I'm looking to categorize a non-chord note that occurs before a chord note. The non-chord note occurs on the offbeat and the chord note can occur offbeat or on beat, it doesn't really matter. I've read a couple of sites that have mentioned unaccented appoggiaturas. Is this an appropriate term? It seems that there is a lot of contention with that term. What would be a more appropriate term?

  • Seeing as you would have to play a note slightly longer to emphasise it, it would be impossible to accent a note as short as an appoggiatura.
    – Neil Meyer
    Nov 6, 2016 at 8:51
  • 1
    There is no reason an appoggiatura has to be short. Are you perhaps confusing appoggiatura with acciaccatura?
    – Old John
    Nov 6, 2016 at 10:04
  • @02fentym Do you have any example pictures of the notes you're looking to categorise? An appoggiatura doesn't have to be written as a grace note, the main requirement is that the appoggiatura resolves with the next note. Nov 6, 2016 at 10:17
  • I don't have a picture. I'm actually putting together a series of videos for making melodies in a music production context. I started the series with chord note patterns and now I've moved to non-chord note patterns. I'm not using the traditional terminology for most of these videos because my students (and YouTube audience) are usually not trained in this way. For instance, I'll be grouping echappees and incomplete neighbour together since they're essentially the reverse of each other. My definitions are not as rigid because I don't want to bombard them with rules and regs.
    – 02fentym
    Nov 6, 2016 at 11:12

2 Answers 2


It might be simpler to refer to 'long' and 'short' appoggiaturas.

From Grove's Dictionary of Music, 1880 (emphasis mine):

With regard to its length, the appoggiatura is of two kinds, long and short; the long appoggiatura bears a fixed relation to the length of the principal note, ... but the short one is performed so quickly that the abbreviation of the note is scarcely perceptible. There is also a difference between the two kinds in the matter of accent; the long appoggiatura is always made stronger than the principal note, while in the case of the short one the accent falls on the principal note itself.

You can interpret this as saying that short appoggiaturas are 'unaccented' and long appoggiaturas are 'accented'. It then goes on to say that there has always been confusion and that some theorists (incorrectly) used the term acciaccatura to describe short (or 'unaccented') appoggiaturas, when acciaccatura is strictly a keyboard term.

So 'short' and 'long' seem to be less contentious than 'unaccented' and 'accented'.

enter image description here

For a discussion on the appoggiatura see this page from Rick Wilson's historical flutes (which is where the Grove picture was taken from).

  • Thanks for the answer Christophe. Very interesting. It seems very logical and agrees with what I've seen on Wikipedia and other sites. One of the issues is that in the realm of pop music, you can have a 'long' appoggiatura on the off beat, which is why I felt that I was abusing the use of the term. I guess for my purposes I might need to be a bit more liberal and just absorb the hate Ian receive from critical theorists. I'll accept the answer soon unless a better one presents itself in the next day or so. Upvoted!
    – 02fentym
    Nov 6, 2016 at 16:57
  • Yes it seems that there is a slight difference of opinion between the different 'realms'! Not sure if you're familiar with this site tobyrush.com/theorypages/en-uk/index.html but scroll down to 'non-harmonic tones' and you can see that when defining this sort of term it's pitch rather than rhythm that is important. So I don't think off-beat appoggiaturas are a problem! Nov 7, 2016 at 7:36
  • Yeah, exactly what I thought. Theorists always trying to cause problems. Huh? Thanks man!
    – 02fentym
    Nov 7, 2016 at 7:37

From Kostka/Payne, Tonal Harmony...

  • ...One way of classifying NCTs is according to the ways in which they are approached and left .
  • ...Other terms used in the description of NCTs include accented/unaccented, diatonic/chromatic, ascending/descending, and upper/lower. These terms will be brought up in connection with the appropriate NCTs
  • ...As a very general rule, appoggiaturas (also called incomplete neighbors) are accented, approached by ascending leap, and left by descending step.

Kostka/Payne's real world example:

enter image description here

You can find various NCT cheat sheets online. This one from Toby Rush shows an un-accented appoggiatura:

enter image description here

...I suppose that is an artificial and unusual example, but it is un-accented.

I found another one that seems like a more realistic harmonic case...

enter image description here

...but I don't know the original source.

It seems that contemporary theory at least provides the terminology for an un-accented appoggiatura, and you can unambiguously write such a thing distinct from other NCTs, but it is not the norm.

FWIW, sometimes appoggiatura refers to a kind of grace note which involves a separate discussion about how to interpret the grace note. That's different that a written appoggiatura like in the Kostka example.

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