I'm a bit confused as to how to play a particular series of grace notes in two pieces: Schubert's Moment Musicaux No. 3 and Debussy's Menuet. Here are the measures for reference:

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In both examples, the first note of the grace note series is tied to its corresponding note on the principal note. In recordings of Moment Musicaux, it sounds like only the tied grace note is played. In recordings of Menuet, however, it seems like both the grace note and the principal note are played.

How are these intended to be played? Are the tied notes intended to be held as the tie would suggest or is the tie in fact a slur and the "tied" note is meant to be played as well? Or is the answer both, and the difference is the result of different styles/time periods of music?

  • There's always the option to play it the way you want to. Interpretation is one of the great things about music. Nov 21, 2013 at 13:59
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    @Carl Witthoft - I certainly agree, though for sake of curiosity (or perhaps historical context) I like to understand how the composer (probably) intended it to sound.
    – yohohoho
    Nov 21, 2013 at 20:59

2 Answers 2


In Debussy it is quite probably a slur. It just sounds better that way, I think. Also, in the same culture Ravel used different notation to actually show a tie:

tied grace note

(From Alborada del gracioso)

I'm not sure about Schubert but I think a slur is more logical here, too, because the two-note-chords-with-graces are actually some kind of a recurring motive in the piece. You can also see it as

motive1 and motive2,

and there are other variations without the graces, but in most cases it is a straight chord (instead of, say, an arpeggio).

Using ties for the first instance of the motive (the one in your example) and its repetitions would make them sound quite different from the others. I also think the accents support this non-tied interpretation.

Now, of course, you'll notice that the other examples of the motive shown above do not have a slur, which could indicate that in the first case it is actually a tie.

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    I've checked another set of sheet music for Menuet and the fingering definitely suggests a slur over the tie. It makes me wonder why the engraver wouldn't make the slur symbol diagonally skewed to differentiate from the symmetrical shape of a tie and avoid ambiguity.
    – yohohoho
    Nov 21, 2013 at 18:52

A tie can only be between two rhythmically adjacent notes. Since there is a note in between the start and end of that "tie", we know it is actually a slur.

Those grace note figures are really just two-note trills.

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    You can have non-adjacent notes tied. I've seen this at least for arpeggios.
    – nonpop
    Nov 21, 2013 at 9:43
  • @nonpop Can you be more specific, or provide an example? If the intermediate notes are in a second voice, the tied note would have enough rhythmic duration to bring it to the end of the tie, making it adjacent.
    – NReilingh
    Nov 21, 2013 at 20:19
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    @nonpop Oh, you mean something like this? I've always been really strict with my voicing -- that not a notational style I'm comfortable/familiar with.
    – NReilingh
    Nov 21, 2013 at 20:23
  • Yes, those extended ties are what I meant. Might be more of a piano notation thing but they certainly exist.
    – nonpop
    Nov 21, 2013 at 20:28

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