Posted by: bandaidchild | September 16, 2010

Grace Notes.

It’s five thirty in the morning.

I’ve spent a good chunk of time entering in medical terminology and abbreviations (like S.O.B. That means “Short Of Breath…) in my little online flashcard site for my EMT class.

But the other large chunk I may or may not have spent looking up Glee videos and drum solos.

(I surely can’t be expected to sit nonstop without a little fun, can I?)

I’ve heard the term “grace note” prior to watching all of these incredible videos, but never really knew what it meant.

Here’s a short lesson. The term Grace Note is most often used in regards to Bagpipes because of how the instrument itself is played, as opposed to other instruments, which do not sustain notes quite like the bagpipe. (for example: Amazing Grace has tons of “grace notes” in it because one part of the song plays one note in the background the entire time)

It’s also referred to quite a bit on the drum set when a percussionist plays something called a “flam”- it’s basically hitting the snare drum with both sticks just slightly off tempo from one another. You hear it all the time, in most songs you’ve ever heard; you probably just didn’t know what it was called. Well, the stick that hits that snare a mili-second before the other stick, that is called the Grace note.


I’m getting ahead of myself here.

Maybe I’m doing that thing where all of this makes so much sense in my head because I typically have a full orchestral band in my head playing show tunes and the like constantly, and it really doesn’t make any sense to anybody else.

Here’s what Wikipedia said…

All grace notes and grace note types are forestrokes, that is they occur before the notes they embellish.

The more reliable told me that it was an “unessential note that adds to embellish additional notes”

on sheet music, that grace note gets designated a teeency little note before the big one. The one that you are supposed to hear more dominantly. Though some composers would argue this note is intentionally written small so that the player can decide how much emphasis they would like to place on it.

and while the grace note might be “unessential”, it adds beauty and purpose to the point of the piece. It adds intentionality to the aforementioned grace note.

So, I’m gonna say is inaccurate in describing the grace note as unessential. Sure, without it the song wouldn’t sound that different, and nothing about the piece itself would be compromised. Not the melody, not the rythm, nothing. Though the  subsequent note wouldn’t have as much power to it. Think of it as an accent. Seasoning.

I wonder if thinks that seasoning is an “unessential” component to a good steak.

I laugh in thy face,!

And this made me think. Made me think of Jesus, naturally. (and a Led Zepplin song with the most incredible drum beat(flood in the rain!) ever that I hope someday I can play with fluidity)

The world doesn’t give much attention to Grace. Americans especially are quite wary of Random Acts of Kindness; thinking they are being roped into something–that there are strings attached, or someone is playing a cruel joke on them which will come back to haunt them on YouTube. Like those people that glue quarters on the sidewalk. So much for thinking it was your lucky day, right?

Our society does not lend itself to extending Grace. We are, as a nation, taught less about sharing, and more about Number One, entrepreneurial goals, revenge, and shoving old people into nursing homes. Divorce is always an option now.

Whatever happened to Take Backs, Do Overs? Whatever happened to grace?

I am being challenged about what to do about this concept of grace, because of how I read Jesus displayed it. It’s not an unfamiliar thing to me. I’ve been around Church long enough to understand what it is. It’s just that it doesn’t make a lot of sense. And there is something about revenge that just feels so. . . . . . . falsely victorious. Like a right of passage. An inheritance. Retribution. But those things are typically a self-soothing lie.

So then at three in the morning I started listening to all these drum beats and learning about grace notes, and how they come before the big one, and it made sense that to extend grace to someone is to show them Jesus.

playing anything without accent notes is just plain boring. Sure you can get by, but you won’t ever stop on the sidewalk to listen a guitar player (except for maybe Pheobe singing, “Smelly Cat”) who isn’t accenting any notes.

What will stop you, irregardless of any musical experience or expertise, is someone who truly uses their instrument to utilize all those little nuances that make a song. Now that, my friends, will make you stop (like a Triple Rainbow) in your tracks and just say…

Wow. That’s beautiful.

and it makes sense that a grace note is deemed unnecessary, though I would argue that it is not for necessity that the note is played. It is to alert you that something better is coming.

So play on. Your grace note, your accent is not useless. It is heard both by those that are listening for it, and those that don’t hear it until it hits them in the face because it is so incredibly breath-taking. Besides, we don’t toot our own horn simply to toot. We give Grace because it unveils another layer of Jesus. We toot to alert that the King is coming.

(see below for Geeky information.)


If you’re interested in what I was talking about a flam note, I’ll just throw a few links up here so you can perhaps get a feel for what I’ve been rambling about. (listen closely…starting at 2:08 just so you won’t miss it- it’s at 2:10)

He’s using a lot of grace notes!

(soooo good!) (there’s nothing for the first 24 seconds)

this is the best example of constant flams–and therefore lots ‘o grace notes. (0:15, 0:20, 0:44-0:48, 0:51. . . maybe you get the point?)



  1. Oh girl… now this is something awesome. I’ve heard of grace notes before too, but never knew what they actually were. I can totally hear them in the mental bagpipe that won’t stop playing in my head! 🙂

    “something better is coming” ahhh – good stuff. Thanks for sharing this! I clicked over to the pomplamoose stuff (or whatever they’re called) and got sucked into listening to their covers. her expressionless singing, and bouncy eyes, freak me out. But watching how they put a song together is really creative.

  2. I’m anxiously awaiting another blog post.

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