Here is an excerpt of Petzold's Menuett in G major and I stumbled upon a mordent which I don't know how to play. The fun fact is: The excerpt is from a beginner book where there is an explanation of how to play the mordent :) enter image description here

Regarding the right hand the mordent is placed on b, so I play the c and then the mordent. The mordent is explaint at the bottom of the book but beside the fact that it is awkward to play (first note of given bar is a c and the first "mordent" is also a c) it also looks wrong.

When I look the mordent up on wiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mordent I see the upper mordent here. Both the upper and lower mordent are however played with the original note first. In my case it would be h-c-h, which flows much better.

Now the gotcha is that the menuett was written somewhere in the lifetime of Petzold :), between 1677-1733 which was in the Baroque period. The same article above says that in this time a mordent was a lower mordent instead of an upper mordent. So I would play the h as h-a-h.

I'm fine with both however as I am a novice I cannot explain why the editor of the book "helped" me by showing something that rather looks like a trill and in my opinion is a tone higher as expected.

There is a german chart of Bach's ornaments (http://de.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Datei:Manieren.png&filetimestamp=20090112055252&) which confused me even more as I am unsure what the heck is what :)


1 Answer 1


As you say, a Baroque mordent is played H-A-H as you have it (for non-Germans among us, that is B-A-B) during the Baroque period. However, that isn't a mordent in your music, it's a short trill. A mordent has a vertical line through the mark, as both of your links show, and also as both of your links show, the trill begins a step up from the main note. It can be played as written in the note c) in your music.

Now, you will notice that the trill in your first link begins on the main note. This is typical of music from Beethoven's time onward, with some discussion about what was customary after 1750 or so. (Mordents began using the main-upper auxiliary-main format after 1700 or so, called sometimes "inverted mordents" for this reason.) In the Baroque period, the trill generally began on the auxiliary note, except when the previous note was the same as the auxiliary (which is the case in your music). Then you would sometimes see performers begin the trill on the main note, because as you say it flows better by avoiding a repeated note. You can leave out the first C in the trill if you like. Personally, I like to leave it in when I want to add a bit of an edge to the trill.

  • Sorry for the h, I mixed it up in the second run :). How ever when I check the mordent wiki link, it states that "The upper mordent is indicated by a short squiggle; the lower mordent is the same with a short vertical line through it". This is the source of my confusion as for me this looks like the upper mordent and not a short trill
    – Samuel
    Commented Mar 11, 2014 at 20:51
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    Yes, I can see why that's confusing. In Baroque usage, the squiggly line is played as written in your Petzold example, and the one with the line through it is played as in your Wikipedia article. The Wikipedia article is addressing 19th-century usage, which was different. See this for a 19th-century essay on the subject, which should prove enlightening.
    – BobRodes
    Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 19:04
  • I myself played this as a quaver triplet h-c-h because if flows better. However, you might want to try a more baroque way could be playing semiquavers c-h-c-h. Actually I think that would be the correct way, the trill in your note example looks impractically fast and a bit awkward rhythmically. Of course it depends on your tempo - I liked to play this pretty fast.
    – traitor
    Commented Mar 13, 2014 at 18:27
  • @traitor: if the previous note to the one with the trill is a step above, it was perfectly common Baroque practice to begin on the main note. This is such a situation, so neither way is "more Baroque" to a 1720 ear. As far as we all know, of course. On the other hand, it may well sound "more Baroque" to a 2014 ear to start on the upper note.
    – BobRodes
    Commented Mar 13, 2014 at 20:48
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    You're right. Play c-h-c-h if you want more tension (it's a bit like a suspended chord) and h-c-h or just h if you want a better flow. However I think the trill in the pic doesn't sound as good and is a bit too fast especially for a beginner.
    – traitor
    Commented Mar 14, 2014 at 6:33

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