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Music Ornamentation: Mordent For Guitar

The mordent is a music ornamentation in the form of a trill that involves a hammer-on and pull-off to the note above the principal note. A lower mordent involves the note below your target note. I have a number of guitar TAB examples of both forms in the key of C major.


Music ornamentation: The upper and lower mordent

The mordent music ornamentation comes from classical music and it is basically an abbreviated trill. Another way to look at it is a single hammer-on and pull-off.


How do you play a mordent?

If you know how to do HOPOs then you can play an upper or lower mordent. Here is what you need to keep in mind – your target note.

Have a principle note in mind that you want to embellish. You do that by hammering-on to the nearest note above your target note. Just one time – play your target note, hammer-on to the note above it, then pull off to the first note. Done. That would be an upper mordent.

A lower mordent is the opposite. You play your principle note, pull-off to the note below it, then hammer-on to the principle note again. And it depends on which scale you are using on how far away that upper or lower note is.


Guitar TAB of mordents in C major

Here are three examples of a mordent all using notes from the C major scale. For all of the TAB, I chose to notate the notes as a HOPO rather than use the symbol for a mordent.

The first tab shows an example of upper mordents thru the C major scale on the B string. In the last measure, I show an upper and lower mordent so that you can see the mordent symbols.

The symbol looks like a lightning bolt on its side. The one with a slash thru it is a lower mordent. Check the featured image above for large examples.

The next guitar TAB shows the lower mordent starting on A and ending on C at the 15th fret of the G string.

For the final TAB, I alternate between upper and lower mordents in the 1st two measures, then lower to upper mordents in the last two measures.

These are just examples and are NOT how you play mordents. Experiment with different combinations to find licks that resonate with you.


Final Thoughts

I think using the mordent is great for practicing the major scale, or any scale, on a single string. It’s kind of like practicing scales in sequences of 3’s, especially if you alternate between upper and lower mordents. Check out my Guitar Techniques article for a full list of techniques you should learn.