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Neighbor Tones

Neighbor tones (also called auxillary tones) can be placed between repeated notes in a melody. Unlike passing tones neighbors return to the same note they originally left. As a result neighbor tones do not have as strong a melodic momentum as passing tones. As a result Bach does not use them as often as passing tones.

Using the demonstration below click on the first button (No PNs) to hear this harmonic progression and see where potential neighbor tones could be used. The purple notes are the repeated notes which could be filled with a neighbor tone. The neighbor tone could be placed on the weak part of the third beat in the soprano.

Click on the second button (With NT) to hear and see the neighbor tone in place. The neighbor tone is red. Notice that neighbor tones like most all non chord tones resolve to a chord tone by step (in this case back down to the note they came from). This resolution validates the dissonance which helps move the melody forward and adds melodic complexity.

To better hear the dissonance non chord tones create click on the third button (Organ). Because of the sustain of the organ you can better hear how the neighbor tone pushes dissonantly against the chord which continues to sound until the next beat. After you listen for the dissonance return to the piano version and see if you can still hear it even though the piano sound begins to die out immediately.

Creating dissonance is only one function of a non chord tone. Notice also how the melodic complexity is increased with the passing tones and how they help create more melodic momentum.

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Produced in Partnership by Coast Learning Systems, a division of Coastline Community College, for instructional use.
Commercial use or unauthorized duplication, transmission, or distribution of this copyrighted material is forbidden by Federal law.
Violators will be prosecuted.

(c)Coast Community College District, David W. Megill, and Donald D. Megill, 2005