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Understanding scales, modes, and chord tone structure is critical to building a great jazz piano solo and learning how to improvise. However, restricting your playing to diatonic scale patterns is not the only method of improvisation. In fact, veering away from traditional scale structure and incorporating notes that are outside of a piece’s harmonic context will allow you to achieve that authentic “jazz sound” when performing a solo. Embracing chromaticism in your piano playing is crucial to developing your jazz vocabulary.

 

In this online piano lesson, master jazz pianist and ArtistWorks instructor, George Whitty explains the concept of chromatic approach patterns and how to integrate them into your improvisation on the piano.

 

“These approach patterns are very simple,” George explains. “They’re little three-note combinations that lead to a target note. When you hear them, you’ll probably recognize them if you listen to a lot of bebop. [They’re present in] a lot of great bebop solos.”

 

George focuses not only on accurately performing the chromatic approach patterns themselves, but also on placing these approach patterns properly within a soloistic idea.

 

“Part of what we like about these approach patterns is that they do, for a second, put tension on the beat,” George explains. “Then, on the very next beat, you resolve down to your target note, the chord tone. That little bit of tension and release is really a classic part of the jazz vocabulary.”

 

The tonal characteristics of these approaches helped define the sounds of bebop piano greats like Horace Silver, Oscar Peterson, and Wynton Kelly, and they’re a key factor behind George’s improvisational brilliance.

 

“These approaches are kind of like pivot points or hinges that lead us to a target note using a combination of chromatic passing tones and diatonic scale tones,” George explains. “In general, this target note is a chord tone, and, from there, you can proceed into your scale or whatever comes next.”

 

For jazz piano students of any level, exploring and understanding these chromatic approach patterns is essential to mastering the jazz musical idiom. Beginning players, take your time analyzing and deconstructing these patterns. For intermediate and advanced players, it never hurts to revisit this fundamental concept. It might just inspire the breakthrough you need to take your improvisational skills to the next level!

 

In this introductory online piano lesson, George outlines the first of four chromatic approach patterns commonly found in jazz improvisation. So, hop over to your keyboard and begin tackling this important improvisational concept with master pianist George Whitty:

 

 
If you’re interested in learning the other three chromatic approach patterns and continuing your improvisation studies, check out George’s full collection of jazz piano lessons here at ArtistWorks!

 

LEARN MORE:

Have you always wanted to learn how to play jazz piano? Through our comprehensive piano lessons online and Video Exchange Learning platform here at ArtistWorks, you can learn from internationally-renowned players, like George Whitty, and get personalized feedback on your playing.

 

George’s course starts with the basics and teaches everything from beginner jazz piano to advanced performance techniques and compositions. So, whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced player, all levels are welcome and all students will grow and improve their skills as pianists and musicians!

 

Try out some free music lessons here and see what makes ArtistWorks courses some of the best online music lessons around!

 

READ MORE:

New Podcast: George Whitty - Exploring the Styles of Jazz

George Whitty - Tapping into Time & Feel

This is ArtistWorks: Behind the Scenes with Our Artists

 

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