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A tone which has harmonic relevancy to what is going on in the harmony at the time of occurance.

If a C major chord is comprised of the notes "C" "E" and "G", any of those notes can be a chord tone. This gets stickier when doing more complex musical analyses when the lowest note is not necessarily the bass note of the chord you are dealing with.

Example: You are reading a score and you see F in the bass voice, with A and C above it amongst the several simultaneous tones occuring on that beat. You assume it is a F major chord and move on. You would be wrong however, because not only is F major not diatonic in the key signature the piece you are looking at is in, but C is the seventh degree in the Dmaj7 chord you are actually looking at.

Assuming you are looking at a diatonic, tonal piece of music.

See? I wasn't kidding. Sticky.

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