Non-Chord Tone Series: Neighbour Tone
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 blog of the Non-Chord Tone Series, we are going to talk about neighbour tones. There are two types of neighbour tones that composers use and these are called an Upper Neighbour Tone (UNT) and a Lower Neighbour tone (LNT). Before we distinguish the difference between the UNT and the LNT, let us first take a look at what a neighbour tone actually is.
Neighbour Tone: A neighbour tone is a non-chord tone or a note that is not part of the chord within that harmony and is placed in between the same two chord tones. An important aspect of the neighbour tone is that the non-chord tone must be approached by a step and must also resolve in the opposite direction back to the same chord tone by a step. See Example A and B.
So what is the difference between the UNT and the LNT? Well, it is probably what you have guessed by the name itself.
Upper Neighbour Tone: The UNT (See example) is when the non-chord tone is placed a step above the two same chord tones. For example, if we take a C major chord with the notes consisting of C - E - G with the melody being C - D - C, we can see that the note D is not part of the C major chord and it is placed in above the two same chord notes being C. This note D is considered an UNT.
Lower Neighbour Tone: The LNT (see example B) is when the non-chord tone is placed a step below the two same chord tones. Again, if we take a C major chord with the notes consisting of C - E - G with the melody now being C - B - C, we can see that the note B is not part of the C major chord and it is placed below the two same notes being C. This note B is considered a LNT.
So why the difference between the two? Simply it is to create more opportunities to embellish a melody which creates more interest and variations that a composer can implement into their pieces.