Slinky Snakes

Passing, Approaching, and Slinky Snakes

One way to break out of the same old rut is to start adding some passing notes, approach notes, and slinky or angular lines into your phrasing. Check out our run of the mill minor pentatonic pattern.

You can do a lot with this pattern but, really, unless you start superimposing it against other harmonic structures, it will start to sound a little stale after a while. But Try throwing in some approach tones 1/2 step below the scale tones and 1 whole step above the scale tones. This is a typical strategy employed by players like Mike Stern.

Another related concept is the passing note that chromatically connects scale tones. You'll notice that here we're getting some Dorian flavors built into the minor pentatonic scale with some elements from the major family like the maj 3 and 7 -- weird tensions.

Taking this a step further, we can combine the approach notes and the passing tones that results in a much more complex note matrix:

Finally, start to search out visual routes through this matrix of notes. You might keep an eye on the chord tones and aim for them or you can continue on "out" with an eye toward melodic continuity over several measures developing motifs along the way. Have fun.

I like this slinky snake approach because it converts the aural into an ocular practice.