One thing all the great guitar players have in common is their ability
to convey feeling and emotion through their playing.
But while these terms may seem rather ambiguous in a musical context,
practical ways to articulate them on guitar.
The chromatic approach is one of the easiest ways to "feel your way"
through the scales, licks and solos you learn. By using core lead
techniques such as hammer-ons,
bends, and applying them to the scales you know in the simple
way I'm about to show you, you can
instantly inject life into very simple three or four note phrases.
Hit play on the video below for the details and then scroll down for
jam tracks and all that good stuff...
Approaching Notes Chromatically
The term chromatic
in this context simply refers to a note one half step (fret) down from
our target/scale tone. So we're approaching our scale tones from the
In a moment, we'll look at different ways in which we can approach
these scale tones. First, we need to be comfortable with visualizing
these chromatic tones around the scale pattern.
Starting with minor pentatonic, we can add in a chromatic tone (the darker
shaded boxes) before each of the five scale tones as
So each scale tone is now linked to a chromatic "approach" tone.
Familiarize yourself with the new pattern by playing through each scale
tone, preceded by its chromatic tone. Just pick each note for now. Here
I'm using A
minor pentatonic with the approach tones in grey.
Then it's simply a case of slurring these approaches using techniques
such as hammer-ons, slides and bends. This will "soften" the dissonance
of the chromatic note as we'll be resolving it quickly to the
(harmonious) scale tone.
Once you're confident with moving through the scale pattern like this,
try building simple three or four note phrases using different
combinations of these three techniques. There are no rules, but refrain
from using the chromatic approach on every single note. Let some notes
sit naturally in the sequence.
Some examples using A minor pentatonic ( / = slide up
= bend h
= hammer on)...
Now try out your own A minor pentatonic ideas over the backing track below...
That's the basic idea, and you can apply it to any scale, lick or solo
Start with those basic picked phrases and then add in the approaches to
different notes. See how many variations you can create from the same
phrase then move on to another phrase. Finally, link them together.
Let's finish with another scale example - Mixolydian...
This time, I'm going to repeat
notes by picking them as usual and then
hammering-on, sliding or bending into them immediately after.
Repetition is a great way of emphasizing those strong
target notes in your phrases.
Some examples of repetition in B♭ Mixolydian (that's 6th fret using the
Or you could play a more prolonged repetition as follows (you could
replace the hammer ons with slides if you prefer)...
And some more examples of chromatic approach in B♭ Mixolydian...
Once again, try jamming out your own ideas over this B♭ Mixolydian track...