About 4yrs ago I was practicing scales and modes, cramming a whole lots and getting myself confused. While searching and sourcing for the best way I can go about playing scales without burdening myself with having to cram or put on my head a hundred scales, their notes and patterns, something dropped on my mind which is what I will be sharing and analyzing to you guys.

I call it The chromatic concept.

What is chromatic concept and how do I come about this concept?

As we all know, there are 12 notes in music, these twelve notes can also be called the chromatic scale.

What is a chromatic scale?

A chromatic scale is a 12 notes scale with each note having a semi-tone interval from each other. Personally I call the chromatic scale the mother of all scales. Why?

It’s simple, let’s write out the notes of the chromatic scale, taking the key of C as our root.

C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# B

Now let’s take a look at some popular scales.

Major: C D E F G A B.

Major Pentatonic: C D E G A.

Melodic minor: C D Eb F G A B.

Minor pentatonic: C Eb F G Bb.

Minor scale: C D Eb F G Ab Bb……. Etc

Taking a look at the above scales, the question is which of the above scale notes isn’t present in the chromatic scale?

Of course the answer is None. I.e every scale is originated from the chromatic scale.

Now the concept is this, Why then should we have to think of cramming or hanging so many scales on our head when we can relate to the mother scale, The chromatic scale?

Obviously, the next question I will be expecting should be How can we think chromatically when improvising and yet sound musical?

The above question will take us further to another analysis of Chord, scale and chromatic notes.

Theoretically we all know that chord notes are notes of a particular chord E.g CMaj7, C E G B. While the scale notes are D F A.

Now, combining the chord and scale notes together, we have the Major scale: C D E F G A B.

The chromatic notes are the accidentals: C# D# F# G# A#.

The combination of the chord, scale and chromatic notes to create a wonderful solo is where the professionalism comes in.

Below is the strength of each notes:

Chord notes = perfect

Scale notes = safe

Chromatic notes = careful.

Chord notes: are perfect because they are notes that constitutes the given chord, therefore landing on any of this notes, or rather emphasizing on any of this notes while taking a solo will sound perfectly.

Scale notes : are safe to add up to the perfect chord not while taking a solo due to the fact that they both share the same parent scale, therefore any accented note from the scale notes will only relate to the parent scale. Moreso, scale notes mixed with chord notes will not only relate the piece to the parent scale but will also give another feel and extention. E.g adding the D note to CMaj7 will make it CMaj9 I.e C E G B (D). Also adding the F note will make it CMaj11. I.e C E G B (D) (F) etc.

We will notice from the above analysis that scale notes are even a means to broaden our solo concept by putting these notes where they should be.

Chromatic notes: should be used carefully because they are notes not from the parent scale. Musician’s ability to understand strong and weak beats will be one of the greatest factor of being able to imbibe perfectly the chromatic notes. Placing these notes on the weak beats as well as making these notes passing notes to either the chord notes or scale notes is the strength of the chromatic concept.

Afterall, there are no wrong notes in improvisation. What we have is wrong choices and wrong placement.


Start your solos on either of the chord notes, imbibe the scale notes to extend some of the chord notes to achieving the 9th, 11th and 13th sound as wished, fix in the chromatic notes as passing notes very cautiously and make sure they hit on the weak beats majorly. But on some occasions, emphasizing a particular chromatic on the strong beat will be necessary.

E.g GMaj7, G B D F#.

Because of the F# note in this chord, it will be necessary to emphasize on the F# note on the strong beat while soloing over this chord to express and define the chord being improvised on.

Another thing is the concept of chord extension while taking a solo or improvising.

This is a concept that can be used fully at its best by players that understands so deeply their chord formation and chord notes.

This concept makes the improviser extend his/her solos than the underlying chord. E.g CMaj, C E G.

If the underlying chord being improvised on is the CMaj chord the improviser can extend the chord in his solos by emphasizing on the Bb and D notes.

What does this emphasis means?

The original chord is CMaj and now the improviser is emphasizing on Bb and D notes which means if we add these notes to our initial chord, we have C E G Bb D.

The chord above is now called C9 or Cdominant9 chord.

Which means the improviser had extend or rather add more value to the initial chord by adding more notes to it while expressing over it on solos. I hope we find this article helpful and insightful, there will be a video post on this shortly.