Have you ever heard a piece of music that seemed to surprise you with a sudden change in melody or harmony? If so, there’s a good chance that you were listening to an escape tone.

An escape tone is a musical device used by composers to create tension, movement, and interest in their compositions. In this article, we will explore what exactly an escape tone is and how it works in music theory.

What Is an Escape Tone?

An escape tone is a non-harmonic tone that occurs when a note from a chord is temporarily replaced by another note. This temporary note is usually one step above or below the note it replaces, and it is often approached by step and then resolved by step in the opposite direction.

Types of Escape Tones

There are two types of escape tones: the lower escape tone and the upper escape tone.

The lower escape tone occurs when a chord tone is replaced by a note one step below it. For example, if we have a C major chord (C-E-G), the lower escape tone would be B (one step below C) if it resolves to C or A (one step above G) if it resolves to G.

The upper escape tone occurs when a chord tone is replaced by a note one step above it. For example, if we have an A minor chord (A-C-E), the upper escape tone would be B (one step above A) if it resolves to C or G# (one step above G) if it resolves to A.

How Do Escape Tones Work?

Escape tones work by creating tension and movement within a composition. By temporarily replacing a chord tone with another note, composers create dissonance that can be resolved in an interesting way. The resolution of an escape tone often creates a sense of release or resolution for the listener.

Escape tones can be used in a variety of contexts. They can be used to create a sense of surprise or unexpectedness, as well as to add interest to an otherwise simple melody or harmony. Composers often use escape tones in conjunction with other non-harmonic tones, such as passing tones or appoggiaturas, to create complex and interesting musical textures.

Conclusion

Escape tones are an important tool for composers looking to add tension, movement, and interest to their compositions. By temporarily replacing a chord tone with another note, escape tones create dissonance that can be resolved in an interesting way. Whether you’re a composer or simply a music lover, understanding escape tones and how they work is an important part of music theory.