What Are Approach Notes?
An approach note is used to approach another note from a tone or a semitone away. They allow us to weave our way through a chord progression melodically and can add interest to the bass line for more variety.
Diatonic Approach Notes
Diatonic approach notes are tones that fall within the scale of the key you are in. We can use the scale degrees either side of our target chord as an approach note.
Let’s start with a chord progression in C major:
C | C | F | G
Firstly, play through this progression using root notes to get a feel for the sound.
Next, add an approach note to lead you into F. This can be either E or G as they are both next to F in the major scale.
You can also add an approach note leading to the G, but as you are already on F then it will have to be A.
Try playing around with as many different combinations of approach notes as you can find. The more you experiment then the quicker the sound of each one will stick in your head.
Chromatic Approach Notes
Chromatic notes are easier to work out than diatonic approach notes as they are always a semitone above or below the target note.
To add chromatic approach notes to the chord progression from earlier, you simply need to take the two notes either side of each chord.
So to begin with, we can approach F using the E again as it is a semitone away. We can also approach it with an F#.
F# can also be used to bridge the gap between F and G. This diminished 5th/augmented 4th has quite a bluesy sound and is a key component of the blues scale.
I | I | IV | V Progression In C