An overview

‘Ornamentation’ means to decorate singing. The decorations can be both melodic and rhythmic. They are also known as ‘fast phrasings’, rapid ‘runs of notes’, or (in classical music) ‘coloratura’ or ‘melisma’. Fast phrasings or melismas are often used in world music, Gospel, R ‘n’ B music and many operas.


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Ornamentations are most likely produced in a combination of various levels from 1-6. The vocal cords producing the pitch, and the vocal tract producing the grid. (see ’Various levels of the vocal tract’).

It is often difficult to make a rapid run of notes even and equal, as the ornamentations often become untidy and un-rhythmic, and the melodic line can get blurred, hazy and indistinct. By using ornamentation technique and applying a grid the singer can achieve an even and equal rapid run of notes.

Singers who use or used ornamentation technique

Cristina Aguilera, Cecilia Bartoli, Beyonce, Michael Bolton, Boyz II Men, Maria Callas, Khaled Hadj Brahim, Mariah Carey, Randy Crawford, Celine Dion, Lauryn Hill, Whitney Houston, James Ingram, Freddie Jackson, Om Kalsoum, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Stevie Wonder.

There are two ways of achieving the grid of ornamentation technique. One is through hammer vibrato and the other through laryngeal vibrato.

By using the grid the singer can control the speed of the ornamentations

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The grid in all modes

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Singing different notes in the grid in all modes

Neutral with air


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Neutral without air


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