Flute Punch

Grace Notes in Baroque and Classical

Posted on: March 30, 2009

I’ve always been a little fuzzy on how to interpret grace notes at certain times, but the “Grace Notes” section in Michel Debost’s The Simple Flute (see p. 97) helped clear things up a bit for me by providing a few general (although not totally comprehensive) guidelines.

  1. A Baroque tradition that carried over to the Classical is to play a grace note before a trill, starting on the upper note, except when a chromatic progression is involved, or the upper note immediately present before the trill.
  2. Grace notes in Baroque music are usually long and are more leaned on than the note they are leading to, except when:
  • the grace note is attached to an appoggiatura,
  • the grace note is placed on the shortest value of the piece,
  • it is placed on repeated note (this is also true in Classical, as in the first movement of Mozart’s Concerto in G), or
  • the grace note is a third or more away from the note it is attached to. Also in the case of the third, the player may fill in the note in between the grace note and the note it is attached to.

This is by no means comprehensive, but simply intended as a starting point. And as with all music, the best way to absorb the style (and grace note interpretation is part of style) is by doing a lot of listening to that style.

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