Matthew Kolar

Date of Award

Spring 2022

Document Type

Open Access Thesis


School of Music

First Advisor

Bruno Alcalde


Ornaments are embellishments and decorations of pre-established music; therefore, their existence relies on comparison to that original basis . Because pop music’s text is the recorded track rather than a written score, the determination of what is the main melody is strongly influenced by its first iteration, and ornaments can be found by comparisons of further iterations to the primary source. The goal of this thesis is to categorize the types of ornaments that exist in this repertory as well as define their overall functions. In this sense, ornamentation is being redefined; ornaments are not just decorations to a melody, but a process used to enhance formal functions. In the top 20 songs from Billboard’s Top Pop Chart from 2011-2020, which consists of 197 songs, there are two generally categories of ornamentations: harmonization and insertion. Harmonization is the homorhythmic addition of a countermelody to a melody, resulting in a layered vocals in harmony. Insertion is either the addition of lyrics or the addition of new pitches to a melody. Examples could be single words added between lines, or potential small changes to the melody or added melismas. There are two general functions: accumulation, and accentuation. Accumulation is the continued adding of ornaments to magnify the function of a formal structure. Accentuation is when ornaments are used to highlight certain lyrics, which is used to help convey the narrative the lyrics are portraying.


© 2022, Matthew Kolar

Included in

Music Theory Commons