Learn to play Irish Fiddle ornaments

Learn how to play Irish fiddle ornamentation
Learn to play Irish fiddle ornamentation

Here you will find guides to the techniques of Irish fiddle ornamentation. I will take you through some of the most important Irish fiddle ornaments: long rolls, cuts, slides, bowed triplets, crans, casadhs, short rolls, joint short rolls and more.

Playing with good ornamentation is key to getting that authentic Irish sound. I sometime talk to my students about true Irish fiddle being made up of: MELODY, RHYTHM (which includes lilt) and ORNAMENTATION in basically equal parts. Remove any one of those, and the tune is incomplete.

Common Irish fiddle ornaments

The most common ornaments for Irish fiddle are rolls, cuts, slides and bowed triplets. Chords and drones are also used as a form of ornamentation. Crans and casadhs can also be played on the fiddle.

Different ornaments will be used more or less by different fiddle players. There is also variation between the different regional styles. Donegal fiddle style for example, uses many more bowed triplets, and fewer rolls.

Rolls on the Irish fiddle can also be separated into 4 (or perhaps more) subtly different techniques: long rolls (most common in jigs), joint short rolls (more common in reels), short rolls, extended rolls.

Rolls (especially long rolls) are often the first ornament fiddle players want to learn. But I always suggest getting really confident playing good cuts as a solid foundation for playing other ornaments.

Playing with good Irish fiddle ornaments is really important. The melody is often possible to work out on your own from recordings or other players, especially once you are confident learning by ear. The rhythm likewise you should be able to feel. But working out how people are playing the ornaments can be really difficult. Even if you use a slow-downer tool to try to work out what is going on, sometimes it is impossible to tell what the correct technique is for each of the ornaments that you are hearing.

A good teacher will show you how best to play each of the ornaments. But there is also a lot of really dodgy information out there! So here I am putting together detailed guides to each of the important pieces of Irish fiddle ornamentation.

Below is a guide to playing the Long Roll, to give you an idea of what you can expect from the video guides. Check back here for more videos, or subscribe to my mailing list or to my Youtube Channel for notifications of new videos.


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