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I'm currently looking at a vocal score, and there's a small note right above a normal-sized note. Ordinarily, I would presume this to be a cue note, except that this isn't the start of the singer's part, and in any case, you'd expect cue notes to go where the singer has rests, so that (s)he can actually be cued. In addition, I don't think it's a grace note, since it's notated as a quarter note and is on top as opposed to preceding the main note. Does anyone know what this is?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Likely an optional note, to be sung instead of the large note if the singer has what it takes to sing the small note.

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Yes, it's called an "ossia" -- Italian for "or, this way." –  Robert Fink Aug 3 '14 at 7:15

I've seen cases where this means "sing(play) the smaller note the second time around" in the context of a vocal melody; this was in a case where the words changed from one verse to the other, necessitating a change in the notes and durations for the different verses.

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I'd imagine this would normally be marked additionally to say so though, else how do you know which verse/repeat to change the note in? In this context, I imagine the 'optional note' answer is much more likely. –  Chris Jul 30 '14 at 15:42

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