There's a technique I've seen used a lot in jazz, gospel, pop singing, etc. where someone will play a note and play a quick semitone up and back down into another note. Heres an audio example. Does this technique have a name? If so, what is it called? I've heard the term "mordent" before but I don't think that's what I'm talking about.

  • Is there any reason not to consider this a short trill?
    – yamex5
    Apr 16, 2021 at 21:33
  • 1
    Yes, because it doesn't consider of 2 notes repeated several times. Apr 16, 2021 at 22:39

4 Answers 4


One of the terms is "lower neighbor." This is a bit more general than terms as the lower neighbor need not be just an ornament. It's a non-chord tone played (usually a half-step) below the main tone. A mordent is the main note, a neighbor (upper or lower), and the main note again. ("Mordent" is used for one and "inverted mordent" for the other; different authors use the terms differently.)

The lower auxiliary can be used as an ornament or even be accented and be part of the melody without disturbing the underlying harmony.

  • Notes played are ABAG, DEDC, so no semitones used. Don't think there's a term for it, as the terms are from classical, and this isn't a classical trn.
    – Tim
    Apr 17, 2021 at 12:09

I'd say these are mordents, since they start and return to the same note. The audio example is closest to the first group in the picture.

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However, jazz has so many quick patterns that it might just be better to call them grace notes: enter image description here

  • 1
    A mordent goes corresponding to the actual scale. In my example I'm specifically talking about a quick semitone up.
    – user77466
    Apr 17, 2021 at 1:55
  • That's not what was played in the example. A quick semitone up is just called a grace note. Apr 17, 2021 at 2:49
  • 1
    That's not what I mean. Lets take C major, a mordent on D would go up to E. But in my example the D goes up to an Eb. Would that still be a mordent if it is a semitone instead of a whole tone?
    – user77466
    Apr 18, 2021 at 3:07

The classical term is "mordents" but jazz musicians usually call these embellishments "turns". Often the higher note, is a semitone higher than the main, and the following note one step lower, but there are other possible constellations.


Those are called grace notes.

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