Chromatic Creation

Hey Jazz Guy,

I love the way that chromatic playing sounds. Can you explain how I can play more chromatically in my soloing? Diatonic in Denver

Dear Diatonic,

This is a fascinating topic! Playing chromatically is a very modern technique that will add a sublime element to your playing. Unless you are in an atonal situation, which is a whole different chapter in a different book, you will have to relate what you are playing to the harmony of the moment. In the first example [Ex 1] you will see we are targeting chord tones of GMaj7. Using G and F# and working your way up to B natural from a bar and a half away gives the typical slippery feel of chromatic lines. [Ex 2] Also targets the chord tones of our favorite IIm7 V7 I progression. Notice we are moving in half-steps and whole steps only. This is what gives the chromatic effect. Now for something a little harder, [Ex 3] is over a “Giant Steps” progression and demonstrates how targeting chord tones on strong beats makes playing chromatically very effective and still highlights the harmony. Notice at the end we’ve added some wide intervals. When placed back to back, chromatic playing and wide intervals really contrast with each other for a very modern sound. Another thing to draw attention to, is that when playing chromatically on the guitar, many of the lines can be played completely on one string. Although this is more difficult, it gives a uniformity of tone. Lastly, simple musical devices like sequencing [Ex 4] help to guide the listener’s ear through a chromatic phrase. Keep practicing these techniques and your diatonic destiny will become chromatic cultivation.

Chromatic Playing In-Depth:

The way to take this topic to the next level is first to really become good at playing chromatically and targeting those chord tones. Play around with targeting roots, 5ths, 7ths, 3rds, etc, to create variety in the sound. It becomes even more obscure if you add tricky rhythms to the lines, break them up, and playing them in different registers. You can totally lose your audience and maybe even the band! Just make sure you play something simple to bring everything back “inside”.

When you’ve completely mastered this idea, then you can bend the rules. Don’t target any particular notes. Just play chromatic phrases, like a dance, inside of a larger phrase. Or contrast it with other, inside phrases. Or play chromatically for a whole chorus before you bring it back inside. The most important thing to remember is that you are not playing RANDOMLY. You are playing chromatically for effect, so whatever you do, keep it within the scope of the music at hand. Then you will command that eerie sublime effect of chromatic playing any time you wish.

Link To PDF Example: HJG – CHROMATIC Playing

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Categories: Harmony, Specifically Soloing

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