Jazz School: “Chameleon”


This two-chord funky jazz-rock fusion classic by Herbie Hancock is all about the groove…

This extended form is really just a bunch of 8-bar sections stitched together. The really trickly part is being able to play the bass line!


Listen to Original Recording

Improvisation Lessons

Lesson 1: Form

Form = 8 bars, which can be played as two 4-bar phrases, which can be further broken into two 2-bar phrases…


Lesson 2: Meter & Feel

4/4 Time, count out loud “1 2 3 4” or “1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &”, feel the funk in the 1/16th notes!

Lesson 3: Tonality & Useful Scales

Tonality = Bb Dorian

Useful Scales = Bb Dorian, Bb Minor Pentatonic, Bb Minor Blues

Lesson 4: The Harmony

Bbm7 = i7 (harmonic home base), Eb7=IV7 (harmonically away from home)

Lesson 5: Comping Ideas

Chameleon Chord Voicings #1

Rootless, Left Hand only, definitive tones (3 & 7)…

Chameleon Chord Voicings #2

Rootless, Left Hand only, color tones (9 & 13) added…

Chameleon Chord Voicings #3

Two fisted, color tones (9 & 13) added, some notes doubled for emphasis and melodic motion…

Lesson 6: Riffing

Don’t underestimate the musical value of short, simple ideas that repeat over the form…

Lesson 7: Mindset

Lesson 8: Play the Idea…

Listen to Frank’s synth solo recorded live with the band Chameleon

Frank Peter Synth Solo Chameleon

Your Turn to Improvise

Download the following bass and drum practice track recorded by Frank…

Yes, Frank is neither a bass player nor a drummer!

Improvisation Tips

  1. Think, hear, feel, and play in 8-bar choruses and 4-bar phrases.
  2. The “feel” is a funky Rock Beat 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
  3. Tonality: Bb Dorian
  4. Useful Scales: Dorian, Minor Blues, Minor Pentatonic
  5. Don’t get scale happy.
  6. Commit to playing coherent IDEAS.
  7. Vocabulary Sources: Rock, Jazz, Blues
  8. Borrow ideas from the head (the original melody).
  9. Cop ideas from other players.
  10. It’s not all about playing leads. It’s often about creative and tasteful comping, too!
  11. Don’t just think… FEEL & LISTEN!
  12. Experiment like a child playing with building blocks.
  13. Take your shoes off!

Lesson X?

Please let Frank know if there is something else you’d like to see or understand.

learn more… Jazz School