I apologize since I have a rather basic understanding of music theory.

But I refer to the what's going in the treble clef with the descending notes. One line is the same while another is descending. I understand that, but how would I think about this in terms of chords and non chord tones? Each measure has a chord like Dm or G, so does that mean every note that is not part of that chord is a non chord tone? If so, then what about what kind of non chord tone it is (Like I see stuff that approaches and resolves with leaps).

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2 Answers 2


The entire right-hand passage is an extended, descending scale — with some notes octave-displaced — interspersed with pedal tones. All of the non-chord tones are passing tones.

Measures four and six are a bit deceptively labeled. For analytical purposes, these are seventh chords, not triads, in which the seventh is introduced as a suspension (pedal tone) from the previous measure, then resolving normally (down a step) in the next.

  • This is perhaps a good example of chord symbols being practical rather than analytical. That is, they're telling a guitarist (or someone) what to play rather than trying to represent everything that's happening in the staff notation. The presence of the seventh doesn't necessarily mean that this is a seventh chord, but here it is so prominent that the conclusion is inescapable. If only the lower pitches of the right hand were present, there would be a better case for the alternative analysis. I wouldn't call it a pedal tone, though.
    – phoog
    Feb 20 at 13:41

In classical theory we could call the B a (nonchord) Lower Auxiliary Note. The G could be analyzed as a nonchord passing note in Am or as part of an Am7 chord.

Though in this example the main characteristic of the C, B, A, G line is that it's simply a scale. 'Jazz theory' has a rather more liberal attitude to what is considered an 'outside' note. It equates chords with scales, and as all those notes are in the Am scale they can be freely used against an Am chord without requiring any further excuse.

  • Any note not part of the chord a measure is in is a nonchord tone by definition right?
    – t_t
    Feb 20 at 12:43
  • 1
    @t_t yes, though reasonable people might reasonably disagree about which chord prevails at any given time, therefore (equivalently) disagreeing about which tones are non-chord tones. The most obvious example would be a seventh, which could be a non-chord suspension, passing tone, etc., or could be a chord tone.
    – phoog
    Feb 20 at 13:30
  • While the B being between two Cs does make it seem like a lower auxiliary, I'd go with the second analysis, that the r.h. is logically two parts, of which one is CBAG etc., making the B a passing tone.
    – phoog
    Feb 20 at 13:47
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    @t_t I think the concept of a "non-chord tone" makes more sense in analyzing some music more than others. Not all music has chords in the first place. In some music, if we hear a note, it becomes part of the chord and so we could say there are no non-chord tones. "Non-chord tones" are most useful for the analysis of tonal music such as was composed in Western Europe between the Middle Ages and the mid 19th century. Outside of that music, the concept may or may not be meaningful or useful. This composer's work might not be best analyzed using these concepts. Feb 20 at 14:59

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