Lets say im playing a violin piece that's primarily in C major/G mixo-Lydian but i start to use notes outside of the scale without any chord accompaniment , technically those notes wouldn't be referred to as non chord tones, which include passing tones, incomplete neighboring tones,and etc. So what is the term for using out of scale notes on a monophonic instrument, and if possible can you add some more insight on the topic..Thanks!

  • without any chord accompaniment...non chord tones Seems you're asking because there are no chords being played. That really doesn't make much difference: the prevalent tonality - the key - of the melody you're playing implies certain chords and scales, even if they're not being played by an accompanist, so non-chord tones would still be apropos. Perhaps the question is what's the technical term for non-chord tones , which isn't really a technical term. On that, @Tim has given you the answer: Notes within the key are generally called diatonic, outside the key, chromatic.
    – Stinkfoot
    Jul 9, 2017 at 2:05

2 Answers 2


Chromatic notes would fit, as in they are not going to be diatonic, thus they're out of the normal scale/mode, and will generally be represented on the dots as accidentals.

  • Does using the chromatic notes change the key? and if so how can it re- established on a singular monophonic instrument?
    – Janice Cee
    Jun 7, 2017 at 6:37
  • If the same chromatic notes get used frequently, it could be said that there's a change of key - or just a modulation. Re-establishing key is the same as in any piece - the key notes, particularly root and leading note - are stated more often.
    – Tim
    Jun 7, 2017 at 6:53
  • Can any note aside from the root and leading, be used for re-establishment? And what are the benefits of using the root and leading?
    – Janice Cee
    Jun 7, 2017 at 6:59
  • Leading note usually leads to the root, and then using 3rd and 5th of key will re-tune listeners' ears.
    – Tim
    Jun 7, 2017 at 7:00

It depends how the notes are being used. Technically they could be non-chord tones. You can specify chromatic with NCT's like chromatic appoggiatura or chromatic passing chord. Also, the chromatic tones could result in a shift in key. If it's temporary you could call it a tonicization, or if it is longer it could be called a modulation. Another term that could be appropriate is secondary dominant. It depends on the musical context. Even if the part is monophonic, if chords are being arpeggiated, then using some chord terms would be fine.

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