Ornament Music Glossary
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In music, ornaments are musical flourishes that are not necessary to carry the overall line of the melody (or harmony), but serve instead to decorate or "ornament" that line. Many ornaments are performed as "fast notes" around a central note. The amount of ornamentation in a piece of music can vary from quite extensive (it was often so in the Baroque period) to relatively little or even none. The word agrément is used specifically to indicate the French Baroque style of ornamentation. A very important function of the ornamentation in early and baroque keyboard music was as a way of creating a longer sustain of the note on a harpsichord, clavichord, or virginal, such instruments being unable to sustain a long note in the same manner as a pipe organ.
In the baroque period, it was common for performers to improvise ornamentation on a given melodic line. A singer performing a da capo aria, for instance, would sing the melody relatively unornamented the first time, but decorate it with additional flourishes the second time. Improvised ornamentation continues to be part of the Irish musical tradition, particularly in sean-nós singing but also throughout the wider tradition as performed by the best players.
Ornamentation may also be indicated by the composer. A number of standard ornaments (described below) are indicated with standard symbols in music notation, while other ornamentations may be appended to the staff in small notes, or simply written out normally. Frequently, a composer will have his or her own vocabulary of ornaments, which will be explained in a preface, much like a code. A grace note is a note written in smaller type, with or without a slash through it, to indicate that its note value does not count as part of the total time value of the measure. Alternatively, the term may refer more generally to any of the small notes used to mark some other ornament, or in association with some other ornament’s indication, regardless of the timing used in the execution.
In Spain, these ornaments were called "diferenzias", and can be traced back to the early 16th century, when the first books with music for the guitar were produced.
Ornaments are a frequent embellishment to music. Sometimes different symbols represent the same ornament, or vice versa. Different ornament names can refer to an ornament from a specific area or time period. Understanding these ornaments is important for historically informed performance and understanding the subtleties of different types of music. This list is intended to give basic information on ornaments, with description and illustrations where possible.
Accent can refer to any stressed note, however it was used to indicate an ornament until the 18th century. In German Baroque music it occurs in J. S. Bach's ornament tables as a stressed appoggiatura, indicated by a half circle or "C" in front of a note. This ornament was continued in French Baroque ornament tables.
Accent und Trillo, German, used mainly by Bach, a trill prepared by an accented note. Generally indicated by a trill sign (jagged line) with a descending line at the beginning.
Accento (pl. accenti) Italian, extremely popular vocal ornament, used in the late Renaissance and early Baroque, Lodovico Zacconi and Giovanni Battista Bovicelli, Giulio Caccini was a big proponent of its use. Consists of a dotted figure used to fill in or expand an interval or connect two longer notes. Generally improvised or written out literally.
Appoggiatura in Italian, in French appoggiature and German Vorschlag. An accented dissonant note, followed by a consonant resolution, generally by step downward. Very common in recitative, particularly in Baroque and Classical music. May be notated or improvised.
Accentuirte Brechung German, a broken chord with an added passing tone. Used by Bach, described by Marpurg and Kirnberger, similar to the French coulé. Sometimes indicated by a slash between two noteheads.
Acciaccatura Italian; French - pincé étouffé; German - Zusammenschlag.
Andolan - In Hindustani music andolan (Hindi: आंदोलन) as a specific form of ornamentic (alankar) is a gentle oscillation around a note, touching the periphery of an adjacent note as well as shrutis in between. The notes (andolit swars) used for andolan depend on the raga.
Arpeggio - In music, an arpeggio (plural arpeggi or arpeggios, or known as a broken chord) is Italian for broken chord where the notes are played or sung in sequence, one after the other, rather than ringing out simultaneously. This word comes from the Italian word "arpeggiare" , which means "to play on a harp". Formed from scales, the arpeggio is based on the relative scale playing the "key" notes or those affected by the key signature.
Cambiata has a number of different and related meanings. Generally it refers to a pattern in a homophonic or polyphonic (and usually contrapuntal) setting where a note is skipped from in one direction and this is followed by motion in the opposite direction, and where either the note skipped from is distinguished as a dissonance or the note skipped to is distinguished as a non-harmonic or non-chordal tone. With regards to pedagogical, species counterpoint, it refers to a more specific set of patterns.
Changing tones - In music, changing tones (also double neighboring tones and neighbor group) consists of two consecutive nonchord tones. The first moves up by a step from a chord tone, skips down to another non chord tone, and then resolves to the original chord tone. Changing tones appear to resemble two consecutive neighbor tones: an upper neighbor and a lower neighbor with the chord tone missing from the middle. The changing tone functions as a way to decorate or embellish a chord tone.
Finger vibrato - Finger vibrato is vibrato produced on a string instrument by cyclic hand movements. Despite the name, normally the entire hand moves, and sometimes the entire upper arm. It can also refer to vibrato on some woodwind instruments, achieved by lowering one or more fingers over one of the uncovered holes in a trill-like manner. This flattens the note periodically creating the vibrato.
Gamaka (music) - Gamaka, also known as gamak or gamakam, refers to ornamentation that is used in the performance of Indian classical music. The unique character of each raga is given by its gamakas, making their role essential rather than decorative in Indian music. Nearly all Indian musical treatises have a section dedicated to describing, listing and characterising gamakas. The term "gamaka" itself means "ornamented note" in Sanskrit. Gamaks involve the variation of pitch of a note, using heavy forceful oscillations between adjacent and distant notes. Each raga has standard rules on the types of gamaks that might be applied to specific notes, and the types that may not. Various commentators on Indian music have mentioned different numbers of gamaks. For example, Sarangdeva describes fifteen gamaks, Narada in Sangeet Makarand describes nineteen gamaks, and Haripala in Sangeet Sudhakar describes seven gamaks.
Glissando - In music, a glissando (plural: glissandi, abbreviated gliss.) is a glide from one pitch to another. It is an Italianized musical term derived from the French glisser, to glide. In some contexts it is distinguished from the continuous portamento. Some colloquial equivalents are slide, sweep (referring to the 'discreet glissando' effects on guitar & harp respectively), bend, slide, or 'smear'.
Ornament (music) - In music, ornaments are musical flourishes that are not necessary to carry the overall line of the melody (or harmony), but serve instead to decorate or "ornament" that line. Many ornaments are performed as "fast notes" around a central note. The amount of ornamentation in a piece of music can vary from quite extensive (it was often so in the Baroque period) to relatively little or even none. The word agrément is used specifically to indicate the French Baroque style of ornamentation. A very important function of the ornamentation in early and baroque keyboard music was as a way of creating a longer sustain of the note on a harpsichord, clavichord, or virginal, such instruments being unable to sustain a long note in the same manner as a pipe organ.
Hammer-on - Hammer-on is a stringed instrument playing technique performed (especially on fretted string instruments such as guitar) by sharply bringing a fretting-hand finger down on the fingerboard behind a fret, causing a note to sound. This technique is the opposite of the pull-off. Passages in which a large proportion of the notes are performed as hammer-ons and pull-offs instead of being plucked or picked in the usual fashion are known in classical guitar terminology as legato phrases. The sound is smoother and more connected than in a normally picked phrase, due to the absence of the otherwise necessity to synchronize the plucking of one hand with the fingering on the fretboard with the other hand; however, the resulting sounds are not as brightly audible, precisely due to the absence of the plucking of the string, the vibration of the string from an earlier plucking dying off. The technique also facilitates very fast playing because the picking hand does not have to move at such a high rate, and coordination between the hands only has to be achieved at certain points. Multiple hammer-ons and pull-offs together are sometimes also referred to colloquially as "rolls", a reference to the fluid sound of the technique. A hammer-on is usually represented in guitar tablature (especially that created by computer) by a letter h. A rapid series of alternating hammer-ons and pull-offs between a single pair of notes is called a trill.
Interval - The distance between two notes
L'istesso tempo - The same tempo. (The tempo remains as before, after a change was made)
Meend - In Hindustani music meend (Hindi: मींड) refers to a glide from one note to another. It is an essential performance practice and used often in both vocal and instrumental music.
Mordent - In music, a mordent is an ornament indicating that the note is to be played with a single rapid alternation with the note above or below. Like trills, they can be chromatically modified by a small flat, sharp or natural accidental. The term comes from the Latin mordere, meaning "to bite." The mordent is thought of as a rapid single alternation between an indicated note, the note above (the upper mordent) or below (the lower mordent) and the indicated note again.
Neighbor group - In music, changing tones (also double neighboring tones and neighbor group) consists of two consecutive nonchord tones. The first moves up by a step from a chord tone, skips down to another non chord tone, and then resolves to the original chord tone. Changing tones appear to resemble two consecutive neighbor tones: an upper neighbor and a lower neighbor with the chord tone missing from the middle. The changing tone functions as a way to decorate or embellish a chord tone.
Portamento is a musical term originated from the Italian expression "portamento della voce" (carriage of the voice), denoting from the beginning of the 17th century a vocal slide between two pitches and its emulation by members of the violin family and certain wind instruments, and is sometimes used interchangeably with anticipation. It is also applied to one type of glissando as well as to the "glide" function of synthesizers. (see main article glissando).
Pull-off - A pull-off is a stringed instrument technique performed by plucking a string by "pulling" the string off the fingerboard with one of the fingers being used to fret the note.
Rubato or Tempo rubato (Italian stolen time) is a musical term referring to expressive and rhythmic freedom by a slight speeding up and then slowing down of the tempo of a piece at the discretion of the soloist or the conductor. Rubato is an expressive shaping of music that is a part of phrasing.
[...] this loose term "rubato." It describes the practice of playing with expressive and rhythmic freedom. Specifically "tempo rubato" [...] some time is "robbed" from one passage or group of notes and given to another.
Tremolo or tremolando, is a musical term that describes various trembling effects, falling roughly into two types. The first is a rapid reiteration
Trill (music) (or shake, as it was known from the 16th till the 19th century) is a musical ornament consisting of a rapid alternation between two adjacent notes, usually a semitone or tone apart, which can be identified with the context of the trill. (compare mordent and tremolo). It is sometimes referred to by the German triller, the Italian trillo, the French trille or the Spanish trino.
Sometimes it is expected that the trill will end with a turn (by sounding the note below rather than the note above the principal note, immediately before the last sounding of the principal note), or some other variation. Such variations are often marked with a few Appoggiaturas following the note that bears the trill indication.
Turn - A short figure consisting of the note above the one indicated, the note itself, the note below the one indicated, and the note itself again. It is marked by a mirrored S-shape lying on its side above the staff. The details of its execution depend partly on the exact placement of the turn mark. The exact speed at which the notes of a turn are executed can vary, as can its rhythm. The question of how a turn is best executed is largely one of context, convention, and taste. The lower and upper added notes may or may not be chromatically raised (see mordent). An inverted turn (the note below the one indicated, the note itself, the note above it, and the note itself again) is usually indicated by putting a short vertical line through the normal turn sign, though sometimes the sign itself is turned upside down.
Vibrato Italian, a fluctuation in pitch, volume, or both, generally applied to vocal music. Later used for left hand technique on bowed strings, and with breath vibrato on wind instruments. It is either used constantly or used as an ornament, depending on repertoire. When used as an ornament, it is generally improvised, although some 17th century English and French sources indicate a dot over a note should be used. Giuseppe Tartini discussed it as one of the four Graces. There are many terms which can be understood to refer to what is now called vibrato. It is believed that vibrato has been used in European music since medieval times, and went through several cycles of popularity.
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Published - February 2011