Thursday, June 8th, 2023

Embellishments – Foundation and Guidelines – Part 24d


Embellishments – Foundation and Guidelines – Part 24d

Foundation and Guidelines - Ornaments in Music - Article HeaderScales in Music – a Tonal System

Music Theory Level 3

Embellishments – Foundation and Guidelines – Part 24d

Establishing a foundation and guidelines for the use of embellishments is as necessary as the cement foundation used when building a new home, an office building, a factory or a temple. Without the foundation the building would not stand. The same holds true for limitations when set forth as guidelines and used to focus one’s attention on the things of importance.

The world has changed so much over the years. So many “rules” and impositions are being placed on all of us these days that setting down more just didn’t settle to well with me. As a consequence, I must admit, that I struggled with the title of this article Embellishments – Foundation and Guidelines – Part 24d for quite some time. In fact, including the article within the series on embellishments was not initially intended for this very reason, until I realized that the information was simply too important to discard or to not include within the mini-series.

I also wanted this article to be brief and precise and as complete as was necessary to provide as broad a foundation as I could or was able and to offer some guidelines for using the embellishments. I believe this goal has been accomplished.

The Embellishments – The Foundation and Guidelines

Before continuing our presentations on embellishments, we must first lay out some basic guidelines which provide a background and which establishes the very foundation necessary for the study of them. The following details will provide this foundation enabling a better understanding of the embellishments and the practice of ornamentation as used in music composition.

Foundation and Guidelines for the Use of Embellishments

1. That within the melody of a composition there is always a musical tone that can be embellished.

2. That the embellishment although considered to be a device capable of affect multiple tones within a melody that an ornament is actually and directly affecting only one tone and that is its principal tone.

3. That each principal tone has a total of four tones which are immediately adjacent to the principal tone. These are called auxiliary tones.

4. That the auxiliary tones may be a major or minor second interval “away” from the principal tone.

5. That the four auxiliary tones can be either higher or lower than the principal tone.

6. That any number of tones can be used within a single ornament.

7. That the tones which comprise the ornament sound either before or after the principal tone.

8. That the principal tone can be included in the tones which comprise the ornament.

9. That the tones within the ornament “borrow” time from either the preceding or the following principal tones.

With the foregoing guidelines in mind, it is also necessary to know that embellishments influence any or all of the following four aspects of music.

Melody – where the embellishment is either an upper or lower auxiliary tone or both.

Rhythm – where the embellishing tone is the same as the principal tone such as when using the tremolo.

Harmony – where the embellishment tone is above or below or both and is more than one degree away from the principal tone.

Harmony and Rhythm – as in the rapid alternation of the included harmonic tones.

An additional point needs to be made which involves the term accent as defined as an emphasis, significance or of a higher degree of importance. In this context, any of the tones which make up the embellishment can be stressed over the other related and included tones within the embellishment. Keep in mind musicality.

The foregoing presentations establishes the foundation and guidelines for using embellishments. Each of the guidelines are important and they should be considered when you use them while composing music. The remainder of the articles within the embellishment mini-series will use these guidelines in practice.


This concludes Embellishments – Foundation and Guidelines – Part 24d. Up next is the introduction of smooth graces.

Please proceed to Embellishments – The Smooth Graces – Part 24e.

Embellishments – Foundation and Guidelines – Part 24d

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