Music Ornaments

Music Ornaments or Embellishments are known as decoration notes as well which also is included in music theory. But people often are not very clear how to interpret it. Most of the time we are adding notes that are not essential to carry the overall line of the melody or harmony, but serve instead to decorate that line to provide added interest and variety, and give the performer the opportunity to add expressiveness to a song or piece. 

The amount of ornamentation in a piece of music can vary from quite extensive, it was often extensive in the Baroque period, from 1600 to 1750 to relatively little or even none. 

As a performer, it is very important for us to know the differences between these ornaments. The way of interpreting music ornaments can vary from baroque music to the modern music. 

Let’s further discuss the ornaments together.

Upper Turn and Inverted Turn

Turn consists of a group of four notes, the note above, itself, below, and itself.

a) In the older music period, the note and below are referring to the scale itself unless indicated separately. In modern music, an accidental is placed below above or below the sign to indicate the exact note required. 

b) When the turn is placed it is performed thus:

c) When the turn is placed after a dotted note, which equals a beat or a whole bar, the turn fills the value of the dot. 

d) When the dotted note is equal to a portion of a beat or a beat and a portion, a triplet is necessary: eg,

e) Inverted turn is performed in a similar way, but starting with the lower auxiliary.


Appoggiatura (Italian word, “to lean”) is different from Acciaccatura without a slash notation on it. It is as important melodically as the note on which it “leans”, and receives half the value of the principal note:

a) When placed before a dotted note it receives two-thirds of the value of that note:

Upper Mordent and Inverted Mordent

Upper Mordent is an ornament consisting of the principal note, the note above and the principal note again, required to play as quickly as possible in the note of the principal note:

a) An Inverted Mordent is constructed on the same principle, but with the lower instead of the upper note.


Acciaccatura (Italian word meaning “Crushed in”) is played as quickly as possible on the beat. It is theoretically timeless and is squeezed in as quickly as possible before the principal note is heard. Some pianists even play the two notes simultaneously, immediately releasing the acciaccatura and retaining the principal note. 


Trill is a rapid alternation of the written note and the note above it. 

a) In modern music, the trill usually begins on the written note itself, and ends with a small turn below the written note, which necessitates the insertion of a triplet immediately before that turn. The turn is usually indicated in semiquavers, but is played in whatever value of notes has been used in the trill.

b) In earlier music (up to and including Haydn and Mozart) it is generally intended that the trill should begin on the upper note of the two notes, which means that there will be an even number of notes and no triplet. 

c) When the trill occurs on a repeated note it will always begin with the upper note. 

In Summary, the purpose of these music ornaments (decoration notes) are to make the music more colorful and interesting. The way to perform it is all within its duration and needs to depend on the key signature/accidentals or tempo/speed. Have fun!

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