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Harmony Reconstruction Lesson 4: Adding Auxiliary Notes

Grade 7 Music Theory Q2. Lesson 4: Adding Auxiliary Notes to a Harmonic Outline

Where to Add Auxiliary Notes

An auxiliary note can be added

  • between two notes which are identical

Auxiliary notes can be

  • upper or lower (the auxiliary note is higher or lower than the chord note)
  • accented or unaccented (the auxiliary note is on or off the beat)
  • diatonic or chromatic (the auxiliary note is part of the diatonic scale or not).

Here are examples of each type. Imagine we have two identical Gs in our voice part, in the key of C major.




Things to look out for when writing auxiliary notes:

  • Avoid augmented and diminished intervals
  • Check for consecutive 5ths and octaves
  • Raise the leading note in a minor key
  • Stick to diatonic auxiliary notes for the most part, in order to keep to the correct style. However, you can often chromatically sharpen a subdominant lower auxiliary note (e.g. the F#s in our above examples). Chromatic auxiliaries are mostly used when the music modulates.

Here are some examples.

The key is A minor. An auxiliary note F will make an interval of an augmented 2nd. To avoid this, we sharpen the F.


The addition of an upper auxiliary G here creates consecutive 5ths – this isn’t allowed.



Auxiliary Harmony Notes

A second type of auxiliary note is the “auxiliary harmony note”. Whereas an ordinary auxiliary note forms a dissonance with the other notes of the chord, an auxiliary harmony note is consonant with the rest of the chord (i.e. it is a note which already exists in the chord). This kind of note is most often found in the bass part.

When to Add Auxiliary Harmony Notes

  • If you are stuck and cannot find any other place to add some other melodic decoration, but need the general pace of the piece to be consistent.
  • When the resulting bass line is satisfactory.

Here are some examples for you to play.



The 1st inversion G minor chord has an auxiliary G added to the bass line. It wasn’t easy to add any other kind of melodic decoration at this point, and the G adds considerable interest to the bass line.



This time a G an octave lower is added to the root position G minor chord. This strengthens the bass line, because the lower pitched note and the rise of a perfect 5th are more emphatic.

As always, check for consecutives and augmented/diminished intervals!



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