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Guide Tone (Shell) Voicings – What You Need to Know



In this JGT lesson, Bill Farrish takes a look at guide tone voicings and some tips for using them.

In the examples below I’ve applied a few variations to the chord changes for the 1st 8 measures of All The Things You Are. While I’ve marked the 1st measure of when I would use each example it’s important to remember, there are no hard fast rules. Use your ear and musical sense as always for making decisions on how to play for any situation.

Always remember, “When in doubt, lay out”.

With everything going on in the world currently the college I teach at moved all courses online. So getting a grip on this is taking quite a bit of my time. So much so that I was unable to record these examples on guitar. What I have done is record Finale playing them back using Piano and Bass notes (roots). While not ideal, it does allow you to hear how pianistic the voicings become as we add notes to our two guide tones.

With a bit of searching, you can find an excellent lesson by Trey Wright which also covers the use of guide tones on JGT. Have fun, stay healthy and see you next month.

Example #1, When playing with another guitar.

Guide Tone (Shell) Voicings EX 1

Example #2, When playing with a bassist, bassist & pianist OR for the 1st chorus of a soloist.

Guide Tone (Shell) Voicings Ex 2.1
Guide Tone (Shell) Voicings EX 2.2

Example #3, When working with a bassist, ONE added color tone.

Guide Tone (Shell) Voicings # 3

Example #4, With two added color tones, becoming more pianistic.


Example #5, Same as example #4 but with some light melodic embellishment.

1. Try working these ideas or similar ones though the rest of the changes for this song.

2. Don’t get locked in to only using one of the examples, you really need to be to apply all of them in order to deal with different situations.

Again, have fun, stay healthy and see you next month. Bill

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