I'm pretty new to theory, so apologies if this is a stupid question but I can't seem to figure this out.

Let's assume I am in the key of C major and I want to play the following progression on guitar:

Dm (ii) - Fmaj (IV) - Cmaj (I)

What happens if, before I switch from the Dm to the Fmaj chord, I lift my ring finger and change the F in the Dm chord to an E during the strumming pattern for an entire bar before changing to the Fmaj.

Does this fundamentally change the chord progression to something like this (and how does that relate to diatonic chords in C if it does):

Dm - Dsus2 - Fmaj - Cmaj

Or is that change considered a passing chord?

Also, assuming I arpeggiate through the chords in that order, will that then be considered a passing note?

  • a passing note would be just one beat and only the bass note and not strumming the full chord. Apr 28, 2020 at 17:29
  • Dm - Fmaj - Cmaj hasn't to be necessarily classified as C major. This progression can also be Dm. Examples, Pink Floyd another brick in the wall album is full with this progression.
    – SNR
    Jul 5, 2020 at 14:41

2 Answers 2


If a chord - of any kind - lasts for a whole bar, it's more than a passing chord, and can have its own label for that bar - as you did in your example. Even if a chord is different for one beat in a bar, it's often shown in the chord chart as such. In simplified versions, though, this is the sort of detail that gets omitted, for fairly obvious reasons. One of which can be the inability of beginners to actually change for one beat.


@Tim's rule of thumb about duration is definitely solid. The rate of chord changes - called harmonic rhythm - is generally around two chords per bar for a fast harmonic rhythm to about one chord for two bars for a slow harmonic rhythm.

But, I would apply two other guides:

  • keep to the simplest harmonic description that shows the clear tonal functions
  • and Schoenberg's adage: follow the bass.

Your example...

Dm - Dsus2 - Fmaj - Cmaj

I assume these fingerings...

Dm    xx0231
Dsus2 xx0230
F     x33211
C     x32010

Apply the other two guides...

Simple harmonic functions: is there a functional difference between Dm and Dsus2? No. The root doesn't change which is a pretty good indication that harmonically nothing is happening. Additionally, in the major/minor system of harmony where fundamental chords are major, minor and diminished triads, is Dsus2 really a bona-fide chord? No.

Apply Schoenberg's adage. Literally, follow the bass, ignore the details in the upper voice(s). Again the bass isn't changing, the root isn't changing. There isn't a harmonic event.

Do not misunderstand this to mean the Dsus2 is not important.

The point is Dsus2 represents melodic events rather than harmonic events.

Duration doesn't matter too much. You could play Dm to Dsus2 as a quick pull off and go straight to F. Or, you could play all four "chords" with a quarter note stroke and give a full bar to each. Either way the sus2 part is just a non-chord tone decorating the proper chords Dm - Dm - F - C.

In everyday speaking Dsus2 will be called a "chord." That's just plain ol' natural speaking. But in the context of this question of passing note versus chord - it's not a chord, it's a neighbor tone.

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