A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Turn

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TURN (Fr. Brisée; Germ. Doppelschlag; Ital. Grupetto). An ornament much used in both ancient and modern music, instrumental as well as vocal. Its sign is a curve 𝆗 placed above or below the note, and it is rendered by four notes—namely, the note next above the written note, the written note itself, the note below, and the written note again (Ex. 1). It is thus identical with a figure frequently employed in composition, and known as the halfcircle (Halbzirkel, Circolo mezzo). The written note is called the principal note of the turn, and the others are termed respectively the upper and lower auxiliary notes.

{ \time 3/4 \mark \markup \small "1." \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \cadenzaOn s4 c''4\turn^\markup { \italic "Written." } s4. \bar "||" s4 d''16[^\markup \italic { "Played." } c'' b' c''] s4 \bar "||" }

On account of its gracefulness, and also no doubt in consequence of its presenting little difficulty of execution, the turn has always been a very favourite ornament, so much so that Emmanuel Bach says of it, 'This beautiful grace is as it were too complaisant, it suits very well everywhere, and on this account is often abused, for many players imagine that the whole grace and beauty of pianoforte-playing consist in making a turn every moment.' Properly introduced, however, it is of the greatest value, both in slow movements, in which it serves to connect and fill up long notes in a melody, and also in rapid tempo and on short notes, where it lends brightness and accent to the phrase.

When the sign stands directly above a note, the four notes of the turn are played rapidly, and, if the written note is a long one, the last of the four is sustained until its duration is completed (Ex. 2); if, however, the written note is too short to admit of this difference, the four notes are made equal (Ex. 3).

Mozart, Violin Sonata in G major.

{ \relative g' { \key g \minor \time 3/4 \mark \markup \small "2."
 g4\turn r8 g[ g g] | d'4\turn } }
{ \relative a' { \key g \minor \time 3/4 \mark \markup \small \italic "Played."
 \tuplet 3/2 { a32[ g fis } g16 ~ g8] r g[ g g] |
 \tuplet 3/2 { e'32[ d cis } d16 ~ d8] } }

Mozart, Rondo in A minor.

{ \relative a'' { \time 6/8 \mark \markup \small "3."
 a16( bes,8) bes16\turn^( a' b,) a'16( c,8) c16\turn^( a' cis,) } }
{ \relative a'' { \time 6/8 \mark \markup \small \italic "Played."
 a16( bes,8) c64( bes a bes a'16 b,) a'( c,8) d64( c b c a'16 cis,) } }

When the sign is placed a little to the right of the note, the written note is played first, and the four notes of the turn follow it, all four being of equal length. The exact moment for the commencement of the turn is not fixed; it may be soon after the written note, the four turn-notes being then rather slow (Ex. 4), or later, in which case the turn will be more rapid (Ex. 5). The former rendering is best suited to a slow movement, the latter to one of a livelier character.

Beethoven, Sonata, Op. 10, No. 1.

{ \relative a' { \key aes \major \time 2/4 \mark \markup \small "4." \tempo "Adagio."
 aes4*1/2 s\turn c8.[ bes16] | \partial 4 aes4 \bar "||"
 aes8^\markup \small \italic "Played." ~ aes32( \tuplet 3/2 { bes aes g } aes) c8. bes16 | aes 4 } }

Beethoven, Sonata, Op. 2, No. 1.

{ \relative c'' { \key aes \major \time 2/2 \mark \markup \small "5." \tempo "Prestissimo."
 c1*1/2 s\turn | c'2. c,4 \bar "||"
 c2.^\markup \small \italic "Played." ~ \tuplet 5/4 { c16 des c b c } | c'2. c,4 } }

Both the turn upon the written note and that which follows it may be expressed in small grace-notes, instead of by the sign. For this purpose the turn upon the note will require three small notes, which are placed before the principal note though played within its value, and the turn after the note will require four (Ex. 6). This method of writing the turn is usually employed in modern music in preference to the sign.

Mozart, Sonata in F. Turn on the note.

{ \relative f'' { \key f \major \time 3/4 \mark \markup \small "6."
 f4. \grace { g16 f e } f8 g a \bar "||"
 f4.^\markup \small \italic "Played." g32 f e f g8 a } }

Mozart, Tema con Variazioni.

{ \relative e'' { \time 4/4
 \afterGrace e4 { f32 e dis e } a4 c a \bar "||"
 e8 f32 e dis e a4 c a } }

The upper auxiliary note of a turn is always the next degree of the scale above the principal note, and is therefore either a tone or a semitone distant from it, according to the position in the scale held by the written note. Thus, in a turn on the first degree, the upper note is a tone above (Ex. 7), while a turn on the third degree is made with the semitone (Ex. 8). The lower auxiliary note may likewise follow the scale, and may therefore be also either a tone or a semitone from its principal note; but the effect of the smaller distance is as a rule the more agreeable, and it is therefore customary to raise the lower note chromatically, in those cases in which it would naturally be a tone distant from its principal note (Ex. 9).

{ \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \time 2/4
 \mark \markup \small "7." c''4\turn s \bar "||"
 \mark \markup \small "8." e''4\turn s \bar "||"
 \mark \markup \small "9." g'4\turn s \bar "||" }
{ \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \time 1/4
 d''16^\markup \small \italic "Played." c'' b' c'' \bar "||"
 f'' e'' d'' e'' \bar "||" a' g' fis' g' \bar "||" }

This alteration of the lower note is in accordance with a rule which governs the use of auxiliary notes in general, but in the construction of both the ordinary turn and the turn of the shake [Shake, vol. iii. p. 483, Ex. 40] the rule is not invariably followed. The case in which it is most strictly observed is when the principal note of the turn is the fifth degree of the scale, yet even here, when it is accompanied by the tonic harmony, an exception is occasionally met with, as in Ex. 10. That Bach did not object to the use of a lower auxiliary note a tone below the principal note is proved by the four semiquavers in the subject of the C♯ major fugue in the Well-tempered Clavier, and by other similar instances. Another and more frequent exception occurs when the upper note is only a semitone above the principal note, in which case the lower note is generally made a tone below (Ex. 11). In the case of a turn on the fifth degree of the minor scale the rule is always observed, and both notes are a semitone distant (Ex. 12). A turn of this kind is termed a chromatic turn, because its notes form part of a chromatic scale.

Mozart, Sonata in A.

{ \relative e'' { \key a \major \time 3/4 \mark \markup \small "10."
 \afterGrace e8.[ { fis32 e d e } fis16] a,4 gis } }

Mozart, Violin Sonata in G.

{ \relative b' { \key g \major \time 4/4 \mark \markup \small "11."
 \afterGrace b4 { c32 b a b } c8-. d-. dis( e) c-. a-. } }

Mozart, Clarinet Trio in E♭.

{ \relative g' { \key ees \major \time 6/8 \mark \markup \small "12." \override Score.Rest #'style = #'classical
<< { g4 ^~ g16_( aes64 g fis g c8 g) g } \\ 
   { <ees c>4 r8 r4 <f b,>8 } >> } }

All chromatic alterations in a turn can be indicated by means of accidentals placed above or below the sign, although they frequently have to be made without any such indication. An accidental above the sign refers to the upper auxiliary note, and one underneath it to the lower, as in the following examples from Haydn:—

Sonata in E♭.

{ \relative c''' { \key ees \major \time 2/4 \mark \markup \small "13."
 c4*1/2 \once \hideNotes c\turn^\markup \teeny \flat ees8 aes, } }

Sonata in C♯ minor.

{ \relative f'' { \key cis \minor \time 4/4 \override Score.Rest #'style = #'classical
 fis8 cis' cis cis cis4\turn^\markup \teeny \natural r \bar "||"
r8 gis, gis gis gis\turn^\markup \teeny \sharp b b b } }

Sonata in C.

{ \relative g'' { \time 3/4 \override Score.Rest #'style = #'classical
 g8.*1/2[ s\turn^\markup \teeny \flat g16] c4( b |
 aes g) r | f8*1/2[ \once \override TextScript.script-priority = #-100 s^\markup \teeny \natural \turn f16. g32] ees4 r } }

When the note which bears a turn is dotted, and is followed by a note of half its own length, the last note of the turn falls in the place of the dot, the other three notes being either quick or slow, according to the character of the movement (Ex. 14). When however the dotted note is followed by two short notes (Ex. 15), or when it represents a full bar of 3-4 or a half-bar of 6-8 or 6-4 time (Ex. 16), the rule does not apply, and the note is treated simply as a long note. A turn on a note followed by two dots is played so that the last note falls in the place of the first dot (Ex. 17).

Mozart, Sonata in D.

{ \relative e'' { \key a \major \time 3/4 \mark \markup \small "14."
<< { e4 e8.\turn fis16 e8 d! } \\
   { cis,16 a' e a cis, a' e a b, gis' e gis } >> } }
{ \relative e'' { \key a \major \time 3/4 \mark \markup \small \italic "Played."
<< { e4 e16. fis64 e dis e16 fis e8 d } \\
   { cis,16 a' e a cis, a' e a b, gis' e gis } >> } }

Beethoven, Sonata, Op. 13, Adagio.

{ \relative e'' { \key aes \major \time 2/4 \mark \markup \small "15."
 ees4 f,8.*1/2[ \once \hideNotes \once \override TextScript.script-priority = #-100 g^\markup \teeny \natural \turn aes32 c] \bar "||"
 ees4^\markup \small \italic "Played." f,8[ g64 f e f aes32 c] } }

Beethoven, Sonata, Op. 10, No. 1.

{ \relative e'' { \key ees \major \time 3/4 \mark \markup \small "16."
 ees2.*2/3 s2.*1/3\turn | g4 f d } }
{ \relative e'' { \key ees \major \time 3/4 \mark \markup \small \italic "Played."
 ees2 ~ \tuplet 5/4 { ees32 f ees d ees } | g4 f d } }

Mozart, Sonata in C minor.

{ \relative b' { \key c \minor \time 4/4 \mark \markup \small "17."
 bes4^( g8 g) g8..*1/2[^( \once \hideNotes g\turn aes32] f8) r } }
{ \relative b' { \key c \minor \time 4/4 \mark \markup \small \italic "Played."
 bes4^( g8 g) g16^([ \tuplet 3/2 { aes32 g f } g16. aes32] f8) r } }

The turn on the dotted note was frequently written by Mozart in a somewhat ambiguous fashion, by means of four small notes (Ex. 18), the fourth of which has in performance to be made longer than the other three, although written of the same length, in order that it may represent the dot, according to rule.

Mozart, Sonata in F. Adagio.

{ \relative b' { \key bes \major \time 4/4 \mark \markup \small "18."
 \afterGrace bes8.[ { c32 bes a bes } c16]
 \afterGrace d8.[ { ees32 d c d } ees16] e8. f16 c8 r } }
{ \relative b' { \key bes \major \time 4/4 \mark \markup \small "Played."
 bes16[ \tuplet 3/2 { c32 bes a } bes16 c]
 d16[ \tuplet 3/2 { ees32 d c } d16 ees] e8. f16 c8 r } }

An apparent exception to the rule that a turn is played during some portion of the value of its written note occurs when the sign is placed over the second of two notes of the same name, whether connected by a tie or not (Ex. 19).

Haydn, Trio in G.

{ \relative e'' { \key g \major \time 2/4 \mark \markup \small "19." \partial 4
 e8 e16.\turn g32 | d8 r a a16.\turn b32 | g8 } }
{ \relative e'' { \key g \major \time 2/4 \mark \markup \small \italic "Played." \partial 4
 e16[ \tuplet 3/2 { fis32 e dis } e16. g32] |
 d!8 r a16[ \tuplet 3/2 { b32 a gis } a16. b32] | g!8 } }

In this case the turn is played before the note over which the sign stands, so that the written note forms the last note of the turn. This apparently exceptional rendering may be explained by the assumption that the second of the two notes stands in the place of a dot to the first, and this is supported by the fact that any such example might be written without the second note, but with a dot in its stead, as in Ex. 20, when the rendering would be precisely the same. If, however, the first of two notes of the same name is already dotted, the second cannot be said to bear to it the relation of a dot, and accordingly a turn in such a case would be treated simply as a turn over the note (Ex. 21).

{ \relative e'' { \key g \major \time 2/4 \partial 4 \mark \markup \small "20."
 << { s4*1/2 s4*2/3^\turn } \\ { e8.. g32 } >> | d8 } }

Haydn, Sonata in G minor.

{ \relative c'' { \key g \minor \time 3/4 \mark \markup \small "21."
 c4( bes8.) bes16\turn f'8. d16 | b4( c8) } }
{ \relative c'' { \key g \minor \time 3/4 \mark \markup \small \italic "Played."
 c4( bes8.) c64 bes a bes f'8. d16 | b4( c8) } }

When the order of the notes of a turn is reversed, so as to begin with the lower note instead of the upper, the turn is said to be inverted, and its sign is either placed on end thus, 𝆚, or drawn down in the contrary direction to the ordinary sign, thus, 𝆘 (Ex. 22). The earlier writers generally employed the latter form, but Hummel and others prefer the vertical sign. The inverted turn is however more frequently written in small notes than indicated by a sign (Ex. 23).

C. P. E. Bach, Sonata in B♭, Largo.

{ \relative b' { \key c \minor \time 3/4 \mark \markup \small "22."
 bes8.*1/3[ s8.*2/3\turn ees16] ees16*1/2[ s\reverseturn d16] d4. } }
{ \relative b' { \key c \minor \time 3/4 \mark \markup \small \italic "Played."
 bes16[ \tuplet 3/2 { c32 bes a } bes16 ees16] \tuplet 3/2 { d64[ ees f } ees32 d16] d4. } }

Mozart, Rondo in A minor.

{ \relative e'' { \key a \minor \time 6/8 \partial 8 \mark \markup \small "23."
 e8 | \grace { dis32 e f } e8. d16 e8 a r a } }

In certain cases, particularly at the commencement of a phrase, the effect of the ordinary turn beginning with the upper note is unsatisfactory and deficient in accent. The perception of this fact led to the invention of a particular form of turn (called by Emmanuel Bach the Geschnellte Doppelschlag), in which the four notes of the ordinary turn were preceded by a short principal note, written as a small grace-note (Ex. 24). This kind of turn, consisting of five equal notes, is better adapted to modern music and to modern taste than the simple turn of four notes, and it is therefore frequently introduced in older music, even when not specially indicated. The cases in which it is most suitable are precisely those in which Emmanuel Bach allowed the use of the 'geschnellte Doppelschlag,' namely, after a staccato note (Ex. 25), or a rest (Ex. 26), or when preceded by a note one degree lower (Ex. 27).

C. P. E. Bach, Sonata.

{ \relative a' { \key g \major \time 4/4 \mark \markup \small "24."
 \appoggiatura a8 g4 f r \grace d16 \once \override TextScript.script-priority = #-100 d8\turn^\markup \teeny \sharp c'!4 ~ | \hideNotes c } }
{ \relative a' { \key g \major \time 4/4 \mark \markup \small \italic "Played."
 \appoggiatura a8 g4 f4 r \tuplet 5/4 { d32 e d cis d } c'4 ~ | \hideNotes c } }

Haydn, Trio in E♭, Andante.

{ \relative d'' { \key ees \major \time 6/8 \mark \markup \small "25."
 d8-. bes-. bes-. bes-. bes-. bes-. |
 bes(\turn ees d) d16( c b8 c) } }
{ \relative d'' { \key ees \major \time 6/8 \mark \markup \small \italic "Played."
 d8-. bes-. bes-. bes-. bes-. bes-. |
 \tuplet 5/4 { bes32( c bes a bes } ees8 d) d16( c b8 c) } }

Haydn, Trio in A♭.

{ \relative b'' { \key aes \major \time 2/4 \mark \markup \small "26."
 r16 \once \override TextScript.script-priority = #-100 b\turn^\markup \teeny \natural d c bes aes! g f } }
{ \relative b'' { \key aes \major \time 2/4 \mark \markup \small \italic "Played."
 r16 \tuplet 5/4 { b64 c b a b } d16 c bes aes g f } }

Mozart, Sonata in F.

{ \relative d'' { \key f \major \time 4/4 \mark \markup \small "27."
 d8.( bes16) g2( a4) | bes8\turn c16( d) c( bes a g) f8( c') g( c) } }
{ \relative d'' { \key f \major \time 4/4 \mark \markup \small \italic "Played."
 d8.( bes16) g2( a4) | \tuplet 5/4 { bes32 c bes a bes } c16([ d)]
 c( bes a g) f8( c') g( c) } }

A similar turn of five notes (instead of four), also frequently met with, is indicated by the compound sign /, and called the Prallende Doppelschlag. The difference of name is unimportant, since it merely means the same ornament introduced under different circumstances; but the sign has remained longer in use than the older mode of writing shown in Ex. 24, and is still occasionally met with. (Ex. 28.)

Beethoven, Violin Sonata, Op. 12, No. 1.

{ \relative e'' { \key d \major \time 6/8 \mark \markup \small "28."
 e8 a,4 ~ a \once \override TextScript.script-priority = #-100 a8\prall\turn^\markup \teeny \sharp | a8-. b-. cis-. d-. e-. fis-. } }
{ \relative e'' { \key d \major \time 6/8 \mark \markup \small \italic "Played."
 e8 a,4 ~ a \tuplet 5/4 { a32 b a gis a } |
 a8-. b-. cis-. d-. e-. fis-. } }

When a note bearing a turn of either four or five notes is preceded by an appoggiatura (Ex. 29), or by a slurred note one degree higher than itself (Ex. 30), the entrance of the turn is slightly delayed, the preceding note being prolonged, precisely as the commencement of the 'bound trill' is delayed. [See Shake, vol. iii. p. 481, Ex. 11.]

W. F. Bach, Sonata in D.

{ \relative b' { \key d \major \time 2/2 \mark \markup \small "29." \override Score.Rest #'style = #'classical
 << { b8^( cis,) r d \grace a'4_( g2)\prall\turn | g4^( fis8) } \\
    { r4 a, b cis | cis4_( d8) \bar "||" } >> } }
{ \relative b' { \key d \major \time 2/2 \mark \markup \small \italic "Played." \override Score.Rest #'style = #'classical
<< { b8^( cis,) r d a'4 ^~ \tuplet 6/4 { a16 g a g fis g } |
     g4^( fis8) } \\
   { r4 a, b cis | cis4_( d8) \bar "||" } >> } }

C. P. E. Bach, Rondo in C.

{ \relative d''' { \time 6/8 \mark \markup \small "30." \partial 4
<< { d16 aes b gis | fis4^( \once \override TextScript.script-priority = #-100 e8)\prall\turn^\markup \teeny \sharp dis4 b8\rest } \\
   { r8 r cis,4. b8_.[ b'_.] } \\
   { \stemDown s4 b8\rest b ais } >> } }
{ \relative d''' { \time 6/8 \mark \markup \small \italic "Played." \partial 4
<< { d16 aes b gis | fis4 ~ \tuplet 6/4 { fis32 e fis e dis e } dis4 } \\
   { r8 r cis,4. b8_. b'_. b\rest } \\
   { \stemDown s4 b8\rest b ais } >> } }

Like the shake, the turn can occur in two parts at once, and Hummel indicates this by a double sign, /; this is however rarely if ever met with in the works of other composers, the usual method being to write out the ornament in full, in ordinary notes. A strikingly effective instance of the employment of the double turn occurs in the first movement of Beethoven's Concerto in E♭,[1] and Schumann, in No. 4 of the 'Kreisleriana,' has a three-part turn, written in small notes.
[ F. T. ]

  1. In the subject which is accompanied by descending chromatic triplets in the bass.