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For this week's barrage 'o licks, I'm presenting five different phrases, comprised strictly of eighth notes, all using a chromatic “passing tone” approach within the G Mixolydian scale (G-A-B-C-D-E-F)—the 100% “legal” chord scale/mode when playing over G7 (G-B-D-F). These chromatic notes are essentially non-diatonic pitches (notes outside the scale) used to bridge the gap between “inside” (or diatonic) notes. Following that logic, anything outside of the notes G-A-B-C-D-E-F in the examples that follow would be considered chromatic. (In the text, these notes will be highlighted in red.)

Prior to each line, I'll outline the different “chromatic” moves that occur, specifying which scale/arpeggio tones are receiving the chromatic treatment so that you can hopefully understand more clearly how these types of lines are constructed.

These types of chromatic Mixolydian lines are most commonly found in jazz and country styles, as well as modern blues. However, in the hands of adventurous players like Steve Morse, John Petrucci, Scott Henderson, Carl Verheyen, and others, these sounds are just as useful in rock-edged styles.


This first lick occurs in the vicinity of open position, and is kicked off with an Fmaj7 arpeggio (F-A-C-E), followed by an ascending G-A-Bb-B scalar move. All of this is essentially “filler” used to surround the 3rd (the note “B”) of an implied G7 chord (G-B-D-F). So far, our only chromatic note has been Bb, used to pass into the aforementioned 3rd. After a four-note Mixolydian fragment executed along the 4th string, we encounter our next chromatic move: The descending half steps (momement in increments of one fret)—A-Ab-(F)-G—along the 3rd string. In this case, the note Ab (1st fret, 3rd string) is used to bridge the gap between A (the “9th”) and G (the “tonic”). A line straight out of the G Blues scale (G-Bb-C-Db-D-F), with the inclusion of the major 3rd, “B” (creating a slight sense of “resolution”), punctuates the passage.

(*You can hear the lick FAST by clicking HERE*)

(*You can hear the lick SLOW by clicking HERE*)

Here's another one, this time using only fretted notes, and no legato techniques. Once again, we start off by weasling around the 3rd of the chord (the note “B”), this time with a Bb-B-Bb-A-G fragment. (Note: The exact same note sequence, albeit in a different octave, was used to end the previous lick.) This gives way to a popular chromatic move involving half step movement between the tonic (“G”) and b7 (“F”), which forces the inclusion of F# (7th fret, 2nd string) into the line. In the second measure, chromaticism is also used along the 3rd string—inserting a Db (6th fret) between the 5th (“D”) and 4th (“C”) scale degrees, and approaching the 3rd (“B”) from one half step below (“Bb”). Measure 3 opens with more chromatic movement between the tonic (“G”) and b7 (“F”), sounding one octave lower than the fragment encountered in measure 1. The final flurry of chromaticism is focused along the 6th string. Here, a Bb (6th fret) is used to approach the major 3rd (“B”), followed by a descending chromatic move between A (5th fret) and G (3rd fret), which forces the inclusion of an Ab (4th fret) into the line.

(*You can hear the lick FAST by clicking HERE*)

(*You can hear the lick SLOW by clicking HERE*)

Here's another one—this time played with distortion—that features purely picked pitches. The first chromatic note occurs along the 6th string—the Bb (6th fret) squeezed between A (5th fret) and B (7th fret). This is followed by three successive half steps performed along the 5th string: D, D# (the lone chromatic note), and E. In measure 2, lower chromatic neighboring tones (C# and D#) help spruce up the scalar activity along the 5th string. Notice the F# (9th fret, 5th string) in the final moments of measure 2, creating a smooth transition to the G note in the forthcoming bar. A straight shot up the G Mixolydian scale, embellished with a few chromatic passing tones (once again, the “Bb” between “A” and “B,” and the D# used in the midst of four successive half steps along the 3rd string) brings this note barrage to a dramatic conclusion.

(*You can hear the lick FAST by clicking HERE*)

(*You can hear the lick SLOW by clicking HERE*)

This next one features numerous hammer-ons and pull-offs, and the occasional legato fret-hand slide, all used to touch upon chromatic notes like “Bb” (6th fret, 6th string; 8th fret, 4th string), “Eb” (6th fret, 5th string), and “C#” (9th fret, 6th string). The only real “new” chromatic move in this lick, in terms of concept, occurs in the final bar—a dramatic pull-off passage between D-F-D-F# (a “D” pedal point) used to climb up to G, all executed along the 3rd string.

(*You can hear the lick FAST by clicking HERE*)

(*You can hear the lick SLOW by clicking HERE*)

This final lick originates in 12th position, and is kicked off with a slippery chromatic pattern played along the 2nd string between “D” (15th fret) and “B” (12th fret), forcing the inclusion of “Db” (14th fret) into the line. After a familiar Bb-B move at the end of measure 2, a series of notes are played in alternation between the 4th and 5th strings throughout most of measure 3. At this point, the index finger frets all of the notes along the 4th string, while the ring finger grabs the notes on the 5th string. Shifting positions will faciltate the chromaticism that follows (the notes Db and Bb). A descending move along the 6th string—between the b7 (F) and 5th (D), bringing Eb (11th fret) into the picture—puts the cap on this line.

(*You can hear the lick FAST by clicking HERE*)

(*You can hear the lick SLOW by clicking HERE*)

Chromatics Overview

In general, the chromatic material used in the Mixolydian-based licks above can be traced to one or more of the following scales/concepts:

1. The G Blues scale (G-Bb-C-Db-D-F), introducing Bb (often used to lead into B) and Db (either used as an upper chromatic neighbor of C, or to add a chromatic note between a C-D scalar move) into the equation.

2. Chromatics between certain pitches found within the G Major Pentatonic scale (G-A-B-D-E), most notably between A-B (the note A#/Bb) and D-E (the note D#/Eb).

3. The G Minor Pentatonic scale (G-Bb-C-D-F) may also be inflected with chromatics. These most often appear between notes within the scale that are separated by one whole step (the distance of two frets), à la Bb-C (squeezing in the note B), C-D (squeezing in the note C#), F-G (squeezing in the note F#).

4. Chromatic notes found between the chord tones of a G7 arpeggio (G-B-D-F) may also be included. This concept yields numerous options. Between G-B (ascending) or B-G (descending) a G-A-A#/Bb-B or B-Bb-A-G string of pitches may result, respectively. Between B-D (ascending) or D-B (descending) a B-C-C#-D or D-Db-C-B string of pitches may result, respectively. Between D-F (ascending) or F-D (descending) a D-D#-E-F or F-E-Eb-D string of pitches may result, respectively. Similarly, the note F# may be included (in passing) between F-G (ascending) or G-F (descending) moves.

5. Chromaticism may also be used any time you are faced with a group of notes spanning the interval of a minor 3rd (the interval distance of four half steps) along the same string (ascending or descending). In the G Mixolydian scale, this occurs between the notes A-C (A-A#/Bb-B-C), B-D (B-C-C#/Db-D), D-F (D-D#/Eb-E-F), and E-G (E-F-F#-G). This guitaistic form of generating chromatics is quite easy to do, due to the fact that this allows you to use each of your fret-hand's fingers on four neighboring frets.

6. Similarly, chromaticism may also be used any time you are faced with a group of notes spanning the interval of a major 3rd (the interval distance of five half steps) along the same string (ascending or descending), though this approach is a bit more difficult to execute if you don't know the fret board thoroughly. In the G Mixolydian scale, major 3rds occur between the notes G-B (G-A-A#/Bb-B), C-E (C-D-D#/Eb-E), and F-A (F-G-Ab-A). Notice that, in each handful of notes within the aforementioned major 3rd interval, the chromaticism only occurs between the last two diatonic notes (the result of using your ring finger to squeeze a chromatic note in between your fret-hand's middle and pinky fingers).

Keep in mind that, to sound “out,” a variety of other scales (Diminished, Whole-Tone, Lydian Dominant, Phrygian Dominant, etc.) may also be used. However, the point of this lesson was to use chromatics in a more transparent (i.e., “less jarring”) manner. We'll get into “outside” chromatic applications at a later date.

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