Escape Tones in Music Theory

Escape tones are an essential concept in music theory that adds depth and emotion to melodies. They are a type of non-chord tone that adds tension and release to a melody. In this article, we will dive deeper into what escape tones are, how they work, and how to use them effectively in your compositions.

What Are Escape Tones?

An escape tone is a type of non-chord tone that occurs when a melody note steps away from the chord tone and then resolves by stepping back in the opposite direction. This creates tension in the melody that is then resolved by returning to the chord tone.

How Do They Work?

Escape tones work by creating tension and release within a melody. When an escape tone is played, it creates dissonance with the underlying harmony.

This dissonance creates a feeling of tension or instability within the melody. The resolution of the escape tone back into the chord tone then creates a feeling of resolution or stability within the melody.

One example of an escape tone can be found in the well-known song “Yesterday” by The Beatles. In the opening line “Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away,” there is an escape tone on the word “far.”

The note “A” is not part of the underlying harmony (the chord being played is D major), so it creates tension when it is played. However, when it resolves back down to the note “G” (which is part of the D major chord), it creates a feeling of resolution.

Types of Escape Tones

There are two types of escape tones – upward and downward. An upward escape tone occurs when a melody note steps up from a chord tone and then resolves by stepping back down. A downward escape tone occurs when a melody note steps down from a chord tone and then resolves by stepping back up.

How to Use Escape Tones in Your Compositions

Escape tones can be used in a variety of ways to add tension and release to a melody. One way to use them is to create tension in the melody and then resolve it by returning to the chord tone. Another way is to use them as a way of transitioning between chords.

One example of using escape tones as a transition can be found in the song “Let It Be” by The Beatles. In the line “When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me,” there is an escape tone on the word “times.” This escape tone is used as a way of transitioning from the G major chord to the D major chord.

Conclusion

In conclusion, escape tones are an essential concept in music theory that adds depth and emotion to melodies. They create tension and release within a melody that can be used in a variety of ways, such as creating tension or as a way of transitioning between chords. By understanding how escape tones work, you can use them effectively in your compositions to create more engaging and emotional music.