Rule of thumb for adding ornamentation to a tune? (whistle)

Rule of thumb for adding ornamentation to a tune? (whistle)

I think this question may have been covered before in one form or another, so please indulge me if it has.

When learning a new tune, how would I go about knowing *where* to add ornamentation/embellishments? Is there a (simple) rule of thumb?

I have been trying to add them to longer notes in a piece, though this is not always satisfactory.

Considering that there are of course various forms of embellishment, is there maybe a rule of thumb for each?

Re: Rule of thumb for adding ornamentation to a tune? (whistle)

The answer is no, there is no (simple) rule of thumb. Or indeed any rule of thumb.
If you are learning from an audio source, try to play what you hear. If you are playing from sheet music, only you can decide where you want to *use* ornaments — I hesitate to say ‘add’ them: if they aren’t serving any purpose, don’t put them in. If they don’t enhance the rhythm, accentuate phrasing or generally sound good, they might as well not be there. As always, the answer is *listen*.

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Re: Rule of thumb for adding ornamentation to a tune? (whistle)

This book and the accompanying CDs go into a bit of detail on how and when to use ornamentation:
http://greylarsen.com/store/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=25

I’d definitely recommend getting your hands on a copy. I have no affiliation with the author or publishers - I’m just think it’s a great resource especially if you don’t have easy access to a teacher.

Re: Rule of thumb for adding ornamentation to a tune? (whistle)

If there is any basic principle to follow regarding ornaments in Irish music, it is to think of them not as *decorations* to be added to the tune so much as ways of *articulating* the tune. In this respect, they fit in the same category as tonguing and breathing points - and are closely linked to phrasing.

Once you have the basic mechanics of the common ornamentation techniques (cuts, taps, rolls…), the next stage is, as gam says, to listen to how other players use them.

"I have been trying to add them to longer notes in a piece…"

If you are talking about *rolls* then, yes, they are generally played on the longer notes (crotchets and dotted crotchets) in a tune. But, to state this as a ‘rule’ would be an an oversimplification. You’ll sometimes see rolls marked on sheet music of jigs and reels - which is fine as a suggestion of where to put them. But this does not tell you how it should sound - for that, there is no substitute for listening.

Re: Rule of thumb for adding ornamentation to a tune? (whistle)

While we’re at suggesting books, I’d warmly recommend "An Feadóg Mhór" by Conal Ó Gráda. In the first part of the book he explains ornamentation (with a separate chapter each ornament) and phrasing on the basis of only a small number of recurring tunes, so that you get some ideas of alternative possibilities and variation along the way. In the invaluable second part he basically explains how to listen.
http://www.conalograda.com/?p=437

Re: Rule of thumb for adding ornamentation to a tune? (whistle)

Rule of thumb? No, don’t use your thumb! 😉

I enthusiastically second Colman’s suggestion of the grey larsen book. It is exhaustive, well written, with audio and good explanations.

Re: Rule of thumb for adding ornamentation to a tune? (whistle)

Some of this may depend on where you are musically. If whistle is your first instrument, the Larsen and O’Grada books may be overwhelming.

If you need the fundamentals first, the Clark Tin Whistle book may be the way to go (fair warning, all three have differing ideas on lots of things, rolls especially).

The Larsen will give you years of practice material. I still go back to it now and then.

The O’Grada goes over the same material with much less drill (good or bad depending on your point of view. Great approach to breathing! Wonderful CD.

You can’t go wrong with any if them, just realize the right way is what works for you.

Re: Rule of thumb for adding ornamentation to a tune? (whistle)

"(..)how would I go about knowing *where* to add ornamentation/embellishments?"

You wouldn’t, but it’s usually OK (even recommended) to separate two notes (usually quavers) of identical pitch with:
1 a cut
2 a strike

Instead of a crotchet you could play a short roll, a treble, two quavers, two quavers with a cut in between etc.

"How do you put ornamentation into a tune?":
https://thesession.org/discussions/31844#comment681740

Re: Rule of thumb for adding ornamentation to a tune? (whistle)

Oh, Dont’ use your Thumb, that’s just showing off !
tee, hee, ( Just Joking Mate )
🙂
f4

Re: Rule of thumb for adding ornamentation to a tune? (whistle)

"If there is any basic principle to follow regarding ornaments in Irish music, it is to think of them not as ‘decorations’ to be added to the tune so much as ways of articulating the tune."

This is exactly my thought. We can, and do, play entire tunes without any ‘ornaments’ (by definition something not part of the tune which is added for decoration). However the tunes have much articulation, much of this being done with the fingers, with cuts, pats, and rolls.

To take the simplest example, The Kesh Jig, which can be thought of as starting

6/8 | GGG GAB | AAA ABd |

You could just play it

| GF#G (tongue) GAB | AGA (tongue) ABd |

but I and many others would play it

| G(cut)G(pat)G (cut)GAB | A(cut)A(pat)A (cut)ABd |

These cuts and pats, taken together, can be thought of as a unit and called "rolls" but really you’re just articulating a series of notes with the digits rather than the tongue. Yes they have a somewhat decorative effect but the purpose is giving articulation and rhythm.

Re: Rule of thumb for adding ornamentation to a tune? (whistle)

I’m a keyboard guy, and American to boot, but it seem to me that almost every version of a tune I hear is slightly different, depending, I suppose, on the instrument, the skill of the players, the occasion, etc. My theory is to listen to as many versions as I can, and try all the versions on The Session, and see which seems to be most fitting to the tune and sound best. When I play a tune I know well, even at my skill level, I will play it differently on different days. Surely, in trad as in jazz, though perhaps to a lesser extent, creativity is the essence of good playing. Otherwise, why not just play CDs?