The IB Revision Guide states that there are suspensions in the bars below (top line, violin 1). The bass harmony moves from C to F. The first 2 notes of the third bar in the violin B - A form tension resolution as found in a suspension, but even though the previous note at the end of the second bar is also a B, this note is not part of the harmony of C or F, so in my mind is not the "preparation" required for a suspension. According to the author there are 3 suspensions here, but I think the other 2 are the same. Am I wrong or would it be better to call these something else such as appoggiaturas?

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  • Clefs? Sure, we can probably tell from context, but why but the burden on the reader? Feb 20, 2020 at 15:05
  • You're right, sorry Michael, will include next time.
    – John MC
    Feb 21, 2020 at 4:01

2 Answers 2


The distinction between suspension and appoggiature isn't set in stone, despite the opinion of some textbooks. And 'unprepared suspensions' are definitely a thing. I prefer to say an appoggiatura is just a suspension notated in small type as a gracenote.

However, if you're f0llowing an exam syllabus which insists an unprepared suspension must be called an appoggiatura, you'd better go with the flow.

I see two suspensions here (the second B and the second G), and three passing notes (the first B, first G and the final E). Can a suspension be prepared by a passing note? For this particular examination the answer seems to be 'yes'.

  • Thanks Laurence, the exam syllabus doesn't insist on one or the other. However, as the example in the image is stated as having suspensions in the IB Revision Guide, I think to explain it to the students using your way of thinking might be the least confusing for them. If there was no additional B and G before these, I would definitely not think of them as suspensions, but in this case I don't see any problem in explaining them as suspensions that are prepared by a passing note rather than a chord tone.
    – John MC
    Feb 21, 2020 at 4:17

...so in my mind is not the "preparation" required for a suspension.

I agree with you, because otherwise you end up with just a generic notion of non-chord tone with no regard to approach or resolution. Since there are historic words for various non-chord tone type it stands to reason we should pay attention to the details that distinguish them.

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The definitions of appoggiatura I have seen specify an approach by leap so by that standard there aren't appoggiaturas here.

However, there is something called a sighing figure an accented, one step descent with a slur over it, a non-chord tone to a chord tone. I think sighing figures are thought of as a kind of appoggiatura. I see the term appoggiatura signing figure is often used.

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So, while those tones may not fit a textbook appoggiatura definition, as a sighing figure that sort of have an appoggiatura feel.

  • Thanks Michael, I haven't heard of sighing figures before, must look more into these. Are you sure the definitions of appoggiatura that specify an "approach by leap" are correct? On Wikipedia it says: " The added non-chord note, or auxiliary note, is typically one degree higher or lower than the principal note".
    – John MC
    Feb 21, 2020 at 4:06
  • Yes, I've seen that definition in several sources. To some degree the specifics of the definitions are the result of making a full list of unique NCT types. Appoggiatura approached by leap is more or less a logical necessity if you want to have meaningful definitions for things like passing tone, neighbor tone, suspension, etc. Feb 21, 2020 at 14:21
  • Excluding cases of two unresolved NCTs, and assuming downward resolution, you need the appoggiatura to be approached by leap. A step from below is a neighbor tone, step from above a passing tone, repeated tone is a suspension. Categorically the other approach option is leap, so appoggiatura is approached by leap. Feb 21, 2020 at 14:21
  • Probably that kind of classification is a modern textbook thing, attempting to classify all NCTs systematically. Older terminology seems looser. That's why I made the point about "sighing figure." I take the meaning to be a kind of appoggiatura feel despite not fitting the modern category. Feb 21, 2020 at 14:25
  • Things can get dicey... consider a melodic neighbor figure, like E F E what if the two E's are chord tones... but of different chords? In the Kostka Harmony textbook, that fits none of the categories perfectly! It's a bit neighbor, a bit escape tone, a bit appoggiatura, depending on where the accent is. But the text also provides this footnote: NCT terminology is not standardized, and your instructor may prefer that you use different labels and definitions. However, the definitions given here are widely used. Feb 21, 2020 at 14:33

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