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Classical Guitar Lessons: Trills and Ornamentation

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This is a short lesson on
ornamentation and trills.
Ornamentation is something that we
encounter particularly in nineteenth
century music by Sor and Giuliani.
And a pretty healthy amount of it in music
of the baroque area.
For example Bach lute suites or or cello
And it's, it's really with the baroque era
that we, you know,
most students sort of find that they have
more questions than answers about,
about ornamentation and what they mean and
what the different markings mean.
So I'm just going to clear up that a
little bit for you.
If you have a good reference copy for this
lesson and a good thing to
own in general is a the Frank Koonce
edition of the Bach Lute Suites.
Because there's a very thorough
explanation of, of ornamentation and
stylistic matters when playing baroque
And but, and also for the purposes of this
lesson I'd like to use the allemande from
the third lute suite to illustrate various
types of, of ornamentation and trills.
So I will play the first part of the
phrase, the first phrase,
from the it's measures one, I'll start
from the beginning and
go to the down beat of measure three, only
playing what the,
the ornamentation that's printed on the,
on the score.
So we have two markings there.
And the downbeat of measure two we see an
In this case, a very small, small type B.
And slurred onto a C.
Half note, in the melody.
So the opositora was an affect,
a musical affectation in the baroque era
meant to convey a sighing kind of effect.
And so, actually the dynamically stronger
note, ironically,
is written with the very small note head.
And so you kind of lean on that
dynamically and
it gives it that sighing effect and then
just an ascending slur
very naturally performs the sighing effect
on to the,
to the C which is the principle note or
the big, big note head.
Um,you can also have the an opositora
coming from the upper note or the note
above C in this instance.
And then of course you would just perform
that with a,
with a very gentle pull off, or descending
In the fourth beat of measure two we see
the trill marking,
in this case you see it as marked as TR
above the melody note.
So this means you're just to trill the
stem up note,
sometimes you'll also see kind of like a,
a crinkle cut french fry looking thing
instead of tr or like the the zig zag
it looks like kind of the zig zag pattern
on Charlie Brown's shirt.
The black stripe on, on his yellow shirt.
And that trill is played like this in
baroque practice if you
look at the fourth beat there and you see
G sharp.
In baroque practice you are to go a note
above G sharp, like this.
And then play two shakes,
what they call two shakes sometimes is
fine like one, two.
Like that, is sufficient.
The nature of trills is, you can make them
longer if you like as well, so
you don't always have to do them exactly
the same way.
If you have enough time, like in a slow
you can even do that, that's a cross
string trill.
Now that's a more advanced move and
But that's done, I'll show you the
fingering for a cross-string trill within
the context of that harmony, a trill mark
over G sharp over an E,
major chord or E down in seventh chord.
In this instance you would play.
So that fingering for the cross-string
trill is A.
A on the upper note, in this case A.
I on the lower note G sharp.
M on the upper note A.
P on the lower note, and that's the cycle.
And so that's, an example of a longer
trill, if you have the time.
And when you're working with
you want to determine how much time you
actually have to get in, and
that will determine the number of, cycles
that you can, you can put in.
A mordant.
Let's look at a mordant.
I'm gonna, I'm going to fashion a mordant
on the downbeat of measure five.
A mordant has a kind of a squiggle with a
little line through the center of it.
I'll play measure four, going into the
downbeat of measure five.
And then I'm gonna put a mordent on the
melody C note of the downbeat of
measure five.
And it's not printed on this particular
edition, I'm just ornamenting that note.
[SOUND] With a mordent.
And the mordent, you play the note
written, the note head that's written.
[SOUND] And very, in slow motion.
[SOUND] You descend slur, descending slur
to the neighboring note below,
in this case B, because of the key of A
[SOUND] And then you ascending slur back
up to C.
All in one quick gesture.
Like that, that's a mordant.
Let's take that same note and then apply a
turn to it.
Now, a turn is a kind of a symbol that
looks like this,
kind of a little like a curl.
Not unlike the symbol that you would see
above an n.
To produce the nu sound in Spanish, like
in jalapeno?
I think, yeah, like a jalapeno has that
symbol of the n.
And it looks just like that.
Now a turn is a little bit more complex.
And this sort of sound like what the words
So if I play again for measure four,
I'll play slowly into the downbeat of
measure five.
Were gonna put a turn, and on the downbeat
of measure five.
Like that.
So you go, you start on the principal
note, the note that's printed and
go up to D, down to A, keep going down to
the neighbor,
the lower neighbor, B, and then back up
your C to finish.
So C, D, C, B, C.
All in one slur, not re-articulated with
the right hand.
There we go, like that.
So that's an example of the turn, and
those are the basic, ornamentations that
you do on notes.
There's also the, issue of ornamenting on
repeats of dance suites.
And I'm using Bach as an example because I
play all the lute suites and
a lot of, you know, some of the violin
repertoire, and the cello repertoire.
And in these dance suites that are mainly
in the cello repertoire and
the lute repertoire.
The dance suites, it's customary to alter,
to augment the repeat of the first or
second half of your dance suite.
Now not to over simplify it, but I like to
just give a healthy balance if you will.
I love applying ornamentation because it
gives the,
the piece a more of a improvisatory feel.
But I like to have a small catalogue of
many different possibilities so that I
don't have to play all the ornaments the
same way every time I perform the piece.
But I do like to have this balance of what
I call trill-like ornaments and
melodic ornaments, or an ornamentation
that maybe will.
Melodically fill in a gap of notes,
like a, let's say a melodic gap that spans
a fifth.
If I have time and it sounds muse
musically right,
I may fill in the, the, the open fifth
with the rest of the notes in between.
And I'll give you an example of that, of
melodic ornamentation right here.
When I play the second half,
when I play the repeat of the first half
of the allemand.
And, and the part that we're listening for
is the,
is the last, is the last beat of measure
Last beat of measure four,
it's printed here.
I'll play measure four actually.
And listen for the last beat of measure
four as printed on the score,
no ornamentation.
Now, for a melodic, a more melodic type of
ornamentation on that.
I might, I like this one where I change
the rhythm of the fourth
beat to a 16th beat on sixtoplet and I
play this.
So what I'm doing there is
instead of playing D,C,D,B,
I'm playing a sextuplet of
So it's a way of ornamenting that sounds
melodic and,
and that way it kind of varies your, your
from always doing like, mordance and
And, and
turns and
and trills.
Which are basically more or less
ornamenting on one note.
With melodic ornamentation, you can, you
can actually get more
creative and fill out some of these spaces
with a lot of different notes.
What's another one we can do here?
Let's see if we look around here.
There is another one that I do where I
sort of fill in a larger leap melodically,
it's in the first measure in fact.
Here we go, so the first measures printed
like this.
Now on the repeat,
I like to play, I like to take that fourth
You'll see the fourth beat the melody is E
going, leaping down a fourth to a B.
Well, I like to fill out the space in
between with, and
make just a four sixteenths notes
E D C B in straight sixteenth notes.
Very simple.
I'm just filling out the space there, and
that sounds like this.
I'll play it once
again a little slower so
you can really hear it, like that.
It's just a very easy simple way to vary
your repeats,
on these first and second halves of your
baroque dance movements.
So, I hope that will give you some ideas
about ornamentation, and trills,
and maybe clear up some of the mystery
behind some of these trill passages.