Shaun Bax­ter starts a new se­ries look­ing at ‘the notes in the cracks’ in or­der to sig­nif­i­cantly ex­pand and en­hance your melodic op­tions.

Guitar Techniques - - CON­TENTS -

Shaun Bax­ter be­gins a new se­ries, fo­cus­ing on chro­matic pass­ing notes for so­phis­ti­ca­tion.

In com­mon mu­sic par­lance, chro­matic notes are ‘non-scale’ notes. The word ‘chroma’ is the Greek word for colour and, cer­tainly, chro­matic notes are a great way of catch­ing the lis­tener’s ear.

Whether think­ing in terms of paint­ing pic­tures or cre­at­ing flavours, chro­matic notes will add colour and spice to your play­ing, pro­vid­ing you with nearly twice as many notes to choose from (12 notes in each oc­tave in­stead of 7) when im­pro­vis­ing over each chord. Cru­cially, they pro­vide us with the op­por­tu­nity to use ten­sion (dis­so­nance) and then re­solve it (con­so­nance), rather than just dwelling on con­so­nant notes all the time.

Tech­ni­cally, each time you use a chro­matic note, it could be ar­gued that you are im­ply­ing a dif­fer­ent har­mony for that mo­ment. For ex­am­ple, when a G# note is fol­lowed by an A note over an A7 chord, one could view the G# as be­ing the ma­jor 3rd of an im­plied E7 chord lead­ing back to the root (A) of the parental A7 chord: in other words, a per­fect ca­dence of E7(V) to A7(I); how­ever, things needn’t get that com­pli­cated. For the pur­poses of this les­son, we are merely go­ing to view each chro­matic ‘ap­proach note’ as rep­re­sent­ing a form of ten­sion that is go­ing to be re­solved to a scale note (of­ten a chord tone) ei­ther a semi­tone above or be­low.

In jazz (a style that of­ten in­volves chro­matic notes), there is a whole sci­ence sur­round­ing whether a chro­matic note is used on an off­beat (the most palat­able op­tion) or a down­beat (the most pun­gent op­tion) and we will be touch­ing upon this when look­ing at the var­i­ous mu­si­cal ex­am­ples in this les­son.

Fur­ther­more, it has to be said that speed is also an is­sue. The longer you linger on a chro­matic note, the more it will pro­long the agony for the lis­tener; con­versely, the quicker you play, the more lib­er­ties can be taken as any ten­sions cre­ated are brief.

In this les­son, apart from look­ing at some com­mon ways of ap­ply­ing chro­matic ap­proach notes, we are also get­ting you started with lines that fea­ture chro­matic notes in each of the five CAGED shapes of the Mixoly­dian mode. For your ref­er­ence (and a great vis­ual aid mem­oir), Di­a­gram 1 shows all five CAGED shapes of A Mixoly­dian).

Each CAGED shape pro­vides unique phys­i­cal op­por­tu­ni­ties to ex­e­cute mu­si­cal ideas that are more dif­fi­cult to play in the other four, and it makes sense to have a dif­fer­ent lick and line vo­cab­u­lary in each shape (as op­posed to trans­pos­ing and learn­ing each idea in all five shapes) for quite prac­ti­cal rea­sons. Ba­si­cally, if you have 10 lines, it’s much bet­ter to spread your vo­cab­u­lary so that there are two lines as­signed to each of the five CAGED shapes. This way, not only do you re­duce the amount you have to learn (trans­pos­ing each line to ev­ery shape would re­sult in 50 pieces of in­for­ma­tion in­stead of just 10), but you also max­imise the chances of us­ing all the lines sim­ply by mov­ing around the gui­tar (rather than play­ing the same line ev­ery­where you go). Mov­ing to a new CAGED shape will un­lock a whole new vo­cab­u­lary and so help to keep your play­ing fresh as you move from one area of the neck to another.

In the tran­scrip­tion of the mu­si­cal ex­am­ples, the chro­matic notes are shown in brack­ets, just so that you can vis­ually dis­tin­guish them from the ‘cor­rect’ notes (in other words, the ones that be­long to A Mixoly­dian); how­ever, this does not mean that they should be played as a ‘ghost’-notes (no rhyth­mic value): each chro­matic note has a full note-value (usu­ally a 16th-note in these ex­am­ples) and should be played as loud and proud as any other note within the line.

each caged shape pro­vides op­por­tu­nites to ex­e­cute ideas that are more dif­fi­cult in the other four

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