I am learning a baroque piece on the recorder. Some notes have an unusual ornamentation symbol. How is a note with a plus sign over it played? It was suggested to play it as a mordent. Is that correct?

4 Answers 4


Not contradicting @DrSvanHay's source, which actually only arguments, that a trill may be marked as +: This is just indicating any kind of embellishment, I'm not sure, whether due to sloppiness of the composer or copyist, but I frequently find it also in fast movements on very short notes, where a trill will never fit in.

As example see here in a Boismortier print from 1737:

enter image description hereNote also, that in baroque much more was left to the performer and absence of such a sign does in no way inhibt it. The word mordent is also not really that stable in its meaning over the course of the centuries, but it may well be the appropriate one in your piece.

Summarized: either you simply choose an appropriate embellishment depending on the context(what other types of embellishments are present), or you may invest effort to find out, what experts say in that respect or how modern editors rendered the piece in different editions.


HENKE, Stephanie Morgan. A Study of the Early 18th-century French Baroque Musical Style: An Oboist's Performance Practice Guide to Jacques-Martin Hotteterre Le Romain's Troisième Suitte de Pièces À Deux Dessus, Pour Les Flûtes Traversières, Flûtes À Bec, Hautbois, Et Muzette, Op. 8. 2012. ph.d. thesis. University of Georgia.

says: (bold type by me)

The Tremblement The general French Baroque term for trill is tremblement. The tremblement is a rapid oscillation between the main note and its upper diatonic neighbor. It was most often indicated by a stenographic sign (+) which may appear above or just before the note to be trilled. Michel Pignolet de Montéclair wrote in his Principes de musique that the trill is "indicated in foreign countries and in music printed in France by a small t. Apparently, negligence in curving the base of the t resulted in the small + or x

where the "t" story is a quote from

ANTHONY, James R. French baroque music from Beaujoyeulx to Rameau. Hal Leonard Corporation, 1997.


well I really can't top what's been said, but if I can say anything at all I will say when I first came across this ornament a number of years ago and did a similar search on google I was told that it means a suggestion for any kind of ornament whether be a trill or a mordent etc....

I've also found other material stating that Boismortier used various symbols (including the +) to refer to trill only, but more specifically indicating if it was supposed to be a fast trill or a slow trill, or end on the written note the trilled note above it...

I usually play it as a mordent or sometimes some other fancy footwook other than a trill.

  • Hi obwan. Welcome to SE Music Practice and Theory. Ideally, answers should include references to their sources. For example, here is some guidance on answering questions.
    – Aaron
    Sep 18, 2020 at 22:51

Yes, they have advised you well. It is mainly the nominated notes upper diatonic neighbour trilled, but any artfully applied appoggiatura , bite or mordent, enclosing turn or trilled concept will never be scorned if it works artistically. I bet your playing the delightful duets collected and arranged by Michel Sanvoizan and Guy Robert for guitar and Block flutes at an educated guess. Some beautiful duets in those books. I always wanted to employ them as accompaniments to a small Punch booth like Puppet troupe doing Commedia del Arte inspired set piece dramas etc. improvised over and even Shakespeare. It would have flown in Europe but in Australia, where I am stuck, no dice; so preoccupied with the appearances and illusion of coolness they miss it and themselves entirely. I rue the day we as children were forced to see out our days here. The country is another gaggle of criminal leaders telling lies, and serving Mammon while neglecting their real subjects. Anything worth being proud of is long gone.

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