This month Charlie Griffiths continues his series on sight reading with a look at special ornaments used to add extra colour to musical phrases.
Charlie Griffiths on the use of ornaments.
This month we will add some symbols which can be assigned to any note to add interest to melodies without necessarily having to write in more notes; this originates from classical composers such as Bach or Chopin who were prone to writing ornate melodies, but who developed a kind of short-hand to keep the page cleaner.
we will start with three methods of embellishing melodies with trills, mordents and turns. secondly we will see how appoggiaturas and acciaccaturas are used to precede written melodic pitches with different types of grace notes. Finally we will use glissandos to slide smoothly between melody notes.
Trills are a common ornamentation on the guitar involving rapidly alternating between two notes. A simple tr. written above the note to be trilled is the generally accepted method of indicating this technique. The duration of the trill is indicated by the note value itself, but the speed of alternation is essentially left to the musician to decide. The written pitch of the note is always assumed to be the lower note of the two trilled notes and the higher note is either a semitone or a tone, depending on what is diatonically appropriate.
A ‘mordent’ is shown as a short horizontal zig-zag line above the note and is similar to a trill in that it involves a rapid alternation between the written pitch and an adjacent higher diatonic note, but only happens once at the beginning of the written pitch. on the guitar this is typically played as a quick hammer-on and pull-off. A ‘turn’ is shown as a wavy horizontal line similar to an ’s’ and is essentially a more complex ‘mordent’. in the case of a ‘turn’, the single written note actually becomes a sequence of five adjacent notes; after playing the initial note, go up to the next scale tone, then return to the original pitch, then go down a scale note and finally return to where you started. Placing a short vertical line through the centre of the mordent and turn symbol reverses the sequence of notes.
The next two ornamentations are commonly referred to as ‘grace’ notes on the guitar and are very commonly used when quickly sliding into, or hammering-on to, a note. ‘Acciaccatura’ is from the italian verb ‘to crush’; appropriately enough the idea is to squeeze in a quick extra note before an existing written one. They are shown on the notation as small quaver notes with diagonal lines through them and are intended to be played a fraction of a beat before the main note, although technically they have no exact mathematical value.
The ‘appoggiatura’ looks similarly small but does not have a diagonal line ‘crossing out’ the quaver note. in this case, the grace note starts on the beat and lasts for exactly half the duration of the note it precedes.
Finally we have the glissando symbol - a wavy line between two notes. This indicates a gradual, continuous glide from one note to the next - slide a finger up or down the string, or use the whammy bar to control the pitch. A ‘gliss’ is slower and more deliberate than a slide which is a little quicker.
Remember to test your reading skills by looking at other articles in GT too!
NEXT MONTH: Charlie continues on his quest to get you Reading Music
Trills are a common guitar ornamentation and involve rapidly alternating between two notes.
Trills, mordents and grace notes: common in guitar playing
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