A passing tone falls under a category of what we call “non-chord tones”. Non-chord tones are simply notes that are played but aren’t found in accompanying chords. This is useful to know for writing melodies, guitar solos, guitar licks and more. It’s important to know a non-chord tone just as much as it is a chord tone. Chord tones offer a structure to a melody or guitar lick and non-chord tones help those chord tones flow and string together.
The passing tone links up two chord tones and is classified as a non-chord tone. For example, if you are playing a song in the key of C and you play a C chord, your chord tones are C, E, and G. That means if you write a melody that starts on C and you later on hit an E in your melody, you could also add the passing tone “D” in between. Below is an example that further illustrates a passing tone:
The picture illustrates the chord tones in blue and the passing tone in red. Using the passing tone adds more variation to your guitar lick or melody when writing a song. If there was no passing tone between the C and E and only used chord tones then your options are much more limited for writing. By using passing tones you can use many more notes with in you melody that will add variation and help make it unique to you. Rhythm also plays a part when using passing tones and other non-chord tones. Here the rhythm is shown as two quarter notes to a half note. The passing tone should happen on a shorter rhythm as shown here. If the passing tone was a half note and the E note was a quarter note, the melody might not song as good because you are holding out the non-chord tone for longer.
If you would like personal assistance with any of the blog concepts, online and on-location lessons are available from Let’s Play Music and Make Art, LLC located in Derry and Londonderry, NH. visit www.letsplaymusic.com or call 603-425-7575.