I've played piano for three years and have never seen this symbol above a note, what is it?

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Really freaked me out when I saw something this uncommon in a beginner song. It's piano solo music if you need that info.

  • 3
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mordent Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 23:48
  • 2
    It's hardly "uncommon." For a handy reference, check out dolmetsch.com/musicalsymbols.htm Commented Jan 5, 2016 at 12:17
  • This (Menuet in G) is arguably the most famous piece from the Anna Magdalena Bach notebook, found in pretty much every student series. Many of these versions leave out the mordent markings, and it's acceptable not to play them. Especially if you're a beginner.
    – BobRodes
    Commented Jan 7, 2016 at 5:04

2 Answers 2


This indicates a lower mordent -- a decoration of the note that involves starting on the indicated note, rapidly toggling down to a lower auxiliary note, and then returning to the principal (written) note. The exact rate of the decoration is context dependent, but might be played like so:

lower mordent written out

(n.b. this specific interpretation was taken from the linked wiki page).

Note the vertical line through the symbol -- this is what indicates a lower mordent; the squiggle without the line would be an upper mordent.

Typically, the auxiliary note is a semi-tone below the principle note, though exceptions occur if the preceding/following note is itself a full tone below the principle, or if the principal note is the 3rd or the 7th of the (current) scale; c.f. this question, or this section of Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians.


It is a [lower] mordent, which is related to a trill. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Baroque_Trill_Instructions.png or https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trill_(music) or https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mordent for details.

  • 9
    StackExchange strongly recommends writing out the explanation in your answer, not just providing a link. Commented Jan 5, 2016 at 12:18

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