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Appoggiatura - Piano Ornament

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This piano ornament is written as a small note (a grace note), which is placed one step above or under the principal note.

There are two main rules that explain how to perform it:

1. It is played on the beat.
2. It takes half the time of the following note (the principal note).

Let's take this example:

Appoggiatura with eighth note.

In this example the principal note is C and the appoggiatura is D.

Let's follow the rules above:

Rule no.1 indicates that the D will be played on the beat.
Rule no.2 indicates that the D will take half the time of the following note-C.

How do we apply the second rule?

The duration of the principal note (C) is two quarters.
So, D note will take half of it - the first quarter, and the principal note will take the other half - the second quarter.

What do we get?

Appoggiatura from above.

Let's see more possibilities and the way they should be performed:

Examples of various Appoggiaturas.

We have seen that the appoggiatura takes the half of the value of the principal note.
What happens when the duration of the principal note is three quarters?
In this case it takes two thirds of the value of the note.

How an Appoggiatura should practically be played.

The appoggiatura in this example has a longer duration than the principal note. Its value is two quarters while the value of the principal note is only one quarter.

Sometimes, when the duration of the principal note is three quarters the appoggiatura may take one quarter only and the principal note will take two quarters.
It is a bit difficult to know whether the ornament will take two quarters and the principal will take one, or the opposite. The best way is to try both possibilities and choosing the one which sounds the best.

Here is a famous example which will clarify this:

Appoggiatura in a musical piece.

In this minuet in G by Bach it sounds much better when the ornament lasts one quarter only, and the principal note takes two quarters. Try playing it and you will hear for yourself...
(Click here to download the whole minuet in G by Bach.)

In many types of ornaments I recommend ignoring them until you can play the whole piece fluently. However, as the appoggiatura has an important role in the melody, I usually ask my students to play it.

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