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In two previous modules we have used half steps above and below on beat 4 to create feeling of tension and release. Half steps were always followed by the root of the next chord and some of these half steps were chromatic and some diatonic.

In this module, I have put together some of the most popular patterns utilizing chromatic steps. They are used for the same purpose as half steps above and below, which is creating strong feel of tension and resolution. The difference is that this time half steps occur also on beat 2 and beat 3 and are followed by chord tones other than the root of the next chord. Those half steps are very often chromatic instead of diatonic. Some of these patterns use a double chromatic approach that I labelled as “da” (double chromatic step from above) or “db” (double chromatic step from below). Double chromatic step is simply a two fret before the note that we are going to.

When you apply patterns from this module to different chord types you will notice that in some of them (patterns), what in one chord type functions as a chromatic step from above or below, in other chord type functions as a chord tone or scale approach note. For example if we take first pattern R-b-R-a and apply it to CMaj7th going to D7 we would play C-B-C-Eb where B is not only a half step below to the root C but also is the 7th of CMaj7th chord. Notes that have  more than one function make the line stronger.

According to strong beat/weak beat theory (beat 1 and beat 3 are strong harmoniously, beat 2 and beat 4 are strong rhythmically), our ears put a great emphasis on beat 1 and 3). What does it mean for us? It means that it is very important that we play a proper chord tone or scale tone on those beats.  Beat 2 and 4 are on the other hand strong rhythmically, it doesn’t mean we can play any random note on beat 2 and 4 but our ears put much less emphasis on these beats. And this is where we can make use of chromaticism.

In this module we are going to carry on working on well known Jazz Blues. This time in the key of Bb. In addition to that, I introduced another standard song, “Take The ‘A’ Train”. Learn this new tune using previously presented patterns. Take it to as many keys as you can, also apply concepts from this module to already learnt “Autumn leaves” and “Satin Doll”.

Our first four patterns take the advantage of strong beat/weak beat theory and put it in practice!


R-b-R-a Pattern and R-b-R-b Pattern

These two patterns emphasise the power of the root played on strong beats and chromatic approaches on beat 2 and beat 4. As mentioned above on some chord types these half steps are not chromatic but diatonic.

R-b-5-a and R-b-5-b Pattern

Similar patterns to above ones, only difference is 5 played on beat 3 instead of repeating the root. Conditions of strong beat/weak beat theory are met as we still play chord tones on beat 1 and 3. Notice that our new standard “Take The ‘A’ Train” contains a new chord type appearing for the firs time in our studies – D7#5. Nothing to be worried about as it is really a dominant chord with sharp five (#5) instead of a natural one.  To find a #5 we simply move one fret up from the natural  5.

R-5-db Pattern and R-3-da Pattern

For the first time we have come across a double chromatic approach. It is a concept very often used by bass players and it is a great way to create even stronger feeling of destination than single chromatic step does. Our first pattern uses a framework of the chord (R and 5) as a statement on first two beats and then utilizes a double chromatic approach from below to pull our ears to the root of the next chord. Pattern two uses similar idea but this time we play root and 3rd on first two beats. That let us clearly outline the tonality of the chord and from there double chromatic from above sets direction towards the root of the next chord.

R-db-R Pattern

One more pattern that uses a double chromatic approach, this time emphasises strength of the root. Play the root on beat 1, then a double chromatic step from below and on beat 4 play the same root once again. Notice that in some cases chromatic steps have a dual function as they are also the 7th of the chord being played.

R-a-7-R Pattern

Our last pattern in this module  uses the root and 7th to outline tonality of the chord. Chromatic step leads our ears to the 7th and then we repeat the root on beat four as a final statement.


After internalizing the above concepts ,you now have in your bag of walking patterns a very useful ideas to blend together with chord tones and scales patterns. The material learnt from this module brings a freshness and spices up our lines. Next step is to learn how to make them sound more melodic. We are going to introduce voice leading!

14 Comments on Module 3 – Chromaticism

  1. Hello,
    I have a question about the symbols:
    a=chromatic above
    b=chromatic bellow

    are they a common symbols or is it your own terminology?


  2. Hi Thomaz, What a wonderful series of lessons. I’m an intermediate bassist. But time to time I repass the theory to refresh my memory. I find your lessons are really really interesting and beautifully explained. I do recommend to anyone who want to spice up playing. Thanks Thomaz you’re awesome.

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