Here is an example of what I mean. In the below excerpt from Coldplay's "Don't Panic", the note E is accented and comes after the note F in the previous bar. I have not included this as it is on another page and it is irrelevant. If the E resolved by step downward to D it would be a textbook 7-6 suspension. In this case however, the non-chord tone E resolves down by leap to the A chord tone. Is there another type of name for this kind of non-chord tone or would this still considered a suspension?

three measures from "Don't Panic" by Coldplay

  • 2
    Aside from @laurencepayne's correct answer, I think it's important to note that in these "Can I do X" questions there's always a context. Is it "allowed" in first-species counterpoint? In Wagnerian post-tonality? In jazz? In Mongolian throat singing? In this case, while Coldplay is certainly beholden to the legacy of tonality and even voice leading, it's important for the music theorist to analyze a work according to its conventions. Jun 24 at 12:34
  • 1
    Its's no suspension, and certainly not a 'non-chord-tone'. The chord is F maj7, so contains both the E and the A sung. False premise?
    – Tim
    Jun 24 at 15:21
  • Tim, that is certainly one way to look at it
    – armani
    Jun 24 at 16:58

In this case, as the note E persists in the accompaniment, I don't think it 'resolves' at all. The whole bar is a Fmaj7 chord, the E isn't treated as a dissonance.

  • Corrected. Thanks. Jun 24 at 13:04
  • if that note just stayed on E wouldnt sound right so I am still hearing a resolution from that dissonant E to the A
    – armani
    Jun 24 at 13:46
  • In context - see the post by @leftaroundabout - it would feel strange not to continue the musical phrase to a lower note. But this isn't Mozart. Resolving a melody on the tonic maj7 is mainstream in today's pop/jazz music. Jun 25 at 18:56
  • In the pop music I listen to I have not really seen many melodies resolving on a major 7th... maybe more of a jazz thing... I am sure it does exist but it is rare.
    – armani
    Jun 26 at 14:30
  • Yes, probably more jazz. And today's Musical Theatre ballads have a cliche of ending on a tonic maj9 or (addd9) chord. Jun 26 at 22:58

If the E resolved by step downward to D it would be a textbook 7-6 suspension.

No it would not.

A textbook 7-6 suspension might be exemplified by a composer like Corelli... not Cold Play.

Harmonic styles treating sevenths and ninths as consonances that don't need resolution have been around for about 100 years!

Don't apply theory out of context.

Is there another type of name for this kind of non-chord tone or would this still considered a suspension?

Well, in jazz harmony extensions are the notes of the tertian stack above a seventh, the ninth, eleventh, and thirteenth. Or, if you like you can include the sus and add type chords. So you could speak of it as "extended" harmony. Although the E in question is a seventh so even by this standard it's a chord tone.

There are other terms like pan-diatonicism, poly-tonality, or quartal harmony that would toss out the conventional sense of non-chord tones, but they don't fit the style here.

  • ok so what isnt a chord tone then in jazz harmony?
    – armani
    Jun 24 at 13:45
  • Exactly! I asked a question recently that got into that issue of NCTs in jazz harmony music.stackexchange.com/questions/108230/… Jun 24 at 16:28
  • IMO, unless the style is getting into 7sus4, quartal-ish, harmony, the fourth is the only obvious non-chord tone. But melodic & rhythmic context will have an influence. But the main point is all the criteria for NCTs that comes from common practice definitions are based on definitions of dissonance that don't apply to jazz. So, you need to use good judgement to decide whether in jazz some tone is NCT or just an extension. Jun 24 at 16:34
  • hmmmm now you got me scratching my head :)
    – armani
    Jun 24 at 17:00
  • Try looking at the A part of the song Cherokee. First notice that whole section of the song's melody is based on a tonic add6 chord with each 8 bar phrase ending on the supertonic ^2. Without chords the sense of the melody is perfectly clear: tonic outlined, half cadences on ^2, final cadence on ^1. Jun 24 at 17:50

We should look at it in context.

[Reload the page if the notation doesn't make any sense; there's a bug in StackExchange's ABC integration]

%%score T1
V:T1           clef=treble
% 1
[V:T1] "am"E3 (G G)F E2 | "C"E3 (G G)F E2 | "F"D3 (C C4) | z8
[V:T1] "am"E3 (G G)F E2 | "C"E3 (G G)F E2 | "F"E3 (A, A,4) | z8

A couple of things to notice:

It's two times almost the same thing, except for the last bar (and the second time is the spot you were asking about)

This is a pretty common schema, and indeed quite “classical”: a repitition with two different endings. Classically, it would in particular also be the harmonies that do something different (like, go to the dominant one time), but in pop it's much more common to have chord loops that keep on going, regardless of melodic considerations.

The melody keeps returning to E on all the 1 beats, except the first iteration of the last bar

So E has almost a bit of a pedal note quality. That alone is enough to justify using it basically over any chord: it doesn't come out dissonance, because it's already accepted as ambient in a sense.

By contrast, the D in the first iteration does stick out, and indeed I would call D-C a 6-5 suspension over the first F chord. (Disagree with Aaron that suspensions need to be prepared.)

The 1-beat E is generally a consonance, except in each last bar

So mostly, we don't even need to invoke pedal point. Only in that final bar is the E a maj7 and as such could be considered sticking out more dissonant than the previous stuff. In combination with the fact that the first time around does have the 6-5 suspension, this could be taken to mean that we are also this time dealing with a suspension, but I would disagree.

Instead, what the melody is doing is very resolved indeed, it just happens to be kind of detached from the harmonies. Namely, the melody is returning to both its E home-point, as well as then to the actual A tonic. I.e., it's outlining the entire tonic chord, a complete return home. No suspension quality at all.

Only, as I said, the accompaniment repeats the am-C-F, as chords repeat in pop music unless there's a very special moment that wants to be highlighted. Otherwise, the harmony changes aren't supposed to be highlighted or have an anyhow disrupting effect, as harmony changes often have in classical music.

That is IMO the biggest reason why it's not a suspension: because what it actually is is a downward arpeggio, just not of the chord that occurs in the accompaniment.

– But also, yeah, as already said, a maj7 can actually be pretty consonant anyway, so there's not much issue there in the first place.

  1. This is not a suspension. To be a suspension, the note must begin as a chord tone in a different harmony, carry over into a new harmony (the suspension) in which it is a dissonance, and then resolve. (For this reason, the omitted portion is not only relevant, but essential.)

  2. Thie E is not dissonant. In the context of popular music and jazz, major seventh chords — the harmony accompanying the E — are not generally considered dissonant, so nothing is resolving here: it's just a chord tone moving to another chord tone.

  3. The D is not consonant. Even allowing the E were dissonant, the underlying harmony is F major, not D minor, so the D would still be dissonant.

  4. Popular music and jazz cannot be consistently analyzed according to the classical theory of tonality. Different aesthetic standards apply. So while both follow many of the patterns and principles of tonality, they depart from it liberally and cannot be considered to exemplify it.

  5. Suspensions always resolve down by step. However, what can sometimes happen is that the suspended voice will initially leap to another chord tone before then moving to the expected pitch of resolution. The "leap note" is decorative and not considered the resolution.

  • 1
    "To be a suspension, the note must begin as a chord tone in a different harmony": unless it is an unprepared suspension.
    – phoog
    Jun 24 at 13:07
  • @phoog "unprepared suspension"?
    – Aaron
    Jun 24 at 13:14
  • Thank you. What happens before is irrelevant because I explained that the note is an F from the previous bar. that is the only info that is important accompanying my question... so F chord tone to E non chord tone to A chord tone... and my question was more related to classical music not jazz... heck I think m9 must be a chord tone by now in jazz. Good point about the D :)
    – armani
    Jun 24 at 13:34
  • @armani Because it's an F in the previous bar, it's not a suspension. The previous bar is the essential element in determining if it's a suspension in the first place. The E is a chord tone. And my point is that pop and jazz don't follow classical rules, so you can't use a pop example to ask a classical question. Point 5 answers the classical question.
    – Aaron
    Jun 24 at 13:55
  • 1
    @phoog: "Unprepared suspensions" exist in German theory, where the word Vorhalt incorporates various figures that in English-language theory would be called accented passing tones and appoggiaturas. The German word for appoggiatura (Vorschlag) is more limited in scope than what is assumed in English-language theory. So the "suspension" (Vorhalt) concept is broader. But I've never heard the term "unprepared suspension" used in English-language theory except when trying to get across a translation of Vorhalt. Otherwise, we call these notes appoggiaturas and maybe accented passing tones, no?
    – Athanasius
    Jun 26 at 4:31

Music theory/harmony books never cover the most interesting and exceptional situations in voice-leading and harmonic analysis. Some Bach chorales are full of such examples. Here is an example of a Bach chorale where a suspension doesn't resolve by step. Consider this was analyzed as being in A minor (no key signature, upper staff = treble clef and lower staff = bass clef). There is no sensible analysis other than considering the E in the bass voice carried over from the first measure as a suspension. It doesn't resolve stepwise because that would create too much parallel motion and parallel fourths between bass and tenor which wouldn't sound good in that style. enter image description here

  • 1
    Analyzing this in A minor means that the bass E is not a suspension. Since it's consonant with the E minor chord on the first beat, there's nothing to resolve. That's also why it can leap down to the B, which is also a chord tone. A suspension isn't just a carry over note; it's a carry-over that results in a dissonance against the primary harmony.
    – Aaron
    Jul 5 at 4:49
  • Dear Aaron, the piece was analyzed in A minor, but the passage above is clearly a tonicization of G major (hence VII). The chord where that E appears in the first bar can only be analyzed as either IV65 (of G), then immediately vii⦰2 (of G), or just vii⦰2 (of G) considering the B and the G above it suspensions that resolve on the A and F#.
    – Alex
    Jul 5 at 6:05
  • The first chord next bar cannot be E minor, since there is no G in it and when the G comes, it's a G major triad. Moreover, the previous chord is a dominant of G which is partly resolved with the B in the upper voices and immediately the G major triad. I've played it many times and can't hear E minor. So the E on the first beat of the second bar is a dissonance expected to resolve on D, just as A resolves on G.
    – Alex
    Jul 5 at 6:06
  • The downbeat is not VII6. It's vi/VII with a 4-3 suspension. That the harmony changes at the resolution doesn't change the nature of the E minor harmony on the downbeat. E minor is first achieved on the preceding beat 4, with the C as an accented passing tone. But on the half-beat it becomes [iio/vi]/VII over an E pedal tone. (Alternatively, [iio[4-2]/vi]VII resolving to vi/VII by common tone.)
    – Aaron
    Jul 5 at 7:23

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