Theory & Analysis
The Theory & Analysis page is the spot for general music theory questions, and more in-depth analysis of pieces.
  Guide Tone Line Creation

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Guide Tone Line Creationsubmitted:
2008/07/06 09:49:42
2008/11/19 08:57:09

These examples are excerpted from Linear Jazz Improvisation books, by Ed Byrne:

Practitioners routinely use Guide Tone Line technique for playing or writing melodic background lines, as well as for creating lines which move through the center of the chord changes. Guide tone lines constitute the essence of the harmonic movement in a chord progression in tonal music—in the form of a line—without having to think chord symbols. If you ferret out the thirds and sevenths of the chords in the progression, you will find two lines. Although they both tend to descend in stepwise fashion or remain on the same pitch before descending, one usually moves a bit more than the other. These two lines can also be combined and embellished (paraphrased). They can be mixed and/or embellished with other notes, either diatonic scale notes or chromatic non-harmonic tones.

While melody is our primary focus in improvising in Linear Jazz Improvisation, if you wish to make the changes, shape your lines around a guide tone line. Sing to internalize, and then paraphrase them. In this fashion they will organically evolve into an improvisation. This embellishment process can also be practiced systematically by applying chromatic targeting. You can also combine guide tone lines in a variety of ways for more complex results. For a background line, make a simple counter line. Don't be afraid to leave some notes sustained and on the beat. For best results, sing while writing. Add rhythm.

The first example is a Bb Blues (Blue Funk). Scroll down on the example and you will also find Blue Passa. I also included an etude which demonstrate the technique's use in improvising an 8th-note solo blues line:


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Re:Guide Tone Line Creationsubmitted:
2008/11/19 08:57:09
2008/11/19 08:58:05

Guide-Tone Lines

Guide-Tone Line creation doesn’t have to be dogmatic: It’s just mostly 3rds and 7ths. It’s not about intervals or harmony, though. But the line implies the essence of the harmonic movement in the progression or succession. Usually we use 6 or 3 on a 6 chord (major or minor), and you can add other notes to make it more melodic; or you can combine both guide tone notes in interesting (e.g. 3 to 7 or 7 to 3, then to the next chord. Building an improvisation on the gtl will bring you into the center of the changes.

Especially significant are those notes which are chromatic to the key they are in. I don’t use too many chordal tensions, except as on-harmonic tones, because they don’t serve to stay in the center of the chords, which is their most useful function—as background playing or writing, or to bid lines thought the center of the changes.


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   bgp 2007