When soloing whether as part of a jazz ensemble or otherwise, it’s likely that underneath your solo there will be chords changing. What really helps to take an average solo and really make it sound like it fits within the song and among the changes is making sure your solo lands on certain notes at certain times. Those notes can be thought of as target notes.
Target notes are the notes in a solo that match up with one of the chord tone notes of a chord happening during a solo.
Target notes help to make your solos sound like they fit the changing chords going on as you solo. It’s making a deliberate point to work your solo into the chords as they come at your rather than playing through them. Your solo, all things considered, may still sound fine even if you aren’t lining up with the chord changes as they happen, but a noticeable difference can happen when you work your solo to make sure it hits certain notes when certain chords come on.
Here’s an example. Let’s say we’re soloing in the key of C (and if you’re having trouble remembering your keys, here’s the Theory in 300 segment on the Circle of 5ths) and the chord changes look like this:
Now take a moment and devise a solo to go over those chords. Solo as freely as you see fit.
Now as you play, you might notice that as you move from one chord to the other, the first note one the downbeat of one, the same musical spot that in this example the chord is landing may or may not sound ‘ entirely right’. Of course, in this context, right is relative. If you’re soloing in the same key or a modal key you’ll be ‘correct’ in your solo. But making sure you’re landing on those notes that align with the chord changes is how you can make your solo sound like it fits more in line with the passing changes rather than just playing as the chords pass underneath you.
Here are some exercises and attached audio files. Select and image, right click and hit Save As to save each image for your personal use.
Create a solo of your own that plays with these chord changes. Experiment with landing on notes that match the one of the passing chord tones and and experiment with solos that don’t land on a chord tone: