This is my personal favorite way to improvise melodies over chord changes.
You can use this for any type of chord progression to create strong melodic direction.
How to start applying approach notes in a musical way
The Approach Note Method creates lines with strong melodic direction and harmonic clarity.
This method is sometimes called Target Notes, Neighbor Tones, and Enclosures.
Follow these steps to develop good habits when learning this method:
- Start out by mapping out the chord tones for each chord in the chord progression. These chord tones will become your target totes.
- Decide which chord tones you want to focus on.
- Start out exploring a single approach note. This approach note can be a half-step below your chord tone, or a diationic-step above your chord tone.
- Add more approach notes when you become more comfortable with single approach notes. The closer your approach notes are to your target note, the more fluid your line will sound. The farther your approach notes are to your target note, the more angular your line will sound.
- At first, aim to have your target notes fall on the strong beats. The strong beats of a measure are beat 1 and beat 3.
- After arriving at your target note, you can develop your melody further by adding a simple tail note. A tail note is an extra diatonic note.
Approach notes are not limited to solo lines. You can apply these in your bass fills, or to create movement in your bass lines.
How to practice approach notes with your bass lines
The amount of chromaticism that you use will depend on the style of music. Different styles of music have different toleration for outside notes. So, make sure to use your ears as your guide.
- Start out by playing a simple bass line.
- Practice grooving with that bass line and make it feel good first, before adding more stuff.
- Once things are feeling good, try adding approach notes to the first note of the bass groove.
- Experiment with both diatonic and chromatic approach notes. Sometimes you’ll discover cool places you can get away with adding outside notes.
- Repeat the previous steps and try adding approach notes to beat 3 of the measure. Adding movement to the middle of the measure has a different feeling.
Beats 1 and 3 are strong beats of a measure. This is why you’ll often hear key chord changes occurring in these places.
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Approach notes, Target notes, Neighbor tones, and Enclosures are very effective for creating strong melody over any set of chord changes. Check out this book on Amazon: Jazz Improvisation: The Goal Note Method