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  • Writer's pictureManuel Diewald

Non-Chord Tone Series: Cambiata

My name is Manuel Diewald and I am a Sydney-based guitar teacher in West Pennant Hills with a B.Mus. (Hons) (First) in Music Pedagogy from The University of New South Wales (UNSW).

In this Non-Chord Tone series, we are going to look at what a Cambiata is in music. A Cambiata is a compositional technique by pairing together an upper and lower neighbour tone. What we create here is even more tension during the upper and lower neighbour tone creating a stronger resolution. The upper and lower neighbour tones are dissonant, being a 2nd and 7th degree away from the resolved note.

Let's take the example below. The first chord we have is F Major with the melodic note being C followed by two non-chord tones B and D which both act as a lower and upper neighbour tone in relation to the next melodic note being a C. The B is the lower neighbour tone and the D is the upper neighbour tone. The second C is the note that is being resolved to which is now part of a C Major chord in the second bar.

Two important factors to consider with the Cambiata is that the lower neighbour tone must be approached by a step from the initial chord tone and the upper neighbour tone must be resolved by a step.

So why use this compositional technique? It is another way to add tension and resolution to the music while creating more interest in the melody compared to only using an upper or lower neighbour tone on their own. A fundamental part of music is to create interest and contrast which is done by using these different compositional techniques to create that balance of tension and resolution, taking us on a journey through the composer's intentions and the performer expressing those intentions while adding their own musical expressions via the composition.

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