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  • Chris Anderson

Music Revision - Music Periods - Baroque 6

Updated: Aug 7, 2023

In the previous blog we looked at compositional devices used in the Baroque period. In this blog we’ll look at ornaments.

What Is An Ornament?

At home you may have ornaments on your mantel piece. On a Christmas tree you’ll have tinsel and ornaments. With both these examples ornaments are used as decoration. Music is no exception. Ornaments were used to embellish or decorate music, especially during the Baroque period. Why? Well, keyboard instruments of the time (we’re talking harpsichord and clavichord here) were unable to play a sustained note. In order to get around this composers would ornament their music so that the effect of a sustained note could be produced. However, they were also used as decoration and there are several you’re likely to come across.

Acciaccatura - Simply put this is a crushed note. The small note is played very quickly just before the main note.


As you can hear in the audio the notated realisation of the ornament isn’t quite the same, but it gives you a good idea how it could be written if the ornament didn’t exist.

Appoggiatura - Similar to the acciaccatura only this time the small note leans into the main note taking up ½ its value, or ⅔ if it’s a dotted note)


Appoggiatura - Dotted Note

Arpeggiando - Simply put an arpeggio, though not to be confused with the exercise…but it is similar. The squiggly line tells the player to play each note individually, very quickly.


If there is a little arrow pointing down that tells you to play the arpeggio from the top to the bottom.

Arpeggio Down

Mordent - This is like a short trill. You play the main note, the note above, then the main note again. It happens very quickly.


When a composer wants you to play the note below the same effect is produced only this time it’s called an inverted mordent.

Inverted Mordent

Trill - Also known as a shake. This is where the note above the main note and the main note are played alternating between the two rapidly. If the composer wants you to play the note below they’ll put a little flat sign above the symbol. In our example I’ve used the tr with a wiggly line, however it is acceptable to just use tr.


Turn - A turn consists of four notes. The note above, the main note, the note below, the main note. In our example I’ve notated it as if it was a slow turn, but if the main note is say a crotchet, the turn will be that much quicker. Essentially a turn is the playing of four notes into the space of the main note (4 quavers in a minim, 4 semiquavers in a crotchet, etc.)


When a composer wants you to play the turn starting on the note below it is called an inverted turn.

Inverted Turn

NB the inverted turn actually has three symbols all meaning the same thing, however my preference is for the one demonstrated above as it is easier to spot. For reference here are the other two…

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