Guide Tone Lines In Action, Part 2

It is said that the only thing two music theorists can agree on is how a third got his analysis wrong.

I’ll start out with a disclaimer: this is not  a true Shenkerian analysis of the Harry Warren classic. I suspect Professor Shenker would not choose the notes I’ve pointed out as the most important ones in the melody – and in this case, that’s not really the point.  What I am doing here is using some of the principles of Shenkerian analysis to point out what to my ears is an exceptionally strong guide tone line. If you look at the example below, it is simply a fragment of a Bb scale, starting on the third degree (D), ascending to the tonic (Bb), then descending back down to the second degree (C) in the first ending.

Apparently, the arranger here found this very handy. Go to the video I included in the previous post and listen to the unison reed section behind the vocalist starting at around 4:22:


 This is one example of how an experienced orchestrator makes use of guide tone lines when building an arrangement, whether for a big band, wind ensemble, symphony orchestra or any other type of instrumental or choral group.

Now, if you refer back to the first example in this post, you’ll notice that something a little different happens in the second ending. The guide tone line I’ve identified doesn’t follow the melody. However, it actually does fit with the harmonic structure that Warren chose when he composed the piece. Now, where I have placed those notes works well for improvisation – but wouldn’t work in an orchestration.

If you’ve had experience writing for an ensemble, you’ll understand why. For the rest of you aspiring arrangers, I’ll explain why on my next post.

Before closing, here is another recording of the same tune that I actually like better. It was done in England during the war by a vocalist by the name of Anne Shelton: here, she sings the rarely-performed verse.

In the meantime, if you have any questions about this post, please leave a comment.

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About GuideToneLines

KJ McElrath earned his Masters degree in Music Theory and Composition from Central Washington University. Composer of several works for big band, wind ensemble and orchestra, which can be heard at I perform a cabaret act with Athena McElrath as McElrath Cabaret, which you can find at
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