This is an excerpt from Minuet by Boccherini from John Thompson's Grade 3:

Is the grace note in the 3rd measure played concurrently with the E on the bass line, or just before it?


This, like every other piece in "John Thompson's Grade 3," is a pedagogical arrangement, meaning it differs significantly from the original music.

The original version of this piece (see page 20) is actually notated without gracenotes, but with a trill on the first A. This would be interpreted as what we now call two gracenotes ahead of the A, as seen here. This indeed matches what you will hear professionals do on recording.

However, that's not how you should play John Thompson's Grade 3 arrangement. That arrangement was written to conform to modern notational practices, so "baroque gracenote interpretation" does not apply. Modern interpretation of gracenotes is to play them just before the beat, with the following "big" note occurring in its regular metric location. (In other words, the specific gracenote you mention should occur just before the E in the bass.)

Practice this passage by playing it accurately and in-time without the gracenote; then add the gracenote later without changing the time of the notes you're already playing.

  • I agree with this only, since there is a dash crossing the stem, meaning short acciaccatura, i. e. before the beat and not taking length from the note to follow. Without the dash in modern notation would mean at the beat taking length from note to follow. An eighth grace note before a sixteenth main note seems very strange in any case. – guidot Jul 17 '12 at 16:03
  • When I say modern notation, I mean pieces of music written in the present day. In my experience, (contemporary) composers write the non-grace notes exactly where they want them to be played, and no grace note, whether or not it has a slash, can take time away from the following note. – NReilingh Jul 17 '12 at 16:09
  • Awesome knowledge here. Great post! – Rene Marcelo Jul 17 '12 at 18:54

I'd love to hear from a scholar better versed in interpretation of Baroque music; my (very limited) expertise in this piece specifically is from several youtube videos of string quartets performing this minuet.

That said, the grace note appears to come ahead of the beat. I would encourage you to listen to several interpretations of the music by string quartets to get a feel for the right rhythm for that entire 5-note figure (grace note + 4 sixteenth notes).

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