Jazz Guitar Bass Lines Part 2: Chromatic Approaches

Adding Chromatic Approach Notes To Bass Lines

Guitar bass lines can be made smoother by preceding chord changes with a bass note a half-step above or below the root.  The chromatic note creates a tension that foreshadows a change in harmony to the listener, and is immediately resolved when the transition is made.  The chromatic approach note works best as a quarter note, which can necessitate moving the second chord attack from beat four to the “and” of three.

Whether the chromatic approach comes from above or below is determined by what creates the smallest leap between either the root or the fifth of the current chord and the approach note.  When the harmony is moving in fifths, the bass line can be led downward in half-steps from the fifth of the current chord to the root of the next chord. Practice this technique on the following II-V-Is before applying them to simple tunes.