Robert Estrin - piano expert

A useful music theory lesson for everyone

In this video, Robert talks about grace notes and appoggiaturas. Do you know the difference?

Released on December 8, 2021

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Welcome to I'm Robert Estrin. Today's subject is grace notes that aren't grace notes. What am I talking about? Have I lost my mind? Well, not exactly. I could tell you that sometimes students come in and they think that they're looking at grace notes and they're not grace notes. What am I talking about? Well, first of all, what are grace notes? Grace notes are those little notes, the little tiny notes just before other notes. You usually typically play them short, like for example, in this Heller Etude. Did you hear that?

That's an example of a grace note. You play them very quickly. They can be played either on the beat or before the beat. It depends upon what works well. Sometimes it's easier to play them on the beat. Sometimes it's easier to play them slightly before the beat, but the key is their quick notes. Those are grace notes. Well, what am I talking about? Sometimes they're not grace notes. How do you know? You see these little notes and I'll tell the students, no, this is not a grace note. For example, the beginning of the Mozart's A Minor Sonata...

That is dead wrong. They are not grace notes. Believe it or not. Now, look in your edition, they may be as grace notes, but if there are an authoritative text edition, they're written as appoggiaturas. Appoggiaturas look almost exactly like grace notes, but there's one key difference. Grace notes always have a little line through them. They're crossed out. Whereas, appoggiaturas are little tiny notes, but there's no line through them. They are different the way you play them, that you don't play them like grace notes.

I showed you the two ways either before the beat or on the beat, both wrong in this context, because these are appoggiaturas. Look in your edition. There should not be a line through it, if there is, then your edition is not the best edition. Appoggiaturas are long expressive non cord tones that resolve. They're played on the beat with some time attached to them. In this case you play it as a 16th note to a dotted 8th note. One and two. It ends up instead of sounding like this, it sounds like this. You hear that difference?

That's an appoggiatura. It's a long note on the beat. Typically, played as a 16th note to a dotted 8th note. Instead of... A grace note, not appropriate for Mozart. It's not what Mozart wrote. There are some editions out there that are just wrong in that regard.

Listen to the beauty when you play them long, the way they're supposed to be. Look at all your music now. For any place you think you have grace notes, make sure they are grace notes. They might be appoggiaturas. Times when grace notes are not grace notes at all, but they are appoggiaturas to be played long on the beat. That's the lesson for today. I'm sure all of you are going to check your scores now. Let me know what you discover there, here at, your online piano resource, as well as YouTube. Thanks so much for joining me.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Andreas Van haren * VSM MEMBER * on December 8, 2021 @10:51 am PST
Why aren't appoggiaturas written as normal notes when they are played as normal notes?
Robert - host, on December 8, 2021 @1:27 pm PST
Appoggiatura, like other ornamentation leaves discretion to the performer as to exactly how to execute the notes. So while I explained one way of handling appoggiaturas, it isn't set in stone. But they shouldn't be confused with grace notes which are played differently.


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