The symbols for ornaments were introduced at grade 4. You should already be familiar with the trill, mordent, acciaccatura, turn, appoggiatura and grace notes.

The task of “writing out ornaments as they should be played” is designed to test a number of music theory concepts:

  • Knowledge about the various types of ornament.
  • Ability to handle notation of rhythmic note values, often including triplets and very fast notes.
  • Attention to detail including tempo and pitch.

NB: in the current ABRSM exams you are not tested on different intepretations by era, for example choosing the correct starting note for a trill.

There are always several different possible ways to write out an ornament, so if you’re practising this question and your answer differs from the answer key in a workbook, it doesn’t necessarily mean your answer is incorrect – check with your teacher.

The first step is to know the pattern of notes used for each ornament. The note which is affected by the ornament is called the “principal”.

The second step is to look at the tempo of the music, and the note values used for the majority of the piece. For most (but not all) ornaments, you need to choose a note value for the ornament which is faster than the notes used elsewhere, but is not too fast for the tempo (very fast notes with a presto marking are likely to be unplayable).

Thirdly, you need to do some mathematical calculations to work out how to subtract the value of the ornament from the other notes in the bar. Some ornaments take time from the previous note (acciaccatura and other grace notes), whereas others take time from the principal note (trill, turn, mordent and appoggiatura).

Isolate the part of the bar which will need altering, by circling it. The rest of the notes should remain unchanged.

Finally, you need to ensure that everything adds up correctly, is beamed correctly, and that any accidentals have been added in the right place.

Accidentals written above an ornament affect the note above the principal, and vice-versa.

accidentals on ornaments

When writing very quick notes, it can be helpful to realise that a pair of equal-value beamed notes will keep the same overall time if you add a beam to one side and a dot to the other. Each time you add a dot+beam, the pair of notes keeps the same overall value.

dots and beams


Trill – rapid movement between the principal and the note above.


Sometimes a trill is preceded or followed by another ornament, which looks like an acciaccatura or appoggiatura. This simply shows you the starting/ending note(s) of the trill – you don’t need to squeeze in a fully notated acciaccatura before the trill.

trill plus grace note

The trill needs to be written in quick notes. The principal is B#, with A# used in the turn at the end.

trill plus turn

Trills should end on the principal note. This means you might need to add a triplet figure at the end, so that the notes fit the allotted time.

trill plus triplet


Upper mordent – the principal and the note above, returning to the principal.

upper mordent

Lower mordent – the principal and the note below, returning to the principal.

lower mordent

This lower mordent needs to fit into the time of one crotchet (quarter note). It should be written out in notes that are faster than semiquavers (16ths), so that it sounds quicker than the rest of the melody. Using two demisemiquavers (32nds) will take up ¼ of the allotted time. A dotted quaver (dotted 8th) makes up the rest of the allotted time.

mordent maths
mordent written out


Acciaccatura – very fast, before the principal (takes time from previous note).


This acciaccatura will take its time from the previous note, Bb. The previous note is worth one triplet quaver (triplet 8th). Use a very fast note, like a demisemiquaver (32nd).

acciaccatura written out


Turn (or upper turn) – the note above, the principal, the note below, the principal again.

turn after note

The turn figure consists of four notes, so with the principal included there are five notes to fit into one crotchet (quarter note).

Here are two ways it could be written (there are many possible solutions, including writing all five notes as a semiquaver (16th) quintuplet).

written out turns

A turn with a line through it is an inverted turn (or “lower turn”), and is played the other way round:

inverted turn

A turn written directly above a note begins on that beat and takes up the whole value of that note. There will only be four notes, rather than five.

turn above note


Appoggiatura – the ornament half or 2/3 of the time of the principal.


Use the value of the notated ornament, subtract it from the principal:

appoggiatura written out

If the principal is a dotted note, given the appoggiatura 2/3 of its value.

Double appoggiatura

The pair of ornamental notes will take up half of the allotted time, the other half belongs to the principal note.

The original principal note is a quaver (8th). Divide it into two, then give one half of the time to the pair of ornamental notes.

double appoggiatura