This is the climax from John Kember's "Happy Feet" for solo piano (annotations are mine):

Sheet music excerpt

On the final beat of this excerpt, there's an octave interval (#2, #3) in the right hand, with an acciaccatura (#1) before the lower note.

Both the acciaccatura (#1) and the upper note of the octave (#3) are B flat. My question is: does the flat accidental before the acciaccatura (#1) also apply to the main note (#2)? In other words: is the main note (#2) played as B flat or as B natural?

Arguments in favor of B flat (i. e., the accidental applies to the main note as well, the interval is a perfect octave):

  • Normally, accidentals remain in effect for the remainder of the measure.
  • B natural isn't part of the indicated chord, D7/♭9/♭11/♭13, whereas B flat is the ♭13 of D.

Arguments in favor of B natural (i. e., the accidental does not apply to the main note, the interval is a diminished octave):

  • An acciaccatura is normally a tone or semitone above or below the main note.
  • If it was also a B flat, what would the acciaccatura even indicate? It could be an arpeggio, but then I would have expected it to be written with a wavy vertical line instead.

This answer says that an accidental on an ornament (like on a regular note) remains in effect for the remainder of that measure; but the ornament in question is an appoggiatura, not an acciaccatura (also written as a grace note, but without the oblique stroke through the stem), and the answer doesn't make it explicit whether it applies to "all appoggiaturas" or "all ornaments, regardless of their type".

In addition to an answer to the question which of the options is correct, it would also be interesting to understand why the arguments in favor of the other option do not apply.

  • 1
    @AAron it doesn't - this is the question I linked to in the second-to-last paragraph of my question.
    – Martin
    Sep 4, 2021 at 15:21
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    Another argument in favor of B♭: If the composer had desired a semitone acciaccatura into the lower note of a major seventh dyad, the lower note of the dyad should have been written as a C♭ (or perhaps the B♭ should have been written as A♯, although that conflicts with the spelling of the chord as including a ♭13; but anyway this chord is confusing since it contains both an F♯ and a G♭ -- this makes me think the composer doesn't know what he's doing).
    – phoog
    Sep 4, 2021 at 15:28
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    @Martin It doesn't matter that the ornament is an appoggiatura, and acciaccatura, or any other kind of ornament. The rule is general: an accidental in the staff before any type of ornament carries through the bar.
    – Aaron
    Sep 4, 2021 at 15:34
  • Having now listened to it, I do think it should be A♯; it sounds like an unresolved leading tone to B.
    – phoog
    Sep 4, 2021 at 15:48
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    @Aaron thanks for the clarification. I wasn't sure if the statement "the accidental always remains in effect" on the other answer applied to all appoggiaturas (as that's what had been asked about) or to all ornaments regardless of their type. Your comment, as well as the other replies to this question, make it clear that it's the latter.
    – Martin
    Sep 4, 2021 at 16:35

2 Answers 2


Great question! Whilst an acciaccatura generally plays a note a semitone higher/lower than the target note, that would sound odd here, if the target was in fact B♮. Making the final 'chord' B♮ with B♭. As you say, B♮ isn't part of the designated chord, so odd it would be.

Th slur (or is it in fact a tie?) is often (but not always) part of the sign, but here, I guess it'll signify that unlike a normal acciaccatura, where the grace note is let go as the target is played, the writer wants both B♭s to be held, along with the other notes in the 2nd half of that bar. (It's all pedalled).

A wavy line, showing a 'mini-arp.' would have been more clear, and would end up sounding the same.

Can't for the life of me understand why ♭11 (G♭) is there. What's wrong with leaving the M3 (F♯) that's in the D7 triad anyway? And - ♭13 is the B♭ - with B♮ as well, that chord name and spelling wouldn't be accurate. Maybe another question...

  • 1
    I'd call it a tie. I'd also find a wavy arpeggio line for a two-note "chord" to be a bit weird.
    – phoog
    Sep 4, 2021 at 15:22
  • @phoog - so probably the way it's written would be the most accurate? Although the little line often associated with acciaccaturas must be seen as a slur, I guess.
    – Tim
    Sep 4, 2021 at 15:26
  • So the way to play this would be the lower B♭ slightly before the beat and the upper B♭ on the beat?
    – Martin
    Sep 4, 2021 at 15:37
  • Regarding the "sounds odd" aspect of B♮, I think it works pretty well in context (in fact, I prefer it that way). Dissonant, sure, but I think it makes a nice climax, and it is resolved in the next measure. The way I used to play it is like a "normal" acciaccatura (from A♯ to B♮), with the A♯ on the beat (simultaneously with the upper B♭).
    – Martin
    Sep 4, 2021 at 15:49
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    @Martin - the little one gets played on beat 4, with the upper Bb very slightly after, while holding on to the first is how I'd do it. But virtually together.
    – Tim
    Sep 4, 2021 at 16:23

I've often wondered why this causes confusion. If the accidental was on a note other than a grace note or an ornament you would not think twice would you; you would know that it still applies. However because its on an ornament a doubt arises.

I think that this is because we tend to view ornaments and grace notes as less significant because they are written smaller. But that does not alter the fact that they are just as valid as all the other notes (or should be) and the smaller font is just "how they are written".

So the answer to your question is yes, it applies.

  • Less significant as they're supposed to take up as little time as possible - particularly acciaccaturas.
    – Tim
    Sep 4, 2021 at 14:47
  • On the other hand, a similar thing could be said about the same note in a different octave - and in this case, the accidental does not apply. In the same manner, it would have been plausible for grace notes to be "separate" from regular notes. Apparently they aren't - and arguably, it's better for readability that way - but this isn't obvious.
    – Martin
    Sep 4, 2021 at 15:59
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    @Martin It's because accidentals apply to lines (and spaces,) not to notes. Which obviously sounds a bit confusing since the essentials in a key signature ARE applied to notes, not lines and spaces :0 It sounds confusing, but I do think it makes sense, when reading, since they represent different concepts too.
    – Creynders
    Sep 5, 2021 at 11:03

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