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Can anyone explain the significance of the small notes in the following music? An otherwise identical arrangement in a different "easy" song book shows only quarter notes without the smaller notes. What is the difference in how it's played? And is there a name for what these small notes represent here?

Small notes directly following regular sized notes and beamed together with the regular sized notes.

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    Can you post an image showing all the staves in the system? – phoog Feb 19 at 22:00
35

Despite my comment, I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that this is a strophic song, with verses having different numbers of syllables. The small notes are to accommodate the extra syllables in those verses that have more of them.

When I can think of an example, I'll edit this answer to add it.

As pointed out by Richard in a comment, this technique is also frequently seen in translated music, when the translation has a different number of syllables from the original.

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    Or different languages (and thus different syllabizations). – Richard Feb 19 at 22:02
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    @Richard excellent point. – phoog Feb 19 at 22:03
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    YES! This indeed a case of a "strophic" song. (A new word for my vocabulary.) And the extra notes exactly accommodate second verse syllables. Thank you. – T. A. Wheeler Feb 19 at 22:20
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    "strophic", when sung by a cat, is "cat-a-strophic". – rexkogitans Feb 20 at 13:05
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    Anything sung by a cat is catastrophic. – WGroleau Feb 20 at 16:29
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As already mentioned, this is a way to notate a strophic song. Depending on the type of song, it could also be described as having an "irregular metre".

This is described on Wikipedia here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metre_(hymn)#Terminology_and_abbreviations

A few hymns have an inconsistent metrical pattern across their verses. Such a metre is described as '"irregular"; one well-known example is O Come, All Ye Faithful.

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7

The key is "song book", I guess. There will be several stanzas (or several languages, at any rate several versions of lyrics) with different syllable counts. Depending on the syllable count of the line you sing, you'll need to use the above or the below notes.

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    YES! This indeed a case of a "strophic" song. (A new word for my vocabulary.) And the extra notes exactly accommodate second verse syllables. Thank you. – T. A. Wheeler Feb 19 at 22:22

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