MUS 112 Study Guide K (Chapter 11)

Nonharmonic Tones I

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  1. Recognizing which tones are not part of a chord is the first step in identifying a nonharmonic tone.  There are several types, each consisting of three parts:

The harmonic tone preceding, called the note of approach.

The dissonance (nonharmonic tone).

The harmonic tone following, called the note of resolution.

  1. The Passing Tone:  found stepwise between harmonic tones of a different pitch.  Passing tones may be either unaccented (UPT) or accented (APT).  Accented passing tones fall on a strong beat, whereas unaccented passing tones fall on a weak division or subdivision of the beat.  (In the case of four sixteenth notes, both the first and third are considered "strong"; the second and fourth are considered "weak.")

Passing tones are found most frequently between two chord tones a third apart.

If the harmonic tones are an interval of a fourth apart (root to fifth of the chord), two passing tones would be required to fill the gap.

Two successive passing tones can also occur at the point of a change of chords–one unaccented and the other accented.

Chromatically altered nonharmonic tones are common.

Double nonharmonic tones (two sounding simultaneously) are commonly found in four-part writing.

  1. The Neighbor Tone (Neighboring Tone):  found stepwise between two harmonic tones of the same pitch.  The two varieties are upper neighbor (UN) and lower neighbor (LN). Either may be accented or unaccented.  As with passing tones, double neighboring tones are common.

  1. Writing Passing Tones and Neighbor Tones:

Figured Bass Symbols:  A figured bass symbol does not indicate the type of nonharmonic tone above it.  It simply indicates the intervals above the bass.  The name of the dissonance depends upon its preceding and following notes . A given figured bass number can apply to any type of dissonance.

4 3 means a movement from a fourth to a third above the bass note; 3 2, likewise, means a movement from a third to a second above the bass; others are possible, such as 6 5.

Any time two of the same numbers appear beneath a bass note, it means that interval is to be doubled.  See example below.  (1) the top numbers indicate a third moving down to a second above the bass (in shorter rhythmic values:  if the bass note is a quarter note, the 3 & 2 would be eighth notes), (2) the bottom symbols indicate that the third is to be doubled, and the third in that particular voice is to be held through (as a quarter note) while the eighth notes above change.

When two (or more) numbers are found vertically below a bass note, the numbers are usually placed in descending order re the figured bass symbol, although the actual voicing may place the lower value above the higher value.

When horizontally successive numbers appear under a bass note, these refer to successive notes in one of the melodic lines above.

When there is a change of bass note, the figures under the new note only relate to the new note.

The Seventh above the root:  Even if a seventh chord appears in inversion, the appearance of a 7th above the root of the chord creates the aural impression of a seventh chord.

Avoiding Parallels:  Be sure to avoid unwanted parallel motion when utilizing nonharmonic tones, as well.  Always check each nonharmonic tone against any other voice moving in the same direction.

Accented Nonharmonic Tones:  An accented nonharmonic tone temporarily replaces a harmonic tone.  To determine the double wanted, consider the accented nonharmonic tone to be the same chord member as the note to which it resolves.

Simultaneous Nonharmonic Tones:  When any two nonharmonic tones sound simultaneously, the interval between the two voices should remain constant.

  1. Relaxing Part-Writing Procedures to Heighten Melodic Interest:  While the part-writing guidelines learned thus far have been helpful, as may be observed, composers of the common practice period occasionally deviated from these guidelines.  Sometimes in order to improve interest in an individual voice certain liberties may be taken, but they must be justifiable.  Offending parallel motion and the melodic augmented second should still be avoided, however, doubling the leading tone or an altered tone may on rare occasions be permissible–usually accomplished with stepwise motion and contrary motion between voices.  It is always best to start with conventional procedures and deviate only when necessary, or when a unique musical situation may result.

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