Ornamentation for Irish fiddle – rolls

In this lesson, I will teach you how to play a key ornament on the Irish fiddle – rolls.

“This is one of the best detailed approaches in playing and practicing rolls out there! Thank You so much!”

WEdHarris on Youtube

Rolls are a crucial piece of Irish fiddle ornamentation. They are such an important part of making your fiddle playing sound authentically Irish. But it can be really difficult to learn to play good ornaments unless someone shows you how. In this video, I break down one of the most important pieces of the Irish fiddle ornamentation – the roll (or, to be more specific, the long roll).

In the video below, I show you two different ways of thinking about (long) rolls on the fiddle, and two different methods for learning to play them really well. This is a 20 minute video tutorial on how to play this important piece of Irish fiddle ornamentation.

I have taught hundreds of Irish fiddle players how to play rolls, and have thought carefully about how best to teach (and learn) to play rolls.

I’ll show you the method which is now my preferred way of teaching fiddle rolls.

“Wow. Brilliantly explained and so clearly demonstrated.”

ArfyF on Youtube

I’ll play them slowly, with closeups of my left hand so you can exactly what is going on. I show you how to play rolls on first finger, second finger and third finger notes. Then I suggest some ways that you can practice playing your Irish ornamentation on the fiddle.

Two ways of playing rolls on the fidde

Fiddle players often think about rolls as a series of five notes.

That is, the principal note. Then the note above. Then the principal note. Then the note below, and back to the principal note. If you have learned classical violin, you would call this a ‘turn’.

A classical turn is quite different from a roll on Irish fiddle
A classical turn is quite different from a roll on Irish fiddle

But a roll is very different from a ‘turn’ in classical playing. Firstly, it is not a mainly (or only) a melodic effect at all really. For many players, rolls are used as a percussive, or rhythmic feature. (This is partly a matter of personal style, but the broad point remains).

Secondly, the rhythm is very different. The initial (principal, or melody) note is the one that is held long. Then the roll happens at the end. Again different players will have different exact timings to their long rolls (‘joint short rolls’, used not on a single note, but on two notes, and ‘short rolls’ are different agin, and are not the same ornament as ‘long rolls’).

A different approach to learning Irish fiddle rolls

As a result, I think learning to play Irish fiddle rolls as a series of melodic notes may not be the best way. I have come up with a different approach to teaching fiddle rolls.

Take a look at the video tutorial to find out how I now teach all of my students to play great Irish fiddle rolls.

In a follow-up video, I look at a tune, Paddy Fahey’s jig (#4), so you can understand where you might use rolls in a typical jig.

This video is also available on Youtube, along with lots of other video lesson on Irish fiddle.

Fiddle players, if you would like to take your fiddle playing to the next level, take a look at my online fiddle courses, including my free Irish fiddle course.

And for more online fiddle lessons, take a look at Irish fiddle lessons online.

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