Please see this answer from the answer book to my harmony workbook exercise. enter image description here

Why is the auxiliary note on beat 2 an unaccented auxiliary note (aux. for short) while the auxiliary note on beat 4 is called an accented auxiliary note (a.aux for short). Beat 2 and 4 should be equal and neither is a strong beat in 4/4 time.

  • 2
    Which theory book is it from please?
    – Tim
    Sep 17 at 10:47
  • Well I'll be darned, youd think theyd explain that in the book.. it is ABRSM for crying out loud! Anyhow I have never read that where the aux note resolves defines what kind it is... Surely it was about where the dissonance occured not where they resolve.. If the dissonance occurs on a strong beat then it should be accented period. Your reasoning stands but I dont see how one should be accented and the other not.
    – armani
    Sep 17 at 16:00
  • 1
    My reasoning is withheld at the moment. However, ABRSM has been pretty helpful with my queries over the last few decades. I'd be ringing them and asking why,'straight from the horse's mouth'. Could even be a typo. In fact, why don't you compile a list of the many questions you pose here, and email them with it? Seriously.
    – Tim
    Sep 17 at 16:12
  • Where do you place accents when you play these examples? Sep 17 at 20:53
  • On beats 1,2,3 and 4
    – armani
    Sep 18 at 8:05

This depends entirely on the definitions of the text or teacher.

The only disagreement about accent and NCTs that I have seen is whether accent is simply being on the beat, any beat, or on metrically strong beats such as 1 & 3 in 4/4.

Kostka/Payne give an example of an "unaccented, metrical, chromatic, ascending passing tone" from Mozart's Jupiter Symphony...

enter image description here

In Kostka/Payne - and every other source of NCT definitions I have read - the accent is determined by where the non-chord tone occurs, not where it resolves, or in comparison to some other nearby NCT.

Based on this Kostka/Payne example, they clearly treat only beats 1 and 3 as accented in 4/4 meter and not beats 2 and 4. By their categorization both of your textbook examples would be unaccented auxiliaries. Also, Kostka/Payne categorizes meterical level, so they would call your first example unaccented, metrical and the second unaccented, submetrical.

If your textbook categorizes NCT accent in some other way, then that's just how that book defines NCTs. But, I have never seen that type of accent categorization in any source I have read.

  • Is this the green tonal harmony book you are talking about?
    – armani
    Sep 22 at 17:38
  • My copy is 2nd edition, black hard cover. Sep 22 at 18:05
  • Oh ok. My wife bought me that book for my birthday (the newer green one) and the exercise book that goes with it. Do you recommend it?
    – armani
    Sep 23 at 7:20
  • Just to add one thing.... what complicates matters is where the bass note is. My book where this extract is from also talks about the bass note having an important impact on where the auxiliary notes is considered accented. For example, if there is a prominent bass notes on the upbeat of beat 2 then couldnt a melody note on that upbeat be classified as accented since the bass note also falls on that beat?
    – armani
    Sep 23 at 7:27
  • Kostka was an assigned text for the one college harmony 101 class I took. I recommend it because it's so well known. I think one should start with basic textbook level analysis, but then move on to something more thoughtful. The basic concept here is about implicit metrical accent... but what about other accents? Explicit ones, like a notated accent mark, or subtler ones like the supposed accented beat 2 of a Sarabande in triple time. The example you gave is very metrical confirming 4/4. If the bass were syncopated in some way, the accent could be different. Sep 23 at 12:45

I fairly strongly suspect that the auxiliary note on Beat 2 is called an unaccented auxiliary note while the auxiliary note on Beat 4 is called an accented auxiliary note because the auxiliary note on Beat 2 resolves on a stronger beat than the auxiliary note is on (Beat 3 in this case), while the auxiliary note on Beat 4 resolves on a weaker beat than that auxiliary note is on (Beat 4.5 in this case). It's all relative for both of these cases.

  • 1
    This is correct. Recommend strengthening the language (i.e., "strongly suspect" can be removed). Accented vs. Unaccented depends on whether the resolution occurs on a stronger or weaker (part of the) beat.
    – Aaron
    Sep 17 at 21:32
  • Aaron, this is the first time I have heard this. Could you please share where you get this idea? In all my books and all the music theory websites, the only definition for an accented auxiliary note (or upper or lower neighbor as it is sometimes called) I could find is that the dissonance occurs on a strong beat when it is accented. Whether it resolves on the following up or down beat should have no bearing in the classification.
    – armani
    Sep 18 at 8:09
  • @armani Your own book is telling you otherwise in the example you posted, and Dekkadeci explains it. Although the auxilliary note occurs on beat 4 — a weak beat — the resolution occurs on the "And" of 4 — and even weaker (part of the) beat. Thus the dissonance is rhythmically strong (accented) compares to the resolution.
    – Aaron
    Sep 18 at 11:53
  • The answer book is giving me an answer. The actual exercise book makes no mention of this, nor does any other definition of an accented auxiliary or neighbor note I have ever read. If you have read such a definition, please share the source.
    – armani
    Sep 18 at 12:32

Yes, I would class both of these as accented. The only difference (apart from one being a 'lower auxiliary' the other an 'upper auxiliary' is that the second one resolves within the same beat, the first doesn't.

I might call the first one an auxiliary note, the second an unprepared suspension.

We live now in a musical world of unprepared, unresolved sus2 and sus4 chords. Of melodies that sometimes follow their own logic, independent of an underlying chord structure. But the broad principles of constructing a melodic line are still there!

  • even if one resolves in the same beat, that doesnt mean they can call one accented and the other not right? this must be a mistake.
    – armani
    Sep 17 at 17:18

I didn't know the term auxiliary note until now. I prefer this terminology:


But playing the role as an advocatus diaboli of ABSRM I'd say the quarter note D is unaccented as a changing neighbour note, the F eighth note is intuitively more accented as an appoggiatura (suspended fourth resolving in the third.)

  • Why do you say the D is unaccented and the F 8th note accented? A reasoning would be most helpful.
    – armani
    Sep 18 at 8:02
  • as I said: It's intuitive! (may be because of its length and the interval, a major 2nd). D is a change note, F is an appoggiatura. Sing it and you will feel it: so re do fami. Well, the interval doesn't seem so important: if it were mi fa mi redo I would accentuate redo. Sep 18 at 9:45

Accented vs Unaccented in this context boils down if the grace note is on the strong part of the beat or on the weak part. In simple time signatures the second subdivision of the beat is the weak part. If the auxiliary note is there it is Unaccented. The strong part of the simple time signatures beats is the first subdivision. If the auxiliary note is there it is accented.

For compound time signature the beats are subdivided into threes. The first subdivision is the strong part of the beat and the second and third subdivision are the weak part of the beats.

I see there is some confusion over terminology. The passing tone is accented or Unaccented. The lower auxiliary and upper auxiliary notes is something completely different. It is the type of thing you explain with an example.

  • I will be back at my computer on Monday and then I will complete this answer with examples.
    – Neil Meyer
    Sep 17 at 19:24

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