I found this particular usage of grace notes really confusing and would like do ask for some opinions. (I am very much an amateur without any formal music education).

I tried to use MuseScore to illustrate what I see written in the book vs. what I hear in the recording. In Yiddish, stress falls on the second syllable in the words "geMAtert, gePAYnikt, geBOdn", and in the recording they are clearly aligned with the first beat of each corresponding measure, while the first syllable is sung at the end of the previous measure. This is also the refrain of the song which is repeated verbatim, so there are no alternative lyrics for the same melody that would not start the lines on the previous measure.

To me, explicit notation with the first syllable of each line starting in the previous measure is much easier to read and sing than the grace note / acciaccatura notation.

Am I right, or is the grace note version preferred here for some reason?

Recording source:

(the portion I transcribed repeats starting at 1 minute 14 seconds and at 2 minutes 55 seconds).

The book: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1877909645/

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  • So the third grace note is interpreted as a 32nd note while the others are interpreted as 16th notes? No wonder they're notated as grace notes--they're interpreted too inconsistently!
    – Dekkadeci
    Oct 14, 2019 at 9:49

4 Answers 4


"ge-" is a leading speech particle, an unemphasized syllable for indicating past participle. You could leave out the "e" from it and it would still be a pretty good representation. There are indeed German dialects other than Yiddish where it is omitted altogether unless preceding a vowel. Since it is unemphasized, it could not come on the first beat of a measure but it does not really have a duration of its own. If you played the song at half speed, you wouldn't make the "ge-" longer: it would still be right before the main syllable.

So the acciaccatura at same pitch is really a good and precise representation. If you omitted the acciaccatura from notion and put "Gema-" under the first full-length note, any singer versed in Yiddish or German would still deliver the "ge-" before the beat. But this notation is a bit more helpful for singers not intimate with the language.

It's really quite better representing the manner of syllable distribution than the notation you propose that would split the "ge-" particle off into the preceding measure, possibly even the preceding line.

  • @user63777: I may have picked a bad example. The song has a lot more of these grace notes for various lexical words. The very next line starts with the word "bilBILim" (hebraic, "confusions", referring to libels against Jews). But your comment prompted me to look for something else. After scanning several other songs, looks like a lot of verse lines start with an unstressed syllable at the end of a measure. That just seems to be a typical meter pattern for Yiddish! If so, these grace notes might not matter way or the other for those familiar with the language. Thanks for the insight! Oct 15, 2019 at 2:52

Based on my own experience at least, the reason an acciaccatura Is far harder to sing/perform, than what you've illustrated here, Is because of the fact that grace notes have no technical rhythmic value, it is reasonable to presume that it would be harder to play than a note that dose have rhythmic value. However, I think it can become a lot easier with the right mind set about it. The way I think about it is that its purpose is to trill or flow into the main note. I think that it should be notated like the grace note way though b/c of simple consistency's sake. The first measure of the second line or rather even the first measure in general sets up a rhythmic expectation, and the grace note is simply an element to keep that rhythm consistent.


The interpretation is rhythmically free and a natural phrasing - even a little rubato - like we are used in songs like this.

I don't think you should worry about the interpretation of grace notes in this case. In my opinion this are just a kind of shortcuts for notation of an upbeat.

Folksongs, cabarets and chansons often are interpreted close to the rhythm of speaking and ... mind, that music notation will never be absolutely and mathematically correct, this wouldn't be the sense of music understood an art - and not a mathematical science.

so I agree with your opinion:

To me, explicit notation with the first syllable of each line starting in the previous measure is much easier to read and sing than the grace note / acciaccatura notation.


From your written description I was hoping to hear some real groovy Klezmer!

But no. The rhythmic anticipation implied by your ties isn't there. Just quite normal pick-up notes, mostly in strict time, one delayed a little, but well within the flexibility allowed to singers!

No need to over-think it. If this is the notation convention for pick-up rhythms preferred by this edition, so be it. I agree, I'd have had to think for a moment about what was required, compared with a more literal rhythmic notation. But it's difficult to see what ELSE it could mean, there's no ambiguity.

Well done for checking against a performance. We tend to treat notation as Holy Writ these days, often more so than it deserves.

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