Guide Tone Lines In Action, Part 3 – Colors of the Winds

So – what’s wrong with the guide tone line in the second ending in terms of orchestration?

Nothing, provided we drop the line an octave.

In simplest terms, the second ending of the “A” section in the current example (Harry Warren’s 1940 ballad I Know Why And So Do You, in case you’re here for the first time) ends with a V7/V – V7 – I cadence: an abbreviated circle of fifths. I analyzed the II7 chord as a secondary dominant because this is how it is actually functioning – it is a C7 chord that ultimately resolves to the F7, the V7 of the tonic Bb chord.  Of course, that C7 turns minor before it goes to the penultimate F7 dominant for the space of an eighth note. The Cm7 here is actually a substitution for the F7, and could be considered a V7 with a suspended third. Warren didn’t really have much choice at this point; once he had penned this part of the melody, he was locked in from a harmonic standpoint.

Why? In short, color tones. Because these color tones – specifically, D and Bb – are the important melody tones at this point.

 When scoring for a section, color tones must be treated very carefully. In the hands of a skilled,  experienced  orchestrator, they can be voiced on the bottom or middle of a chord. However, if these color tones are found in the melody (as in the present case), they must be on top.


 Don’t believe it? Give it a listen:

 I Know Why Sound Example  01

The guide tone line in this case clashes with the melody. However, if we drop it an octave, it actually sounds pretty good:

I Know Why Sound  Example 02

And now, we have a great deal of tonal space in which to fill out the chord:

I Know Why Sound Example 03

Add a bass line, and it starts to sound like an orchestration:

I Know Why Sound Example 04

By the way, when you really listen carefully, you’ll notice that I omitted the penultimate F7 – which only fits with the eighth note in the first half of beat four. I do put an F in the bass under the Cm7 however. This actually turns it into an F7 with a suspended third (more commonly identified as “Fsus”). It still serves the same harmonic function as a dominant seventh, however.

Now we can still throw in that F7. For a brief moment this presents an opportunity to include some very tasty color tones and chord extensions. However, if not handled skillfully, it will wind up sounding rather awkward and unnatural.

In my next post, I’ll demonstrate how the pros do it using guide tone lines in the context of counterpoint.

In the meantime, if you have had some experience in writing counterpoint, how might you work in an F7 chord at this point while keeping it smooth sounding?

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About KJ at Guide Tone Lines

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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