Lesson 8: Guide Tones - Scale Degrees 3 and 7
Focus on Melody
Scale degrees 3 and 7 are very important chord tones that help us to establish and outline the harmonies of a piece of music. In many standard harmonic progressions, there is a melodic line that runs smoothly between each chord by using scale degrees 3 and 7 which are called guide tones.
A guide tone line creates either common tones or connecting tones between each harmony. A common tone is one pitch that is a chord tone in two different chords. For example, the chords C minor 7 and F7 have both the pitches C and E flat in common, making them common tones:
Connecting tones link one chord to another through an interval of a half step or whole step. In the examples below, there is a connection of a step between almost every measure where scale degree 3 moves to scale degree 7, or scale degree 7 moves to scale degree 3.
There are two guide tone lines in our blues. One line begins on scale degree 3 of the B flat 7 chord, and the other begins on scale degree 7 of the B flat 7 chord. Memorize them!
Lesson 8 Assignment
Part 1.1 Compose a blues solo using only the pitches of the guide tone line that begins on scale degree 3 of the B flat 7 chord. Begin with a two-measure riff on scale degree 3 of the B flat 7 chord, and scale degree 7 of the E flat 7 chord. In the next two measures, compose a rhythmic variation on your first idea, using scale degree 3 of of the B flat 7 chord. Compose two-measure variations throughout the rest of the blues using the exact pitches of the first guide tone line. (For free blank staff paper, visit www.Music-Paper.com)
Example of a B flat blues guide tone solo beginning on scale degree 3:
Part 1.2 Compose a blues solo following the same instructions as above, but begin on scale degree 7 of the B flat 7 chord, and follow the second guide tone line.
Example of a B flat blues guide tone solo beginning on scale degree 7:
Memorize the two guide tone lines and the solos that you have written. Practice them many times so that you can play them effortlessly and accurately.
Improvise in the same style as your written solos, and use the two guide tone lines for your choice of pitches. Create rhythmic variations with each two-measure phrase.
Suggestions: Create simple ideas, especially at the beginning of your solos. Make them easy to play and memorable. Avoid making the solos too complex. Remember that a complicated solo is not necessarily a good solo.