Neo-soul is a music genre that has been gaining popularity in recent years. It's a result of combining various elements from different genres like soul, jazz, hip-hop, and R&B. If you're a guitarist looking to enhance your playing skills and musical horizons, learning neo-soul guitar is an excellent choice. 

In this article, we'll explore the top 5 reasons why learning neo soul guitar is a great idea and what makes this genre unique and captivating:

  • Chord extensions and voicings 
  • Fingerstyle techniques
  • Interesting grooves 
  • Creative melodic lines

In this article, we'll explore the top 5 reasons why learning neo soul guitar is a great idea and what makes this genre so unique and captivating. 

So grab your guitar, tune-up, and let's dive into the world of neo soul!

Reason #1: A unique new source of inspiration

Neo-soul music is reminiscent of other genres, but it’s still entirely unique and must be learned and taught as its own genre.

Blues, jazz, or funk is an excellent foundation, but these styles won't help you play neo-soul guitar on their own. The expression and emotion of the neo-soul style are the main differences.

The neo-soul guitar tone is very recognizable: 

  • It’s typically a clean guitar tone sometimes with a combination of delay and phaser to get that slightly synthesized sound. 
  • Delicate plucking or picking of chords works nicely with keyboard accompaniment. 

The heart of the style is a laid-back vibe, so your playing should sound relaxed and effortless.

This jam track encapsulates the neo-soul vibe:

Pay attention to the guitar tone and how it compliments the keyboard – the result is an overall balanced and warm sound.

Reason #2: Neo soul is a fun challenge

Regardless of where you are in your guitar journey, learning neo-soul guitar will be a challenge, but a rewarding one if you stick with it. 

  • Neo-soul guitar beginners need to start slow and work up to more complex techniques. 
  • First, learn how to play and build extended chords.
  • Then, think about how to incorporate them into progressions and rhythmic patterns.

Fingerpicking chords is a common part of neo soul. To get started, try simple plucking patterns first.

  • Aim to build strength in a few fingers at a time. 
  • Make sure your thumb, index, and middle finger can achieve the desired plucking pattern before utilizing the ring and pinky finger.
  • Developing strength and syncopation in your picking hand will require practice and patience. 

Below are two great examples of neo-soul guitar in action. More advanced learners will aim for melodic chord-plucking techniques.

Neo-soul guitar example: Nicklas Myhre 

Neo-soul guitar example: Kazuki Isogai

The ability to play chords and bass notes while keeping it melodic and groovy is something that takes time and effort. Make sure to check out our courses on neo-soul guitar inside Pickup Music!

Neo-soul jam track

Beginner players, play along to this jam track and see if you can add some neo-soul flavor to the chords. The flavors can be a specific tone, fingerpicking technique, or a specific rhythm.

Here are the chords you need to know to play along with the jam track: 

Some shapes may be more familiar than others, so spend time on the ones you’re less comfortable with until you can move between them smoothly.

  • Practice the transition between chords slowly so you learn how to play a chord without unwanted string or fret noises. 
  • The clean tone of neo-soul guitar is unforgiving and requires you to be very accurate with your fretting.

The best way to build your ability to play and improvise in this style is by knowing all the different positions on the neck for each chord.

Each position will give you a different sound, feel, and flavor, which is why it’s important to know how to relocate a chord anywhere on the neck. 

Reason #3: Neo-soul guitar is a versatile style

Neo-soul guitar opens many doors for you. If you’re a session guitarist, live performer, hobbyist, or a complete beginner, learning neo soul will be musically beneficial for you. 

The examples we looked at above are all different styles of neo-soul guitar playing. 

  • The jam track is better for beginners to get a feel for the genre and jam along. 
  • Myhre’s track is intermediate-level chord plucking
  • Isogai’s playing incorporates all elements of an advanced neo-soul guitarist.

The range of musical choices within this genre keeps it fresh and exciting. 

  • This type of style forces each player to be as creative as possible. 
  • Every jam session or live performance completely unique depending on who’s playing. 
  • Improvisation-heavy genres like this thrive in that creative space where each player might have a different interpretation of a song or chord progression. 

Reason #4: It’ll make you a more melodic player

Music, when done right, brings emotions out of the players and listeners. The soulful approach to neo-soul guitar is the essence of the genre.  

  • The techniques commonly used among neo-soul guitarists are excellent tools for emotive melodic phrases.
  • That’s a huge part of what neo soul is all about: Emotion through melody and rhythm.
  • By studying a genre that’s focused on melody and emotion you learn to really express yourself through the guitar.

Listen to Myher’s neo-soul rendition of We Wish You a Merry Christmas

  • It’s a song most of us are familiar with and almost know by heart. 
  • Yet, this version captures the essence of Christmas while subverting all expectations of what it’s “supposed” to sound like.   

Another Christmas favorite is Joy to the World

  • Here’s a beautifully-melodic and well-harmonized neo-soul version of the classic song. 
  • Neo-soul isn’t associated with Christmas per-se, but listening to neo-soul renditions of straightforward Christmas tunes can help us hear exactly what the genre encapsulates by putting a spin on a well-known piece of music.

Melody and improvisation

Neo soul is a great genre for jamming and improvisation. 

  • A key aspect of being a solid improviser among other musicians is the ability to listen and respond to what’s happening in the moment. 
  • A good listener matches their playing to what is going on in the song. 
  • Being able to use existing themes within the song, while keeping it varied and interesting.
  • Find a balance between not being too repetitive while also not straying too far from the overall tone of the song.

Another great way to jam and improvise is by bouncing melodic lines and phrases off of other band members this is known as “call and response”. 

  • After a line is played (the call), respond to it with a line that either repeats or resolves the original phrase.
  • It creates a fun musical conversation between the players.
  • This is also a great way to practice training your musical ear.

This type of communication between instruments creates a really engaging experience for not just the players, but the audience too.


A simple melodic line can be very expressive. However, understanding harmony allows for even more choices for adding color, and greater detail to the music. 

As we’ve seen, neo-soul guitarists tend to play a combination of both rhythm and lead guitar in one – merging single melodic lines with the chords, creating a richer harmonic progression.

Listen to this example:

  • One guitarist is producing the rhythm, chords, and melody all at once. 
  • He’s not only playing emotive melodies but he’s harmonizing them as well. 
  • Understanding harmonization is a powerful way to express yourself through your instrument.

To harmonize tastefully, and with a purpose, it’s vital to know chord construction and music theory.

Reason #5: Neo soul will help you strengthen your foundation

There are some really important fundamentals that can be developed through learning neo-soul guitar.

Grow grooves

Neo-soul guitar is all about groove and feel

  • You'll develop a stronger sense of rhythm and timing, which will enhance your overall musicianship.
  • Playing a solid groove is essential for this style

Perfect progressions

Colorful and interesting chord progressions are the bedrock of neo soul. 

  • You'll learn how to play and create chord progressions that you may not normally be exposed to in other styles.
  • Extensions and alternate voicings are common in neo soul.

Improve improvisation

Build the ability to use your instrument as a tool for self-expression and communication. Neo-soul guitar will take you beyond just playing static chords and scale shapes.


Neo-soul guitar offers a unique source of inspiration, a fun challenge, versatility, an opportunity to develop your style, and a timeless genre. Take the time to learn the techniques and fundamentals, and you'll be on your way to creating beautiful neo-soul music.

As always, new members can sign up and get 14 days of full access to the platform completely free. Take advantage of this offer and start learning neo-soul guitar today.

Our Neo-soul Learning Pathway is the perfect start to your neo-soul guitar learning journey!


Ever wanted to know more about the history of Neo soul? Sam, co-founder at Pickup Music and Karl, Head of Education at Pickup Music give you a brief history lesson about Neo soul. Watch it below!