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In Simandl's 30 Etudes for String Bass, on Etude #26, there is this passage (last measure of the first line and first measure of the second line), where I have to play a 16th C# note, followed by 3 grace notes (A natural, B, C#) to end up on D:

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How can I play this passage? I cannot play all 4 of them, so do I omit the C? Do I omit some other note?

  • Related music.stackexchange.com/questions/33822/… – Neil Meyer May 19 '16 at 17:54
  • The notes in the bar at the beginning of line 2 are identical to the notes in the very first bar. Whatever you did in the very first bar is what you should do at the start of the second line - simple – Old John May 20 '16 at 13:44
  • @OldJohn what about the C that is circled? – Shevliaskovic May 20 '16 at 13:46
  • There is no previous note in the first bar, but you manage to play those 3 grace notes - just do exactly the same at the start of the second line. Assuming you are not playing those grace notes in bar 1 before the start of bar 1 (which I am sure is not what the composer intended). – Old John May 20 '16 at 13:51
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The three notes of the appoggiatura take time away from the following note (the D), not the preceding one. As per http://www.ars-nova.com/Theory%20Q&A/Q94.html:

"Double appoggiatura" and "triple appoggiatura" are names for pairs or triplets of grace notes that are played quickly at the time of the primary tone that they precede.

When written as grace notes they will appear as two or three small notes preceding the main note. If written out as they would sound, they will appear as two or three very fast notes followed by the longer note and slurred to it.

Again the key is that the "main" note is the one that is part of the harmony, and these decorations arrive "on the beat," taking time from the main note.

And Wikipedia:

a musical ornament that consists of an added note in a melody that is resolved, delaying the appearance of the principal note. [...] In contrast to the acciaccatura, the appoggiatura is important melodically and often suspends the principal note by taking away the time-value of the appoggiatura prefixed to it.

As such, you have lots of time to fit them in.

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Other answers have mentioned that these are ornaments. As such, try not to think too much about how much they are actually 'worth' in terms of note length. Here is what I hope is some practical advice on playing them. Hopefully it's not too odd!

I agree that it might feel 'right' at first to want to play the three-note ornament before the beat, but as mentioned above, the ornament should 'borrow time' from the note it is attached to (the minim in this case).

You might be able to get a feel for the rhythm by tapping the notes out on the table (or some other surface, the shoulder of your bass for example) with your left hand, with a metronome if you have one. So first try the 'bare' notes, with no ornamentation, to get the general feel of the rhythm. Then, when you're ready, add the three-note ornament by doing a roll with your fingers, like when you drum your fingers on the table but in reverse, starting with your index finger (first note of the ornament) and finishing with your little finger (on the minim).

In the picture below, I've written 1-2-3-4 to correspond to different fingers for each of the notes, obviously this won't be the same as for the fingering of the real notes on the bass - this is purely to get the idea of the rhythm! I hope this makes sense, the x-note heads indicate rhythm rather than any pitch.

Finger roll ornament

Another tip my cello teacher gave me for tricky rhythms was to sniff (breathe in sharply through your nose) when you reach the first note of a bar... So here you might 'sniff' when you start the three-note ornament.

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The composer, Simandl, lived mainly in the 19th century (1840-1912) so he was writing after the time when ornaments almost always "started on the beat". Beethoven (died 1827) was probably the first major composer whose ornaments were mostly played before the beat, and that style has continued to the present time.

Ornaments were often written conventionally as small 16th-notes, but that doesn't mean they are literally the same length as 16th-notes. The actual length depends on the tempo, and they were usually played "quickly" (where "quickly" is defined relative to the instrument playing them).

The tempo of any musical performance is rarely mathematically exact. In practice, if the 3 grace notes take about the same time as one extra 16th note added "in between" the two bars, it will still sound as if the music is still being played "in time".

The grace notes in the first three bars will have "taught" the listeners what is going on rhythmically, and they will accept the later grace notes as following the same logical pattern, even if analysing a recording of the performance with a stop-watch would tell a different story.

If you really want to "fit all the notes into the beats" so you can practice with a metronome, you could shorten the dotted 8th note on the third beat of the bar, to make room for the 16th + three quick grace notes.

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