These are two different bars from "John Thompson's Grade 3" arrangement "Hungarian Rhapsody no.2".

Is there a difference between the time value of the first F in the first picture and the first D in the second picture?


3 Answers 3


The difference in the way you would play these is very subtle.

Beams convey information about subtle shifts in phrasing, and about how the composer wants you to subdivide the beats in the measure for rhythmic emphasis. This is up to the interpretive skill of the performer. When you perform groups of sixteenth notes, you don't necessarily mechanically give all of them the same precise duration. You don't necessarily make each note's attack happen exactly on a "quantized grid" at a precise moment in time, if you know what I mean.

These four measures are exactly the same pitches with exactly the same note durations, but a skilled musician would phrase each measure slightly differently.

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  • 1
    This answers a different question. The slur over-rides any possible subtleties in the beaming.
    – Laurence
    Dec 15, 2018 at 11:55
  • Wrong. Subtleties of articulation are indicated by slurs, staccato dots, etc.. There are none in this answer. If one example were in 4/4 and another in 2/2, the one in 4/4 would have 4 beats to the bar, and you might argue that that implies a slight accent at the start of each of those 4 beats, and that 2/2 would thus imply a different pattern of accents. But even that argument would be debatable. Beaming doesn't imply anything about articulation at all.
    – Rosie F
    Oct 11, 2019 at 14:19

No difference in note length, no. The editor might just want to show some phrasing information, but to be honest I don't see the point. The slur does that just as well, or even better.


Given the slur, I think I can risk a definitive answer - no, there's no difference. Not even a subtle one.

  • 1
    No, you can subtly change the volumes of each note under the same slur.
    – Dekkadeci
    Dec 15, 2018 at 16:45
  • And would you? For that sort of beaming difference? Really?
    – Laurence
    Dec 15, 2018 at 23:37
  • There's a fair chance I might.
    – Dekkadeci
    Dec 16, 2018 at 9:35

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