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LJS 132: Avoiding “Avoid Notes” and When Not to Avoid Them

Welcome to episode 132 of the LJS Podcast where today we are answering a question from a podcast listener who asked about avoid notes. Avoid notes are used in music academia to help identify which notes to not play over given chords or chords in the context of chord progression. But should you really “avoid” avoid notes? Listen in!

Listen to episode 132

Today’s episode covers what I consider a complicated subject to talk about. The topic is “avoid notes” and I believe it’s not black and white.

In music academia, avoid notes refers to notes you should avoid playing in a melodic situation over an isolated chord or a chord in context of a chord progression.

The good thing about avoid notes are that they do help give some general rules of which notes to avoid in order to not create too much dissonance over a chord. Or in the case of a chord progression, they help identify how to differentiate chords from each other.

The bad thing about them is that they should not always be avoided, which of course is a contradiction.

Now if that confuses you, don’t worry, and do my best to make this clear in today’s show.

Here’s a bit of what I talk about:

1. Avoid notes and what they are.

2. Which notes to avoid over isolated chords.

3. When playing those avoid notes is acceptable.

4. Examples of notes to avoid in the context of a chord progression.

5. How to play avoid notes in a chord progression and still differentiate the chords.

This episode may not provide black and white answers, but when it comes to improvisation, few things are.

I hope this episode gives you some enlightenment and helps you conceptualize some of your note choice decisions the next time you sit down to practice.

Important Links

Episode 130: Ask Me Anything

Rick Beato’s video on avoid notes

Brent Vaartstra
Brent Vaartstra is a professional jazz guitarist and educator living in New York City. He is the head blogger and podcast host for which he owns and operates. He actively performs around the New York metropolitan area and is the author of the Hal Leonard publication "Visual Improvisation for Jazz Guitar." He's also the host of the music entrepreneurship podcast "Passive Income Musician."


  1. Hi Brent, I’m fairly new to your site but really enjoying what I’m finding. I’ve subscribed to the podcast in iTunes but have noticed that if I access the episodes through your website there are notes and sometimes transcriptions there. Is there a quick way to jump to this background info from the ios podcast app?

    Thx for all you do through the website!

    • Hey there, thanks for listening! Glad to be of help so far. Sometimes I do have notes and notation on the show notes. However, I usually announce this with a short link on the episode if I do have something specific to look at. I do not believe there is not a solution for jumping easily from one to another.

  2. Hi Brent,

    thanks for taking my question! I feel privileged!

    And thank you very much for your thorough answer – it is complicated. I'm still focusing on chord tones and have to thank you and your professional interview partners as well for pointing that out. The scale-theory is pretty dominant among beginners, so I really like the idea of limiting myself and doing more with less for now.
    The more I focused on scales the more I forgot the chord tones.
    And basically: if you land on chord tones, avoid notes are not your problem.


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