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Jazz Guitar: Notes & Tones

In preparing for the launch of our new online Jazz Guitar School with Chuck Loeb, we recently released a sample lesson where Chuck breaks down The 6 Positions (a fundamental scale concept in his jazz guitar lessons). While The 6 Positions will help you to learn the geography of the fretboard, "approach notes" are a way to introduce notes outside of the key so you can incorporate some chromaticism into your jazz lines.

"All we're doing is surrounding each note of the triad."

Chuck demonstrates how it's done by starting with a simple chord progression going from A to D.

jazz guitar lesson approach notes

Here's the idea: you want to "approach" the note with a "neighbor tone", either below or above it. Chuck demonstrates by showing a basic A Triad Arpeggio which consists of three notes: A, C#, E.

jazz guitar lesson approach notes 2

As an exercise, try taking each of these notes and adding one note below it before playing it. Sounds like a scale, right? Now try the same thing, only this time play one note above each note in the triad. Sounds a bit more interesting, but you're still playing in the same scale.

Chuck shows you how it sounds to add a chromatic approach note below each note of the A Triad. The first one, G# to A, is in the key - but the next one, C to C#, is not. 

jazz guitar lesson approaching notes 3

"Put a little grease in it."

Chuck will often say through his jazz guitar lessons, "Put a little grease in it when you get to the 3rd." What he's referring to here as the "grease" are really just approach notes - specifically a half step chromatic approach note below the 3rd. The one below the 5th is also not in the key, it's a half step below the E.

Get Chuck's Free Guitar Lessons

Approaching a note from above diatonically and below chromatically is common in jazz guitar, and as Chuck points out - you probably have heard it many times before. This means playing diatonically above each note, and chromatically a half step below. Chuck demonstrates this first by starting from above then going below and coming up - and then the opposite: from below, doing above and then coming down.

Chuck recommends experimenting with all of these techniques using the backing tracks that are attached to the lessons inside his online school. The backing tracks will be your laboratory trying out different approach notes and seeing what works and sounds best.

For more sample jazz guitar lessons fill out the form and visit chuckloebguitar.com for more information about Chuck's online guitar school. Chuck simplifies jazz guitar with a comprehensive library of pre-recorded lessons, plus you can submit practice videos and get personalized feedback from Chuck himself.

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