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.
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 In Italian; French - pincé étouffé; German - Zusammenschlag.
Trill German - Triller, Italian - trillo, Spanish - trinado, a rapid alternation in pitch, generally from a main pitch and one a step or half-step above or below it. There can be differently-named variations within this general type.
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.
Warble. A distinctive ornament of some Native American flutes, particularly traditional flutes, that is created by steady breath pressure on the fundamental note of the instrument. A phase shift occurs between different harmonics of the note, an effect that can be observed on a spectrograph of the sound of a warbling flute.
If a full citation is not given, no author was given for the Grove article.
Kenneth Kreitner (1), Louis Jambou (2), Desmond Hunter (3), Stewart A. Carter (4), Peterwalls (5), Kah-Ming Ng (6–7), David Schulenberg (8), Clive Brown (9–10). "Ornaments", Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy (accessed March 23 2007), grovemusic.com (subscription access).