How to make the speed of the grace notes right?

• Jun 26, 2018 - 13:09

I entered a chord of grace notes like this:
But I found out that the first chord are longer than the second. I had supposed the first chord to be embellishing the second one, thus, the first chord had been shorter than the second.


In reply to by lasconic

Indeed, the appoggiatura Howard entered, should correctly be played back 2 thirds of the time of the main chord (duration of an eighth) and the main chord should be played back for only a third of its value (duration of a sixteenth). Acciaccatura (grace notes with a slash through the stem) is the way to go here. ;-)

In reply to by Howard_C.

Your Wikipedia link is correct and says exactly what I also learnt... I'll try to explain via a forum post.

There exist two classes or types of grace notes. One is called acciaccatura, the other is called appoggiatura. Let's first look at the acciaccatura:


The acciaccatura can be two different, but related concepts. In Baroque music, it was a keyboard ornament and was written like this:
As you can see, there is no clear indication that the chord is embellished. If you look and listen closely, there is a very un-Baroque-like dissonant G# against the A minor chord. The convention at the time was that you should be well enough trained in harmony if you play the keyboard that you would know the G# is not supposed to be part of the chord. You would then play all the written notes on the beat, but leave the dissonant note as quickly as possible. Written as it would sound, it would look like this:

In modern (past Beethoven) music, it is a small grace note with a slash through the stem, played as short as possible, either on the beat of the main chord/note or just before. It looks like this:
and it's played like this:


The appoggiatura originated as an ornament in the Classical period (1750-1820). It was used to clearly indicate accented non-chordal notes, eg:
Undecorated harmony
Harmony decorated with accented non-chordal notes using appoggiaturas

The rule in connection with appoggiaturas of non-dotted note values, is as follows: the appoggiatura takes half the duration of the note to which it is an ornament. This means that the following are all completely equivalent:
appoggiatura_decorated.png appoggiatura_decorated_1.png appoggiatura_decorated_2.png

They are all played like this:

The value of the small note is immaterial; it is always performed to sound for half the note to which it is an ornament.

If the main note is a dotted value, the rule is as follows: the appoggiatura takes the value of the note and the main note takes the value of the dot. I.e. the appoggiatura is sounded for two thirds the value of the dotted note and the main note itself is sounded for a third of its value. Here is the undecorated passage: appoggiatura_dotted_undecorated.png

The following are yet again completely equivalent:
appoggiatura_dotted_decorated.png appoggiatura_dotted_decorated_1.png appoggiatura_dotted_decorated_2.png

All are played like this:

I attach a MuseScore file with playing examples as well. Hope this helps ;-)

Louis Cloete

Attachment Size
Grace_Notes.mscz 14.16 KB

Maybe you can find battling articles or opinions about the correct length of appoggiature (the correct plural) against dotted notes, but every single recording or professional live performance of Baroque music I have ever heard performs them as one-third, not two thirds, of the main note (tell me how many youtube URL's of world-famous artists of past and present you want). Whether your particular scripture agrees with me and my sources or not, the need to "patch around " this by hidden voices and silencing notes is a very large pain, especially when there are multiple voices in the staff. I suppose my greater point is that one baked-in, invariable interpretation of ornament-length is untenable; if MuseScore is enough of a playback engine to offer the fractional-semitone detuning of notes in the Inspector, the length of appoggiature should be afforded at least the same flexibility. The crash-prone, no-visible-manifestation "Piano Roll Editor" is no solution either (I have tried to use it for this and achieved only crashes and corruption). The length of ornaments, appoggiature in particular, should be user-adjustable. This bug is a large problem for those working with Baroque music.

In reply to by BSG

I understand and I agree that the durations of those grace notes should be flexible so that composers can decide them. My reason is somehow different, however: no piano performances have invariable note durations; I remember when I'm playing Chopin's Nocturnes and basically all other romantic pieces on my piano, I always make the notes as long as I want. I don't care for how accurate the durations are like it says on the score. I only treat them depending on how they sound best to me and convey the composer's and my emotions the most at the very moment. So in my opinion whatever approach the devs take, it's always high time that MuseScore did something to make the playback more flexible. This basic thing doesn't need any debate.

In reply to by BSG

Appoggiatura is a form of delay (retard). It shows a non-harmonic note on the on-beat. it is usually placed before the target note.
Usually: It takes half the value of the note on the right in two-timed units, while it takes two thirds of the note in three-timed forms (or sometimes one thirds).
If there is a rest-sign (or tied/repeated note) on its right side, it can take the whole of the time of the main note, and the main note can be pushed to where the rest-sign (or tied/repeated note) is.
Or, it can be kept shorter in dotted long notes on a slow tempo. (Instead of 2/3 or 1/3, it can be 1/4, 1/6, 1/12.)
In reality: it is necessary to determine this by looking at the accompanying harmony. and The rhythmic arrangement of the melody can also affect it. This is necessary for the musician to be able to determine his/her own freedom of interpretation.

In reply to by Ziya Mete Demircan

The most important words in your contribution are "can", "may" and "sometimes". There is no better argument for leaving this choice to the user, not an artificial-intelligence algorithm performing guesswork. The "appoggiatura notation" as used in Baroque music is not a "grace note", an optional nicety/performance frill/ornament, but a notation for an essential accented discordant melodic element; the notion of "main note" is loaded language (with Schenkerian/reductive echoes) based upon typography. The duration of appoggiature written in this way, as well as "grace notes" in other styles, should be as customizable as velocity/volume and pitch adjustment (which are currently the only two audible performance attributes available in the inspector). Any other choice is guaranteed to be wrong some of the time.

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