Hopefully I can explain this. I'd like to know if there is a name for the notes prior to a target note. For example, in Hey Jude, McCartney sings:

...take a sad SOOONG and make it better...

I'm not sure what the actual notes of "take a sad" are, before he hits that F4 in "SOOONG", but I know that he changes registers. It seems like both the notes and their order are important to make the thinner SOOONG ring like it does. I notice the same thing in many guitar licks, where a few notes are quickly played before ending in a screaming bend. I have two questions:

  • Is there a name for the notes leading up to the target note?
  • What, if any, is the significance of the prior notes and their order?
  • I'm curious why you also don't ask if there a name for the "main" note, because if there is, I'm pretty sure it's not "main". Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 5:41
  • @ToddWilcox Yeah I should probably ask that as well. I didn't know if I could ask several questions, but I'll try to include that and make it look nicer. Thanks for the suggestion.
    – Cannabijoy
    Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 5:45
  • The "main note" is usually called "target note".
    – Matt L.
    Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 6:14
  • I always call them the 'money notes'... If you can't hit the money notes, you don't make money ;-)
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 6:42

4 Answers 4


I would call the main note an apex rather than a target note, because the term target note typically means any note that is approached or targeted. A melody could potentially have multiple target notes, whereas it probably only has 1-2 apexes. It sounds like you're asking about the main apex of a melody rather than a target note, partly because the B♭ (played over "sad") could qualify as a target note, while only the high F could be considered an apex. You're not asking about the B♭, which is a target note--you're asking about the F, which is an apex.

I'm getting the term apex from this page. This same page also has a good answer to your second question, "what is the significance of these lead-in notes?" Here's the brief answer: these lead-in notes form a crucial part of the contour of the melody. The contour can take any number of shapes, including an arch, an inverted arch, and a ramp. Here's how the site described this:

A good melody will have only 1 apex. This is the most important part of the phrase, so it should be set apart in its singularity.

Ways to highlight your apex might be to set it off by a leap [emphasis added] or placing it in an unexpected place (not beat 1 or 3 of a measure). Some possible contours include:

  • An arch. Imagine an arch where the highest point is slightly to the right. A great place to put your apex is about 2/3 of the way into the melody as in the Traumerei of Schumann:

enter image description here

  • An inverted arch. Imagine an upside down march. Sometimes it is effective to make your “apex” the lowest note of the melody. Beethoven does this brilliantly in Ode to Joy.

enter image description here

  • A ramp. The apex of your melody will be at the beginning or the end in this contour. Somewhere Over the Rainbow is an excellent example of this contour. The composer’s highest note is at the beginning of the melody and the rest of the melody is spent descending to the low tonic.

enter image description here

So one way to describe these lead-in notes would be in terms of the contour/shape (e.g., the front of the arch, etc.). Beyond this, the lead-in notes are simply part of the melody.

  • Thanks I do believe this answers my question. So the notes prior (or even after) the apex do not have a specific name, but can be described by their shape, which in the case of Hey Jude would be a ramp, right?
    – Cannabijoy
    Commented Jun 29, 2017 at 3:54
  • I think that's exactly right--I'm definitely seeing a ramp shape in Hey Jude, like you've said. I don't think the terms outlined on that page are universally used within music theory, but I do think they're good descriptions of what you've identified. I think people would know what you meant if you identified the apex and then called these the "lead in" notes to the apex.
    – jdjazz
    Commented Jun 29, 2017 at 4:12

I think what you ask is answered by suspension. The long note here is not from the prevalent chord, but is the root note against a V chord. Making it a 'sus4'. This pre-empts the root chord being next, which it is (as quite often), but actually the long note, which belongs to that next chord, never gets sung.

Other terms don't exist, I think.

  • Okay, are you saying that the ringing tone of the F4 is because it's the root note of the songs key, but being sung over the V chord C7, which doesn't contain an F note, so that he's producing a C7sus4 chord? And that is also why F is the next chord in the song?
    – Cannabijoy
    Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 6:56
  • If the song's in F, then yes. I tend to call the chord C11, but C7sus4 is the proper name.
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 7:13
  • That's interesting and helps a lot. So the collection of notes for "take a sad song" don't have a particular name or purpose that you're aware of?
    – Cannabijoy
    Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 7:21
  • Another example, and it's the best I can think of right now, is the high notes at the end of Lynyard Skynyard's Tuesday's Gone solo (solo starts at 4:30). It's the very short solo after the piano. Those notes (played at 4:48) sound very strange and it seems like the prior notes are what produces this sound.
    – Cannabijoy
    Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 7:47
  • I'm not sure they're part of a suspension--in the example anonymouswho offers, the notes are G A B♭ over a C7 chord. These three notes (whatever they're called) lead into an F, and so there isn't really the half step/whole step resolution a suspension might imply.
    – jdjazz
    Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 16:52

"Take a" on G A is an anacrusis leading to "sad" on B flat, and then "song... and" is an appoggiatura on F, and then "make" is the resolution of the appoggiatura on E.

The note before a non-chord tone is called the preparation.

I suppose you could say the notes before "song" are an anacrusis to a preparation. But that feels like misuse of terms for a different style of music. I don't think preparation is a helpful term here, because the note is B flat - the dissonant seventh of the dominant - and normally the preparation is a consonant chord tone. To me, the important thing in the melody is the dissonant note F which resolves down by step to a chord tone like an appoggiatura.

  • Thanks this is a really good answer. I'm not sure if you do much singing, but I'm wondering if this why he switches to head voice at "sad", even though "sad" could easily be sung in chest voice? If I sing "sad" in chest voice, it makes "song" sound like falsetto. But when I start my head voice at "sad", neither "sad" nor "song" sound like falsetto. So this is actually why I'm asking. Is there something about that B♭that makes it special? Or should this be a seperate question about singing in general?
    – Cannabijoy
    Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 2:41
  • @anonymouswho, this probably is a good new question. Unfortunately I am not a singer and couldn't help much. Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 15:39

There are two things going on, and thus I can see using two terms. If the idea is that you hear a strong accent on a given note, and want to talk about all the shorter and lighter notes that lead into it, the word is anacrusis or, in less formal terms, upbeat notes. If the idea is that the melodic shape leads in to an apex pitch, then there are two possibilities: maybe the notes lead directly up to it, so you can refer to a melodic ascent. But if they don't (think the opening of the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto (dah dah dah dum DAH...), it's up to you to find a way to describe the contour. I think melodic anacrusis might work, if I were writing a paper about that moment in "Hey Jude."

  • 2
    I'm don't think this is correct--an anacrusis is a pickup that leads into beat 1. That's not the case with the example from Hey Jude because those notes occur on beats 4 and 1, and they lead into a note which occurs on beat 2. The same is true of an upbeat phrase.
    – jdjazz
    Commented Jul 2, 2017 at 2:39

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