Embellishment Tones


embel — representation for embellishment tones


The embel representation is used to represent the harmonic status of individual pitches in a passage of Western tonal music. There are several different ways of defining and classifying embellishment tones. The embel representation categorizes embellishment tones according to the following criteria:

  • whether or not the tone belongs to a given chord
  • whether or not the tone appears in a metrically accented position
  • whether or not the tone is approached by diatonic step
  • whether or not the tone is resolved or left by diatonic step.

Although variations in nomenclature exist, music scholars have identified and defined many types of embellishment tones including: passing tones, neighbour tones, appoggiaturas, escape tones, anticipations, retardations, and suspensions. In addition to these non-chordal embellishment tones, there are also chordal embellishment tones, such as repetitions, and arpeggiations. The following table characterizes each of the various types of embellishment tones according to the criteria outlined above.

Non-Chordal Embellishments:

Approach Resolution Metric position

Accented passing tone step step (in same direction) accented
Unaccented passing tone step step (in same direction) unaccented
Upper neighbor tone ascending step step (in opposite direction) unaccented
Lower neighbor tone descending step step (in opposite direction) unaccented
Accented upper neighbor ascending step step (in opposite direction) unaccented
Accented lower neighbor descending step step (in opposite direction) unaccented
Anticipation step or leap same pitch unaccented
Suspension same pitch descending step accented
Retardation same pitch ascending step accented
Escape tone step leap unaccented
Appoggiatura leap step accented
Changing tone ¤ ¤ ¤
Pedal tone ¤ ¤ ¤

Chordal Embellishments:

Repeated chordal tone same pitch ¤ ¤
Arpeggio tone leap step or leap ¤

Types of Chordal and Non-chordal Embellishments

When the harmony changes while a pitch is sustained, it is possible for a chordal tone to be transformed into a non-chordal embellishment, such as a suspension. Whenever a tone changes function as an embellishment, at the appropriate point it is indicated by placing the embel data token in square brackets. The square brackets indicate that the note is already sounding (no new note-onset), but has changed function.

Embellishment tokens may be modified by the presence of additional signifiers. The open brace `{' denotes the beginning of a phrase. The closed brace `}' denotes the end of a phrase. The semicolon `;' denotes a pause.

Rest tokens are denoted by the lower-case letter `r'.

Barlines are represented using the "common system" for barlines — see barlines.


It is recommended that files containing predominantly embel data should be given names with the distinguishing `.emb' extension.


The following table provides a complete list of signifiers defined in embel:

aln accented lower neighbor tone ant anticipation app appoggiatura apt accented passing tone arp arpeggio tone (chordal tone) arp7 arpeggio tone (7th added to the chord) aun accented upper neighbor tone chg changing tone cln chromatic lower neighbor tone ct chordal tone (i.e. not an embellishment) ct7 chordal tone (7th added to the chord) cun chromatic upper neighbor tone cup chromatic unaccented passing tone et escape tone ln lower neighbor tone ped pedal rep repeated tone ret retardation 23ret 2-3 retardation 78ret 7-8 retardation sus suspension 43sus 4-3 suspension 98sus 9-8 suspension 76sus 7-6 suspension un upper neighbor tone un7 upper neighbor tone (7th added to the chord) upt unaccented passing tone upt7 unaccented passing tone (7th added to the chord) ——- ————————————————–

Summary of embel Signifiers


A sample document is given below:


**kern **embel **harm *C: *C: *C: =1 =1 =1 4g ct I 4cc ct Ib 8ff app Ic [8ee ct . =2 =2 =2 2ee] [sus] V7 4dd ct . =3 =3 =3 4cc ct I *- *- *- ———- ———– ———-


Currently, no special-purpose Humdrum commands produce embel as output, or process embel encoded data as input.


The following tandem interpretations can be used in conjunction with embel:

MIDI channel *Ch1 meter signatures *M6/8 key signatures *k[f#c#] key *c#: —————— ————

Tandem interpretations for embel


barlines, **harm