Free Jazz Guitar Lessons with Chris Standring

Target & Approach Tones

Phrasing is how we shape a line. But it's actually more than that. In the bigger sense it is how we tell a story, and telling a musical story in a conversational sense is how we express ourselves.

When we have a conversation, in the traditional sense, we use words to help get our meaning across. But the essence of our conversation is a point we are trying to make. This point could be looked upon as our goal. And in order to make our point, and get it across successfully, in a perfect world we want to have a good vocabulary so we can be articulate and expressive. The way we do this is by using many different conversational tools, including metaphor, repetition, set up and resolution (point of climax) and so on. We may even raise or quiet our voice for dramatic effect.

In a musical conversation we can do similar things (except perhaps metaphor). But we can use set up and resolution to tremendous effect. We can also target points in our phrases. Indeed we can target certain climactic parts of each phrase (something that perhaps cannot be taught), but we need to target certain notes within our phrase, and this is something that can be taught, and is important to learn.

We can think of target tones as nothing more than chord tones. So if we are thinking of G major7 for example, our chord tones are G, B, D and F# (or 1,3,5 & 7). Let's assume we are playing through a two-five-one sequence. When we land on our one chord, we need to target one of these chord tones so there is resolution. In the same way, we can outline all other chord changes by focusing on these chord tones too. But if we simply played arpeggios as the basis of our solos, you can imagine it wouldn't be very interesting. It would actually sound like an exercise. So we learn to shape our melodies by outlining chord tones in a very melodic way. Such was the genius of Charlie Parker who had the idea to focus on the upper structure of each chord and change the face of music from his time on.

In order to help bring out our musical point, we can set up our musical phrase using what we call approach notes. An approach note is a note or series of notes that literally approach our target chord tone. The most common way we do this is with the use of chromaticism. If our phrase takes us to the third of a chord, our approach note could be a semitone behind it, or in front of it. Once we start implementing approach notes the sound of jazz is everywhere.

So let's look at some target & approach phrases using positions you may now be familiar with. First I will show a diagram of an arpeggio that shows the main chord tones of the phrase we will look at. The arpeggio is also a phrase you can use in itself as part of your melodic vocabulary. (Because remember, we never need to practice anything we cannot use in a practical playing setting). Then you will see a phrase that should be played at the same location. I have used the letter "T" for target note and "A" for approach in my examples. Here we go...

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Am9 (Shape 1)

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Am9 (Shape 2)

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Am9 (Shape 3)

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D13 (Shape 1)

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D13 (Shape 2)

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D13 (Shape 3)

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Gmaj7(Shape 1)

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Gmaj7(Shape 2)

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Gmaj7(Shape 3)

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Gmaj7(Shape 4)

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The Long Awaited Play What You Hear Volume Two Is Now Here!

It has been many years since the first edition of Play What You Hear (originally released in 2000). Now volume two is here with new ideas and concepts, complete with audio, video, traditional notation and TAB throughout. High resolution pdf available for printing the entire program. For intermediate and advanced players.

  • Part One: Melody

    Focuses on single note soloing. Learn how to effortlessly solo through complex chord changes.

  • Part Two: Harmony

    Focuses on chord melody. Learn new harmonic devices and understand chords in a whole new way.

  • Performances

    Study Chris Standring's six recorded solos, transcribed with audio and high def video.