I'm transcribing a piano piece. There is a short note that should be attacked slightly later than notated, but should not be played fully as a grace note—rather somewhere in between. (Even playing by ear I have to be careful to strike the right balance so it doesn't sound weird.)

I'm not trying to nitpick exactly when to strike it, but I would like to give the performer some indication that it is a less important note. I just can't find a good way, precedented or otherwise, to make that visually clear.

Is there any kind of established convention for this? If not, what similar ideas could be modified to coin something intuitive?

  • What are you using for the approximate notation?
    – Aaron
    Jun 23, 2022 at 4:17
  • 4
    You say you want it played slightly later than notated. So why not notate it correctly?! Yes, there are plenty of conventions, but just using standard notation you can place the note with great precision anywhere you want it. If that won't do, it would be helpful if you could post a scan of the music: maybe two or three bars to show us its surroundings. If it's a recurring, expressive feature of the piece and you want the pianist to feel it, then you might need a footnote saying "All notes marked with a + (or whatever) are to be slightly delayed." If it's the tempo that slows, use riten. Jun 23, 2022 at 12:10
  • 3
    Post the notation you already have. A recording link probably would help too. Jun 23, 2022 at 12:59
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    The answer depends on the type/age of music. At one extreme, swing jazz will slide beats anyway. At the other, the interpretation of appogiatura and grace notes in Baroque-era music is well-established. Jun 23, 2022 at 15:53
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    I'm confused. A grace note would sound before the beat, no? Jun 24, 2022 at 5:17

1 Answer 1


From what I understand of the question, you want a note that's hit slightly later than notated. I think the breath mark would be useful in this situation, as it explicitly states to leave a small "space" between the notes, yet also leaves the duration up to the performer's discretion.

As for making it clear that the note isn't a very important note, you could use small notes, as in Chopin's Op. 25 No. 1, where he uses it extensively to accentuate the melody. Alternatively, if the note isn't required, and wouldn't subtract much from the music were it not played, you could place a set of parentheses around it, indicating that it is optional.

If I can add anything to my answer or make it clearer, please let me know! (it's my first answer on here) Hope this answer helped!

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