Neo Soul is a Genre of modern soul which has elements of Soul from the 60’s and 70’s. It is known for being deeper and emotional then modern day R&B.
Neo soul tends to use a lot chords with emotion and tension. These chords generally came from the Jazz/Gospel background where chords are used both inside and outside of the technical scale.
Production wise, most chords will be in the 7th or 9th and Dominants chords to give that tension and fuller sound. It may sound complicated looking into the theory however, once your learn the chords within a given scale e.g. Db then it becomes easier to improvise.
Some of the earlier Neo Soul artists from the 90’s are D’Angelo, Erykah Badu and Angie Stone. They all have different styles but maintain that soul feeling. D’Angelo has a very live jazzy feel to his tracks, he also plays all the instruments in his productions. Erykah Badu and Angie Stone have more of the electronic produced soul flavour.
There are many Neo Soul Artists who do not like the title Neo Soul, they simply refer to it as “Soul”. They claim that modern R&B has taken a different direction. Modern R&B doesn’t really use the jazzy chord progression like traditional soul did. Rather it relies much more on an energetic feeling mainly for the dance floors. Many recent R&B tracks don’t even have chords or a melody, they simply just have a bassline and a drum pattern. The vocals over the top and the rhythm is what keeps it in the “Soul/R&B” category. Some recent R&B even has a 4×4 house/dance type of rhythm.
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