The International Institute Of Bassists
Bass Courses Video Lessons Bass Lessons Subscribe Interviews News Links Advertise About Contact Archive Home




Targeting Chord Tones With Approach Notes

By Cliff Engel

To achieve harmonic clarity when soloing, an improviser may employ a number of techniques. The easiest method of outlining any particular harmonic structure is through the utilization of chordal arpeggiation. While many musicians feel that playing arpeggiated triads or seventh chords is too obvious or basic to be effective, an analysis of the great solos reveals otherwise. Most of the finest recorded solos can stand alone without the aid of chordal accompaniment because they have so much harmonic strength due to the meticulous placement of chord tones. Since relying solely on chord tones can be too restrictive, soloists will constantly shift the feeling of tension and relaxation in their phrases by combining the usage of chord tones with scalar and chromatic approach notes.

There are 4 basic techniques an improviser can use to achieve harmonic clarity when soloing.
- Extend the durations of chord tones and make their values longer than non-chord tones.
- Position chord tones at significant points in the phrase such as the first note, last note, highest note, or lowest note.
- Place chord tones on the metrically strong downbeats within the measure such as beats 1, 2, 3, or 4.
- Emphasize chord tones through ornamentation.

In this lesson, we are going to utilize a combination of all these improvisation techniques to present a clear picture of the harmony. We will use the basic ii-V-I chord progression, the most common harmonic formula found in the jazz repertoire and the basis of numerous jazz standards, to demonstrate how you can easily target chord tones on the downbeat of a measure by preceding the root, third, fifth, and seventh with various diatonic and non-diatonic approach note techniques.

After outlining one-octave D Dorian, G Mixolydian, and C Ionian modes along with their respective two-octave seventh chord arpeggios, you are presented with 24 different scalar and chromatic combinations which result in a total of 96 distinct permutations over the ii-V-I in C major.

The 24 scalar and chromatic approach note techniques used in these exercises are listed below.
Scalar Approach Note From Above
Scalar Approach Note From Below
Scalar Approach Notes From Above & Below
Scalar Approach Notes From Below & Above

Double Chromatic Approach Notes From Above
Double Chromatic Approach Notes From Below
Double Chromatic Approach Notes From Above & Below
Double Chromatic Approach Notes From Below & Above

Single Chromatic Approach Note From Above
Single Chromatic Approach Note From Below
Single Chromatic Approach Notes From Above & Below
Single Chromatic Approach Notes From Below & Above

Scalar Approach Note From Above & Double Chromatic Approach Notes From Below
Scalar Approach Note From Below & Double Chromatic Approach Notes From Above
Scalar Approach Note From Above & Single Chromatic Approach Note From Below
Scalar Approach Note From Below & Single Chromatic Approach Note From Above

Double Chromatic Approach Notes From Above & Scalar Approach Note From Below
Double Chromatic Approach Notes From Below & Scalar Approach Note From Above
Double Chromatic Approach Notes From Above & Single Chromatic Approach Note From Below
Double Chromatic Approach Notes From Below & Single Chromatic Approach Note From Above

Single Chromatic Approach Note From Above & Scalar Approach Note From Below
Single Chromatic Approach Note From Below & Scalar Approach Note From Above
Single Chromatic Approach Note From Above & Double Chromatic Approach Notes From Below
Single Chromatic Approach Note From Below & Double Chromatic Approach Notes From Above

Once you have played through each of the notated examples in C major, transpose every exercise to all of the remaining keys such as the ii-V-I in G major, D major, A major, and so forth. Next, practice moving the target tones to different beats within the measure. In jazz music, the downbeats serve as rhythmic points of rest and define the harmony of a phrase while the upbeats supply rhythmic motion. If you assign the chord tone that was originally placed on the first beat of a measure to the fourth beat of the measure that preceded it, the phrase will anticipate the subsequent chord change. Likewise, if you appoint the target tone that was initially found on the first beat of a measure to the second beat, the phrase will imply a delayed resolution. You can also shift the target tones just a half of a beat earlier or later in the measure as well. There are countless variations that can be generated by employing the concept of rhythmic displacement, and as you experiment with the positioning of target tones, you will notice that the harmonic character of the phrase will begin to change. Although the underlying motion of tension and release can be greatly intensified by simply relocating target tones, the harmonic clarity of the phrases will become more ambiguous as the target tones continue to deviate from the metrically strong beats. After you feel comfortable targeting chord tones with these scalar and chromatic approach note techniques over the ii-V-I chord progression, expand this improvisation concept by applying it to other chord changes, and improvise solos using these techniques on the 12-bar blues or any jazz standard.





This lesson has been excerpted from Soloing Techniques For Bass Guitar & Acoustic Bass. If you would like to learn more about soloing, ENROLL TODAY!

If your web browser doesn't support embedded PDF files and the lesson doesn't appear above, just click on the "Download Lesson" graphic below to view, print, and save the lesson.




© 2014 Cliff Engel