Question about grace notes

• Sep 15, 2011 - 22:45

If an acciaccatura is a crushed 'timeless' note, then what's the point of having them in values shorter (i.e. semiquaver)?

How are quarter, 16th and 32nd grace notes measured?

I've seen a professional transcription of something, but it was a different pace when put as a normal note. Maybe it's a step up in value - the three grace notes were 16ths, but emulating it with normal notes was 32nds .


as grace notes are ornaments, they are not played in exact time values. Instead sort of garnishing the main music.
In classical music a grace note with longer values like 1/4 or 1/8 might be played on the beat, thus taking time away from the next note. I think they are called Acciaccatura, as far as I know, but someone might have to correct me.
If you see a 1/16 or a crossed through 1/8 grace note, then it might be played before the actual time beat, thus taking time away from the previous beat. They are called Appoggiatura.
This sounds quite theoretical, but actually someone like Mozarts father said, the distinction would be so easy, that any whistling farmer would do it right by instinct..

In reply to by kbundies

You have it wrong way round.

It's the Appoggiatura which is played on the beat, taking time away from the next note.

The Acciaccatura has the tail crossed through and is a crushed note which is performed before the beat, or in the case of a keyboard instrument simultaneously with the main note, but is released very quickly.

In reply to by chen lung

Yes you do.

The appoggiatura has a time value equal to half the note it precedes, and is therefore usually notated as such - a crotchet before a minim, quaver before a crotchet and so on.

You do also find multiple appoggiaturas both in the horizontal and vertical sense :)

These are not strictly appoggiaturas but have other names (eg slide), but in mainstream music theory they would be notated as appoggiaturas.

Example score attached.

Attachment Size
AppoggExample.mscz 1.67 KB

In reply to by ChurchOrganist

Can you demonstrate multiple appoggiaturas in the horizontal and vertical sense? Is the vertical one actually an arpeggio?

The file you uploaded featured 16th grace notes - different to appoggiaturas?

Are there scores that has an appoggiatura(s) as a 16th, or 32nd, etc?

In reply to by chen lung

The folowing link will give you an explanation of the vertical multiple appoggiatura:-

that one is a double appoggiatura - in theory a triple appoggiatura would be possible with 3 voices moving from a suspension to resolution, but it would not be accepted within traditional music theory. In the example I have given the appoggiatura is written out but I have seen examples where they are added as grace notes particualarly in Baroque keyboard music.

One of the problems here is that music ornaments and their notation are field in their own right, and vary according to which particular country and period they come from - whole books have been written on the subject! If we were to include every sign in MuseScore it would probaby take up the whole time of the development team for a year minimum!

I don't know whether you have looked up the subject on Wikipedia, but the opening paragraph has an extreme example of horizontal multiple appoggiatura - they're not really appoggiatura but within the confines of general music theory that is the best way of describing them:-


In reply to by chen lung

The acciaccatura is theoretically a timeless note given it's performance. I presume this is the reason the tail is always crossed through - to denote it has no time value.

In this context therefore any acciaccatura tail time values are irrelevant.

Personally I have only ever seen quaver (eighth note) and semiquaver (semiquaver) versions, although there is no reason why shorter timevalues should not be available should peope wish to use them.

I always use the quaver version on the rare occasions I use the ornament.

It is more important to be able to flip the tail direction depending on the ornament's context - not sure if MuseScore allows this already :)

1. Are there scores in which there have been two appoggiatura attached to one note?
2. How would you (visually?) differentiate an appoggiatura and a normal grace note?

In reply to by chen lung

most important part of this is, "What do I want the performer to do"? "How can I best describe the gesture I intend"?

Notation is a visual representation of an aural gesture.

There are many arcane terms and devices in music, and some of them are useful.

I don't use ornaments. I find it much more specific to enter exactly what I want, often because the ornament doesn't exactly describe the rhythm I want. We have moved well beyond strict 8th, 16th, etcetera divisions aurally; we interpret the world in an analog fashion, and in my case, many of my pieces have mixed tuplets mixed with strict time in a single beat, or certainly over a phrase.

I deal mainly in Jazz and Latin Jazz these days, although I still write solo piano pieces, and a breathing line is very important to me. This can only be notated via time.

Great conversation, much confusion, which is also one of the reasons I don't use some of these tools, but that's me.


In reply to by chen lung

Bearing in mind the technical definition of the appoggiatura there is no way 2 notes could resolve into 1. However a written out slide would have 2 successive appoggiatura terminating in the main note.

The problem here is that modern mainstream theory terminology is too inaccurate when it comes to ornaments:-

We have two terms appoggiatura and acciaccatura to describe the two kinds of grace notes available in modern scores.

The problem is that both these terms were actually originally used to define specific kinds of ornaments, with many other ones defined, with Italian, German and French names eg Notes Inegales and Pralltriller.

In order to understand these ornaments you have to study the technical books of the time of which CPE Bach wrote one of the most famous.

Most composers today tend to write out ornamentation, unless you are working in the jazz field in which case much of it is improvised and there are signs and symbols on jazz scores to tell the player when he is to do this.

Apart from this there are often subtle nuances of rhythm and tempo change which are passed down from teacher to student and which just aren't notatable, particularly in organ playing which is my first instrument - there are many different ways of playing a phrase or ornament that just aren't capable of being committed to paper even with our modern notation system, and are still passed down by aural tradition.

Take staccato for example - ok on a piano it's easy - you stab the note and then let go :) But on an instrument capable of sustaining notes like a saxophone or organ staccato can range from a couple of ticks to nearly legato - it is so variable that it cannot be notated within the confines of our notation system.


I wouldn't have thought a single note could have two appoggiatura, but I just wanted to rule it out.

I know there's different interpretations of ornaments and articulations. However, were there different ways of interpreting actual acciaccatura and appoggiatura notes (not the name)?

I don't use them much myself.


In reply to by ChurchOrganist

I understand now - thanks :).

Despite the presumption it could be called an '8th grace note' (functioning like 16ths/32nds because of its appearance), it is actually an appoggiatura - different.

One last thing (I think): Does a quarter (crotchet) grace note function similarly to 16ths/32nds, or is it an appoggiatura?

Thanks for the link - think I know about acciaccatura :).

The appoggiatura is confusing - there's not really a good guide.

These seem to detail a similar outline:… (note semiquaver there)


At the The Violin Site , it's a little different. I also suspect there maybe a few mistakes?

  • There's semiquaver appoggiatura. I thought appoggiatura were singular crotchets/quavers, whilst normal graces notes were 16ths/32nds (and quavers if there's a minimum of 2 grace notes).
  • It mentions a short appoggiatura. Likely they meant an acciaccatura? There's no stroke in any notes.
  • The images don't have captions with what's demonstrated.
  • In the second image, the first appoggiatura is the same in the notation and performance.
  • It also mentions its use before and after the 19th century, which means uncertainty towards playback.

    I wonder - is the appoggiatura for violin different to the one for piano?

    In reply to by chen lung

    An appoggiatura is always notated as half the value of the note it precedes.


    A half note before a whole note
    A quarter note before a half note
    An eighth note before a quarter note
    A 16th note before and eighth note

    And so on

    But if you're going beyond that I would say it's definitely peculiar!

    As regards dotted appoggiaturas you would find them in compound time 6/8 9/8 12/8 etc

    You mention a short appoggiatura. These are not the same as an acciaccatura but are performed before the beat, thus taking time from the beat preceding the main note. They are notated as appoggiaturas.

    How do you tell the difference?
    Context and what your teacher told you :)


    Thanks for pointing that out - the websites may not be helping in trying to learn about them and the contraditions. I appreciate you baring with me.

    1. Would there be a reason not to have dotted appoggiatura in simple time signatures?

    2. Why aren't all appoggiatura and acciaccatura tied/slurred?

    3. In this score, it seems the fifth bar has quaver grace notes, unlike the first bar (semiquaver). Is the latter correct?

    4. What are the grace notes called in that score (short appoggiatura and/or 16th grace notes like in MuseScore)? The song is here , although I'm ignoring the possibility the grace notes could actually be acciaccatura, and the G shouldn't be there.

    5. Are the 16th and 32nd notes in MuseScore actually short appoggiatura?

    6. Are sources (such as this ) calling short appoggiatura 'acciaccatura' wrong?

    There's a few reasons I'm asking these questions - partly to educate me better, and a proposal I'm preparing to overhaul grace notes in MuseScore.

    In reply to by chen lung

    1. If you are going to cater for the notation of short appoggiatura in pieces, then you would need to be able to use dotted appoggiatura in simple time signatures.

    2. True appoggiatura aren't usually slurred because the slurring is implied in the ornament itself. Short appoggiatura on the other hand may need slurs adding.

    3. My guess is that the engraver forgot to add the second beam

    4. These are short appoggiatura :)

    5. Depends how they are used I have seen 16th notes used as long appoggiaturas in scores but never 32nd.

    6. This article is period specific, and doesn't fit with modern usage which uses the appoggiatura for both long and short appoggiatura and the acciaccatura for crushed notes. Maybe MuseScore should cater for archaic usage if people are going to use it for the transcription of period material?

    While we're discussing grace notes - can MuseScore insert a tuplet as grace notes? I just had a go and can't find how to do that, and it is needed in order to notate some short appoggiatura. In the Root Beer Rag example you have given the short appoggiaturas are performed as a triplet as you may have noticed.


    In reply to by ChurchOrganist

    I'm going to share these rough proposals, just so we can discuss them.

    Only the kind of grace notes (long appoggiatura, short appoggiatura, acciaccatura? don't know yet) are listed in the palette (no additional ones with different values).

    When you apply whatever kind of grace note, the value automatically adapts to the main note (e.g. semiquaver grace note for quaver).

    The grace note value automatically changes if the main note does.

    If you want to override the default value (for engraving purposes, or otherwise), select the applied grace note and change it.

    It seems generally, you can only have one kind of grace note per main note. If you drag one to a note that has a different grace note, or select the note and double-click a different one in the palette, it could replace it.

    The grace note automatically changing value could perhaps be a preference, but we might have to be cautious with this. There could be certain restrictions introduced (i.e. only allowing certain note values) to minimise conflict with other grace notes and comply with notation rules.

    Grace note examples I've seen only go up-to hemisemiquavers, but it could go further?

    In reply to by chen lung

    This is been a very long discussion, but I,d start with this: what exactly is the problem that you are trying to solve. I personally don't see a problem, nut I don,t make heavy use of this facility. it's never let me down wjen I have needed it, though.

    In reply to by Marc Sabatella

    I'm afraid I agree with Marc. I don't really see the point. Grace notes feature is quite complete currently. The only disturbing thing is the unability to add several grace notes to a note quickly. You have to re-select the main note every time. Except this, I managed to note every grace note situation I have encountered.
    Regarding the value of the grace note changing with the value of the main note, it seems overkill to me. In most cases, I would find it unexpected and I would prefer to do it myself as right now.

    In reply to by [DELETED] 5

    I don't really see the point either.

    If you are using grace notes in your scores you need the flexibilty to use them how you need to bearing in mind the multitude of different ways of both writing and interpreting them which have evolved since Bach.

    If you start trying to make rules about them you will end up only being able to enter the grace notes for a particular period in musical history, and as you've seen for yourself in your research conventions on the use of grace notes have changed over the years.

    The only thing I can see that is missing in the grace notes section is the ability to enter a tuplet. As MuseScore doesn't currently play them back anyway it is easy enough to fake that on the rare occasions they appear - I have seen them a couple of times in 19th century piano music.

    What would be really good for MuseScore is for it to eventually be able to playback the grace notes too, however I would think that is something for MuseScore 3 :)


    What seems to be one of the questions is: If the user can't visually differentiate short and long appoggiatura, then how does MuseScore (really for the sake of playback)?

    In reply to by ChurchOrganist

    Yes, you could right-click a note and select a playback method, which would apply to all the grace notes attached to it.

    If that's the case, then we could rename what's offered in the palette, to be more accurate (though anything other than an 8th doesn't matter in an acciaccatura):

    Acciaccatura: Quaver (8th).
    Appoggiatura: Crotchet (quarter).
    Appoggiatura: Quaver (8th).
    Appoggiatura: Semiquaver (16th).
    Appoggiatura: Hemisemiquaver (32nd).

    I'm still wondering about conflicts though (applying a grace note that isn't meant for the value of the main note).

    In reply to by chen lung

    I think you need to include a semiquaver (16th) acciaccatura which occurs on some scores.

    The 32nd note appoggiatura is a DemiSemiQuaver in UK terminology

    Maybe 64th note (HemiDemiSemiQuaver) appoggiatura should also be included for short appoggiatura

    Otherwise looks fine :)

    In reply to by ChurchOrganist

    I've also seen 32nd acciaccatura (

    Sorry for calling the 32nd wrongly :).

    Due to the numerous values, it would take up the palette if all were to be listed. Also in the interests of balance, perhaps I could propose a simplified version:

    Acciaccatura (quaver by default)
    Appoggiatura (crotchet by default)

    Drag it over and if you want another value (including dotted versions), select it and change it.

    This could be a good way of encouraging how acciaccatura are presented normally, as anything other than a quaver is irrelevant.

    In reply to by chen lung

    "people can easily change the grace note by clicking on it and selecting another value"

    That could prove a right royal pain if you had a couple of dozen to edit as in some baroque and rococo music.

    Why change it?

    It provides the necessary grace notes you come across regularly. Only ones which might need adding are the semi and demisemiquaver acciaccatura, which If you are going to use would presumably stay the same throughout the piece.

    So the existing palette does the job provided you could do a global change to the acciaccaturas in the piece.

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