List and Examples of Music Ornaments

The general name for all subordinate notes introduced into a composition is known as embellishments. In early music, ornaments were seldom written out, but were left to be supplied by the taste and knowledge of the performer.

Later they were indicated by small notes preceding or following the principal note, or by a symbol usually written above or below.

Composers became more explicit in indicating ornaments, especially by the use of notes, and many signs are obsolete or obsolescent.

Ornaments have gone through so many modifications of meaning that any absolute classification is impossible. The one fundamental and universal rule in regard to them, the rule which has hardly any exceptions, is that the time required for executing any grace notes must be subtracted from the time of the principal notes which they modify.

The principal ornaments are appoggiaturas, long, short and double; and the Nachschlag; the different kinds of shakes or trills; the turn and the different forms of the mordent.

Among the old ornaments those included in the list of Emanuel Bach are the following:

  • Trills
  • Mordent
  • Trills and mordent
  • Cadence
  • Double or doppelt cadence
  • Doppelt cadence and mordent
  • Accent steigend
  • Accent
  • Fallend
  • Accent and mordent
  • Accent and trills

Couperni made out a long list in 1713, which included many obsolete graces, among them:

  • Pince simple
  • Pince double
  • Port de voix coule
  • Port de voix simple
  • Tremblement lie sans etre appuye
  • Port de voix double
  • Tremblement ouvert
  • Tremblement detache
  • Tremblement appuye et lie
  • Tremblement firme
  • Pinces bemollises
  • Arpegement en montant and arpegement en descendant
  • Pince continu
  • Tierce coulee en descendant
  • Aspiration
  • Unison and suspension

Rameau arranged a list of graces and there are many other obsolete ornaments of whose use and manner of performance little is known.

Appoggiatura

Appoggiatura is derived from the Italian verb, appoggiare, to lean upon. This ornament is used in both vocal and instrumental music, and consists in suspending or delaying a note of a melody by means of a note introduced before it. It is usually written in a form of a small eighth, sixteenth or thirty-second note.

The short appoggiatura, which is also called acciaccatura, has a stroke through its stem and hook.

The rules governing the long appoggiatura are as follows:

  • When the principal note may be divided by two, the appoggiatura received half its value.
  • When the principal notes is dotted, the appoggiatura receives two thirds.
  • If the principal note is tied to another shorter note, the appoggiatura receives the whole value of the principal note. This third rule is usually followed when the principal note is followed by a rest.
  • If the appoggiatura is applied to a chord is delays only the note to which it belongs.
  • This ornament is usually written as a small sized note corresponding in value to its intended length, but is sometimes represented by notes of less than its value.

A few of the older composers used an ornament called the lengthened appoggiatura, which had three fourths the value of the principal note and was indicated by a small note dotted.

In old music the long appoggiatura was merely a way of concealing the use of unprepared dissonance.

The double appoggiatura consists of two short notes, prefixed to a principal note.

There is also a kind of double appoggiatura composed of two notes ascending or descending by degrees, and called by the Germans a schleifer.

Nachschlag

The nachschlag is the opposite of appoggiatura and consists of a short grace note played after the principal note.

The double nachschlag consists of two short notes after the principal note.

Turn

Both the name and the sign of the ornament called the turn describe its nature and characteristic as an ornament that winds around the principal note. It consists of four or five notes, the principal notes a degree above and below it. Sharps, flats and natural under the sign apply to the lower auxiliary note; sharps, flats or naturals above, to the upper auxiliary note.

The arrangement of the turn is as follows:

  • The note a degree above the principal note
  • The principal note
  • The note a degree below the principal note
  • The principal note again

The execution depends upon the time of the piece in which it occurs, and upon its position, that is, whether it is above or to the side of the principal note. When it is above the principal note, the turn is executed at once; when it stands to the side of the principal note is sustained for some time. The turn is used in vocal and instrumental music.

Shake or Trill

The shake or trill is one of the earliest ornaments used in music, and is the principal one of a species of embellishments founded on the alternation of a principal note with its subordinate notes one degree above or below it.

It may begin on either principal or auxiliary note and owing to the accent, differs considerably in effect, since in one case emphasis falls on the principal note and in the other, on the subordinate note.

According to one point of view the shake is a reiteration of the principal note continually interrupted by the subordinate note, in which case the accent falls on the principal note.

According to another point of view it is a series of successive appoggiaturas, and the accent is thrown on the auxiliary.

When the trill begins on the subordinate note it is usually indicated by a small grace note immediately before the trill note. Immediately before the final note of a shake is introduced a new auxiliary, one degree below the principal note, which with the concluding principal note forms what is called the turn of the shake. This is indicated variously:

  • By two small grace notes
  • By notes of ordinary size
  • In old music, by a vertical stroke
  • A small downward curve
  • A regular turn added to the sign of the trill

Mordent

The mordent is a very important ornament used in instrumental music. It consists of the rapid alternation of a written note with the note immediately before it, and is divided into two kinds, known as simple or short mordent, and double or long mordent.

The simple mordent consists of the principal note, twice repeated, with the auxiliary note between.

The double mordent consists of the principal note, lower auxiliary, and principal again.

The first notes are played quickly, the letter are held.

There are a great number of ornaments used much earlier in music, but which have since passed out of use.

List of Ornaments

  • Accent

accent

  • Accent and mordent

accent-and-mordent

  • Accent and trillo

accent-and-trillo

  • Accent fallend (descending), Accent steigend (ascending)

accent-fallend

  • Acciaccaturas

acciaccaturas

  • Anschlag

anschlag

  • Appoggiatura, long

appoggiatura-long

  • Appoggiatura, short

appoggiatura-short

  • Appoggiatura, double

appoggiatura-double

  • Arpege

arpege

  • Arpegement en montant

arpegement-en-motant

  • Arpegement en descendant

arpegement-en-descendant

  • Arpegement figure

arpegement-figure

  • Arpegement simple

arpegement-simple

arpeggio

  • Aspiration

aspiration

  • Backfall, single double, shaked

backfall

  • Balancement

balancement

  • Beat; beat, plain; beat, shaked

beat

  • Bebung

bebung

  • Beisser, or brechung

beisser-brechung

  • Cadence

cadence

  • Cadence appuye

cadence-appuye

  • Cadence brisee

cadence-brisee

  • Cadence, doppelt and mordent

cadence-doppelt-and-mordent

  • Cadence, double

cadence-double

  • Cadence, doppelt

cadence-doppelt

  • Cadence liee

cadence-liee

  • Cadence pleine

cadence piene

  • Cadent

cadent

  • Cadent, shaked

cadent-shaked

  • Coules

coules

  • Coules, don’t les points marquent que la seconde note de chaque temps doit etre plus appuye

coules-dont

  • Tierce coulee en descendant

tierce-coule-en-descendant

  • Tierce coulee en montant

tierce-couleee-en-montant

  • Chute

chute

  • Chute et pince

chute-et-pince

  • Doppelschlag

doppelschlag

  • Doppelvorschlag, doppelschlag, umgeherhter, doppelschlag, geshcnelter

doppelvorschlag

  • Doppelschlag, prallender

doppelschlag-prallender

  • Doppeltriller mit nachschlag

doppeltriller-mit-nachslag

  • Doppeltriller mit vor-und nachschlag

doppeltriller-mit-vor-und-nachschlag

  • Double

double

  • Double sur une tierce

double-sur-une-tierce

  • Elevation

elevation

  • Elevation, shaked

elevation-shaked

  • Gruppeto

gruppeto

  • Liaison

liaison

  • Martellement, double, simple, triple

martellement-double-simple-triple

  • Mordent

mordent

  • Mordent, long

mordent-long

  • Nachschlag, modern nachschlag

nachschlag

  • Passing shake

passing-shake

  • Passing shake or inverted mordent

passing-shake-or-inverted-mordent

  • Pince

pince

  • Pince continu

pince-continu

  • Pince diese

pince-diese

  • Pince et port de voix

pince-et-port-de-voix

  • Pince etouffe

pince-etouffe

  • Pince lie

pince-lie

  • Pince simple

pince-simple

  • Pince bemollises

pince-bemillises

  • Pince double

pince-double

  • Port de voix

port-de-voix

  • Port de voix coule

port-de-voix-coule

  • Port de voix double

port-de-voix-double

  • Port de voix jette

port-de-voix-jette

  • Port de voix simple

port-de-voix-simple

  • Pralltriller

pralltriller

  • Relish, single

relish-single

  • Relish, double

relish-double

  • Schleifer

schleifer

  • Schneller

schneller

  • Slide

slide

  • Son coupe

son-coupe

  • Springender

springender

  • Springer

springer

  • Suspension

suspension

  • Tremblement

tremblement

  • Tremblement appuye

tremblement-appuye

  • Tremblement appuye et lie

tremblement-appuye-et-lie

  • Tremblement continu

tremblement-continu

  • Tremblement detache

tremblement-detache

  • Tremblement firme

tremblement-firme

  • Tremblement lie sans etre appuye

tremblement-lie-sans-etre-appuye

  • Tremblement ouvert

tremblement-ouvert

  • Trillo

trillo

  • Trillo and mordent

trillo-and-mordent

  • Trill with appoggiatura, trill without afterbeat

trill-without-apporggiatura

  • Trill or shake

trill-or-shake

  • Chain of trills

chain-of-trills

chain-of-trills-1

  • Turn

turn

  • Turn, back

turn-back

  • Turn, double

turn-double

  • Unisson

unisson