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Gruppetto Ornamentation (Turn In Music)

The gruppetto is a turn in music, which just means that you highlight a certain note by playing the surrounding notes. There is the standard gruppetto where you play the note above your main note, then the main note, the note below that note, and then finally the main note again. I cover that and the inverted turn and have guitar TAB as an example.


So what is a Gruppetto?

It’s easier if we start with some quotations:

THE GRUPETTO: “…a group of appoggiatura notes, composed of the principal note and its auxiliary note immediately above and below. It is indicated and performed in three ways: 1. By beginning with the principal note, 2. By beginning with the auxiliary note above, 3. By beginning with the auxiliary note below. The last one is called inverted…”

Carcassi: Classical Guitar Method (New Revised Edition, Carl Fischer), page 43, copyright 1946, reprinted 1962

And from Wikipedia:

A turn is a short figure consisting of the note above the one indicated, the note itself, the note below the one indicated, and the note itself again. It is marked by a backward S-shape lying on its side above the staff. The details of its execution depend partly on the exact placement of the turn mark.

An inverted turn (the note below the one indicated, the note itself, the note above it, and the note itself again) is usually indicated by putting a short vertical line through the normal turn sign, though sometimes the sign itself is turned upside down ~ Wikipedia

The symbol for a turn looks like the letter “S” on its side. The inverted turn uses either the same symbol but with a horizontal line thru it.

Symbol for the standard turn in music
Standard turn symbol
Symbol for the inverted turn
Inverted turn symbol


Definition of a turn in music (simplified)

Ok, let’s break those definitions down to plain language. A Gruppetto is an old term for what today is known as a turn in music. A turn in music is a sequence of 4 notes where the 2nd and 4th notes are your “main” note and the 1st and 3rd notes are the notes closest to your main note. You’ll see turns in one of the two the following pattern:

  • The note in the scale above your main note, the main note, the note below the main note, and then your main note again
  • An inverted turn just starts with the note below the main note and the 3rd note is the note above the main note.

It’s just a 4-note lick but there is a pattern to it. And the intervals involved will change depending on what scale or mode you are using as the source notes.


Examples of turns in music

The first two measures show the notes that would be played. Immediately below each measure is how a turn and inverted turn would be notated in standard notation.

inverted and standard turn in music

So it’s just a turn and inverted turn for the note C from the C major scale. The two adjacent notes are D (the above note) and B (the note below).


Scale sequences as turns and inverted turns

I’m sure if you are reading this that you are familiar with practicing scales in sequences of 3, 4, or 5 notes. Try single string scales in the pattern of standard and inverted turns. Don’t worry about the timing of the notes just the sequence of notes.

Here is an example in C major on the B string.

Turns for scale sequencing


Final Thoughts

Turns are just another tool in your lick toolbox. It’s a great exercise to practice turns and inverted turns as a scale sequence, similar to scales in 3’s and 4’s. Try that for position playing scales or for practicing scales on a single string. If you can do blocks of “turns” in your solos then it will lead you to some interesting licks.

Also, check out my list of Guitar Techniques for other embellishments that can improve your playing.