In prelude BWV 924, the bar 3 ornament is, as far as I can see, abcbcbab. However, it first shows a b before the ornament. Do I play the b then the ornament or not?

  • 1
    It would be good if you provide an image of what you're referring to. W won't really know what edition you are looking at. Also it would be more convenient for future readers than to have to hunt it down. You can take a screenshot with the print screen key and cut out the section in ms paint. Jan 7, 2017 at 18:03

1 Answer 1


The ornament takes up the complete note, and its first note is A as you said. You don't play the written B "before" playing the ornament. See the start of the second row in Bach's well-known "table of ornaments" below:

enter image description here

In baroque and early classical music, many ornaments don't begin with the written note. In Bach's table, the only one which does start with the written note is the "mordant".

  • So why is the b there if you don't play it? Is it a clue to what the ornament should be? Is there a rule(apart from the list of ornaments you showed) or Do different great artists have their own way?
    – user33232
    Jan 7, 2017 at 20:04
  • "So why is the b there if you don't play it?" - Sorry, I don't understand what you mean. Just writing the ornament symbol without any note wouldn't mean much. "Is there a rule..." there are many contemporary books containing whole sections on how to perform ornaments - and many of them contradict each other. However BWV924 was most likely written to teach a pupil the basics, so it's reasonable to assume Bach wanted the pupil to play it with the ornaments as written. Most ornaments in Baroque music were not written in the score at all, but not playing them is historically incorrect.
    – user19146
    Jan 7, 2017 at 20:18
  • The ornament starts with an A, not a B. There's a B there but my ornament description is as above
    – user33232
    Jan 7, 2017 at 21:19
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    @user33232: The b is the "real" note, the note that should be played if there were no ornament, ie. the note which makes sense harmonically. Jan 7, 2017 at 23:20
  • That now make sense but one more question: why would Bach write the B even if it's not harmonically "right"? I am studying him to understand music to its roots and I am guessing the B is there to suffice the rules of music but sometimes it's doesn't sound quite right therefore he changed it for a better, more articulate sound?
    – user33232
    Jan 8, 2017 at 8:51

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