Chromatic Approach Notes

Forward Motion

Hopefully by now I've beat into your brain your responsibility of defining and supporting the sound of each chord as it goes by in a song. You probably realize there is a lot more to playing the bass than just that.

Another important function of a bassline is to connect one chord to the next. Many good basslines propel a song through its chord progression. A chord progression is a sequence of chords. Progress means to move forward. So a chord progression moves forward through a series of chords.

Approach Notes

One way of creating forward motion is by using notes that lead into, or approach, the main notes which you are playing. Basically the approach note creates a little bit of tension which pulls you into some other note.

In this lesson we will talk about chromatic approach notes.

Chromatic Approach Notes

A simple way of defining the word chromatic is it means from one note to the very next. Chromatic approach notes lead from one note to the very next note. The chromatic approach note can come from one note above or one note below the target note.

For example, if you were approaching the note C you might approach it from the note C# (one note above), or from the note B (one note below).

Passing Tones

Many times when two main notes are separated by one note you can use the note inbetween to connect them. In this instance we'd call the chromatic note a passing tone. It works in the same way — chromatically leading from one place to another.

For instance, if you were going from the note C to the note D you could use the note C# to smoothly connect them.

Rhythmic Placement of Chromatic Notes

The chromatic approach note should always be handled with care. It can sound downright awful if it is applied poorly.

The chromatic approach note is usually a very weak, unstable note to play. If you emphasize it in the wrong place rhythmically, you can really upset things. Most often these chromatic notes fall in weak places like in between the beats, or on beats 2 & 4. Rarely do they fall on beats 1 & 3 where your ear expects to hear strong supportive notes like the root and fifth instead. Once again, the rule is listen and let your ear be the judge!

Here are some bassline examples of passing tones and approach notes.

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