How do you figure an accented passing note in the bass, specifically when the harmony changes?

If you have non-chord tones in the bass following a figuring, it's easy to show the same harmony continues, just by using a dash. In this simple example, the implicit 5/3 chord continues as the bass moves to the unaccented passing-note E:

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But what about the following example? Here the harmony moves to a first inversion F major chord, but has an accented passing-note in the bass at the point where the harmony changes:

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You can't put a dash, because it isn't a continuation of the 5/3 C major chord on beat 1. The continuo player needs to know that the harmony changes on beat 2, as they are realising the harmony from the figured-bass alone. But I don't see how you figure this B, because it isn't the harmony note.

2 Answers 2


Well, I posted the question above, because I thought it would be mad to simply describe the intervals between the non-chord note in the bass and the triad above. In this case: 7/5/2. But lo and behold, at the bottom of the Wikipedia page about Figured Bass, there is an example showing exactly the same "accented passing-note on a first inversion chord" as in my example:

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So this seems to suggest that non-chord tones can be figured using figures such as 7/5/2. This seems very fussy to me though, and I've not seen an example like this before. So I'd be interested to read other answers about this kind of figuring...

  • 4
    it’s certainly common in the late Baroque, also 742 for similar reasons, and it’s a good example of how figured bass quickly became unwieldy.
    – user71850
    Sep 27, 2020 at 13:11
  • Thanks, Damian. This little bit of research was a real eye-opener for me. Sep 27, 2020 at 15:34
  • 2
    "This seems very fussy to me": but it makes perfect sense given the origins of figured bass as a purely mechanistic way to indicate intervals to play above a bass note. The idea that the number "6" (over a usually implicit "3") meant "first-inversion triad" was not firmly established at first; even the theory of triadic inversions itself was not established at the time. Of course, when you add figures to a basso continuo part, you quickly start seeing patterns emerging, but the figures come first and the identification with patterns and theoretical concepts follows.
    – phoog
    Sep 27, 2020 at 16:43
  • 1
    I'm sure it's correct. Yes - complicated for such simple harmony. Sep 27, 2020 at 16:54
  • Really good points, @phoog. We always need to remember that baroque harmony is largely the consequence of the relationships between linear material. We shouldn’t always consider it with “Roman numeral” eyes... Sep 27, 2020 at 17:14

I think the main thing to consider here is how harmony is treated in the gallant style. In this case, it would be a 752 chord as mentioned, but it is doubtful that you would see an unprepared dissonance like this, because it just doesn’t fit the system of treating dissonance in the style. If that F/B type chord were to be seen, the Fmaj would be sounded first and the B to A in the bass line would come in after the chord on top was already sounding.

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