Articulation Question

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Journeyman, Nov 15, 2004.

  1. Journeyman

    Journeyman New Member

    Greetings all,

    I have a notation question: I know about the use of the "tilda" symbol above a note (also known as "the sideways letter S"), and I'm clear on how it sounds, BUT:

    Can someone explain to me when it is necessary to use a flat symbol above the tilda? The horn players in my band were having trouble explaining it to me in an articulate way (no pun intended).

    Please keep it as simple as possible.

  2. brasscrest

    brasscrest Active Member

    The tilde indicates a "turn", which is a four-note ornament which "surrounds" the base note. The "direction" of the turn (whether it starts above or below the base note) is indicated by the direction of the "S" symbol. The flat modifies a note in the turn. It could also be a sharp or a natural or completely missing, depending on the key and the intention of the composer.

    The Arban's contains an entire section on different ornaments and their notation. Many newer compositions have abandoned this notation in favor of simply notating the turn as grace notes, which eliminates any doubt as to what is intended.
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2004
  3. Journeyman

    Journeyman New Member


    Thanks for your prompt reply. I need more specifics:

    Under what circumstances is a sharp, flat or natural used above the tilde? I know it's related to the key sig, but need further explanation as to it's proper usage. Also, what is "Arban's"?

  4. Roger Thorne

    Roger Thorne Active Member

    Hi JM,

    As Robert has said, a turn is an ornament in which you play the note itself, the note above, the note itself, the note below and the note itself again. All the notes used are according to the key signature. So, if you were in the key of C major and the given note was 'A', you would play A B A G A.
    If the turn had a flat sign above it, that would indicate that the upper note is to be flattened i.e. A Bb A G A.

  5. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    Hi Journeyman.

    What Roger said, but also the Arban is considered by many to be the bible of cornet (and other brass) players. Effectively it is a tutor book which has been used for the last hundred years or so.
    An accidental above the turn indicates an alteration to the upper note and one below the sign indicates an alteration to the lower note (but this is rare).
  6. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

  7. JessopSmythe

    JessopSmythe Active Member

    :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock:
  8. Journeyman

    Journeyman New Member

    Dude, I'm a keyboard player alright? How would I possibly know about Arbans?
  9. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Jean-Baptiste Arban's "Cornet Method" has been one of the standard study books for the brass player for around 150 years - see for more info.

    Also, the nature of the turn (or "gruppetto" - your tilde) is not always the same as Roger gives it - I think I'm right in saying that in music of the classical era (i.e. specifically the last half of the 18th century and the first years of the 19th), it should be played as given by Roger, but without the the first note he lists. So on an A for one in that direction, instead of ABAGA, just BAGA. This seems fairly intuitive when you look at the turns between notes that Mozart, say, wrote.
  10. ScrapingtheBottom

    ScrapingtheBottom Active Member

    And don't forget Wagnerian turns
  11. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    If you check my link in an earlier post, you will see a very simple and general historical reference guide about ornamentation and use. ;)
  12. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Although he is a little confusing with regard to his musical eras:

    In this sentence, he must mean that the transition period is known as the Classical period, as is absolutely standard, but I had to read it several times before realising that he wasn't confusing Romantic and Classical for some reason! :shock:

    I am also not convinced that the turn was ever used to any important degree in Reniassance music, as the writer asserts - I have never come across a single example in quite a bit of playing music from that era.

    The version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star illustrating all of the listed ornaments is highly recommended though...
  13. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    During Renaissance times, players were expected to create their own ornamentation and was very rarely found in written form. As more composers sought control over how their music was to be performed, then symbols were created to inform the musician how to execute them. Important to note that there are regional variations on how these ornaments are actually played and interpreted. I remember in my college days (late '70s) this was a hotbed of debate with academics pursuing historical authenticity. If you need to research this more, the short article linked below can be useful ...
  14. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    What a useful link! It will take me some time to work through the list of other links on that page... Thank you.

    In my experience (mostly of keyboard music, admittedly), I cannot recall any notated turns predating the late baroque. In fact, a quick scan through the Donald Tovey edition of J.S. Bach's 48 Preludes and Fugues reveals that the only turns he uses are in the second 24, written a number of years (20ish?) after the first 24. I know JSB, supposedly notedly conservative in these matters, was very unlikely to have been the first to use them this way, but I think this is the earliest occurrence that I know of. My Oxford Dictionary of Music describes it as "an ornament in use from the 17th-19th centuries", which I suppose just about allows its use in the Renaissance body of work.

    The only Renaissance ornaments that I am at all familiar with are those used by the Virginalist school of Byrd et al - a simple scheme consisting of single and double strokes, on which almost anything based on a mordent is insertable at the performer's discretion.
  15. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    About instrumental perfrormance in Renaissance music, I have said before that ornamentation usually was practiced by the performer(s) and based on skills of improvisation. This is more apparent in the secular dance styles which had repeated sections with which players embellished the original material. Sort of like an early form of air varie. There are many interesting links about Medieval music on the net, but for a clear introduction, a good start is listed below:-

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