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Strike Up The Band

Basic Chromaticism around the Chord Tones and Scales


Now that youre hopefully getting to grips with using chord tones and scales while improvising
through a sequence it is time to turn our attention to one of the biggest elements found in this
language. Chromaticism is when we play notes outside of the given scale. In this case it is used to
enhance or elaborate around the notes of the given scale. There are many ways to use chromatic
notes either in passing from one note to another or when used to enclose a certain target note. This
solo shows many examples of the various uses and we will be looking at where they are and how you
could go about practising them to internalize them into your own playing.

In order to resolve the tension created by chromatic notes in a strong way we will be looking at using
the chromatic notes to target chord tones within the sequence or in our exercises.

1. Chromatic Approach Notes


This is when a note is approached from either the semitone above or below. In this case most
examples are from below but we can create some exercises in order to practice this.

An example can be found going in to bar 27.

A similar example can also be found in bar 91.

In bar 95 there is another example but this time is played as a grace note.

All the following exercises should be put into all 12 keys and should be altered when necessary in
order to play different chord types (minor, dominant etc.)
Ex.1
Ascending (approach from below)

Descending (approach from below)

Ex.2
Ascending (approach from above)

Descending (approach from above)

Play over a three chord blues like you would of done during lesson 1 and try starting some of your
phrases with a chromatic approach from either above or below. Try doing alternate choruses of
approaching from above or below to really get both into your playing. For now, just like in the
exercises above start with the approach note off of the beat so that the target note will remain strong
when resolving on a down beat.

2. Chromatic Passing Notes


A chromatic passing note is note that fills in the step between two notes a tone apart. Examples can
be found in bars 66 and 70 just for two examples. A very good way to practice this is to play your
scales and to fill in the tones one at a time. Play through exercise 3 and then take it through the
keys.
Ex.3

(Make sure you play these scales ascending and descending and to the fullness of your range).

As with the approach notes return to improvising over a 3 chord blues to see if you can start to
integrate the passing notes into your playing.

3. Enclosures
These are incredibly common in this sort of music and once youve been made aware of what they are
you will notice them throughout the solos on this site.
An enclosure is when a target note is approached by a group of notes above and below it. This can
create varying degrees of dissonance before being resolved onto the target.
One example is when a note is approached from the semitone above and below. An example of this
can be found at the end of bar 62 into bar 63. The D# and C# create tension as they are notes outside
of the chord (D7) but they enclose and resolve when landing on the D as the chord changes to G
major. As mentioned earlier the chromaticism sounds effective because it resolves very strongly. In
this case onto a chord tone of the G major chord.

As before exercises can be made from this. Try playing exercise 4 remembering to take it through the
keys and through the different chord types. Once you feel confident with this try adding this
technique onto the work youve already been doing on the blues.
Ex.4

Another variation of this can be found in bars 53 and 54. This time the enclosure consists of
approaching the target from the note in the scale above and then a semitone below. In the bars
mentioned Sonny Stitt repeats the same pattern an octave higher but over a different chord where the
target note is still a chord tone.

Ex.5 (Notice that some times the scale note above will be a semitone in the exercise below)

Any of the given exercises could be expanded and below is an exercise that combines chromatic

passing notes and semitone enclosures. Each phrase starts on a chord tone and sometimes semi
quavers were needed to fit an extra note in order for the enclosure to start on the beat.
Ex.6

These patterns can be seen throughout all of these solos and although in these lessons we will be
looking at varying topics if you spot a good enclosure pattern or chromatic line please try to come up
with your own exercises to practice.