Grace Notes Before a Beat

• May 9, 2016 - 06:44

Yes, I know, Musescore is focused on notation, not playback, etc. With that out of the way, simple request- an option, either in general or on specific grace notes, to have the grace note either play on the current beat (current behavior) or before.


In reply to by mazdak

Actually, the two different types of appogiaturas do play back differently.

The long appogiatura, notated by a small eighth note, plays on the beat and takes half the value of the main note which follows it (two thirds when that note is dotted).

The short appogiatura, notated by a small eighth note with a bar through the stem, is played back slightly before the beat, and is played (as it should be) very short.

It should be noted that in MuseScore 2.0.1, the tool-tip text for the short appogiatura uses the word 'acciaccatura' incorrectly to identify the slashed eighth-note symbol. (I am not certain if this has been corrected in later versions of the program. If not, it should certainly be corrected for future versions.) An acciaccatura is a keyboard ornament of the late Baroque period. It is not notated with any special symbol, but is recognised by performers seeing a strongly dissonant note (or notes) joined to a chord.


The actual Interpretation is left to the performer, but it is generally played by striking the dissonant note simultaneously with the chord and then releasing it almost immediately, 'as if the key were hot' (according to Geminiani).

I tried the appoggiatura with the line through it, and slowed the tempo to 40 to test it, and unfortunately the grace note plays on the beat. It sounds kinda bad.

In reply to by arrangedforbrass

The one with a line through it is no appoggiatura, it is acciaccatura. And on the beat is the correct interpretation for acciaccatura in most genres of music in most eras of musical history. It is true that some prefer before the beat. Some day MuseScore may add the ability to customize this, but for now it goes with the standard interpretation.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

As an addendum to this, if you really want the playback to be before the beat, play with the pianoroll editor. You can make it so.

Something I've learned after using this software for so long is that there is always a workaround. Only case where there isn't is volume changes over sustained single notes, but everything else has a workaround.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

"...on the beat is the correct interpretation for acciaccatura in most genres of music in most eras of musical history." Huh???? The statement is true only if you don't consider Classical and Romantic literature valid genres or part of music history. From Wikipedia (and 40+ years of experience):

"The acciaccatura in the Classical period is usually performed before the beat and the emphasis is on the main note not the grace note. The appoggiatura long or short has the emphasis on the grace note."

I would add that I studied with Karl Schnabel, whose father, Arthur, was a student of Theodor Leschetizky, in turn a student of Carl Czerny and subsequent teacher of Ignaz Paderewski. Schnabel insisted on the distinction between the acciaccatura and the appoggiatura as noted above in the Wiki quote. With an impeccable, direct lineage going back nearly to Mozart, his authority, with respect to performance practices of the 18th and 19th centuries, cannot be challenged.

More troubling than this misconception about the acciaccatura is that earlier versions of MuseScore performed acciaccature before the beat, and now they do not. This is the second example I've found of functionality being removed/changed in MuseScore 2.x, ruining playback of earlier scores. This should never happen. It is pure Microsoft thinking. I program for a Unix typesetting system still in current use (groff) that is backwardly compatible with documents created 30+ years ago. (The other example is the removal of MIDI gate off-times in version 2.x, something I've written about but get the feeling is being treated as the unreasonable request of a no-nothing.) Surely MuseScore should be aiming to join such illustrious company.

In reply to by Peter Schaffter

I recognize that in those cases where you happen to subjectively prefer before-the-beat playback, the change to on-the-beat seems a step backwards. But it's a step forward for the remainder of the cases. It is not going to be objectively provable as to which case is more common 2018, but I stand by the general statement that playing grace notes on the beat is an absolutely standard interpretation, not in any sense worse than the alternative and certainly not a case of MuseScore "removing" functionality. Obviously, the ideal would be to support both, and hopefully that is coming some day.

Support for tweaking of note times would also be nice to add back. It's just a matter of priorities.

In reply to by LuuBluum

Indeed, but no denying it isn't as convenient. The implementation was changed internally, in part to support the possibility of ornament playback, and this makes it not entirely straightforward to set "note" times (a single "note" might have multiple playback events). To me that always sounded like a problem that could be solved in a few hours and I'm disappointed that it just hasn't happened.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

It depends on the context, in battery percussion a strikethrough grace note is considered an acciaccatura (although nobody says this in the percussion world, it's referred to as a "flam" or sometimes a chop) because it's played directly before the host note as quickly as possible. There are different variations depending on the instrument/era/genre

In reply to by Lord Leo

When you open up the pianoroll editor and click the note you want to adjust, there should be two values in the upper right portion of the editor- ontime and length. Length is a percentage of the intended duration of the note, with 1000 being 100% of the duration. Ontime uses the same scale- setting the ontime to 500 and the length to 500 will result in a note that is delayed by half of its value before playing, and would play for only half of its specified value. The key is that the ontime value can also be negative- if I have, say, a quarter note with an ontime of -500 and a length of 1500, that is the same as having that quarter note tied with an eighth note on the previous measure, playing the last possible beat.

Appoggiaturas, in their implementation, have the same "total" length as the note that they're modifying. However, their internally set length is so that the total number of appoggiaturas on a single note amount to half of the overall note length- the principal note therefore always has an ontime and length of 500, with the appoggiatura(s) having ontime and length such that they do not overlap and lengths sum to 500. To have them instead be before the beat, set the principal note length to 1000 and ontime to 0. From there, offset the appoggiatura ontimes by 500 (if it has an ontime of 0, set it to -500; if it has an ontime of 250, set it to -250, etc.). Leave the lengths the same. That will give you the desired "before the beat" playback.

It is worth noting that this can only be done in situation where a single note represents a single playback event. You cannot do this sort of modification to trills; or at the very least cannot do it well. For that you need to resort to invisible notes.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Marc: I wish you weren't so sure of your position. As a percussionist, playing grace notes before the beat is the standard in all cases. Only in exceptional cases--less than 1% of the time--would I play grace notes on the beat for stylistic purposes.

I agree with the commenters who wish the playback could be adjusted easily. The use of grace notes on the beat destroys any sense of flow in the rhythmic writing, and creates a 'wonky' sort of feeling.

In reply to by bronsonw

I wasn't expressing opinion about percussion specifically but about music in general. I agree that due to the special nature and function of percussion, it does tend to be a case where the before-the-beat playback is more common. It's also worth mention that percussion literature tends to be very heavily biased toward modern eras where the before-the-beat interpretation is more common. I mentioned there are other stylistic situations where before the beat is more common as well. But for all music in general - looking at all instruments, all genres, all periods of history - that's not necessarily the case.

Anyhow, absolutely I think everyone agrees it would be nice to have an easy way to control this.

I'd also like this feature for rolls as well, choosing which note is played right on the down beat, instead of just the first note. Sometimes it sounds terrible that way. Additionally, I'd like to be able to have rolls go across 2 staffs, for piano songs and the like, both for notation and for playback.

Didn't see this post, and I just made another forum about the same exact issue. This is the only feature on the updated version of the program that needs to be fixed

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