Well, i started learning ornamentation…

Well, i started learning ornamentation…

I’ve been trying to learn the ornaments on fiddle, and i seem to be struggling to get them to sound as subtle as i often hear them. They say it’s just a "flick of the finger(s)" I’m not sure if i’m hitting the string too hard, or holding my fingers down for a millisecond too long. Has anyone had this problem? Is it even something to worry about? Is this just another thing that will come with time and much, much practice? I am actually learning how to hear ornaments in recordings, which i am very excited about, cause they use to evade me. Now i can actually catch them, hear and there. I can even recognize the different types(the majority of the time) Just having a problem using them.

Re: Well, i started learning ornamentation…

I think you are on to something with your "millisecond too long" comment. Many ornaments interrupt the sound rather than giving an audible note.

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I would be happy with a millisecond myself, I’m afraid I can’t advise you on the fiddle, but on the box or even in sports, the biggest problem people have is that their muscles become too tense especially when they are concentrating, which has the effect of slowing you down and throws out your timing.

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I’ve said this before. but it’s worth repeating … don’t think of them as ornaments. They are not things you hang on a tune like baubles. They are ways of articulating the tune.

You’ll hear a lot of talk here about the differences between tune, variation (melodic and rhythmic) and ornament. But the truth is that you can’t draw a line between these things. The boundaries are not just blurred, but nonexistent.

It’s good that you are hearing the subtleties of all this.

And you are right in that you shouldn’t worry about it. Just keep your ears open. And you are the most right when you talk of learning how to hear. Master that and the actual playing then becomes a walk in the park.

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Yep, your comments seem familiar to me - I’m at exactly the same stgae, though my mandolinist’s fingers are helping a bit.

Take a look at http://oaim.ie/ - there are six free fiddle lessons and if you can run to the cash, it’s well worth enrolling for the beginners’ fiddle course. Well thought out, progressive lessons with clear demonstrations of cuts, rolls, triplets etc. which are worth their weight in gold.

No connection with the site, except as a very satisfied customer.

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Fiddlelearner, Llig is quite correct about the differences of tune, variation and ornament being nonexistent. Just as a fiddle player, you have so many ridiculous options which defy proper categorization.

Consider your basic roll: note-cut-note-cut (lift, as a fiddler)-note. Okay. But some people play a "short roll," which is just cut-note-cut-note, taking up 2/3 the same musical space. BUT, when some people play short rolls, it tends to sound like a cut, followed by two cut-time notes, and a full-length note: in short, a cut and then a triplet. Lucy Farr, for instance, often uses this type of roll; Padraig o’Keeffe did on occasion as well. So is this a triplet-with-a-cut ornament, or a roll variation?

Rolls get more complicated from there. Some people don’t play the note-cut-note-cut-note roll at all, instead playing five quick notes of relatively equal duration; a "fiddle" or "box" type roll, rather than a "pipes" roll. So in polkas, for instance, Denis Murphy might play a five-note sequence around a home note, and it’s a roll. With no cuts involved.

The point of all this being that, generally speaking, if you just perform something which, as Llig mentioned, adequately articulates the shape of the tune, you’re in the clear. On concertina, for example, this happens all the time - you play a cut that isn’t quite short enough, and it just becomes a triplet instead. No biggie. It still propels the tune along, gets the point across, so you don’t worry that the cut wasn’t "cutty" enough. Same principle on fiddle.

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Re: Well, i started learning ornamentation…

"Has anyone had this problem?"

Everyone has this problem. Whatever tricks (synonym for ornamentation+) you employ, just play keeping everything in time and rhythm. The subtleties will work themselves out if you keep practicing.

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It’s important though, not to just waggle your fingers around in some haphazard way kind of getting something a bit like what it should be. Sure, it’ll be a bit sloppy at first, but you should be playing nice clean slow rolls (only possible on fiddle, flute, whistle and pipes) properly pretty quickly. - the slow roll is the one that takes half a bar in a jig, or the first 3 notes of 4 in half a bar in a reel.

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Re: Well, i started learning ornamentation…

This is exactly why it’s best to learn phrasing & articulating by listening, which you’re doing. Listening first to those who have it at their fingertips & then listening to your own playing with articulation.
If you have sheet music ignore anything it has regarding ornamentation. It’s simply misleading.
It takes time, although that is ironic considering the holding fingers down a millisecond too long is often what throws you off.

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Re: Well, i started learning ornamentation…

Bear in mind that you have to build up a new kind of muscle fibre in order to get your fingers to move lightly but very rapidly on demand, and also the neural networks that send the signal to the right place and nowhere else. It’s not just a case of knowing what to do, you also need the physical wherewithal. Give it time, and practise the finger movements on anything available whenever your hands are not doing something else (a bit much to ask of a teenager, I know).

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I still struggle with rolls on the fiddle. I find them easier on some notes than others, because of which fingers they use - for example, E on the D string or B on the A string are easiest, because they include open string notes; F/F# and C/C# are harder, because the 1st finger has to be kept down all the time; but the hardest are those which use the 4th (little) finger, as it is the hardest to move independently, such as G on the D string and D on the A string.

it seems to me that there are two factors involved in improving your rolls:
1. practice - simply training your fingers to move quicker and more precisely
2. listening - internalising how a roll *should* sound and then, using the technique you have practised, trying to replicate that.

One technical exercise I recommend for learning rolls on the the *whistle* is to slow it down, so that the main melody note - G, say - is drawn out as long as you like, but the grace notes are kept as short and tight as possible - mere ‘pips’. Then gradually draw the grace notes closer together in time, shortening the Gs in between, but keeping the grace notes the same, until you have the roll up to speed. I see no reason why this would not work for the fiddle as well - although, I am not a good enough fiddler to give specific advice on it.

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Lots of good advice has already been given here. Let me add that there is no substitute for practicing. Over time you will develop more speed and accuracy (as your muscles learn to do what your brain is telling them to do) . You will not always want a roll to be played ultra-fast, but it is important to be able to play it fast if that is what you want.

Re: Well, i started learning ornamentation…

Every fiddler has been where you are now. Just keep on truckin’. Practice them slowly on their own, get them nice and clean, and the speed will come in it’s own time. 3rd finger rolls are the hardest. You need to build a lot of strength in your little finger. They’ll take the longest to master. Just give yourself time and keep at it.

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Yes, a lot of good advice. I’m so glad i stayed :) I’ll be posting a video soon, but not of anything with (improvising i guess i should say) Just the tunes i’ve learned from recordings. Maybe you all can give me some good critisizm :) I know i can get the truth outof you folks lol.

Re: Well, i started learning ornamentation…

here is a video of my friend blake at the all-ireland fleadh:

http://bit.ly/blake_on_comhaltas

i think it demonstrates very well what ornamentation can look like…. slow and belabored is not the point of it. and yes, it does look just about as blurry in real life when he plays!

i think an important consideration on the fiddle is not just which fingers and where, but the path of movement. watch other videos of fiddlers to see the direction of movement, and copy that to make the sound that you are already hearing in your head. watching also helps in learning how to hear it, because rolls are the bits of blurry fingers!

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Wow, that was an impressive video. I can’t wait until my fingers get THAT flexible! :)

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In contrast have a look at Paddy Canny.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KBONRwNY77c

His fingers completely cover the fingerboard and they hardly move.
Such amazing depth of expression with such economy.
Even Frankie Gavin seems to be watching in wonderment!

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To my mind, "impressive" is exactly what this music isn’t about. "Expressive," yes.

Nothing against Blake Ritter’s playing—I enjoy it, and it’s certainly expressive in his own way. Besides, that clip of him is from competition, where you’re expected to show your stuff. Not reasonable to judge his playing on that alone.

Music isn’t about technique and virtuosity and twiddly bits. It’s about heart.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=maxr4ajzu0s

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Re: Well, i started learning ornamentation…

Definitely heart and also rhythm, since it’s supposed to be
dance music. I’ve run into a lot of players who can’t play in
rhythm, but they have cuts and rolls. What’s the point?

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The crispness will come with practice. Give yourself some time. As Llig says, as long as you hear the problems and can continue to work on them all is well.

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Hup, I don’t understand your post there. Since cuts and rolls and stuff are rhythmic articulations, if they "can’t play in rhythm", then they can’t "have" them. Please explain?

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Re: Well, i started learning ornamentation…

I hear understand what you’rte saying Will. It may not be about being "impressive" but that doesn’t change the fact that that guy is skilled. I was only commenting on his flexibility. You know how expressive i am when it comes to someone elses talent :) It excites me :)

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gam, I don’t know how to say this but I don’t enjoy listening to the clip of McDarra O’Raghallaig. He obviously is highly skilled, knows his fiddle & the tunes quite well. His movements are efficient & impeccable. I’ll listen a few more times & perhaps I’ll come around.
Cheers.

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Re: Well, i started learning ornamentation…

That fella Blake Ritter is playing really really snappy rolls there in a competition. He’s competing, pay no attention to it. (good player otherwise mind)

It’s a way of playing rolls where you begin them as late as you possibly can and squeeze them in right at the end. I do it quite a lot, but never exclusively. The trick, I think, is to vary it, however, at the beginning, looking at all these different ways of playing rolls could be confusing.

I think that at the beginning it’s more useful to be able to distinguish between the two main kinds of roll, the short roll and the slow roll. The slow roll, as I said above is the one that goes in the same times as half a bar in a jig, or the first 3 notes of 4 in half a bar in a reel. The short roll goes in the same times a the first 2 notes in half a bar in a jig, or the first 2 notes or second 2 notes of 4 in half a bar in a reel.

The other thing that shouldn’t confuse you is that there are basically two kinds of technique in the first half of the roll’s execution. One is to flick the finger across the string sideways (Blake Ritter’s doing this in his video), the other is to put the finger down vertically and raise it up again quickly. And the only thing important in the discussion of the relative merits of these two techniques is that on only hearing either, it’s impossible to tell which is which.

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Re: Well, i started learning ornamentation…

Llig, cuts and rolls are bits of technique. Sure, sure they’re
an integral part of the tune, etc etc etc. But they don’t magically
make you play in rhythm. More often than not they make the rhythm
mushy, if you’re looking at local neighborhood session players. Switching for moment to flute players, even good ones
tend to have mushy rhythm as a result of rolling everything.

I see playing in rhythm as the single most important thing to master in Trad session fiddle playing, even more than
intonation or hitting the right notes.

Re: Well, i started learning ornamentation…

Couldn’t agree more Hup, playing in rhythm as the single most important thing. But as much as cuts and rolls are merely bits of technique, you only "have" those bits of technique if you can make them make the rhythm .. for that is what they are for.

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…. and I have to add, if, even your good flute players
tend to have mushy rhythm as a result of rolling everything, then they ain’t good flute players.

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How about giving authentic twiddles their due vs. just noodling twittles … ? Articulation is good rhythm & vice versa.

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Re: Well, i started learning ornamentation…

Well, I agree with that comment about the flute players Llig, but
I’m afraid to get specific about it.

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@rocky: i think it is good to show different examples. i think your clip illustrates my point well… although the path of movement is different in your video, my point is that the path of movement is essential to study. i think understanding that difference is important, as one may prefer to play like paddy canny than blake ritter.

also, i think it should be pointed out that perhaps you and i may be able to see paddy and frankie’s fingers moving, a beginner might see just as much "nothing" as with blake’s video. in other words, their ornamentation is just as hard to make out as blake’s, but for different reasons.

@illig: i agree that a difference between a roll and a perfectly timed roll is important. that’s why every few months i go back to my rolls and start over… going all the way back to mike rafferty-like even roll and then go back to my swung rolls (i’m partial to them, just like blake).

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