Passing Tones

Chromatic passing tones were used extensively in Bebop in the 1940´s by the two great purveyors of chromaticism, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Chromatic passing tones are very useful and can make a big difference to your solo; where you put them is important so lets look at a few examples.

The examples below use the various modes of the major scale and are for one chord accompaniment so you can get a feel for them. When using chromatics/passing tones (the terms are interchangeable), it is best to move chromatically to a strong chord tone on a strong beat; a classic example would be the major 2nd to minor 3rd to major 3rd over a dominant 7 chord.

Passing Tone Example 1

Another example is chromatically descending from the major 7 to the perfect 5th when soloing over a major 7 chord

Passing Tone Example 2

Passing Tone [Major Example]

Passing Tone [Mixolydian Example]

Passing Tone [Dorian Example]

Careful! The misuse of chromaticism can sound very tedious particularly when chromatic notes are left unresolved.

Next we are going to look at an excerpt from a solo that uses chromaticism to connect to and from various scales in order to outline the changes of the familiar I VI II V chord progression or as it's called in jazz ‘rhythm changes`.
Notice that the less of an intervallic leap between chord changes the smoother the solo sounds, the smaller intervals connecting chords in the solo give the sound of effortless scale connection.

Rhythm Changes Example