In his table (see below) , all examples seem to start ON the beat, not before it.


  • Please cite the source of "his table." There are dozens of scholarly works discussing the implementation of trills, mordents, grace notes, etc. from that period. Feb 11, 2019 at 12:46
  • 1
    Thanks, I have now included the source above as you suggested. Feb 12, 2019 at 3:41

1 Answer 1


Baroque ornamentation usually has a rule that it starts on the upper-auxiliary note, something which is not the case for other eras of music. whether the ornament is on the beat or not is a matter of what fits, what is most musical and what aids in the message of the music.

Except for a few ornaments that are always on the beat you are going to have to use your 'interpret' muscle to decide on how to exactly play the ornaments. That is why some famous baroque pieces never seem to sound the same when you listen to multiple recordings.

Baroque music is richly ornamented but Bach never gave exact meaning to what he wanted from the ornaments, considering the particulars of the playing of ornaments, the performers prerogative.

  • True - but the OP asked about the timing, not the note. Appogiatura are almost always on the beat, but trills often start (with upper note) just before the beat, and so on. Feb 11, 2019 at 12:50
  • Thank you both. This helps me to narrow my question somewhat down to this: in which examples in his Explication (the above document-or any other by Bach) does he actually indicate that one should begin the ornament just before the beat? Feb 12, 2019 at 3:47
  • @ChrisFletcher he doesn't. In general they don't start before the beat. The first note of an ornament generally carries the accent, so it should be on the beat.
    – phoog
    Sep 16, 2020 at 16:00

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