a light gauge suits your guitar even better. Just remember if you’re using light strings and you’re used to playing an acoustic then you may need to lighten your attack so you don’t pull the strings sharp.

Choice of guitar can be important here. Fender Stratocasters, Telecasters, Jazzmasters and Jaguars can all be very effective while some players opt for more modern instruments by PRS, D’Angelico and Abasi Concepts. Hard-tail or vibrato is entirely up to you.

Neo soul deals almost exclusively with clean, evocative guitar sounds and as such single coil pickups – or an in-between sound and ideally coil-taps if you’re using humbuckers are the go-to textures here – remember, any approach of plectrum and/or finger style playing can work – just play it clean.

As far as effects go, reverb, tremolo, compression, delay – even reverse – delay can all be effective parts of the recipe. Basically anything that sounds tasty and inspiring to you.

We have set up a small board with a Keeley Mini Compressor to keep things tight, A Beetronics Buzzter boost for grit when the time comes, A Solid Gold FX Supa Funk autowah for those sly filter moments and a Pigtronix Moonpool Dynamic Phaser/tremolo for those good wobbly chords. The rest is in the fingers.

In this video we take a look at a couple of tasty chord sequences including different inversions, shell voicing and intervals with influences drawn from players such as Curtis Mayfield, Isaac Guillory, Wes Montgomery and others.

We have even left a little space between the chords for you to put some tasteful licks in there, inspired by Jimi Hendrix, Steve Cropper and others – unless your singer has other ideas, of course.

You can combine and alternate between all these different ideas and approaches – and we really want to encourage you to explore and find your own sounds too. We really hope you have found this video useful. Thank you for watching and thank you to Elixir Strings for making us sound as good as possible for so many years!

Find out more at elixirstrings.com.

Related Brands

Related Tags


The destination for all things guitar.

© 2023 Guitar.com is part of NME Networks.