Classical Guitar Instruction with Douglas Niedt

Grace Notes: Understanding Musical Ornaments and Their Significance

Douglas Niedt, guitarist

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Grace Notes: Understanding Musical Ornaments and Their Significance

By Douglas Niedt

Copyright Douglas Niedt. All Rights Reserved.
This article may be reprinted, but please be considerate and give credit to Douglas Niedt.


  1. Ornaments are comprised of grace notes.
  2. A grace note is a note (or notes) used primarily for decorative purposes, such as adding interest to a musical passage.
  3. A single grace note can function as an ornament, such as an appoggiatura or acciaccatura. Two or more grace notes can form ornaments such as a mordent, turn, trill, slide, arpeggio, anschlag, nachschlag, pralltriller, etc.
  4. A principal note or main note is the primary note of the melodic line.
  5. Grace notes are small-sized notes that the composer almost always writes to the left of a principal note. In a few ornaments, such as the nachschlag, the grace note is tied to the preceding principal note.
  6. Grace notes are usually melodically and harmonically nonessential. If left out, the melody and harmony would still be apparent.
  7. The composer may place one or many grace notes before a principal note.
  8. Grace notes may or may not have oblique strokes or slashes through their flag or beam.
  9. Grace notes may or may not have slurs connecting them to the principal note.
  10. Grace notes can be any pitch.
  11. Grace notes can be of any rhythmic value. However, the rhythmic value of the grace note does not necessarily indicate how fast to play the grace note.
  12. In J. S. Bach's music, the duration of a grace note could be a quarter note (rare), usually an 8th note, sometimes a 16th note.
Grace Notes