Playing the roll on A4

Playing the roll on A4

Whats the prefered way of playing rolls on the note of A4 (open A string) on the fiddle? Do you shift position on the D string or do you sort of wiggle the bow between the A and D string?

Heres an example (starts at 1.17):

Seems impossible to do the rolls smoothly if you do not shift position, but i hear shifting position is frowned upon?

Re: Playing the roll on A4

I nearly always play 0 1 3 1 0
(same for any other open string on the fiddle)

Sometimes 0 1 2 1 0
and sometimes, very rarely, 0 1 4 1 0

the latter two only if I want to make the third note a fraction more ‘audible’ than the norm, as a sort of tiny hint of a melodic effect in a particular tune.

Re: Playing the roll on A4

You might ask Éilish how she does them. She is on facebook I believe. She is a lovely fiddler and very encouraging to those of us struggling to master this deuced instrument.

FWIW: I roll the open A string Adba so really more of a double cut. If the timing is right (as mine sometimes is!) it sounds like a true roll. One row box players often play AdA(tiny pause)A, letting the listener’s mind fill in the “missing” G. That might work on the fiddle. I am trying to master that on the box, but haven’t tried it on fiddle.

Most Irish fiddlers don’t shift much if at all (though that doesn’t make us shiftless!) If you can do it without sounding too classical it might lead to some interesting new opportunities.

Re: Playing the roll on A4


I’ll have to try adding the 1.

Re: Playing the roll on A4

I used to do: 0 1 3 1 0, but it never really satisfied me rhythmically - then I started playing regularly with a piper and thought “why don’t I learn to do crans?”. So I adapted it to: 0 3 0 2 0 (to the same rhythm as a bowed triplet, i.e. one dotted crotchet) or: 0 3 0 2 0 3 0 to make it a longer, full cran. You have to work a bit at the rhythm, and listening to a good piper can really make the difference. One important thing to note is that you finger it fast with flat fingers - tapping the string rather than placing the tips down on the strings like normal.

Re: Playing the roll on A4

Trying to find what a cran is, have never heard of it- i am from sweden you see. Do you have any examples?
I figure you mean 0 3 0 2 0 on the same string yes?

Forgive me for my ignorance

Re: Playing the roll on A4

Matt Milton - do you play the rolls in a single bow?

I think a roll on the D string (on the A note) would have a sound more consistent with the normal rolls (where you start with a fingered note). I suppose it depends on what comes before and after, where the notes are - thinking of keeping a smooth flow.

For the open A, I usually just do a quick trill on the A/C# with the open E sounding (rather than a roll).

Andrej - I can’t get the Spotify clip to play. Is she playing a jig or a reel?

Re: Playing the roll on A4

Crans are piping ornaments, usually an ornament that involves a main “base” note and a series of grace notes played very fast above it. Like in these examples:

There’s a whole discussion on here about how to play them on whistles ( but since we’re talking fiddle technique here, I’d look at the pipe example above. The fact it’s one “base” note with grace notes above suits it to open strings (though you can play a cran over a first finger using the same, so it becomes 1 3 1 2 1 3 1 - that’s REALLY tricky though). So, yes, it’s on one string, and generally one bow.

To put it in ABC, it looks a bit like this:

Short version: (D Major, so F#)

Long version:

Now, remember, this isn’t ‘normal’ fiddle technique. This is an ornamentation I’ve come up with over the years as an alternative to always having to use bowed triplets on an open string. Does that help any?

Re: Playing the roll on A4

Yes Matt, it makes sense. Thanks for the explanation 🙂

Re: Playing the roll on A4

What I describe here has worked well for me. Maybe it will help you.

Here’s how I do open string fakey rolls:
1. start the string open - so for A string, note is open A;
2. put down finger 1 - so for A string, note is B; the exact timing of when this finger goes down is something you can experiment with to create the right rhythmic feel within the tune for the roll
3. cut the B note with finger 3 - so for A string, a D will very briefly interrupt the B, cutting it into two blips
4. release finger 1 - note is open A; again, the timing of this release can be varied in order that the roll has the right rhythmic effect in the tune

All of the above steps are executed without any bow direction changes. (Usually!) The exact pitches of the fingered notes do not matter a lot, it’s more about the rhythmic effect created.

I think of rolls as substitutable for a triplets (or “trebles”) where usually the same pitch it repeated three times. With a bowed triplet you create 3 separate notes using the bow. With a roll you create 3 separate notes using left hand cleverness. When doing a open string roll, it’s still as if the roll is functioning like a triplet, but the first 2 notes of the triplet are the pitch created by putting your first finger down, which is a B in the case of open A string rolls.

Re: Playing the roll on A4

timmy’s last paragraph explains it for me. I tend to use fingers with one bow stroke in preference to bowed triplets, and apart from that weird cran I use all the examples mentioned above, but which ones I’d use would depend totally on what tune I’m playing and how I want to play it.

Re: Playing the roll on A4

Gobby – definitely, I think as you get comfortable with this general approach of making ornaments with an open string, many variations in fingers used and in timing are possible and useful to articulate a tune in just the way you intend. The specific pattern I described has worked well for me as a basic and not too difficult way to make some reasonable “roll-ish” noises with an open string.

Some careful listening to a master of deft and subtle left hand articulations, such as TOMMY PEOPLES, will open up whole worlds of possibility.

Re: Playing the roll on A4

Tommy Peoples is a good example of someone who’s listened to a piping tradition - though remember that in Donegal that can often tend to come from the Highland piping tradition, rather than from the Uillean pipes. Nevertheless, the description of it as “three separate notes using left hand cleverness” kind of sums it up. Whichever kind of effect you’re trying to achieve, the route to it is relentless, hand-aching practice, and gradually speeding the thing up and adjusting the rhythm until it sounds right. As long as you’re not putting anyone off and it doesn’t affect your overall rhythm, just keep at it until you’re happy with it.

Re: Playing the roll on A4

While we’re having this discussion… am I the only person who often plays second-finger and third-finger rolls using an open string?

For example: 2 3 2 0 2
or 3 4 3 0 3
(as opposed to the norm of 2 3 2 1 2 or 3 4 3 2 3)

It’s easier, so I feel like I’m cheating when I do it. But sonically I invariably think it sounds better - there’s a lovely attack/roughness you can get with the pulling-off/hammering on using the open string.

(Oh and Jim, to answer your question further up this thread – yes, single bow for those open-string rolls)

Re: Playing the roll on A4

I occasionally do that, but it tends to be when I’m playing in an unusual key and it’s just too awkward to flatten the first finger. Not that I often play in Eb or Bb, but you know, sometimes…