The title sounds awkward (please feel free to modify it); what I mean is: When you see the bars such as Bar 40 below (similarly Bar 37), do you think of it as DDD AAA FFF DDD (orange marking, grouped by the same repeating note), or as DD DAA AFF FDD D (green marking, grouped by the notes connected by the same beam)? When I see the score, I tend to think of the beams as groups, but when listening or playing, the repeating notes are obviously the natural grouping. Since they all have the same beats, the result should not matter, but should there be a right way to think of them? (I guess this is not about phrasing?)

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Bar numbering tracing (@Tim): Beginning of the two movements (from youtube.com/watch?v=W7WpjF2VILE)

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    Do you know about appoggiaturas yet? You could think about figures that sound like sighing. Commented Nov 8, 2021 at 10:09
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    Do you mean bars 39 and 36?
    – Tim
    Commented Nov 8, 2021 at 10:48
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    You're right, it's just that mostly, bar numbers show at the beginning of bars. Couldn't find my copy to check.
    – Tim
    Commented Nov 9, 2021 at 8:39
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    @Tim This is the edition edited by Heinrich Schenker; he used a very idiomatic system where the numbers appear at the ends of the measures. Frustrating, I know!
    – Richard
    Commented Nov 9, 2021 at 14:30
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    What happened to the original post? The score examples changed. It had been a "sighing" figure then repeated notes in triplets. Commented Nov 9, 2021 at 14:55

2 Answers 2


Beams, generally, indicate beats and metric units, not musical phrasing.

Measure 37

The two-note slurs in this case indicate a long-short pattern. So in this case, the beams correspond to the phrasing.

Measure 40

Here there is a decision to make.

  • Measure 37, with its two-note slur pattern, suggests the pattern might be thought of as x(Xy) y(Zz), where the capitals are the beats, and the parentheses are two-note slurs. So, from the end of measure 39, the pattern would be d(Da) a(Af#) f#(F#d) dD. (The D at measure 39 beat 4 would be seen as the end of the scale and separate from the arpeggio.
  • I conceive of it as a descending D major arpeggio beginning at the end of measure 39. Each note occurs three times, with the third occurring on the beat. So, in the manner of the question: ddD aaA f#f#F# ddD, with the capital letters indicating the main pulse. Reinforcing this is the pattern in measure 33, in which two sixteenth notes off the beat lead to an eighth note on the beat. That is, two off-beat notes lead to the on-beat note.

This answer applies only to the specific passage in the question. The exact same pattern in a different piece of music might be conceived of differently. This is not something where there is a general rule or principle.

  • Thanks, Aaron. So the reason you put the main pulse on the last note of each repetition is because it's the last one, not because it's the beginning of a beat (beam)? Commented Nov 8, 2021 at 2:19
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    @seamurmurs it's because it's on the beat, and the beaming also corresponds to that. But I'm following the meter/rhythm, not the beams.
    – Aaron
    Commented Nov 8, 2021 at 2:27
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    Thanks for the edit; it's starting to make the answer I was about to offer redundant. I would say there is a "rule" of thumb in effect: slurred pairs of equal-length notes get a "strong-weak" pattern of emphasis. This is absolutely hardcoded into baroque expression, and Beethoven really isn't late enough to have lost it. So I'd say that there is an obvious "right answer" to the phrasing of m 37, and then since 40 is an echo and an elaboration, you're expected to do "something different." I could imagine emphasizing the change of pitch for a syncopated feel, or... Commented Nov 8, 2021 at 2:32
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    ... or keeping the descending interval united as a pair, and the new "extra" triplet orphaned: "Shoobee da doobee da doobee da doo" Commented Nov 8, 2021 at 2:33
  • Aaron, Thanks for the detailed elaboration! Andy, Thanks for the comments, very helpful, too! Glad I asked this question. Commented Nov 8, 2021 at 2:49

I don't know how this is taught, but I expect the first phrase should be treated like a appoggiatura "sighing" figure and the second as a lead-in to the beat.

It seems easier to describe in notation rather than words...

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Both just decorate a descending D major chord. The slurs and hairpins I added are more for visualization, not literal.

The first phrase, the "sighing" figuration doesn't really connect the repeating notes. The second eighth note of each beat is more a "release" of the first eighth on the beat. So, using the breathe metaphor, D6 is breath in and the following A5 is the releasing "sigh." The repeating notes like A5 from the last half of beat 1 to beat 2 is incidental. You could imagine a break between each beat (the red line.)

The second phrase uses the repeating notes to lead-in to each beat. Instead of a clean break between beats you could imagine the emphasis crossing over the division between beats.

The first is a sort of "internal" treatment, staying inside each beat. The second is a "crossing over" the beat treatment. This reminds me of feminine and masculine phrase endings where the type is determined by the placement of the final note relative to the bar line, but the two phrases in question happen on a smaller scale.

In both cases you still have each beat preceded by a dynamically weaker note, which then is the same thing in both cases, and the thinking seems to get circular. Something else seems necessary to really distinguish the two cases. In the first, there will probably be a slight detached playing of the second eighth note of each beat, and over all there may be a kind of decrescendo from D6 to D5. In the second case you probably want a continuation with the repeated notes, not a detached feel over the beat, and maybe overall a crescendo feel leading to the D5 on beat 1.

  • Thanks, I had never heard of appoggiatura and sighing before till I saw posts by aparent001 and you here. Commented Nov 11, 2021 at 0:24

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