BY JAKE HERTZOG
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 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 halfsteps 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.
Jake Hertzog is the jazz ambassador to the non-jazz world. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Jake’s latest release is Patterns [Buckyball].