Can a tritone be used as a passing note? (say in key of C, going from note C to G).

  • 4
    Any note can be used as a passing note. Very often you'd come across a D or D7 chord as a secondary dominant for the G major chord. In this case the F# is the third of that chord. – Matt L. Apr 24 '15 at 12:44
  • What about "Once Upon a Time in the West"? – user20092 Apr 24 '15 at 16:59
  • I believe The Simpsons' theme song employees this device. I'm not sure that we would refer to this as a passing tone though, as a passing tone is usually step-wise motion. – Basstickler Apr 24 '15 at 17:33
  • 1
    Classical harmony allows an unprepared appogiatura. Whether you class it as a "passing note" is merely a matter of terminology. Modern useage certainly includes unprepared non-scale tones. Though modern theory can get strangely pedentic over notes that don't fit the prevailing chord/scale! – Laurence Payne Apr 24 '15 at 19:52
  • We don't allow song search or itemized lists here, so I've edited your question a bit. Matt and Laurence, I would consider turning your comments into answers. – delete me Apr 24 '15 at 22:05

Maria, from West Side Story, uses exactly that for the first line.(Not sure if it's that key, but, hey) The underlying harmony is root, the first note is also root, and the tritone is the second , leading to 5th on the 3rd note.. It sounds like it may modulate, as Matt says, but it doesn't. The fact that the triton is a semitone from the target is good, as resolutions often move that small distance.

  • 1
    The whole score of "West Side Story" (except "I Feel Pretty", which was a late addition) features that interval. Mostly it's used melodically, to give a "cool jazz" flavour. But look at the very last few bars of the score, where a C major triad with an F# bass note underlines the final tragedy. – Laurence Payne Apr 24 '15 at 19:47

Riffs and melodies moving quickly from #4 to 5 comprise a huge part of blues and jazz. You'll be hard pressed to find music from those genres that doesn't make ample us of that melodic transition - #4 is one of the traditonal blue notes. - that's a tritone from the root moving towards the 5 - a building block of the blues. So the answer is Yes.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.