Bracketing: Changing Tones for Jazz Musicians

I’ve heard the technique referred to as “bracketing,” but it’s really just the good, old-fashioned Baroque musical ornamentation known as “changing tones” applied to a jazz solo. Whatever you call it, you can add interest and lyricism to your improvisations when you precede chord tones and target notes with both an upper and lower neighbor.

Three levels of chromaticism exist with the bracketing technique: diatonic, chromatic lower (or, conceivably but uncommonly, upper) neighbor, and dual chromatic upper and lower neighbors.

Play a C7 arpeggio, thus: C, E, G, Bb. Take it slow so you can hear the chord outline.

Now, playing each grouping of three as a triplet, surround each note of the C7 with its…

  1. 1. Diatonic neighbors (based on the C Mixolydian mode): D-Bb-C, F-D-E, A-F-G, C-A-Bb, D-Bb-C.
  2. 2. Diatonic upper and chromatic lower neighbors: D-B-C, F-D#-E, A-F#-G, C-A-Bb, D-B-C.
  3. 3. Chromatic upper and lower neighbors: Db-B-C, F-D#-E, Ab-F#-G, Cb-A-Bb, Db-B-C.

The latter two approaches are relatively common in the bebop language. Obviously, you can bracket any quality of chord or any scale tone. Devise bracketing exercises that will take you through all twelve keys and you’ll be well on your way to real fluency as a soloist.

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  1. […] a previous article on bracketing for jazz improvisers, I described the melodic device of emphasizing a note by surrounding it with changing tones. Since […]

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