Lessons in Order
Lessons by Topic
48: Embellishing Tones
Lesson 48: Embellishing TonesThis lesson explains how non-chord tones are used in melodies.
Before taking this lesson, you should know:
Embellishing tones are non-chord tones (notes that aren't in the chord that's playing at that moment) which are inserted between the anchor notes in a melody. They give melodies much more variety than they would have if they could only use chord tones.
Embellishing tones usually follow several "rules" which help them not to get too much attention and sound dissonant against the chord that's playing:
To learn how embellishing tones are used in real songs, we analyze melodies harmonically. This just means we label each note, as a chord tone (CT) or a particular type of embellishing tone. Embellishing tones are classified into several types. In this lesson we'll just introduce two of the most common types:
Neighbor Tones (NT)
A neighbor tone (NT) is an embellishing tone whose surrounding anchor notes are both the same pitch; this means that the neighbor tone is either a step above both anchor notes (an upper neighbor tone) or a step below (a lower neighbor tone).
Here's an example from Bob Dylan's Like A Rolling Stone (see end of lesson for link), Verse 1 (00:16 in the recording). This also shows how we label the notes:
Neighbor tone two steps away?
You may have noticed a problem in the above example: Neighbor tones are "supposed to" be only one step away from their "anchor notes", so they don't attract too much attention and sound dissonant. But, the above neighbor tones appear to be two steps away (C-B-A) from their anchor notes.
Ah, but this is why we introduced the major pentatonic scale (Lesson 43: Pentatonic Scales) before this lesson. Remember, the C major pentatonic scale is just the pitches:
C D E G A (C again)
If we think the melody "feels pentatonic" here (which I do), then the A's are actually only one "pentatonic step" away from the C anchor notes.
Passing Tones (PT)
A passing tone (PT) is an embellishing tone which "bridges the gap" between anchor notes which are two steps apart. Here's a simple example:
You can add these activities to your writing exercises (from Lesson 2: Practicing Songwriting):
For Like A Rolling Stone, I used the recording from The Essential Bob Dylan ($1.29 at Amazon as of this writing).