Natural Tension Tones for KILLER MELODY

Do you want to improve your melody lines and make them better so they have more connection to the underlying chords? In this lesson I’ll explain the use and the theory behind Natural Tension Tones. A simple concept that you can use right away to enhance chords within a  progression. 

You can use Natural Tension Tones as a way to compose, to improvise or as an approach to create more interesting lead guitar parts... 

If you’re unsure of what “Natural Tension Tones” are, they take into regard the; 9th, 11th and 13th tones that exist as compound intervals in the second octave range of a scale. It might sound a little complicated, but after I explain it in this lesson, you’ll totally understand it.


Let’s get things started by clarifying these intervals and then we’ll move onto applying them. Once we’re done, you should have enough ideas from the lesson that you could go onward from here and place these Natural Tension tones into your own music.

Let’s begin by breaking down a full two octave scale and help you better understand exactly where the Natural Tension Tones are located. Here’s a two octave “F Major” scale…

As you can see, the Natural Tension Tones (9, 11, 13), are up in the scales second octave range and are located at the; 9th, 11th and 13th degrees. In the key of “F Major” they work out to be, the tones of; “G, Bb and D,” (up into that scales second octave).

One really interesting way to apply Natural Tension tones is through the use of added extensions onto arpeggios that exist related to the root of the chord. And, the best part is that these extensions produce sound that always functions within the key.

Let’s study how all this works by taking an, “F Major 7,” arpeggio and then we’ll add on those Natural Tension tones around the arpeggio tones.

First, here’s our basic, “F Major 7” arpeggio…

Ex. 1). F Major 7 arpeggio (basic chord tones of 1, 3, 5, 7)

Ex. 2). F Major 7 (with the 9th [G] added)

Ex. 3). F Major 7 (with the 11th [Bb] added)

Ex. 4). F Major 7 (with the 13th [D] added)

Now, that we’ve created arpeggios that apply the Natural Tension Tones, (and you understand that we can add on either a 9th, 11th or 13th to fulfill the idea of those Natural Tension Tones), the next step I’d like to work on with you will be using these ideas in a melodic line that targets specific notes on extended chords used within a progression.

This means that our focus on each extended chord will be the specific; 9th, 11th or 13th that reflects back to the Root of the chord applied within the progression. So, rather than talk about this, let’s run through an example…

Here’s our chord progression for this lesson… 
The progression below applies a 9th as an extended Major chord on measure two and an 11th extension to the minor chord found on the fourth measure. Learn the chords and develop the progression up to 120 b.p.m. using a metronome or drum machine.

Next, we’re going to add our melody line onto those chord changes. The idea that I’m shooting for is to cover the unique sound of those 9th and 11th chords with Natural Tension tones that directly relate to each of the Roots of those chords.

This means that on the, “F maj.9” I’ll be targeting into the note of “G.” Because “G” is the 9th off of that “F major” chords Root. And, on that “E minor 11th,” (in the fourth measure), I’ll be targeting into an “A” tone. Because the “A” is the 11th away from that, “E Minor 11th” chords Root.

Here’s the melody line I composed for you to learn that applies each of these ideas…

I'd suggest that you spend some time after reading through this lesson, and go through the studying of chord tones, work on theory for your arpeggios and most importantly, compose some music that starts using the ideas that I’ve organized here for you.

What you’ll discover is a whole new dimension opens up for you when it comes to applying notes that really lock down on the true color of every chord being playing during a progression.

When you’re composing, or when you’re improvising, the sound of your note selections are pretty much absolutely everything. And, this approach I've explained here, really helps bring in a lot of solid melodic effects of the scale that will all closely tie into each chord being used in a song.

Thanks for joining me, If you'd like to Find Out What You Should Learn Next on Guitar - take a look at the courses over on my website at

My step-by-step; Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced courses will cover what you need to know, along with how to be able to move forward and become the best player that you can be. I've worked on these courses since 1992 and I feel that all together they're the best guitar program you'll find.

My courses will help you learn to identify what's required to get you up to the next level of guitar playing, in a very organized way, that makes sense. I look forward to helping you further at

Until next time - take care and we'll catch up again on the next lesson. Bye for now!



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