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victoria Williams Music Theory

Victoria Williams

LmusTCL BA Mus (Hons) MISM

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13. Ornaments and Foreign Terms

Grade 4 Music Theory Lesson 13: Ornaments & Foreign Musical Terms


Ornaments are symbols that tell the player to change the written note in a specific way. Some ornaments are written on the stave itself, while others are written above it. Ornaments are never written below the stave.

In the grade four exam, you need to be able to recognise and name the following ornaments:

  • trill
  • turn
  • upper mordent
  • lower mordent
  • acciaccatura
  • appoggiatura

(Try to learn how to spell them correctly too! The last two are the hardest - try to remember which letters are doubled!)

You need to learn each ornament's symbol, name and how it is written out. In the grade four exam you won't have to write out ornaments in full yourself, (you have to do that at grade six!), but you might be asked to name an ornament from looking at its written out type, instead of its symbol.


Symbol Name Description of symbol How it Sounds
trill Trill "tr" (often with a wavy line)  trill
turn Turn Like a backwards "s" on its side turn in full
upper mordent Upper Mordent Short zigzag upper mordent in full
lower mordent Lower Mordent Short zigzag with a line through lower mordent in full
acciaccatura Acciaccatura Small sized quaver with a line through its tail acciaccatura in full
appoggiatura Appoggiatura Small sized note (usually a crotchet) appoggiatura in full


Musical Terms

You need to know ALL the terms and symbols from grades one, two and three, plus these new ones:


Italian Terms
affettuoso tenderly
affrettando hurrying
amabile/amiable    pleasant
appassionato passionately
calando dying away
cantando singing
come as, similar to
come prima as before
come sopra as above
facile easy
fuoco fire
giusto proper, exact
l'istesso the same
l'istesso tempo at the same speed
morendo dying away
niente nothing
nobilmente nobly
perdendosi dying away
possibile possible
quasi as, resembling
sonoro resonant, with a rich sound
sopra above
sotto below
sotto voce in an undertone
tempo giusto in strict time
veloce swift
voce voice


French Terms
a to, at
animé animated, lively
assez enough
avec with
cédez yield, relax the speed
douce sweet
en dehors prominent (make the melody stand out)
en pressant   hurrying on
et and
légèrement lightly
lent slow
mais but
modéré at a moderate speed
moins less
non not
peu little
plus more
presser hurry
ralentir slow down
retenu held back, slowing a little
sans without
très very
un, une one
vif lively
vite quick



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