In the third lesson of his series Ulf Wakenius continues his quest to bring Oscar Peterson’s stunning piano licks onto the guitar fretboard.
Like most jazz musicians schooled in bebop, a prominent feature of Oscar’s playing was his use of chromaticism and enclosures to build complex harmonic lines and motifs – both tried and tested devices. They can be used to create beautiful lines that weave around the underlying harmony, sometimes sounding as if they will never resolve.
First, we’ll look at some licks using chromatic approach notes, then move on to enclosures. Finally, we’ll look at some licks that blend the two approaches in the technique tips that follow.
A worthwhile exercise is to learn the main melodies to some of Charlie Parker’s tunes (Anthropology, Donna Lee, and Scrapple From The Apple are particularly good examples). Parker’s beautifully formed melodic lines are a masterclass in the use of chromaticism, and you can learn a lot by isolating what his saxophone played over a particular chord.
Ideas like those in our first example can be created by adding chromatic passing notes to the arpeggio tones in each chord, to build ‘enhanced phrases’. This style of jazz improvisation tends to be played with constant eighth-note passages, and the musician will aim to ensure that mostly chord tones, rather than passing notes, fall on the strong beats of the bar. This ‘outside-inside’ sound is the heart of bebop.
To explain how the technique works, let’s focus on the Fm7 chord in the Close Your Eyes progression. Look at the two Fm7 arpeggio diagrams opposite (Diagrams 1 & 2). The diagram on the left shows only the notes of an Fm7 arpeggio in 8th position. The diagram on the right shows every possible chromatic note you could play, located around the arpeggio notes, without moving out of position. The following examples (Ex 2, 3 & 4) show three Oscar-style lines, each of which contain phrases that include chromatic notes derived from Diagram 2.
Next we move on to the concept of enclosures. An enclosure surrounds a target note with notes either side (usually on the same string). This approach differs from chromaticism in that enclosures use a combination of scale tones and chromatic notes to surround the target. If we illustrate this with a chord, a typical enclosure lick would take the chord tones, and enclose them with a scale note above each one, and either a scale note or chromatic note below. Ex 5 illustrate the concept of enclosures and Ex 6-7 combine chromatics and enclosures. Enjoy!
NEXT MONTH Ulf brings us his final lesson on learning the piano licks of Oscar Peterson
In attempting to play piano style licks on the guitar it makes sense to use a sound that’s at least related to that instrument. So, not too dirty, not too much sustain, but plenty of clarity and the ability to hear the expression within each note. So, neck pickup (or middle if you have that setting), a clean amp and just a hint of reverb should put you in the right ballpark.
“A prominent feature of Oscar’s playing was his use of chromaticism and enclosures to build complex lines and motifs”