Ornament

Musical Term
Definition
Meaning
Example
Type
A short grace note before an essential melodic note

Acciaccatura is a type of ornamentation in music, generally consisting of one or two notes (grace notes), and only appearing in the main melody. In sheet music, the grace note(s) is denoted by a smaller size of eighth note(s) with a slash, and connected to the main note with a slur. When playing an acciaccatura, the grace note(s) is usually played quickly, as the main note is the emphasized note.

Acciaccatura is similar to appoggiatura, but acciaccatura emphasizes the main note, while appoggiatura emphasizes the grace note.

Ornament
An embellishing note preceding an essential melodic note

Appoggiatura is a type of ornamentation in music, generally consisting of one or two notes (grace notes), and only appearing in the main melody. In sheet music, the grace note(s) is denoted by a smaller size of eighth note(s), and connected to the main note with a slur.

Appoggiatura is similar to acciaccatura, but appoggiatura emphasizes the grace note, while acciaccatura emphasizes the main note.

Ornament
A broken chord with ascending or descending order

Arpeggiation generally refers to a kind of broken chord that the notes are played in succession, either ascending or descending. Arpeggiation can also be used as an ornament, marked by a vertical wavy line. When arpeggiation is used as an ornament, it is typically played at a fast tempo.

There are two common ways to indicate different types of arpeggiations (ornament):

  • Ascending arpeggiation: marked by a vertical wavy line (sometimes with an arrowhead pointing upward at the top), indicating that the arpeggio should be played from low to high.
  • Descending arpeggiation: marked by a vertical wavy line with an arrowhead pointing downward at the bottom, indicating that the arpeggio should be played from high to low.
Ornament
To slide from one pitch to another

Glissando refers to a rapid ascending or descending scale. It is played differently by different instruments.

For piano or harp, a glissando does not produce the sound of each semitone, as the fingers only move over the white keys on the piano or the available scales on the harp.

For string instruments (such as the violin or erhu), each semitone is produced as the finger moves up or down the position of the string or by pressing each note individually.

For brass instruments, excluding trombone, the fingers must press each note individually. The trombone, however, does not have a key mechanism, and performing a glissando involves controlling the length of the slide.

The common abbreviation for Glissando is "Gliss."

Ornament
A non-essential musical note that serves primarily as an ornamentation

Grace Note is a non-essential musical note that serves primarily as an ornamentation. It can be composed of one or more notes, and is usually marked in sheet music with a smaller size of note(s). Grace notes can be further categorized into acciaccatura and appoggiatura, each with their own distinct playing techniques.

Ornament
A rapid alternation with the note below

Inverted Mordent (or Lower Mordent) is an ornamentation that is used in melody parts. It is created by the rapid alternation of the main note with an lower auxiliary note with the relationship between a whole step or half step. In general, Mordent typically starts with the main note, followed by the auxiliary note, and then returns to the main note. In sheet music, the more curved the Mordent notation is, the more alternations between the main note and the auxiliary note are required.

Ornament
A rapid alternation with the note above or below

A Mordent is an ornamentation that is used in melody parts. It is created by the rapid alternation of the main note with an upper auxiliary note (Upper Mordent) or a lower auxiliary note (Inverted Mordent/Lower Mordent), with the relationship between a whole step or half step. In general, Mordent typically starts with the main note, followed by the auxiliary note, and then returns to the main note. In sheet music, the more curved the Mordent notation is, the more alternations between the main note and the auxiliary note are required.

Ornament
A short grace note after an essential melodic note

Nachschlag, which means "after-beat" in German, is one of the ornamentation techniques in music. The playing technique of a nachschlag is similar to an appoggiatura, but with a difference: a nachschlag begins by playing the main note, followed by one or two auxiliary notes played after the main note. In contrast, an appoggiatura starts with the auxiliary note.

Ornament
To slide up to the main note

Slide is an ornamentation which indicating the note should be played from one or two steps below, and then slide up to the main note.

Ornament
A rapid repetition of a musical tone

Tremolo is a music performance technique. In which a individual note (or alternates between two notes) is played rapidly and repeatly, creating a trembling effect.

The word "tremolo" comes from Italian, meaning "trembling" or "shaking."

Ornament
A rapid alternation between two adjacent notes

Trill is a commonly used ornament where the main note and the auxiliary note above it are rapidly alternated. The auxiliary note can be a whole or a half step above the main note. In general, they need to be played as short as grace notes, creating a similar effect to the vibrato but emphasizing the alternation between the main note and the auxiliary note.

Ornament
An embellishment of a melodic note

Turn is one of the ornamentation techniques in music, similar to the trill. However, what distinguishes the turn from the trill is that it has a specific playing pattern: when playing a turn, the musician first plays a note higher than the main note, followed by the main note, then a note lower than the main note, and finally, return to the main note. In sheet music, the turn is marked with a symbol resembling a horizontally oriented "S", usually placed above the note it pertains to. The speed of the turn depends on the musical style and background.

Ornament
A rapid alternation with the note above

Upper Mordent is an ornamentation that is used in melody parts. It is created by the rapid alternation of the main note with an upper auxiliary note with the relationship between a whole step or half step. In general, Mordent typically starts with the main note, followed by the auxiliary note, and then returns to the main note. In sheet music, the more curved the Mordent notation is, the more alternations between the main note and the auxiliary note are required.

Ornament