A few nonharmonic tones occur in patterns of four or more pitches. The most common are successive passing tones, changing tones, and the pedal tone.
Successive Passing Tones
Two passing tones occasionally fill an interval of a fourth. In such cases both the passing tones may be unaccented (a) or they may be a combination of accented and unaccented passing tones (b).
Changing tones consist of two successive nonharmonic tones. The first leads by step from a chord tone, skips to another nonharmonic tone, and then leads by step to a chord tone (often the same chord tone). Other terms often used instead of changing tones are double neighboring tones or neighbor group. In many ways the two changing tones resemble neighboring tones with a missing (or perhaps implied) middle tone.
A pedal tone (also called a pedal point) is a held or repeated note, usually in the lowest voice, that alternates between consonance and dissonance with the chord structures above it. Thus, the dissonances are created by the moving chords above rather than the pedal tone itself. When a pedal tone occurs above other voices, it is called an inverted pedal tone.
Walther: Chorale Prelude on “Lobt Gott, ihr Christen, allzugleich” (“Praise God, Ye Christians, All Together”), mm. 10–13.
The common accented nonharmonic tones are the accented passing tone, accented neighboring tone, suspension (occurs only as an accented nonharmonic tone), retardation, and appoggiatura.
The suspension is one of the time-honored methods of bringing variety and interest to a harmony. The principle of the suspension is that a note belonging to the previous chord is held over into the next chord, with which it forms a dissonance. This creates a powerful moment of tension, which is then released when the suspension falls stepwise to the harmony note. As treated conventionally, a suspension has three phases, which are called preparation (i), suspension (ii), and resolution (iii).
The suspended tone (the middle tone of the figure) is always dissonant. Suspensions are designated by the interval forming the suspended tone and resolution with the lowest sounding voice. Another common suspension is the 2–3 suspension
The other voice (not containing the suspension figure) may move in almost any way as long as it provides the necessary preparation, suspension, and resolution phases for the suspension figure.
Suspensions are typically applied to the intervals of the fourth, also called a 4–3, seventh, also called a 7–6, and ninth, called a 9–8.
A favorite technique of classical composers was to introduce a chain of suspensions, which would often culminate upon the dominant chord of a new key.
Suspensions can occur simultaneously in pairs (a), have decorated resolutions (b), occur in chains (c), or be accompanied by a changing bass line (d).
A retardation is a nonharmonic tone similar to a suspension, except that the resolution is upward instead of downward. Retardations tend to work best when applied to the intervals of seventh and the ninth.
The appoggiatura is a nonharmonic tone that is approached by skip and resolved by step in the opposite direction. It generally occurs as an accented nonharmonic tone. As a decoration it behaves just like a regular passing note—that is, it moves stepwise up or down to the harmony note.
Haydn: Sonata in A Major, Hob. XVI:30, II: Var. 1, mm. 14–16.
The Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor “Quasi una fantasia”, Op. 27, No. 2, popularly known as the Moonlight Sonata, is a piano sonata by Ludwig van Beethoven. Completed in 1801 and dedicated in 1802 to his pupil, Countess Giulietta Guicciardi, it is one of Beethoven’s most popular compositions for the piano.
The first movement, in C♯ minor, is written in an approximate truncated sonata form. The movement opens with an octave in the left hand and a triplet figuration in the right. A melody that Hector Berlioz called a “lamentation”, mostly by the right hand, is played against an accompanying ostinato triplet rhythm, simultaneously played by the right hand. The movement is played pianissimo or “very quietly”, and the loudest it gets is mezzo forte or “moderately loud”. The adagio sostenuto has made a powerful impression on many listeners; for instance, Berlioz said of it that it “is one of those poems that human language does not know how to qualify”. Beethoven’s student Carl Czerny called it “a nocturnal scene, in which a mournful ghostly voice sounds from the distance”. The movement was very popular in Beethoven’s day, to the point of exasperating the composer himself, who remarked to Czerny, “Surely I’ve written better things.”
The common unaccented nonharmonic tones are the unaccented passing tone, unaccented neighboring tone, escape tone (occur only as unaccented nonharmonic tones) and anticipation (occur only as unaccented nonharmonic tones)
Handel: Minuet in G Minor, G. 242, mm. 13–16.
The opposite of a suspension is an anticipation. An anticipation occurs when a harmony note of the next chord is played early to create a dissonance, which is then resolved when the next chord arrives.
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