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When I read any descriptions of either term, it generally explains the process of harmonizing the melody line as the highest note of a chord voicing.

I have noticed that when I see something called a chord solo, typically every melody note is harmonized into a chord in a bar. When looking at a chord melody, I'll see a chord (with melody note as the highest), followed by a single note line, then another chord, and so on.

Is that the distinction (assuming there is one)? I'd like to stop saying one thing and meaning another if these are unique terms with different meanings.

  • Do you have a specific example to illustrate what you are asking about? I am not sure what you are asking. – Rockin Cowboy Mar 21 '15 at 6:40
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These terms are mainly used for describing guitar playing styles. Chord melody means that a piece is arranged as a solo piece for guitar, where the guitar needs to play melody and chords. Note that usually not every melody note is harmonized, because this is often neither practical nor the most musical solution. On the other hand, a chord solo is usually a solo played in a band context, where the soloist chooses to play chords instead of single note lines. These chords have the character of a solo, i.e. they are usually syncopated in some way, they have some strong melody line, and they are often played in a higher register.

This is an example of a chord solo by Oz Noy (over blues changes).

This is an example of a chord melody arrangement of the jazz standard "Misty" played by Joe Pass.

  • This is a great explanation, and confirms what I suspected. – Steve Mar 25 '15 at 18:49

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