Lesson 27: Guide Tones [CL27]

Guide tones are a jazz accompanist’s best friend – they give just enough of an idea of how a chord (or progression) sounds to the soloist / melodic instrument by outlining the basic 7th chord structure in this manner:

CL27 1

See below for basic guide tone voicings in two positions (roots 5 and 6)

CL27 2

While these are not the only possible voicings (try and work out a few more) you will find that the vast majority of standards contain chords that in basic form (non extensions) are shown here


  • Look at how guide tones can be added into your repertoire of chords, by applying them to standards you already know. Just use the simple structures shown on this page in place of the more extended / fuller voicings you might know.
  • These give the soloist freedom to play in the upper extensions of a chord. So if there is no 9th / 11th / 13th etc the soloist is free to flatten / augment the upper structure tones as they please.
  • Practice the guide tones in the Freddy Green style of quarter note pulse comping – muted quick downward thumb strum on your picking hand, with a slight dynamic accent on beats two and four. Keep this clean and crisp and practice with a metronome. Guide tones give a great sense of the tune (especially 4/4 swing standards) both harmonically and rhythmically when used in this manner – provided it is stylistically and contextually appropriate.

Lesson Transcription

Dixon Nacey

Teacher and Mentor at jazzguitarlegend.com
Dixon Nacey is a proud father and founder of jazzguitarlegend.com a site dedicated to teaching the art of jazz guitar.