Short roll articulation

Short roll articulation

(I have searched the discussions and I can’t find coverage of this topic. My apologies if it has been covered already.)

Just to put baggage on the table here, in case a flaw in my facts/assumptions is leading me to ask a nonsensical or misguided question.

My understanding is that there are basically 2 kinds of rolls, long and short.

A long roll is a way of rhythmically decorating a dotted quarter note that starts on a beat.

A short roll is a way of rhythmically decorating a quarter note.

Sometimes a short roll comes at the start of a phrase. For example, you might play one right at the start of Drowsy Maggie.

But often, a short roll is preceded by two eighth notes, so that the combination of these two “lead in” notes plus the short roll fills the space of a half note which starts on either the 1 or the 3 (assuming you are playing a reel, and assuming you are considering each measure to have 4 beats). The second of these lead in notes is generally of the same pitch as the note being decorated with the short roll. An example of this usage would be the opening phrase of Sweeney’s Buttermilk.

When I listen to recordings of traditional music which use the latter short roll construct mentioned above, there is very often some kind of articulated “gap” at the point that falls after the second lead in eight note and before the actual short roll.

For example, when I listen to pipers, it often sounds to me like the pitch very briefly dips and then rises, which I am guessing is a common piping idiom to separate two notes of the same pitch.When I listen to fiddlers, I sometimes hear this same type of effect – like a cut, but the pitch goes _down_ not up. But then sometimes I hear what sounds like a change of bow direction or perhaps a momentary slow down or pause of the bow without a change of direction. For example, it seems like Kevin Burke’s playing does this a lot. And then sometimes I hear a volume accent right on the start of the short roll, with or without an actual interruption in the sound. And when I listen to whistle, flute, or accordion, I hear other various sorts of little “blurps” (articulations) at the instant after the second lead in note near when the short roll starts.

Through my experience of taking lessons and classes, reading books, watching DVDs and online videos, etc, I have never to the best of my knowledge come across any mention of the need to articulate this gap before short rolls. And in fact when you see these kinds of phrases notated in books, they often will have the second lead in note with a a tie (slur) to the note that is being short-rolled. This notation, to me, would imply that there is no articulated “gap” there – that the start of the note being rolled is really just a continuation of the note before it. But it is very clear to my ears when I listen to experienced players that they do articulate this gap in a number of ways as mentioned above.

So what I want to ask is:
- Am I just confused? 🙂
- Fiddlers – do you articulate the gap before short rolls that I am talking about? If so, in what way(s) do you achieve this articulation?

Re: Short roll articulation

I’m also curious to hear various answers to this.

Harry Bradley describes what he does as a regular diaphragmatic pulse (a minor one on every eigth note, with accents on the down and backbeat). So naturally, the figure

DAA2 will be pulsed DA AA

He then adds in the short roll on AA, giving

DA A/{G}A/{B}A

I’ve been finding this really hard to do, so often cheat by putting in glottal or tongue articulation. What other options are there on various instruments?

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Re: Short roll articulation

(woops, I implied tap cut above, I meant cut tap for the short roll, B then G (or any other cut-tap notes))

Also curious… I remember Harry saying that he never plays a “long roll” (thought it could be seen as just a decoration on the quarter note) on these notes:

DA {B}A{G}A

I’ve also sometimes seen something like

DA A/G/A written. Does anyone play that?

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Re: Short roll articulation

In my experience most fiddlers don’t change bow direction before what you are calling a short roll in a phrase like like BE E2. In other words it would be bowed something like this: B(E {G}E{D}E), with what is inside the parentheses taken in a single bow stroke.

I always thought that Kevin Burke was one of the few who normally did change bow direction after the first E in our example above. But that is based on listening to him decades ago, things could have changed.

I think that a majority of whistle players articulate in similar fashion, i.e. if they tongue or use a glottal stop, it won’t come after the first E in the phrase above but after. A majority but not all.

Pipers are something else. 🙂

BTW for years in teaching contexts I have referred to rolls in phrases such as the example I use as “off-beat rolls” to distinguish them from short rolls “proper” that fall on the beat. If the distinction might help anybody. My personal preference is not to articulate the start of the “short roll” in these phrases but slur, because I prefer the effect to the choppy sound you otherwise get.

Re: Short roll articulation

That should read, “ won’t come after the first E but BEFORE“, sorry.

Re: Short roll articulation

I agree with Jeeves for the most part. But changing the bow direction in the figure creates a nice variation when its done. In The Drunken Landlady, for example, I will change bow direction for the roll on the second E. I think it gives bit of choppiness to the tune and really makes the roll pop out. Not every time probably, but sometimes. And sometimes, I just play the triplet.

Re: Short roll articulation

I hear quite a lot of talk of these ‘long rolls’ and ‘short rolls’ and things. I’ve never learnt what they are. Or rather, what is meant by them. In my experience, each player has a sort of ‘repertoire’ of sounds they can make, and uses them all at some point or other, as appropriate. I don’t actually think about that when I play. I’m starting to wonder if there might be a reason to think of them. If anybody knows the answer to that, i’d be at least curious …

People sometimes say they like my rolls and ask me how I do them. Most of the time, I’m thinking ‘Well, that wasn’t a roll’ so I find it really hard to answer.

Ah well. I’m not miserable in my playing (most of the time). I think I’ll just carry on as I am.

Re: Short roll articulation

Amongst the many things that can be dropped under the heading of ‘roll’, here are two ways to look at one way each to do something that could be called ‘long’ and ‘short’, and ’articulation choices are also variable, but just the rolls, without ‘articulation’, meaning no bow changes and no tonguing ~

‘long’ as three notes (N): ~ N{cut}N[tip}N - - - ~A2 - - - A{cut}A[tip}A

‘short’ as two notes (N): ~ {cut}N[tip}N - - - ~A3 - - - {cut}A[tip}A

Re: Short roll articulation

A long roll is a baguette and a short roll is a bap or a bun (in American).

😏 - Oops!

I’ve mixed up the As - which should have been, rolling on an A ~

‘long’ as three notes (N): ~A3 - - - A{cut}A[tip}A

‘short’ as two notes (N): ~A2 - - - {cut}A[tip}A

Another ‘short’ roll is a squashed version of the ‘long’ given above ~

‘short’ as three notes (N): ~A2 - - - (3AAA - - - (3A{cut}A[tip}A

or ~ A/A/A

Still confused? 😉

Re: Short roll articulation

Pipers have no choice but to cut or tip between notes, as there is no way to interrupt the flow of air. They can’t do things like triplets, that can be done on other instruments.

Re: Short roll articulation

“Pipers have no choice but to cut or tip between notes, as there is no way to interrupt the flow of air. They can’t do things like triplets, that can be done on other instruments.”

Can you not stop the chanter altogether using ‘closed fingering’, with the bottom of the chanter closed?

Also, correct me. pipers, if I’m wrong, but you can interrupt two notes of the same pitch with a bottom D, which, presumably, being the same note as the drones, would sound a bit like a gap.

Re: Short roll articulation

“And in fact when you see these kinds of phrases notated in books, they often will have the second lead in note with a a tie (slur) to the note that is being short-rolled.”

There’s your problem. You are laboring under the delusion that this music can be notated. Your ears are correct and there are all sorts of interesting articulations that can lead into a short roll. On flute I often play them with a glottal on the first cut.

@Timo - you are describing what I’d think of as a double-cut short roll. Difficult indeed!

Re: Short roll articulation

…I’m sure I have heard staccato triplets on the pipes - although I assume thes are very difficult to do well.

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Al should specify the type of piper he means. What he says is certainly not true for uilleann pipers (or Northumbrian ones for that matter).

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Re: Short roll articulation

Ooops, I stand corrected, should have known better.

Re: Short roll articulation

Just to clarify further, I was referring to highland pipes.

Re: Short roll articulation

I don’t see why the limitations of notation are of overiding importance. Why would someone show the tie/slur if they didn’t intend to indicate less of a break, in that instance, than would be assumed if it was not shown ? The assumption depending on how familier the writer and expected reader are with the genre.

Re: Short roll articulation

Thanks Elaine, you reminded me - double-tip rolls too… 😀

long & short

Re: Short roll articulation

or short and long

Re: Short roll articulation

Thanks to those who have chimed in on thread. Some interesting stuff. But surely there must be more to say! What sorts of articulations do others here use before short rolls?

Re: Short roll articulation

One I use when coming from a higher note to a lower on the same string is to pop the open string in between, eg
a2 f# f#
would be articulated
a2 (e) f# (a) f#

I also sometimes use an open string as a single grace note in the same situation, ie going from a higher note to a lower.

If that makes sense. It’s easier to play than to write.

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Re: Short roll articulation

I know little about fiddles or plectrum instruments or boxes, but I’ve played whistle, flute, and uilleann pipes for many years.

On whistle, it’s common to articulate, with the tongue, short rolls which occur on a beat (be it the 1st or 3rd eighthnote of a group of 4 in reels, or the 1st eighthnote of a group of 3 in jigs) .

As the original post says, sometimes a short roll can masquerade as a long roll if preceeded by a note of the same pitch, but the timing and articulation are still those of a short roll.

For example when a reel goes

BGGG DGGG

the timing and articulation of those three Gs is quite different from when a reel goes

GGGB GGGD

On the flute I myself wouldn’t tongue short rolls but instead do a “breath push”. These diaphragm accents can be so acute and crisp as to fool people who don’t play Irish flute into thinking that the fluteplayer is tongueing. I’ve had “classical” flutists insist that I’m tongueing, when in fact I’ve held my tongue against the roof of my mouth to insure its immobility.(In Irish flute workshops… I wouldn’t do that normally!)

On the uilleann pipes there are different ways to accent short rolls. One is to lift the chanter momentarily. However I and some other pipers tend to lift the chanter during the pat, so that a Bottom D pops out, rather than during the cut. Maybe this is creating the rising of pitch you mention.

Another piping thing which can bring out a short roll is to use a higher-pitched initial gracenote. You’ll hear Paddy Moloney in particular use thumb gracenotes for the hardest possible attack to some short rolls.

Re: Short roll articulation

“You’ll hear Paddy Moloney in particular use thumb gracenotes for the hardest possible attack to some short rolls.”

I’ve gotten shouted at for doing that. All right if you’re Paddy Maloney. 🙂

In addition to everything Richard said (except for cutting them with a back D 🙂 ), I also like sliding into short rolls from the note below.

Re: Short roll articulation

I have found that talk of rolls here is pretty much useless. So many people think they know what rolls are and can even talk like they know what rolls are. I’m not accusing anyone in particular, I just think that in the long run, threads like this are probably counterproductive. There’s always a lot of talk about what notes are used but this is a misdirection. It’s not about the notes, it’s the rhythm.

However, for what it’s worth, I think that making the distinction between long rolls and short rolls is important. The best way I can think of of explaining the difference is to think of banjo playing. That distinctive banjo triplet thing (it’s not really a triplet, it’s a couple of semi quavers) is the thing that banjo players do instead short rolls. And banjos (or mandolins or guitars or bazookas or ukuleles or anything else with frets and strings you pluck) can’t do anything in place of long rolls. And before anyone disagrees, read my first par again.

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Re: Short roll articulation

‘Slur’ ~ 😎

It’s all about rhythm…and pitch…

Re: Short roll articulation

I have found that talk of rolls here is pretty much useless. So many people think they know what rolls are and can even talk like they know what rolls are. I’m not accusing anyone in particular, I just think that in the long run, threads like this are probably counterproductive. There’s always a lot of talk about what notes are used but this is a misdirection. It’s not about the notes, it’s the rhythm.

However, for what it’s worth, I think that making the distinction between long rolls and short rolls is important. The best way I can think of of explaining the difference is to think of banjo playing. That distinctive banjo triplet thing (it’s not really a triplet, it’s a couple of semi quavers) is the thing that banjo players do instead short rolls. And banjos (or mandolins or guitars or bazookas or ukuleles or anything else with frets and strings you pluck) can’t do anything in place of long rolls. And before anyone disagrees, read my first par again.“
None of which takes in to account left hand techniques such as hammering on and pulling off.
Guitarists such as Paul De Grae and Julie Henigan advocate these techniques, as do 5 string banjo tutors such as Tom Hanway.
Fretted instruments do not rely entirely on right hand techniques.