Chromatic transitions in chord changes

There’s a lot of ways to make chord sequences more musically interesting. One way to be discussed here is to use chromatic transitions in chord changes.

Maybe you never heard the word “chromatic” before? Playing chromatic means that we are going one halftone in some direction, for example: C - C# - D - D# - E. By adding a C# tone between a C and a D chord, we are getting a softer transition, and we get a musical effect for free as well.

If you know how to find the notes on the fretboard, the rest is easy in this subject, but to illustrate better a few music examples will follow.

Transition from Am to C

tab 1

By the help of an extra note – in this case B – between the chords, a nice transition occurs. As you can understand from the tablature, we play with alternate strumming, but you can play your own way if you prefer.

Transition from C to D

tab 2

This time we add a C# between the C and the D chords.

Transition from E to C


tab 3

Here we choose to go through the A note on the open A string between Em and C. A aren't positioned directly between, but are present on the way. You are probably getting the main concept and we will finish with one example that involves more chords. We will still use the same principles though.

tab 4

As you may notice, we don’t consequently use the method of chromatic tones here. Between C and D instead of C# we have the B note followed by A. Why? Music isn’t a mechanical process and C# doesn’t belong in the same scale as the other chords. Using chromatic tones as in-between tones can by the way be done without any "key-dependence", but in this example we choose to stuck to the same key.

This article can be seen as an introduction of a certain way to implement new elements in your guitar playing, especially playing chords. Besides the figures that have been shown here there’s lots of more possibilities on the same theme. All you have to do is to find one note, or many notes if that is possible, and add it between two chords. For information how to find a certain note see Fretboard with notes.

See all articles about guitar.

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