What is an appoggiatura? Melody Writing


Today’s video tackles the common melody embellishment, the appoggiatura. What is an appoggiatura? How do they work, and how do you pronounce them? We’ll figure that all out today, without getting way too technical.

In a previous video a long time ago, we talked about how to harmonize a melody with thirds and sixths, to make the melody sound more interesting and complex. If you missed that video, definitely check it out.

Today, we’re going to talk some more about melody writing. Writing a melody is a huge and complex topic, so my approach is to chip away at it one piece at a time.

So the specific topic we’ll be looking at today is a crazy word called an “appoggiatura” (uh-poj-uh-TOO-rah). I specifically want to look at this concept because it’ll be a feature in the next tutorial we do.

What is an Appoggiatura?

Appoggiatura comes from the Italian word appoggiare, which means “to lean”. And that’s exactly what it means when you find one in a melody. A note of tension leans into the resolution note.

Let’s take a look at an example so you can get a feel for it.

So here in the left hand we have a G chord being played. Now take a look at the right hand. We have a C# moving to a D. Which one of those notes is part of a G chord?

The second note, D.

So the right hand C# – D is an appoggiatura, because it moves from a tense note to a resolution note. We’ll take a look on the keyboard in the video so you can hear it, but it definitely creates extra tension.

Let’s look at the next bar. Same thing – a C chord in the left hand, and appoggiatura in the right hand – the D# is leaning into the resolution note, an E.

Since “E” is a part of C chord, playing that E sound nice and relaxed. But leading up to it with the very tense D# delays that relaxation. Tension is super important in music, and in the case of the appoggiatura, it makes the second note, the relaxation note, feel all the more relaxing because of the tension just before it.

Writing a good melody is all about creating moments of suspense, balanced with moments of ease. The appoggiatura is a really useful tool for this because it can often sound so unexpected.


How appoggiaturas are notated

Generally appoggiaturas are approached by step (by stepping up or down), and can sometimes look teeny-tiny like an ornament. But that doesn’t mean you play them quickly – appoggiaturas are generally held around half of the main note’s value. It simply indicates that it’s an ornament.

An ornament is exactly what it sounds like – a musical decoration. It’s there to make the main melody prettier and more interesting. And that’s exactly what appoggiaturas do.

Appoggiaturas in pop music

So now that we’ve figured out the answer to the question “what is an appoggiatura”, let’s look to a couple examples in pop music. Check out the video to hear what they sound like.

The Rainbow Connection (from the Muppets) features some appoggiatura action near the end of the song, with the lyrics “some day we’ll find it / the rainbow connection”.

The Beatles Song “Yesterday” has an appoggiatura on the very first word of the song (“yesterday…”).



The next time you’re writing a melody, instead of just landing on the “home” note, try delaying it a moment with a good ol’ fashioned appoggiatura. They’re fun to play around with and add an element of surprise, which is always great in music.




Allysia has been teaching piano in Canada for nearly a decade, and has her Grade 10 RCM certificate. She especially enjoys nerding out to music history and theory. When she’s not making videos or teaching, she’s reading, writing, and jamming in a rock band.