Off Beat Rolls - Companion to do Fiddlers think of rolls differently

Off Beat Rolls - Companion to do Fiddlers think of rolls differently

The fiddler vs flute/whistle/piper discussion on rolls is a start. But that thread doesn’t get into off-beat rolls.

There are a couple different ways off-beat rolls are used*, but I’m thinking first of the common rhythmic pattern of two eighth notes followed by a short roll, a fast long-roll, a triplet or a triplet run, like in the Drunken Landlady, Swallows Tail, Pigeon on the Gate or any number of other reels.

Michael Coleman or Kevin Burke are masters at this pattern. Their bowing gives a great rhythmic drive and swing. Sometimes they’ll play a bowed triplet, sometimes a roll, sometimes a triplet run (slurred or bowed, I can’t tell).

In this situation, do players of spit-instruments or inflated-goat-skins, often try to emulate the cat-gut players, or do they always their own methods of expressing these kinds of off-beat rolls?

Of course whistles, pipes and flutes don’t have bowing, but they do have breath and tongue.

* Other off-beat rolls include ones that carry across strong beats, and short rolls that happen when you get two, same eighth notes in the middle of four eighth notes

Re: Off Beat Rolls - Companion to do Fiddlers think of rolls differently

From a piping perspective, too many rolls, even the various exotic ones you’ve described, can get monotonous.
That’s why the piper’s bag of tricks include triplets, quadruplets, slides, popping and other various controlled squawks, 🙂

Re: Off Beat Rolls - Companion to do Fiddlers think of rolls differently

For the first type you describe, I’d usually play (on flute) the two eighth notes followed by a short roll, possibly with some kind of accent through glottal stop or tonguing. Something I’d do in, say, Green Mountain or George White’s.

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Re: Off Beat Rolls - Companion to do Fiddlers think of rolls differently

Wot is offbeat? Do you mean backbeat?

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Re: Off Beat Rolls - Companion to do Fiddlers think of rolls differently

It’s a term I coined for teaching purposes. AFAIK. Who knows, others may have used it, but I had only ever heard what I call "off-beat rolls" described as "short rolls," which they aren’t. At least not the way that most fiddle players do them. (Kevin Burke is an exception.) Full explanation: http://rogermillington.com/siamsa/brosteve/rolls4.html

Re: Off Beat Rolls - Companion to do Fiddlers think of rolls differently

I have learned a lot from Stiamh/Bro’ Steve’s website, and he calls them off-beat rolls, as opposed to rolls on the strong beat at the start of a measure. That’s an important distinction. Grey Larsen’s book is really good and complete, as well.

The term short roll is insufficient because what I’m hearing from Coleman and Burke is a a longer rhythmic package: two eighths followed by either a triplet, a roll (short or long) or a triplet run. Often articulated by bowing or sometimes slurred. Fiddlers also have the ability to accent the loudness of the notes.

A whistler, piper or flute player would probably cran the triplet or else do the roll. Or they could tongue the start of the triplet. I think my question is whether any whistle players try to imitate the rhythmic pulse of Coleman, or whether they just stick with piper or whistle-style rolls.

I’m having specific problems getting the rhythmic pulse to feel right on Drunken Landlady, Pigeon on the Gate and The Swallow’s tail. Mary Bergin has a spectacular version of Drunken Landlady. Keven Burke’s Pigeon on the Gate is really hard for me to approximate. The Swallow’s Tail (Coleman’s version, not Dervish’s), uses a lot of off-beat triplet runs, as well as the roll/short-roll.

Re: Off Beat Rolls - Companion to do Fiddlers think of rolls differently

« Often articulated by bowing or sometimes slurred. »

The great majority of fiddlers habitually articulate "off-beat rolls" in the way I describe on the page I linked to: the roll component is taken in a single bow, as indicated by the parentheses here: B (E{G}E{D}E)

Kevin Burke is, as I said earlier, an exception, in that he normally changes bow direction after the second quaver / 8th note (the first E in the example above). Which means he is really playing a short roll there. Not many fiddlers do this. Kathleen Collins is another I can think of. Coleman may do so, although I just listened to the first few bars of his Lord Gordon’s reel, where he doesn’t. But if you wanted documentary evidence you could look at David Lyth’s book of transcriptions of the playing of Coleman and other Sligo players, including bowings. I assume he identified bowing in these figures correctly but who knows.

You could of course emulate KB’s short rolls by tonguing after the first E in our example, if you like the sound you produce when you do.

But to go back to your question, I’d say that most whistle players articulate these passages in the same way as most fiddle players. Mary Bergin, certainly, I would say. The key to getting the drunken landlady in your pub to sound like the one in Mary’s would be clear articulation of the three parts of the E.

Until you can do that, I wouldn’t get too hung up about trying to emulate what fiddlers are doing. In KB’s pigeon he is playing a bowed triplet, but a characteristically highly compressed one. You could triple-tongue the E but getting it as compressed as that, apart from being difficult, would probably sound pretty ghastly.