How to Use Chromatic Planing

A simple technique that every arranger should have in his bag of tricks is that of chromatic planing.

My friend, and mentor, Frank Mantooth used this technique all the time in his big band and combo charts.

It is very simple, but works great when used correctly.

In this video, I go over the simple concept of chromatic planing.


6 Replies to “How to Use Chromatic Planing”

  1. curt

    Thanks Jim. I like how these ideas come to you while driving around….

    Question: What should we say about this in the rhythym section? Does the bass move a half step or stay on the root or just move around? Do we notate the change for the guitar and piano or will that get confusing and complicated?

    Thanks again


  2. Jim Martin

    Curt: Generally you don’t have to say anything in the rhythm section. When you plane by half step in eighth notes, it happens so fast, the ear really can’t hear the chord change since it returns to the original voicing so quickly. If you plane up and down in say a quarter note, then yes, you probably need to reflect the change in the rhythm section. So Eb9 up to E9 and back would be all you need to do. Always try to not muddy up the piano and bass parts as much as possible.

  3. Jim Martin

    Fred: I meant E and G, the ledger line is missing on that 1st chord. Thanks for pointing that out. The next two chords have ledger lines that I meant for the first chord.

  4. Ron Dowling

    When you have a half step neighbor chord, would it be better to use strict chromatic planing or a diminished 7th chord.

  5. Jim Martin

    Ron: I think that would depend on the voicing you are going to, and also how each sounds to your ear. You want the smoothest sound and voice leading as possible. If a diminished chord moves all voices by half step, that is pretty much the same as a strict chromatic planing. Either one works though. I always go with the ear as the final judge.

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