I want to include an ornament in my sheet music notation but I am not sure if it should be a trill or a turn. Perhaps someone could tell me which is better. This piece is 4/4 time in C major.

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So, this is the bar in question with the first 16th note on the 3rd beat notated as a trill. Here is what my midi looks like. Those short notes F E F G are 32nd notes.

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If this was a trill wouldn't the notes just be alterations of F and E? So that is why I am guessing this is technically a turn? If I did use a turn instead, how would that be notated?

2 Answers 2


When I look closer at your MIDI roll, you actually played the ornamented F4 plus the following G4 16 note as almost-equal four 32th notes (F4-E4-F4-G4) ! Thus, if you want the pianist to play the passage closer to your MIDI roll, then I advise you to write it out instead as F4-E4-F4-G4 in 32nd notes, as @Peter also suggested.

Let's review the alternative ornaments:

  1. A pianist looking at that trill will play G4-F4-G4-F4 as 64th notes. Again, this may not be what you want. Also, very rarely composers use the trill sign when a mordent suffices, at least in modern editions of piano music. On your question about 3 different pitches, yes, depending on the surrounding notes, a trill can have a turn at the beginning or at the end, to connect the trill better to the previous or to the next note. However, by convention, the trill sign is usually used when you want the pianist to play at least 2 repetitions of the 2 main notes, so in your piece, using the trill sign is not appropriate.

  2. Instead of the trill, you can put the inverted mordent sign (also called lower mordent) to have the pianist to play F4-E4-F4 as indicated in your MIDI roll, thus using the post-19th century meaning. When I see this ornament in a 20th century edition of my piano music, I always play it like that. BUT please note that a pianist executes an inverted mordent over the 16h note F4 this way: F4-E4 as 64th notes followed by F4 as 32th note, then the un-ornamented G4 at full value (16th note). So this may not be what you want.

  3. Let's now consider the turn ornament on the F4. A pianist would usually play it as G4-F4-E4-F4 as 64th notes (see also this article for 18 variations of how to play a turn). Even if you put an inverted turn over an 8th note G4 (see example 17 of that article) and drop the 2nd 16h note G4, the 4 notes will be of the right duration (32th) but have wrong pitches (F4-G4-A4-G4).

  4. If you must use an ornament, maybe the one closest to your intention would be to use appoggiatura: one F4 appoggiatura before E4 followed by another ascending F4 appoggiatura before G4. You will then obtain the side effect of the pianist playing a slight accent on each appoggiatura small notes (see example 2 here), if that is what you want, although I think you will be better of explicitly writing it out.


There is lots of variation in how ornaments are handled. My basic understand follows that given by J.S. Bach in the Klavierbüchlein für Wilhelm Friedemann Bach.

Trill starts on the tone above the notated pitch. Mordant starts on the notated pitch and goes to the lower tone.

Your piano scroll looks to be executing a mordant.

You probably should give key signature and tempo if you want more about how to ornament that note.

Anyway, can a trill have three notes?

  • yes, in the sense of notes as rhythm events and a long trill will have many repeats of the alternating tones, potentially many "notes" more than three.
  • also, there are lots of ornament varieties that are basically trills and mordants with various prefixes or endings that can cover three pitches.
  • I looked at the link and the mordant therein is just like a 32nd note lower or upper neighbor note. Mordants start on the note and can go up or down but they always come back before moving on. I know what I have in my post is not a mordant, thats for sure.
    – armani
    Commented Jul 8 at 20:57
  • Right, in Bach's list, the mordant is a quick lower neighbor. In you music in marked a trill on F4 but looking at your piano scroll, it is executed as a lower neighbor: F4 E4 F4. That's why I say it looks like a mordant... in the execution. Commented Jul 8 at 21:53
  • 1
    Depending on the speed of the passage the mordant would probably be played with the three notes F-E-F replacing the original F, with the following G getting its full value. It might be two 64ths and a 32nd, or it might be three triplet 32nds, again depending on speed. If you want exactly what you have in the piano roll you would be best to write it out.
    – Peter
    Commented Jul 9 at 0:25

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