Tag Archives: chromatic notes

5 Chromatic Licks – This Is The Way You Use Them In Your Playing

In Jazz Guitar, Chromatic Licks are really a huge part of what we consider the jazz sound. But you can use chromatic passing notes and enclosures as devices to create different kinds of surprises in your solos. This Guitar Lesson is going over 5 different examples of how you can use chromaticism and chromatic approach in your playing. The examples are both in a Modal setting and on a II V I.

The lesson covers

  • Adding color with chromatic passing notes
  • Suspending chord tones with chromatic enclosures
  • Creating forward motion towards the next chord
  • Outside sequences and parallel movement.

#1 Chromatic Passing Notes for Color

In this modal example I am using a passing notes and chromatic enclosures as a way to add some color to the line. They are there as ways of adding a few colorful or surprising notes in the line.

Whenever you are playing over a chord then the ear exoects to hear the notes of the chord and the surrounding scale notes. It does however also hear the remaining notes as tensions that need to resolve.

You can add this to a line to give it some colors and some movement. In this modal A dorian minor example I am first adding a passing note between the 9th and the root from beat 3 to 4 of the first bar.

The passing note is placed on the off beat which makes it a bit more smooth.

The Chromatic enclosure is a 4 notes melody in the beginning of the 2nd bar that creates some movement towards the C on beat 3 of the bar.

The final part of the lick is a Cmaj7(b5) arpeggio which is a great way to really get the Dorian Am13 color out on the chord.

#2 Chromatic Lick = Forward Motion

In this example I am using the chromatic enclosure to create some forward motion and move the chords along.

The Progression is a II V I in G major. The chromaticism used is first a passing note between the 3rd and the 2nd on D7 (in bar2)

From here I continue with a very common way to target the 3rd(B) of Gmaj7 that really drives the lick forward and pushes towards the resolution on the and of 4.

#3 Suspending a Resolution

Instead of using the chromatic phrase to drive the changes you can also use it as a way of delaying a chord. In this example, a II V I in G major again, I am using two chomatic ideas to delay the resolution to the Gmaj7.

The Am7 line is constructed of a spread triad 1st inversion C major triad. This is followed by an Am pentatonic phrase.

In this example the dominant, D7, is an altered dominant. The phrase is a pretty basic altered phrase using an Ab triad and a stock Ebm line.

The D7alt line should resolve to the D on beat 1 of the Gmaj7 but instead

These types of ideas are very common in Pat Metheny’s playing around the Question And Answer era. You will find him making harmonic movement quite unclear by adding long chromatic phrases instead of a clear resolution.

#4 Modal Shifting Example

Another great way to introduce chromatic passages is to shift an interval and in that way move out of the tonality for a bit.

This A Dorian modal example demonstrates this. The first bar starts with an enclosure targeting the A on beat 3.  From there it is a descending 1st inversion Am7 arpeggio.

In bar two the first two notes are a chromtatic enclosure of an E. The E and the C then becomes an interval that shifts down in half steps twice. The line ends with a chromatic passing note added between D and C. 

#5 Chromatic Licks as Outside ideas

Chromaticism can also be used as a way to create some outside material in a solo. This modal example is demonstrating some side slipping which is shifting an arpeggio in half steps to add some outside melodies to the phrase.

The beginning of the phrase is a fairly straight forward 4-note enclosure targeting the root of Am7. This is followed by an Am7 arpeggio. 

In bar 2 the Am7 arpeggio ends on the 9th and this is then the first note in a descending Em triad. This triad is shifted down to Ebm and Dm. From the Dm the line ends on the 13(F#) of Am via a chromatic enclosure.

5 Easy Ways To Sound Like Bebop on a C7

The most important part of sounding like jazz, whether you play in that genre or in another, is probably to have some Bebop as a part of your playing.

This video is going to demonstrate 5 easy bebop licks on a C7 chord in a very position and quickly connect it to a scale and an arpeggio. I will go over how you can add some bebop flavour and chromatic phrases to your playing in this position.

Learning and adding to your vocabulary

Finding practical and playable solutions is essential if you want to learn something like the jazz language and this video should give you some easy to apply examples and ideas. This is also how I work and have worked with learning new material.

Keeping Bebop simple: Chord, Position, Licks

The examples I am going to cover are all found around this chord, which is C7 in the 8th fret:

which is closely related to this arpeggio.

And in that position you could think of this C7 or F major scale: 

I find that this is an area of the neck that is a good starting point if you want to add something new to your C7 vocabulary because it is very close to the chord and the Cm pentatonic scale so we have an overview already.

Chromatic Passing note idea 1

This first example is adding a chromatic note on the top E string. The melody is adding a note between the 9th and the root. From there it is a descending scale run ending with a C major triad.
Notice how the end of the phrase is no on the beat which is also typical for bop lines.

More Chromaticism and a bit of Blues

In this example I am using a longer chromatic run on the B string. On this string we already have 3 strong C7 notes: 5,13 and b7.After a short bluesy phrase with those the lick is descending from b7 to 5 in halfsteps again reconnecting with the chord by playing a descending C major triad at the end.

Pivot arpeggios and arpeggios from the 3rd

This example uses two really strong bebop concepts. First this way of using an arpeggio inversion where I am using Em7b5 in first inversion but starting with the high note and then skipping down. If you want to check out how George Benson uses this I have that in a video here.

The other example is adding a chromatic note between b7 and the root which is also extremely common.

Two note chromatic approach

Here the chromatic approach is two notes and inserted between F and E in the beginning of the lick. The rest of the line is using an Em7b5 arpeggio and ends on the root on the high e string. Again ending on the 1&

Encircling: Diatonic above, chromatic below

Encircling a chord tone with a chromatic note and a scale note is also a very common bebop melody. This example is first encircling the 5th(G) with A and F# before it continues with first the arpeggio from the 5th: Gm7 and then a C7 arpeggio.

A few closing Bebop remarks

Besides the devices I talked about in this video it is also important to remember that bebop lines are based on the chords your are playing over. This means that you want to use those chord tones as target notes and as start and ending points of your melodies when you are improvising.

If you want to explore more bebop and especially focus on the phrasing then I have this WebStore lesson with some exercises for that:

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5 easy ways to sound like bebop on a C7

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