Fiddlers; how often do you roll?

Fiddlers; how often do you roll?

I’ve recently gotten the hang of being able to slot in first finger rolls at a good tempo into tunes. It feels incredible! For me personally, and I’m sure this is a popular opinion, I think rolls add so much more to Irish fiddling and they really just make it sound that much more Irish as opposed to just a folk tune. They’re beautiful little ornaments and since learning them I’ve been putting them in at every opportunity.

But as a result, whenever I have a tune, it doesn’t feel complete unless there are rolls in them. Sometimes there are tunes where there are very little phrases that start with a strong A/E/B/F# and I haven’t really tried doing second finger rolls yet. Other times, it just hasn’t feel apt to put one in. But the desire to put one in and that feeling of incompletion without them lingers! Jigs especially feel a bit empty without them. So this begs me to idly ask how often do you fiddlers roll? As much as possible? With all fingers? Do you skimp on them, reserve them for special occasions? I know Donegal/Scots fiddling doesn’t quite feature as many rolls, sometimes completely lacking them, but I don’t feel that I can play at the pace and bow-control skill they have to compliment my lack of rolling.

Cheers!

Re: Fiddlers; how often do you roll?

Generally speaking, any new technique you learn you will tend to over-use for a bit. Nothing wrong with that, though if the bar staff start complaining it might be time to ease off.

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Re: Fiddlers; how often do you roll?

For whatever it’s worth, I prefer to put in rolls somewhat less than what is possible. Don’t obscure the tune. But Calum makes some excellent points. Play what you feel but keep your antenna out for other people’s reactions. Are you throwing them off? Are they encouraging? Close listening to fluent Irish players will help answer this for you, too.

Re: Fiddlers; how often do you roll?

Often enough that I have to remind myself to do something else the next time through.

Re: Fiddlers; how often do you roll?

Record yourself. It’s the only way to find out how you sound. It’s almost always quite a sobering experience. When I listen back to recordings of myself, I often find that I am doing too many rolls, those rolls aren’t tight and snappy enough, and my rhythm isn’t nearly as strong and bouncy as I think it is.

Re: Fiddlers; how often do you roll?

Only do that if you have immediate access to at least three mechanisms of emotional support.

Re: Fiddlers; how often do you roll?

I think it depends on the tune and your particular style. Some tunes just lend themselves to more rolls or triplets, while others might not. I think it really just depends on what you like. I might hear a fiddler overdo any kind of ornament, but that fiddler and lots of others might love it.

Re: Fiddlers; how often do you roll?

"How often do you roll?"
As often as my partner and my stamina will allow.

Re: Fiddlers; how often do you roll?

It’s always 4:20 somewhere…said me never.

Re: Fiddlers; how often do you roll?

before i get in trouble i’ll say I’m in the overuse stage right now. but i’m slowly coming out of it. I’ll throw in some bowed "triplets" now and then instead, or a short roll (which is still a roll, but I’m guessng the op meant long rolls)

Re: Fiddlers; how often do you roll?

… every three and a half seconds….

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Re: Fiddlers; how often do you roll?

Not much, but then I am not a "performer." I have played sessions and dances, and neither require a great deal of ornamentation. Dancers want the fiddle to drive them. That is about rhythm, and when it really grabs them, it is almost as though you are a puppeteer. You see it when the hook in the tune comes around. To me, that response is the greatest honour a fiddle can ever get.

Re: Fiddlers; how often do you roll?

Why would I count? I roll when it needs it and don’t when it doesn’t.

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Re: Fiddlers; how often do you roll?

Gobby, the OP is not asking anyone to count the number of times they do rolls. Does that make sense?

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Re: Fiddlers; how often do you roll?

I used to roll a lot, but now I’ve ditched much of it. Sometimes I just want to let the tune breathe a little.

To that effect, sometimes I’ll leave out a note and have a literal rest in its place.

Also, I’ve invented a ‘triangular trill’, filling the space of two rolls, which works well in Amaj. It’s a trill on the open A / C# while sounding the open E. It sounds bizarre, but it works.

I did post it on here a while back, and I’ll see if I can find it.

Re: Fiddlers; how often do you roll?

How long is a piece of rope? :) Not meaning to be snarky, but IMO it’s hard to come up with a universal answer to the OP’s question—it will vary somewhat depending on the individual tune, the context of performance (on my own? in a rowdy pub? a quiet lock-in? for dancers? a formal stage performance?), my mood, the specific individual players I’m with, etc etc.

As a base-line, I definitely try not to overdo it, but would also agree that ‘ornamentation’ is one of the textures that makes Irish music sound distinctively Irish. I sometimes hear people (often newcomers to the tradition/people who don’t play it as their primary genre) attempt to make the argument that ornamentation is solely ‘icing’, but I respectfully disagree. The best parallel that I can come up with for my American friends in particular who try to insist that one can get by without any ornamentation whatsoever and still be totally ‘authentic sounding’ (whatever that might mean to them) is to compare rolls in Irish trad to bending strings in blues guitar playing. Are there other things that arguably define blues music in more concrete, structural ways (12 bar structure, pentatonic/blues scale, etc)? Arguably so, but I guarantee that it likely wouldn’t really sound like traditional blues guitar without some bent strings/notes along the way. Admittedly I’m not the biggest blues guitar aficionado in the world (and will respectfully defer to those who are), but IME I’d be hard pressed to name blues guitarists who absolutely never bend a note either with fingers or bottleneck/slide. I similarly can’t really think of any Irish trad fiddlers (those steeped in the tradition and not, say a classical violist trying their hand at trad, or someone demonstrating a tune for a beginner tutor tape) who absolutely never ornament anything using either rolls or trebles. Again, there’s always the possibility of overdoing it—I’m not suggesting that tunes have to be pyrotechnic displays that take away from the melody and the tune’s ability to ‘breathe’ as Jim rightly suggests above.

This said, IMO some ‘ornamentation’ is far from just ornamental, but is actually closer to being a structural part of some individual tunes, at least of their most widely-circulated versions: for example, it’s hard for me to imagine not incorporating rolls in the first notes of chestnuts like ‘Kid on the Mountain’ or ‘Morrison’s Jig’ among others. These might be a minority among all of the tunes out there, but they’re among them. Ultimately you need to decide what a particular tune needs in a particular setting.

Regarding technique, I can only speak for myself, but I would find it very limiting only to be able to utilise first-finger rolls. Given the first-position territory of the majority of Irish tunes, that obviously really reduces the number of notes/points in the tune that can potentially be rolled: just have a listen to recordings of top-shelf trad fiddlers and you’ll hear how often second and third-finger rolls appear. Third-finger rolls might be difficult at first, but you’ll get the hang of it—when you think about it, third-finger rolls might actually be easier for a beginner than using the pinky to hit a fully articulated note. Similarly, it’s good—if not essential—to have the ability to incorporate trebles/bowed triplets/’crunches’ into one’s playing. IMO, better to have the skills and choose to limit their use than not have the skills and just be unable to incorporate them.

Can’t resist commenting on Donegal fiddling as well: trust your ear and don’t rely on academic descriptions. While it’s true that in the broadest general terms one expects more trebles and fewer rolls in Donegal style, there are variants. Not saying that the OP is suggesting that rolls are absent in Donegal, but it is a misconception I have heard. I once got into an argument with a self-styled expert who claimed that Tommy Peoples only uses his ‘cat sneezes’ and doesn’t roll. If one trusts one’s ears (or if one wants evidence of the ol’ glazzies, watch the video here) it doesn’t take long to witness that rolls are incorporated all over the show in Tommy’s playing in addition to his trademark trebles.

The best advice that I can give is to immerse yourself in trad music and listen to as much Irish fiddle as possible, especially solo recordings. That will give you the best indication of the range of ornamentation that is out there in the tradition.

https://youtu.be/uAbNV3BaORI