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I am trying to get a grasp on differentiating approach notes from target notes in five-part solis voicing.

But definition of target notes seems to include tensions.

Then ambiguity is certainly unavoidable because some non-chord tones belong to approach notes and some others to target notes.

For example, in the picture above, the author of the book says that 2nd lead note, D, is an approach note.

But that is 9, which is a valid tension for C6.

again in the second measure at 2nd downbeat, 'A' appears in the lead voice. And that is the root of A7(b9).

What makes you think that the 'A' in the second measure is an approach note?

Even if a rootless chord is common in five-part solis voicing, ordinary chords with roots are also present.(2nd chord in m.1 has a root, 2nd chord in m.2 has no root)

How can you differentiate chords with roots from those without roots?

1 Answer 1


There are two different questions here:

  1. How does one differentiate approach and target notes?
  2. How can one tell if a certain apparent chord is actually some other chord without its root.

Approach vs. Target

This involves analysis of the melodically (i.e., horizontally) more so than harmonically (i.e., vertically). The question is whether a note serves as a melodic point of emphasis1 (target) or helping to build toward that point (approach). It one of the more interpretive aspects of music analysis.

In both cases mentioned in the question, the indicated notes are in rhythmically weak positions and of short duration — in comparison to the notes around them. This gives them the quality of being travel notes (approach) rather than arrival notes (target). The longer notes in stronger rhythmic positions carry more musical weight.

Complete chord vs. rootless voicing

This is another area open to interpretation. In the two cases presented, though, it really doesn't matter. V7(b9) and viio7 serve the same harmonic role (here), so the only reason it matters is in letting the bass player know where the chordal root is.

The chords given above the score appear to be the chords written into the song, in which case m.2 in particular would obviously be rootless. However, if I were only given the score and no chord symbols, I would rather analyze the passage as a series of ascending diminished seventh chords. Only if it was necessary to assign a single harmony to the measure would I consider that it's actually an A chord with missing root plus a passing chord.

1 By "emphasis" here, I don't mean "louder" but rather "call attention to".


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