Sometimes an idea is so simple and so effective that it feels too good to be true. When the concept of leading tones “clicked” for me, it felt like it was just that. But years and years later, it’s still a go-to concept to give my lines shape, color and clarity. Today, we’re dealing with two leading tone rules:
1. We can lead any scale tone with the note a half step below, whether or not it’s in the scale:
2. We can lead any scale tone with the note a diatonic step above:
That’s it. The thing is, there are seemingly endless ways and combinations to use this. First, we can use both below and above to make some enclosures (check out my full blog post on enclosures HERE
We can also rock back and forth around the target:
Let’s try incorporating some of these concepts into a typical 2-5 arpeggio. Like this:
Fist, we’ll add some leading tones from a half step below a couple of notes:
Nice. Let’s change one of those. Experimentation is always a good idea with any new concept.
Sounds good. Now, let’s try the same lick but add some diatonic leading tones from above:
Super-slick! Again, we’re adding more movement and color to our line without having to think very much about it.
These leading tones work great with scales, arpeggios, licks, and pretty much any melodic ( and harmonic for that matter) content. Their especially effective on triads:
Adding a tone from a half step below the first note:
And now from a diatonic tone aboveL
Let’s try a different inversion:
It’s all good. Let’s try the rock back and forth with our triad in a couple of different ways and a couple of inversions.
And there you have it. One of the most useful parts of this concept is that you get a lot of music out of a little information. Play around with a broken minor 7th chord and start inserting these leading tones and you’ll see what I mean.
Think less, play more.