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  • Chris Anderson

Music Revision - Melody Part 11 - Melodic Decoration

Music Revision - Melody Part 11 - Melodic Decoration

In this blog I’m going to write about different ways you can make your harmonies a little more interesting. When I say melodic decoration though I’m not going on about musical ornamentation such as trills and turns. Ornamentation will be revised later on.

Melodic Decoration

A melodic decoration is a short note that moves between harmony notes to create momentary clashes, or if you prefer a musical term (always sensible in an exam!) - dissonance. Think of melodic decoration as seasoning on your food; a sprinkling of salt and/or pepper makes your food less bland and it’s the same with musical seasoning/decoration.

If the decoration belongs to the key it’s diatonic.

If the decoration doesn’t belong to the key it’s chromatic.

Auxiliary Notes

Not to be confused with an unaccented passing note, an auxiliary note is either a tone or semitone higher or lower than the notes either side. The notes either side of an auxiliary note must be the same pitch and belong to the accompanying chord. Examples in green and blue

Passing Notes

Also known as unaccented passing notes link harmony notes. They’re normally put on weak beats. If the passing note comes on a strong beat (the main beat rather than an off beat) it’s called an accented passing note.


This is a series of three notes and the middle note creates a moment of temporary dissonance. The three notes are called preparation, suspension, and resolution.

Preparation - This note belongs to the accompanying chord.

Suspension - This is the same pitch as the preparation note and is played at the same time as the chord change.

Resolution - This note moves up or down from the suspension into the accompanying chord. It is resolving the clash.


This is a tiny little note that takes half the value of main note. It creates a moment of dissonance and always leads to a note just above or below. Very often the note before the appoggiatura is quite a jump away (leap if you prefer a musical term!). They usually fall on a strong beat and finish on a weak one. In a future blog will come across the appoggiatura again, and I’ll introduce you to it’s relation the acciaccatura!

(c) Chris J Anderson 2023

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