for example could u play a neighbour tone twice or got from a chord tone to an nct then to another nct. I was looking at jackson 5's want you back and this appeared to be the case

this is written in A flat major

during the middle of the measure it goes from an Aflat to two B notes then to then to several f notes then to Eflats. i figured that these are passing and neighbour tones is their a name or way to analyse nct's being used consecutively.

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  • The two B notes are in fact two Bb notes - diatonic (within the key) of the written Ab. Are you looking for a theory term for this occurrence?
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 13:25
  • Not sure what the question is asking. It's o.k. to use chord tones and non-chord tones in a melody. Ncts can follow other ntcs. Do you think otherwise?
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 15:38
  • Do you seem to think that only chord tones can be used? Rather than ask why is there a Bb on the Ab chord, ask why didn't the chord change to Eb. Melody comes first, harmony second. You can use any note you like. In classical theory these are sometimes referred to as passing tones. And the Bb is the 9th (2nd) of the Ab so you have a chord extension here, Ab maj (add9), a perfectly respectable chord.
    – user50691
    Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 16:07
  • 1
    oh okay. my understanding is that when non chord tones are used are that they usually follow some rule such as passing tones or escape tones. i guess i understand that non chord tones can be used, but i just wanted thered be theoretical explanation for why it sounding good Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 17:59

2 Answers 2


You may be interested in what pop-music scholars often call the "melodic-harmonic divorce." By "divorce," they mean that the pitches in the melody are often vastly different from from the harmony that accompanies them. As such, the non-chord tones in this repertoire do not always fit the standard designations from the common-practice period like passing tones and neighbor tones.

Two especially important articles on this phenomenon are by David Temperley and Drew Nobile; you may check them out if you're interested.

That being said, both the B♭s and Fs here could easily be explained as incomplete neighbors (that is, neighbor tones with one of the chord tones on either side missing). In popular music, the non-chord tones on the 6th and 9th above the root are pretty common.

  • Thanks for the link to Nobile! I'll be reading that tonight. Commented Jun 27, 2019 at 16:44

If you want to analyze the non-chord-tone, then here's my opinion. When the melody moves from that A♭ to a B♭, then to an F, all the notes are diatonic to A♭. I'd call this an escape tone, actually, for the reason that I think it's sort of implied that the B♭ is followed by an E♭ (on the word "my"), which is sort of a grace note to the F [so A♭ to B♭ to (E♭, then immediately F, both on the word "my")]. When the E♭ goes to the F and back again, I'd call that a neighbor tone. True, there isn't actually an E♭ before the F, but if you listen to it you could imagine it there and it wouldn't really change the melody. So Escape tone, then Neighbor tone.

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