Understanding that ‘chord tones are king’, is often talked about but frequently misunderstood. The whole premise of this principle is that the first step to understanding how to play over a set of chord changes is to first focus on the chord tones and not the scales as your primary source material to create meaningful and musical lines.
Once you understand this basic concept, then you must start to ‘spice up’ or embellish the chord tones to create a sense of tension and release in your lines. This is tantamount to adding a bit of garlic or fresh chilies to a somewhat bland meal. The source material to implement this kind of embellishment goes deep, but a good place to start is with chromatic approach notes.
In the line below, circle the chord tones in each bar. Then analyse the notes around those. In bar one over the C-7 chord, notice there is a double chromatic approach note combination above the 5th. In bar two over the F7(b9) chord, there is a double chromatic approach above the b7 and in bar three, there is a double chromatic above/chromatic below the root over the Bbmaj7.
Notice how these chromatic approaches create tension and release over the II V I chord progression. This helps to create a balance within your lines and add that certain amount of spicy flavour to what you are playing! All of this and so much more is available at my online bass school. Click here to find out more about my 2-Year Bass Mastery Course!