How to play mordents on the flute

Flute Q&A #45: How to play mordents on the flute

Feb 07, 2023

This week's Flute Q&A #45 question from Sarah came in at a perfect time for me to be able to help you with your trill fingerings.

Sarah, quite simply asks:

"Can you post a video on how to do mordents?"

You bet I can Sarah! And here it is for you. I hope this helps you with your mordent and trill playing!

How to play mordents on the flute

Sarah, The Ultimate Trill Guide that I mentioned is part of The Flute Academy - you can find out more info about it here

Also the free mini-course that I recommend for you can be registered for here

Feel free to ask your flute question for an upcoming Flute Q&A by clicking here

Mordents on the flute

Welcome to Flute Q and A Number 45. This question comes from Sarah and she asks, can you post a video on how to do Mordents? Yes, I can. Sarah, a nice short and sweet question from you. My name is Jane Cavanagh. I am an Australian flute teacher and I teach flute players all over the world how to get faster progress through learning proper flute technique.

Ornamentation on the flute

So here we go. In this video, I'm going to show you how to play mordents and what they look like. So let's start with how to play them. So a Mordents is a type of ornamentation that you'll see in flute music. There are all sorts of different types of ornamentation. Things that you might be familiar with are trills, Mordents, inverted Mordents or lower Mordents, Appoggiaturas, Acciaccatura, and Glissando.

Inverted mordents on the flute

Now, if I have forgotten any ornamentation right in the comments below, hmm, I'm sure there's more that I haven't said. Anyway, there's a bunch of different ornamentation that you can play on the flute and today we're going to look at Mordents. I'll also show you inverted Mordents.

Trills on the flute

Okay, so basically a Mordents is a short trill. It's so short that you just move once. So you might be able to already play a trill, Sarah. For example, let's say you play a trill on E and you're going to an F above. 

Mordent is short trill on flute

So that's an E to F trill. A Mordent is just one little twiddle, <laugh> twiddle I call it. So that is a Mordent and inverted Mordent or a lower Mordent is the same, but it's going down. So that went E down to deep. I'll show you in a minute what these actually look like, but there's something first that you really need to know to be able to play Mordents.

Fingerings on the flute

The trick to playing Mordents and Trills is to know the right fingerings. The example that I just gave you, the E to F, it's very straightforward because you play the fingering for E and you play the fingering for F.

Key signatures on flute

However, if you were playing along and you saw a Mordent written on an E and the key signature had F sharp, you would be doing this Mordent to F sharp instead of F. But to play E to F sharp fast is a bit tricky if you're using real fingering. Once off for a Mordent, it's actually no big deal. But if that was a trill, to try and play between E and F sharp really fast, I mean maybe it didn't sound awkward, but it was a little bit slow for a trill.

So there are trill fingerings that you need to learn to be able to play all Mordent and all trills, in this case E to  F sharp.

The Flute Academy

So you could hear how much faster that trill  was because they used a trill fingering like this for E to F sharp. Now Sarah, if you would like to know all of the trill fingerings and an actually easy way to remember them all, that's what I teach inside the Flute Academy.

The Ultimate Trill Guide for Flute

We've actually got a bonus course in there. It's really cool. It came out at the start of 2022 or mid 2022. It's called the Ultimate Trill Guide and it teaches you how to learn and remember every single fingering like the correct trill fingering.

Process of learning trills on the flute

It's pretty fun. The students in the flute academy really like it because it's really systematic and there's a nice little procedure,  a process for actually ticking off when you've learned and when you can remember each trill. So that's fun. I'll put a link below, Sarah, in case you're interested or if anyone else is interested.

Mordent on the flute

In the meantime, let me show you what Mordents actually look like. This is a picture of a mordent and next to it is a picture of the symbol for an inverted Mordent or a lower Mordent. You can see the Mordent has a squiggly line above it, and the inverted Mordent has a squiggly line with a vertical line straight through the symbol.

Examples of mordents on the flute

Now, there was something else I wanted to tell you. Let me just have a look. Oh, oh my gosh, examples! Okay, this is an example of a Mordent in a piece. You no doubt recognize the tune. It's called Morning Mood by Grieg. And did you hear the Mordent? It went, it's actually quite cool cause the first bar has no Mordent. The second bar is the same thing, but with a mordent, almost the same anyway.

Demonstration of mordents on the flute

So that's an example of a Mordent where it goes up a note. And here is an example of an inverted Mordent or a low Mordent where it goes down. This is Toccata and Fugue by Park. So you probably recognize that it's written for pipe organ. So not really a flute piece, but it's a perfect demonstration of an inverted Mordent.

Flute embouchure

The only other last thing I wanted to tell you is if you find that your tone is kind of airy and breathy when you play, you might have listened to me play and go, I'd like to actually play with a clear sound like that. I can fix your embouchure shot very quickly. When you have a fluffy sound, it's nearly always like 99.99% of the time <laugh> to do with your embouchure.

Free three day mini course on flute tone

So if you would like to fix your embouchure which fixes your tone, I can quickly show you at It's a quick three day mini course, and I'll fix your tone by fixing your embouchure. So see you there if you'd like to. Otherwise, good luck Sarah with learning your Mordents. Bye.

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