Question about non harmonic tones

Guitar Tricks Forum > Music Theory > Question about non harmonic tones

meharbrar12

Full Access

Joined: 07/31/19

Posts: 14

Hi! So I'm still a beginner and I'm in the middle of Guitar Fundamentals 2, I want to start writing my own stuff. So I got the sheet music for a song that I like listening to and I wanted to get an idea of song structure and the construction of the melody. However I'm kind of confused about something and I hope someone can help me out.

Now the song is in 4/4 time and the second bar is a G Major chord. The bar ends with 2 non-harmonic tones. The first non-harmonic tone is approached by a skip down from a B to a F. From the F it steps down to a E in the same direction. I don't know a lot of theory but I looked online and found that this is kind of close to an Appoggiatura, however an Appoggiatura skips then steps in the opposite direction to a chord tone, I believe. Just wondering if someone can explain how that works and what the name might be.

Also is E a non chord tone for the G Major chord? I know that the G major chord that was taught in Fundamentals 1 has our fingers on G, B and G and the rest are open but I read somewhere that E is apart of the scale for G major.

Sorry for the long question, I was just really confused when I came across this and my theory knowledge is not that great.

#1

Hi! So I'm still a beginner and I'm in the middle of Guitar Fundamentals 2, I want to start writing my own stuff. So I got the sheet music for a song that I like listening to and I wanted to get an idea of song structure and the construction of the melody. However I'm kind of confused about something and I hope someone can help me out.

Now the song is in 4/4 time and the second bar is a G Major chord. The bar ends with 2 non-harmonic tones. The first non-harmonic tone is approached by a skip down from a B to a F. From the F it steps down to a E in the same direction. I don't know a lot of theory but I looked online and found that this is kind of close to an Appoggiatura, however an Appoggiatura skips then steps in the opposite direction to a chord tone, I believe. Just wondering if someone can explain how that works and what the name might be.

Also is E a non chord tone for the G Major chord? I know that the G major chord that was taught in Fundamentals 1 has our fingers on G, B and G and the rest are open but I read somewhere that E is apart of the scale for G major.

Sorry for the long question, I was just really confused when I came across this and my theory knowledge is not that great.

ChristopherSchlegel

Guitar Tricks Instructor

Joined: 08/09/05

Posts: 7682

Originally Posted by: meharbrar12

So I got the sheet music for a song that I like listening to and I wanted to get an idea of song structure and the construction of the melody.

What song? What key?

Originally Posted by: meharbrar12
Now the song is in 4/4 time and the second bar is a G Major chord. The bar ends with 2 non-harmonic tones. The first non-harmonic tone is approached by a skip down from a B to a F. From the F it steps down to a E in the same direction.

I need more info to know for sure. Specifically what chord is next?

But in general this is very common voice motion. Often this is the ttonic chord (I chord) modulating to a V of IV as the progression then goes from I to IV. The note F makes the G a G7 chord which is the temporary V of C.

So instead of a simple motion & chord change:

G (I) > C (IV)

You wind up with a slight more advanced & detailed chord change:

G (I) > G7 (V of IV) > C (IV)

Or it could be that this song is in the key of C major & the G is the V chord. Which means that the F is actually a chord tone of the G7 (V).

However, it could just be an ornamental non-chord tone note. That happens in many styles of music.

Originally Posted by: meharbrar12
I don't know a lot of theory but I looked online and found that this is kind of close to an Appoggiatura, however an Appoggiatura skips then steps in the opposite direction to a chord tone, I believe. Just wondering if someone can explain how that works and what the name might be.

It could be. But an appoggiatura has more to do with how the note is handled rhythmically and not it's function. See here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appoggiatura

So it would be beneficial to know the rhythm of the melody notes.

Originally Posted by: meharbrar12
Also is E a non chord tone for the G Major chord?

Yes. The chord tones for a G major chord are:

G - 1st (root)

B - major 3rd

D - 5th

E is a major 6th. So, are you saying the F & E notes happen during the G major chord?

This is fairly common for some styles of music: blues, country, rock, pop, jazz. Styles that use dominant 7th chords freely. It's less common with classical music, or styles with more strict harmonic function motion.

I encourage you to keep working through the Fundamentals course & build your skill. But if you are curious about theory you can watch my tutorials on the basics of music theory here.

Music Theory: a Brief Overview

https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=495

Circle of Fifths: An Introduction

https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=835

Hope that helps! Please ask more if necessary!

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

#2

Originally Posted by: meharbrar12

So I got the sheet music for a song that I like listening to and I wanted to get an idea of song structure and the construction of the melody.

What song? What key?

Originally Posted by: meharbrar12
Now the song is in 4/4 time and the second bar is a G Major chord. The bar ends with 2 non-harmonic tones. The first non-harmonic tone is approached by a skip down from a B to a F. From the F it steps down to a E in the same direction.

I need more info to know for sure. Specifically what chord is next?

But in general this is very common voice motion. Often this is the ttonic chord (I chord) modulating to a V of IV as the progression then goes from I to IV. The note F makes the G a G7 chord which is the temporary V of C.

So instead of a simple motion & chord change:

G (I) > C (IV)

You wind up with a slight more advanced & detailed chord change:

G (I) > G7 (V of IV) > C (IV)

Or it could be that this song is in the key of C major & the G is the V chord. Which means that the F is actually a chord tone of the G7 (V).

However, it could just be an ornamental non-chord tone note. That happens in many styles of music.

Originally Posted by: meharbrar12
I don't know a lot of theory but I looked online and found that this is kind of close to an Appoggiatura, however an Appoggiatura skips then steps in the opposite direction to a chord tone, I believe. Just wondering if someone can explain how that works and what the name might be.

It could be. But an appoggiatura has more to do with how the note is handled rhythmically and not it's function. See here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appoggiatura

So it would be beneficial to know the rhythm of the melody notes.

Originally Posted by: meharbrar12
Also is E a non chord tone for the G Major chord?

Yes. The chord tones for a G major chord are:

G - 1st (root)

B - major 3rd

D - 5th

E is a major 6th. So, are you saying the F & E notes happen during the G major chord?

This is fairly common for some styles of music: blues, country, rock, pop, jazz. Styles that use dominant 7th chords freely. It's less common with classical music, or styles with more strict harmonic function motion.

I encourage you to keep working through the Fundamentals course & build your skill. But if you are curious about theory you can watch my tutorials on the basics of music theory here.

Music Theory: a Brief Overview

https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=495

Circle of Fifths: An Introduction

https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=835

Hope that helps! Please ask more if necessary!

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

meharbrar12

Full Access

Joined: 07/31/19

Posts: 14

HI!

Thanks for the reply, I should have added some context. The song is Mercy by Shawn Mendes, the Key is E minor. The chords being used are E minor, G Major, b minor and A Major. Attached is a link to the sheet music I'm looking at and I was wondering if someone can give me a explanation just for the first 4 bars of how the non chord tones are being approached and why everything is working together the way it is.

https://www.musicnotes.com/sheetmusic/mtd.asp?ppn=MN0168128

The confusion I have with non chord tones is that I don't know why they are working together with the notes in the current chord being played as well as non chord tones being held going into another chord.

I don't plan on going really hardcore with the theory but this is something I want to understand since I feel like it will be useful to know why the music is fitting together.

#3

HI!

Thanks for the reply, I should have added some context. The song is Mercy by Shawn Mendes, the Key is E minor. The chords being used are E minor, G Major, b minor and A Major. Attached is a link to the sheet music I'm looking at and I was wondering if someone can give me a explanation just for the first 4 bars of how the non chord tones are being approached and why everything is working together the way it is.

https://www.musicnotes.com/sheetmusic/mtd.asp?ppn=MN0168128

The confusion I have with non chord tones is that I don't know why they are working together with the notes in the current chord being played as well as non chord tones being held going into another chord.

I don't plan on going really hardcore with the theory but this is something I want to understand since I feel like it will be useful to know why the music is fitting together.

ChristopherSchlegel

Guitar Tricks Instructor

Joined: 08/09/05

Posts: 7682

Originally Posted by: meharbrar12

The song is Mercy by Shawn Mendes, the Key is E minor. The chords being used are E minor, G Major, b minor and A Major.

Thanks for the info! First, the song is in the key of E minor, meaning any F is an F#. This is like any typical pop song in which the melody will be mostly from notes in the key signature (E minor or relative G major scale). Chord tones will usually be given strong rhythmic placement. Non-chord tones will be used as a way of approaching or connecting the chord tones. But all or most of the notes of the melody will be from the scale. This is a fairly typical way of structuring a melody. Remember that any given chord will have 3 key/scale notes with scale notes between them:

1st chord tone

2nd non-chord tone

3rd chord tone

4th non-chord tone

5th chord tone

So any sequence of notes from the scale could easily have some chord tones combined with some non-chord tones. After all, a melody is a sequence of notes that might have linear scale lines through it. For example: the line E-F#-G-A-B in 1/8th notes would sound fine over an E minor chord. The chord tones would be on stressed downbeats with the non-chord tones as connecting material on the unstressed upbeats. All the notes together form an upward motion. It's only if you land on, stress or stay on a non-chord tone that it might sound unresolved, unsettled or jazzy.

With that in mind let's look at those first 4 bars.

m.1 - E minor chord (i) with melody notes A - B - D. The A is a grace note that leads up to the B (5th of E minor). The D is stressed and is used to create an E minor 7th chord sound. This gives the song a R&B type of sound because of the "jazzy nature" of extended chords. R&B typically draws a little bit from jazz harmony.

m.2 - G major chord (bIII) relative major chord to E minor. The notes B are stressed and they are chord tones. The A is a neighbor tone to the B & only happens for a brief 1/8th note. Later is an F# leading to an E. This results in another extended chord G major7. Nothing unusual, but it does give more R&B flavor. The E is a major 6th, not at all unusual for the style. And the E also kind of serves as foreshadowing of the note that will connect 2 chord tones in the next measure.

m.3 - B minor (v) The D (minor 3rd), F# (5th) & B (1st) are chord tones. The E (4th) serves as a way of connecting the chord tones. Chord tones are on weak beats giving an unsettled sound.

m.4 - A major (IV - a borrowed chord or modulation) - The D (4th) is a grace note that leads to the E (5th) chord tone.

Using so many non-chords in rhythmically stressed ways that connect chord tones gives the melody an unsettled, moody sound. Which is probably intentional because it matches the lyric theme & is typical of an R&B type of love ballad. This approach is used as the lyrics enter as well.

Originally Posted by: meharbrar12
I was wondering if someone can give me a explanation just for the first 4 bars of how the non chord tones are being approached and why everything is working together the way it is.[/p]

Hopefully my explanation will help!

Keep in mind that while non-chord tones are used and often stressed, they are all simply notes from the key signature being used to connect chord tones.

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

#4

Originally Posted by: meharbrar12

The song is Mercy by Shawn Mendes, the Key is E minor. The chords being used are E minor, G Major, b minor and A Major.

Thanks for the info! First, the song is in the key of E minor, meaning any F is an F#. This is like any typical pop song in which the melody will be mostly from notes in the key signature (E minor or relative G major scale). Chord tones will usually be given strong rhythmic placement. Non-chord tones will be used as a way of approaching or connecting the chord tones. But all or most of the notes of the melody will be from the scale. This is a fairly typical way of structuring a melody. Remember that any given chord will have 3 key/scale notes with scale notes between them:

1st chord tone

2nd non-chord tone

3rd chord tone

4th non-chord tone

5th chord tone

So any sequence of notes from the scale could easily have some chord tones combined with some non-chord tones. After all, a melody is a sequence of notes that might have linear scale lines through it. For example: the line E-F#-G-A-B in 1/8th notes would sound fine over an E minor chord. The chord tones would be on stressed downbeats with the non-chord tones as connecting material on the unstressed upbeats. All the notes together form an upward motion. It's only if you land on, stress or stay on a non-chord tone that it might sound unresolved, unsettled or jazzy.

With that in mind let's look at those first 4 bars.

m.1 - E minor chord (i) with melody notes A - B - D. The A is a grace note that leads up to the B (5th of E minor). The D is stressed and is used to create an E minor 7th chord sound. This gives the song a R&B type of sound because of the "jazzy nature" of extended chords. R&B typically draws a little bit from jazz harmony.

m.2 - G major chord (bIII) relative major chord to E minor. The notes B are stressed and they are chord tones. The A is a neighbor tone to the B & only happens for a brief 1/8th note. Later is an F# leading to an E. This results in another extended chord G major7. Nothing unusual, but it does give more R&B flavor. The E is a major 6th, not at all unusual for the style. And the E also kind of serves as foreshadowing of the note that will connect 2 chord tones in the next measure.

m.3 - B minor (v) The D (minor 3rd), F# (5th) & B (1st) are chord tones. The E (4th) serves as a way of connecting the chord tones. Chord tones are on weak beats giving an unsettled sound.

m.4 - A major (IV - a borrowed chord or modulation) - The D (4th) is a grace note that leads to the E (5th) chord tone.

Using so many non-chords in rhythmically stressed ways that connect chord tones gives the melody an unsettled, moody sound. Which is probably intentional because it matches the lyric theme & is typical of an R&B type of love ballad. This approach is used as the lyrics enter as well.

Originally Posted by: meharbrar12
I was wondering if someone can give me a explanation just for the first 4 bars of how the non chord tones are being approached and why everything is working together the way it is.[/p]

Hopefully my explanation will help!

Keep in mind that while non-chord tones are used and often stressed, they are all simply notes from the key signature being used to connect chord tones.

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

meharbrar12

Full Access

Joined: 07/31/19

Posts: 14

Thank you so much for getting back to me! A lot of my questions have been cleared up after reading your response. I just have one more question.

So in the 3rd bar, the E is being used to simply connect the chord tones and those tones are placed on the off beats to give it a unsettling sound. I understand that and it makes sense, however was the E used because it is so close to the D and F#? Could another note have been used for it or would that not work since it would be to large of a jump and would sound less connected.

Last thing, do you have any tips for melody writing as a beginner and how to grow to become a better one overtime?

Thanks!

#5

Thank you so much for getting back to me! A lot of my questions have been cleared up after reading your response. I just have one more question.

So in the 3rd bar, the E is being used to simply connect the chord tones and those tones are placed on the off beats to give it a unsettling sound. I understand that and it makes sense, however was the E used because it is so close to the D and F#? Could another note have been used for it or would that not work since it would be to large of a jump and would sound less connected.

Last thing, do you have any tips for melody writing as a beginner and how to grow to become a better one overtime?

Thanks!

ChristopherSchlegel

Guitar Tricks Instructor

Joined: 08/09/05

Posts: 7682

You're welcome. Glad it helped!

Originally Posted by: meharbrar12
I understand that and it makes sense, however was the E used because it is so close to the D and F#? Could another note have been used for it or would that not work since it would be to large of a jump and would sound less connected.

The primary reason the E was used is that the songwriter liked the sound of it there.

It's the most obvious choice to connect D & F# because E is the only scale degree in between those other two scale notes. Of course a different note could have been chosen, from the scale or outside of it! But the E makes that little phrase fit the overall arc of the melody phrases. Look & listen to the melody.

There are little phrases of 2 rising 1/8th notes, followed by a stressed 1/4 note followed by another 1/4 that leads to the next little similar phrase. The last phrase only has one 1/8th note rising to a 1/4 to finish the phrase.

Have a look at my post 14 in this thread which discusses how melodies are constructed.

https://www.guitartricks.com/forum/thread.php?f=36&t=55996&pg=2

Originally Posted by: meharbrar12
Last thing, do you have any tips for melody writing as a beginner and how to grow to become a better one overtime?

Figure out lots of melodies & songs. Think about what makes them work or not. What you like the sound of & why. Write lots of melodies & songs. Experiment with a lot of options. Practice your craft & work to understand the elements of what makes it work. Think about what works for you & what doesn't. Try to do more of what you like & avoid what you don't.

Most songwriters learn & develop in this manner. Hope this helps!

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

#6

You're welcome. Glad it helped!

Originally Posted by: meharbrar12
I understand that and it makes sense, however was the E used because it is so close to the D and F#? Could another note have been used for it or would that not work since it would be to large of a jump and would sound less connected.

The primary reason the E was used is that the songwriter liked the sound of it there.

It's the most obvious choice to connect D & F# because E is the only scale degree in between those other two scale notes. Of course a different note could have been chosen, from the scale or outside of it! But the E makes that little phrase fit the overall arc of the melody phrases. Look & listen to the melody.

There are little phrases of 2 rising 1/8th notes, followed by a stressed 1/4 note followed by another 1/4 that leads to the next little similar phrase. The last phrase only has one 1/8th note rising to a 1/4 to finish the phrase.

Have a look at my post 14 in this thread which discusses how melodies are constructed.

https://www.guitartricks.com/forum/thread.php?f=36&t=55996&pg=2

Originally Posted by: meharbrar12
Last thing, do you have any tips for melody writing as a beginner and how to grow to become a better one overtime?

Figure out lots of melodies & songs. Think about what makes them work or not. What you like the sound of & why. Write lots of melodies & songs. Experiment with a lot of options. Practice your craft & work to understand the elements of what makes it work. Think about what works for you & what doesn't. Try to do more of what you like & avoid what you don't.

Most songwriters learn & develop in this manner. Hope this helps!

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory