How do you play these mordents with the sharp underneath them? Usually that would mean to play the lower note sharp, but in this case the mordent's going up. Right now I'm playing them like the accidental is above the ornament, so F# G# F#. enter image description here

This piece is from Bartok's Romanian Folk Dances. This version is printed in the RCM Level 10 2015 Edition.

  • This piece comes from Bartok's Romanian Folk Dances. I suggest you edit your question to include that information.
    – user48353
    Jul 15, 2018 at 3:30

2 Answers 2


A look at the orchestral version (from https://imslp.org/wiki/Special:ImagefromIndex/19513) answers the question, because the ornaments are written out in full.

Why the sharp is printed below the ornament sign in your edition and not above it, I have no idea - but it wouldn't be the first misprint ever found in a score!

enter image description here

FWIW the IMSLP's score of the piano version https://imslp.org/wiki/Special:ImagefromIndex/173317 has the sharp above the ornament, where it belongs.

enter image description here

  • Well then it's one of the many misprints RCM puts in their scores.
    – ericw31415
    Jul 15, 2018 at 13:30
  • Hmm - ABRSM London certainly do misprints. Their edition of the Beethoven Sonatas (ed. Tovey) has a chord of C#-E-A-C-natural at one point - and it's not obvious whether it should be two C sharps or two C naturals!
    – user19146
    Jul 15, 2018 at 13:52

How these are played may be determined by the date of composition (unless the composer explains things.) In the Baroque, the mordent sign often (if not always) meant the "lower" mordent. A stroke through the sign meant "upper" mordent. In the 19th century this is often reversed.

In the case given, the first mordent is on E# which seems to indicate that it's an upper mordent so I'd play E#-F#-E# (relying on the idea that ornaments connect different notes rather than notes and altered notes). Half-step mordents are crisper (or more dissonant) than whole step mordents (as I hear it.)

  • 1
    " the mordent sign often (if not always) meant the "lower" mordent. A stroke through the sign meant "upper" mordent" That is backwards, compared with the well known explanation of ornaments by J S Bach - see pennuto.com/music/jsb_ornm.htm. But in any case the sign without a stroke was only called "mordent" in English following a misguided 19th-century theorist who named it incorrectly - and who caused endless confusion as a result!
    – user19146
    Jul 15, 2018 at 9:04
  • I second alephzero's opinion. Bach wrote out a guide to his ornamental markings in his notebook for his son Wilhelm Friedemann, which sis where this explanation comes from. Straight from the horse's mouth, as it were. The mordant as played in the baroque period pretty much fell out of general use in the classical period, being replaced by the "upper" mordant you describe.
    – BobRodes
    Jul 18, 2018 at 7:28

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