Trills as ornamentation

Trills as ornamentation

I’ve been listening to jigs and reels on fiddle for a while now, and I’m thinking that some of the decoration/ornamentation in these tunes could be enhanced by substituting a trill in place of a roll (on occasion), or even on some of the long notes.

Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

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I’m not too sure without hearing it in context, what you mean by a ‘trill’. You can do just about anything to ornament a tune as long as it fits in naturally, without distracting from the tune itself. But if what you suggest is something that you haven’t already heard, then I doubt it would be a good idea.

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You could certainly change the music by using trills, but whether it would be an enhancement or not would be a matter of personal opinion. It would certainly change the character of the music, I have a feeling you would land up making it sound like a baroque ensemble rather than traditional music, which wouldn’t be to my taste. And I think a lot of people would assume you’re just doing that because you can’t play proper rolls.

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Yes, the question immediately made me think of some videos I watched on YouTube: a classical violinist "learning a folk fiddle tune a day" for a month. She played an approximation of a roll, which was basically a classical trill, only she leaned a bit harder on the bow to give it a bit of scrunch. It just sounded rubbish, and almost a bit condescending.

It’s interesting that you used the word ‘enhanced’, because intuitively I feel using a trill would almost be ‘de-enhancing’, in that a roll does more than a trill does: can’t help but think a trill would sound a bit decorous and square in irish music. Then again, a cut isn’t far off a trill; I suppose playing two cuts in quick succession would be more or less like playing a classical trill. But if I were going to go down that route, I’d prefer to properly try to master playing a cran on the fiddle, something I’ve never really investigated.

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There is some evidence that, in piping at least, trills were a common style of ornamentation until well into the 19th century. Brief trills still fit well in certain contexts, I think.

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I was just thinking that, myles. In O’Farrell’s "Pocket Companion for the Union Pipes" (1806) trills are a commonly indicated ornament, at least on airs like The Coolun. But I imagine a trill played at speed in a reel or jig would need to serve the pulse, accentuating it like a Tommy Peoples triplet. I’ve never heard a trill played that way, that I’m aware of. Maybe it would sound unforced and natural. I’m skeptical but wouldn’t mind being proved wrong.

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Isn’t there a trill in Shebeg Shemore?

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A trill has a specific meaning in baroque music, right? I’m not sure that a baroque trill has a customary meaning or usage in ITM, where the cuts and taps are so rapid you don’t distinguish the notes - rolls are rhythmic articulations rather than notes.

That said, I’ve noticed that short trills in the baroque sense fit in a couple places in Brenda Stubbert’s, and Trolley’s Reel. Maybe just my personal taste, but if I’ve found one suitable usage I can’t deny there are others.

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I had a go at a trill in this one, just to see what came out. They’re obviously different from rolls in that there’s an indeterminate number of notes in a trill (notation is no more that a guide on this one), whereas a roll usually has a set number of notes, even if the pitch is not alway sounded.

I found the difficulty was ‘getting out’ of the trill and preserving the timing. Still, first time I’ve really tried it.

Sorry about the hiss …

http://worldfiddlemusic.com/guest/trill-file2331.mp3

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Thanks Jim. Yes, that’s the sort of thing that I would imagine one would do if you wanted to drop a trill into traditional music. Some of the ornaments Sean Keane plays on his ‘Gusty’s Frolics’ album are a bit like that; and he blurs the line between standard rolls, his own personal take on rolls, his mimicking of piping ornamentation and all points in between.

Hearing that trill Jim, I can’t help finding myself thinking that it basically occupies the place where a piper would play a cran, and fulfils much the same function. So I’d prefer it to sound more pipes-like and cran-ish. I think that about sums it up for me: why play a trill when you could play a cran? Or alternatively… if you’re gonna play a trill, make it sound as Irish as possible. (And if you’re going to do that, it rather begs the question, ‘why play a trill in the first place?’)

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Matt : "why play a trill in the first place?"

Just to get a different sound and effect. I’d experiment with putting it in at different places, too - but the main idea was that it would be used sparingly in time spaces of rolls, or long notes. I prefer to have the trill sounding against an adjacent string, rather that as single notes (that would be a real "classical" sound, which I’d try to avoid).

I’m going to try the idea of your cran. Did you say it was 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 ?

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Seamus Ennis will often play a short trill to articulate the start of a note. I think this was what he called a "shiver" - it’s basically a brief trill though.

Paddy Moloney will also use trills occasionally.

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Lots of pipers play trills. Or shivers. Whatever you want to call it. Adds variation.

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No, I’m not the cran guy! I don’t know how to play one on the fiddle - I’ve sort of experimented once or twice, particularly in trying to play tunes I’ve learned via Willie Clancy and Seamus Ennis, but not got as far as working out any ‘rules’

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OK, maybe it’s the ‘other’ Matt on here. Or someone else …someone described fingering of crans on fiddle recently. I copied and pasted this text at the time, but I can’t remember the thread.

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Jim, the other thing you did differently from how a "trill" is usually defined is that you alternated between a and c# where a trill would alternate between two notes a step apart (half or whole, doesn’t matter). Gives it a different character. It sounded Scandinavian to me, more than anything else.

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The most famous trill for me is in Ennis’ Bucks:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=GrXsmfmqcFA


I have always loved this mad Tom Morrison trill particularly the mad one in the second time of the A part:
https://archive.org/details/TomMorrisonMaggieintheWoods

There’s also loads of trills in Irish piccolo playing for some reason. I suppose it’s because the instrument lends itself to it. I know I play a lot of piccolo and certainly add trills more on piccolo than flute, Kevin(?) McCusker springs to mind:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=oVStt-liPYo


As far as modern players go I’ve certainly heard Matt Molloy (see maybe the Morning Thrush?/ Bucks) Jean Michell Veillon, Harry, Conal I could go on. Most people would play a roll (or long note though) though
Loads of pipers.

Anyway
This may not be a trill in the baroque or classical sense but in traditional music the above is what’s being indicated.

I listen to a young Swedish piper on Facebook that trills everything and his music is brilliant

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Of course the other thing is, that trill of mine took up the space of two main notes, plus a treble. Putting it in place of a roll only would be a different scenario entirely.

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Ennis’ lovely version of ‘The Clay of Kilcreggan’ is very trill-heavy.

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Yeah… that was me with the crans…
/0 3 /0 2 0 to the rhythm of a triplet (crotchet length); /0 3 /0 2 0 3 0 for the "full cran" (dotted crotchet). The slashes are to denote semiquaver length, as opposed to quaver length.

I’ve spent too long knocking about with pipers, they’re a bad influence… I also occasionally play an F# trill instead of a roll - as the pipes do in tunes like The Morning Thrush: https://thesession.org/tunes/2151 or The Strawberry Blossom: https://thesession.org/tunes/1509 - a quick trill on a high F# is just about possible, although as someone pointed out above, it’s hard to ‘get out’ of it once it starts AND keep the rhythm. Takes a bit of practice, and it’s not something I’ll play in a session unless I’m confident I’m playing well.

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OK, thanks for the info.

Yes, that was me who said that the trill is hard to ‘get out’ of 🙂 It’s the randomness of it, really. If you played a fixed amount of notes, it would sound artificial, I think.

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Jim Dorans, I like the sound of that trill there. it’s quite effective and takes you by surprise! Oh, and you have answered my original question. Thank you!

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Playing about with my old phone’s voice recorder to try and give an example of what I’m talking about; trills and crans and that… It’s an ancient Nokia, so the quality isn’t great, and it records in a funny format which I then had to convert… Basically, one way or another I’ve spent half the afternoon trying to get the bloody thing off the phone and onto soundcloud, and somewhere along the line it’s speeded itself up…

Anyway, here goes:

https://soundcloud.com/matt-leavey/the-morning-thrush


Trill at the start, and again on the second time through to make sure it wasn’t a complete fluke. I do a few double-cuts in the second part, though it’s probably hard to tell, and then a few crans (long and short) on the open D in the third part. Don’t know if it was helpful, but it’s certainly kept me entertained for far longer than it was supposed to. Gr.

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Thanks for doing that Matt. Quite a lot of interesting stuff going on there!

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It’s a shame it’s not clearer - if it hadn’t have taken me so bloody long to upload, I would never have posted it!

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I think I missed the trills. I’ll put it in Audacity and slow it down.

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I only managed them twice, I have to think VERY HARD INDEED before I can make one happen.

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Any chance you could point me to the times on the SoundCloud time counter? Thanks!

I do mine without thinking, but the hard part is stopping them at the right time!

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*Confused face* I have no idea what that means, sorry. It’s only the second thing I’ve posted on soundcloud, and I’m not even sure I did that right…

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Well, just the timer on the player, just like on Youtube. If you click anywhere on the "waveform", it pops up with the time elapsed (eg 01’15) … that’s what I meant … the timepoint where your trills are 🙂

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I get you. I’ll have a look in the morning (‘tis late…).

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Okay, trills at 0:02 seconds and 1:02,
the most audible crans are at 0:44, 0:53, and 1:51
There’s some other stuff going on, but the quality’s a bit poor to decipher all of what I’m doing. Does that help?

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Matt - yep, caught them now. I used Audacity and slowed it down a bit. Thanks!

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Yes, play a trill, but do not eat a trill.

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My take on it is that trills are an uilleann pipe thing.

I mean full trills, not the praltriller or upper mordent which pipers also do.

Usually pipers trill E and F# in the 2nd octave, using the same finger, the lower-hand index finger, for both trills.

More rarely you’ll hear a piper do a full trill on A.

Paddy Moloney loves doing trills. It’s obvious when he does them because he moves his entire arm when doing them. He’ll throw them in all over the place, but AFAIK always done with the lower-hand index finger, on F# and E.

Trills are one of the uilleann pipe things that Matt Molloy often does. AFAIK they were not a standard aspect of ITM fluteplaying in the old days.