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Victoria Williams

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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

Be careful though! Auxiliary notes are not used very frequently in most Bach-style chorales. Don’t be tempted to add in lots of them because it seems easy – the result will be decoration which is not stylistically accurate. Use them in moderation (or not at all!)

If you do use them, consider decorating a second part at the same time. Auxiliary notes more often appear in two parts together, than in one part alone. In two parts, the notes should move in harmonic intervals of a 3rd or 6th. They can also sometimes be used in combination with a passing note in another part, particularly when this creates an interim harmony.


In (a), the alto and tenor both have auxiliary notes, and they are a 3rd apart.

In (b), all parts have decoration – the soprano and bass have passing notes; alto and tenor have auxiliaries. The effect is an interim chord of B diminished (vii°).

Although the use of auxiliaries should usually be limited, do, however, remember to follow any patterns set up in the first few bars of the piece – if you see auxiliaries being used as part of a rhythmic figure, then you should continue to use them, in the same way.

Auxiliary notes can be

  • upper or lower (the auxiliary note is higher or lower than the chord note)
  • diatonic or chromatic (the auxiliary note is part of the diatonic scale or not).
  • Chromatic auxiliary notes are rarely used in Baroque style chorales.

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



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

augmented intervals

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

consecutives auxiliary


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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