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Theory II: Non-Chord Tones

Non-chord tones, sometimes called embellishing tones, are typically dissonant notes that are not part of the given chord, but act in some way as connecting material to the next chord. Some non chord tones are completely stepwise and are quite common. These include the Passing Tone (p), Neighbor Tone (N), the suspension, and the anticipation. Other types are either left by skip or approached by skip. These are sometimes generally refered to as Incomplete Neighbors. These include the Appogiatura (A), the Escape-Tone (ET), the Nota-Cambiata (changing tones), and the so-called free-tone.

The Passing Tone is a stepwise note that connects notes that are at least a third apart. There can be more than one passing tone between consonances.

The Neighbor Tone is a tone that is approached by step, and then returns to the starting note. These can be upper or lower neighbors.

The Suspension is a note that is consonant in the first chord, is held into the next chord as a dissonance, and then resolved over that same chord to a consonance. Common types of suspensions are 9-8, 7-6, 4-3, 2-3 (bass only!) There is also one consonant suspension, the 6-5. This is considered by some to not be a suspension as both intervals are consonant.

The Anticipation is an early arrival to a tone in the following chord. It is typically found at cadences.

The following fall under the Incomplete Neighbor category:

The Appogiatura is a non-chord tone that is leapt into and then resolves to a chord tone in the opposite direction of a skip.

The Escape Tone is a non-chord tone that steps away from a consonant and leaps in the opposite direction to a chord tone.

The "free tone" is a catch-all for a note that doesn't fit a chord, but is just wandering around. Do not mistake this for a misprint in the score. It is quite rare.