As a pianist and educator, I'm always looking for ways to help my students improve their improvisation skills. One technique that I find particularly effective is chromatic chord tone targeting. In this article, I'll share some tips and tricks for using chromaticism to target chord tones in your improvisation.
The first step in using chromaticism to target chord tones is to identify the third of each chord in the progression. In the example I'll be using, we have a simple 1625 progression: Fmaj7 - Dm7 - Gm7 - C7. For each of these chords, we'll be targeting the third.
To get started, I recommend playing the chords with a simple root, third, fifth, seventh, and root voicing in the left hand. In the right hand, you'll play the third of each chord on the beat when the chord changes. This will create a stable and predictable melody that will serve as a foundation for your improvisation.
Once you've established the third of each chord as your target note, you can start to fill in the chromatic scale between those notes. This will create a more interesting and complex melody that incorporates chromaticism and tension.
To do this, you'll play eighth notes between the target notes, using chromaticism to fill in the gaps. For example, if you're targeting the third of Fmaj7 (A), and the third of Dm7 (F), you could play the following notes in between: A - G - G# - F. Notice how the chromatic notes are used to create a descending melody that leads to the next target note.
As you become more comfortable with chromaticism, you can start to create chromatic lines on the fly, without pre-planning the notes. To do this, you'll need to have a good sense of the chromatic scale and how it relates to the chords you're playing.
For example, let's say you're on a Dm7 chord and you want to create a chromatic line that leads to the third of Gm7 (Bb). You could start on the third of Dm7 (F), and then play a chromatic line that leads to Bb. You might play something like this: F - G - G# - A - C - C# - Bb. Notice how the notes in between the target notes are chosen to create tension and release, leading to the next target note.
Chromatic chord tone targeting is a powerful tool for improvisation that can add complexity and interest to your melodies. By targeting the third of each chord and filling in the chromatic scale between those notes, you can create compelling lines that incorporate chromaticism and tension. With practice, you can start to create chromatic lines on the fly, giving you more freedom and flexibility in your improvisation.