Okay, this might seem like a silly question, but I didn't find a quick answer through Google, so here it goes. I was just sketching a little pastiche in the style of Bach in the key of B minor. I started with the melody and added a bassline and harmonies underneath it. Usually I just listen and decide intuitively or based on the harmony if the melody note has a "pull" down/upwards, but I was wondering if there are any "rules" when one should treat note as an accented or as a non-accented passing tone in a two-part counterpoint setting.

In the image below, I was thinking if it would be weird to treat the C# as an accented passing tone and harmonize it with a D in the bass instead of E, which would then resolve down to B and form a nice 6th between bass and melody. G-D-C#-B eighth notes over B-E quarter notes

  • Regardless of the terminology, I think you'll find examples of both cadences in Bach's keyboard music. You might be interested to compare the bass part of Bist du bei mir in the manuscript orchestral score with that in Anna Magdalena's music book. Sometimes the bass has ^1 ^4 ^5 ^1 in the keyboard version, but if I recall correctly the score (Stölzel's original version?) always has ^1 ^3 ^5 ^1.
    – phoog
    Jun 2, 2022 at 9:15

2 Answers 2


The accented vs non-accented is just in reference to whether the passing note falls on the strong part of the beat or the weak part.

A non-chordal note on different parts of the beats give different effects. Depending on what the harmony allows and what effect the composer desires one could choose one over the other. Hence the distinction is made between two versions of essentially the same thing.


There aren't rules per se, but the solution presented makes the most sense in the given context.

In this case, the C# is an accented upper neighbor, since the harmony changes at that point. Had the remain-in-G-major option been chosen, then it would be an accented passing tone.

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