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 Post subject: Ornamentation
PostPosted: Mon May 21, 2018 9:24 am 
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So I've gotten pretty decent on both the standard tin whistle and low whistle over the past year or more but I find a place where I am lacking or could use improvement is with ornamentation. Does anyone have any tips for how to get good at ornamentation or any resources/tutorials that you particularly recommend?

In short, please share any and all info and tips on becoming skilled at ornamentation.


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 Post subject: Re: Ornamentation
PostPosted: Mon May 21, 2018 7:21 pm 
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In my opinion there is very little "ornamentation" per se on the Irish flute or whistle, at least the way most people play.

I suppose it's mere semantics but I would call what Irish flute and whistle players do "articulation" due to its purpose being to seperate notes.

True that this finger-articulation has a decorative effect also.

Anyhow it's straightforward. Here's a short video I did demonstrating it. It's pretty much cuts, pats, and then combining cuts and pats to create rolls.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nfu_fDUyNHs&t=23s

And here I take a tune that might sound complex but when it's broken down the ornamentation is pretty straightforward

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35SqhcSojn8

As far as tips go, I would say the most important thing is to keep everything clean and open. Keep the melody-notes their full length, make the cuts and pats extremely short and precise, and avoid jumbling or crushing the notes and cuts and pats together.

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 Post subject: Re: Ornamentation
PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2018 7:24 am 
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I can only speak as reasonably accomplished musician but a novice whistler. I here a lot of you tube clips where the ornaments are completely blunting the tune, both the melody and the rhythm. It seems to me good ornamentation is stuff I don't recognize as ornamentation unless I'm specifically looking for. Like I would listen to, say McGoldrick and not notice an ornament until I sat down and started learning the tune. Good ornamentation seems like it's part of the tune: as pancelticpiper put it it helps articulate the tune: it's functional, not decorative.

My goal practicing is to play a tune so non-whistlers don't know there is any ornamentation going on, but they tap their foot. But said with all humility since I'm nowhere close to that.


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 Post subject: Re: Ornamentation
PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2018 8:40 am 
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it's functional, not decorative.


It's a vast field of discussion , in some ways and I really don't want to open up all of it, but I believe a strong argument can be made ornamentation is both functional and decorative. Why play rolls, cranns? They are in no way at all necessary to carry the tune, especially cranns on the whistle are superfluous in the extreme. I think it's the old onion analogy, there are layers involved in this, start peeling away and you go from the purely functional to the highly decorative and, indeed, ornamental.

A cut for example can be a purely functional articulation, but it can come into its own, and significantly alter the impact of a phrase, when the player starts fiddling with its placement. It's one of those things traditional musicians are generally highly attuned to while listeners not as accustomed to the idiom fail to notice there's anything going on at all.

You hear beginners and voices on the internet often speak in terms where they find a tune over ornamented while experienced traditional musicians have a different take. For example, Seán McKeon and Liam O'Connor discussing in some documentary (possibly/probably Sé Mo Laoch Seán Keane) recently the things going on in Seán Keane's fiddleplaying and raving about it in minute detail where some may comment 'there's too much stuff going on there' (and there is an awful lot going on in Keane's fiddleplaying).

It's a vast field, as I said, and I would suggest it's all too easy to dismiss the use of more intricate ornamentation out of hand. There are stylistic choices to be made at every turn. Learn to listen and understand it would be my suggestion. When learning, start with the functional and rhythmic, add more layers in your own time. But in my mind it's a good thing to consider the impact of what you're doing at all times. There are certain players who sound like they are turned up to eleven all the time and to my ear that gets really boring very quickly, what they are doing looses all meaning. Other players can pull off playing a tune in a really simple way and then suddenly throw in an unexpected twist or a really complex bit and they instantly have your attention. Good stuff and, again in my way of thinking, the way to go.

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 Post subject: Re: Ornamentation
PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2018 12:12 pm 
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Amergin wrote:
In short, please share any and all info and tips on becoming skilled at ornamentation.


1. Listen to good players, decide what ornamentation you like and don't like.
2. Find out what the ornaments in question are and how to do them.
3. Practise them - obsessively - until you can make them sound like the good players. (Keep listening and comparing what you can do with what you hear, so that you don't go off on a tangent of your own.)
4. Keep practising them obsessively for a few years.

Repeat the process. By this time you'll hear things in 1. that you didn't hear the first time.

Obsessive practice is the key. I have quite frequently read comments by people to the effect that they can fit in all their ornamentation when playing at moderate tempi but when the pace speeds up they can't. This shouldn't happen in my view. If it does happen, either you haven't practised enough OR you are generating muscle tensions when executing the ornaments. There should not be a practical limit to the speed at which you can do them. They involve micro-movements of the fingers, after all.


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 Post subject: Re: Ornamentation
PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2018 1:41 pm 
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Good discussion, even if it has been played out a bit. I've been thinking about this a lot lately and as a novice I try to incorporate a few ornaments in the tunes that I'm more comfortable with but find that it usually just throws me off. I'm hoping that I'll be able to incorporate them as my playing improves but for now I'll just focus on the bare bones.


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 Post subject: Re: Ornamentation
PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2018 7:51 pm 
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Mr.Gumby wrote:
There are certain players who sound like they are turned up to eleven all the time and to my ear that gets really boring very quickly, what they are doing looses all meaning.


A great box player once said to me about ornamentation, "half of something nice is twice as nice."


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 Post subject: Re: Ornamentation
PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2018 8:02 pm 
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Polara Pat wrote:
I try to incorporate a few ornaments in the tunes


This seems to me like it's talking about true "ornaments", that is, decorative things that are superfluous to the melody that can be left out or thrown in at whim.

It seems to me that rolls are usually integral to the tunes I learn, so much so that to remove them takes a bit of work (the tune has be re-worked somewhat) and the product sounds contrived or artificial to me.

I'm not good at putting it into words. It's something like an ornament is something laid over an existing tune, while rolls are embedded in the fundamental matrix of the tune.

Like here. She's putting in those rolls on F# in the usual places in the first part and that's how I learned and play the tune.

Sure I could leave them all out, but the result wouldn't have the same sound, and to me sound a bit clumsy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z2p1tO06TFE

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1978 Quinn uilleann pipes
1945 Starck Highland pipes
Goldie Low D whistle


Last edited by pancelticpiper on Tue May 22, 2018 8:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Ornamentation
PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2018 8:09 pm 
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Mr.Gumby wrote:
a strong argument can be made ornamentation is both functional and decorative.


Yes exactly and I said so above.

Mr.Gumby wrote:
Why play rolls, cranns? They are in no way at all necessary to carry the tune


Yes with crans but many rolls seem so integral to the melody to me that they seem natural to include when I learn the tune. As I said above to create a roll-less version of a tune (say for teaching purposes) leaves you with a product doesn't sound authentic somehow.

Mr.Gumby wrote:
Other players can pull off playing a tune in a really simple way and then suddenly throw in an unexpected twist


Yes I love when players do that! Players that let the basic version of the tune be established in the listener's ear, then put in a tasty variation.

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1978 Quinn uilleann pipes
1945 Starck Highland pipes
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 Post subject: Re: Ornamentation
PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2018 9:14 pm 
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Hi Richard thanks for your ornamentation video it is helpful. This is probably a naive beginner observation but when in your video you use ornaments on C natural you add a tap by patting using fingers 4 and 5. On my Killarney (I haven’t tried my other whistes) that makes no discernible difference to the sound. However if I pat with all three fingers on the bottom hand it produces a sound variation. Does that make sense or am I doing something wrong? Cheers


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 Post subject: Re: Ornamentation
PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2018 11:57 pm 
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Rolls can not be integral to the tunes . Otherwise instruments that can not play rolls, can not play tunes, QED.
The advantage then of learning tunes without ornaments , is that it encourages the brain to find different ways to express a phrase. Triplets, trebles , long note short note, short not long note , cut, pat, note bend, alternative note, arpeggio, just the tune note , phrase down instead of up or up instead of down , roll, doubles , etc etc etc.
Thats where we use our imagination and express our personality. If we play it the same way through, each time, then to an extent weve missed the point. Of course we all know great players who do that, so its quite possible to attain a high level of mechanical skill at an instrument like this , but how to progress then, beyond that?! The learning of tunes with ornaments creates a ceiling its not possible to progress beyond, without stripping it all away and starting again to an extent, and the ego finds that very hard indeed.
Adult learners are the worst at this IMO as kids we learn in a progressive fashion, start simple and slowly over the years add the intricacies , if we are in too much of a hurry , we may never arrive!! Because by taking a short cut, we can get easily lost. As the expression goes ; with one eye on the destination we have only one eye for the road.
It seems counterintuitive but the best advice i ever heard was( paraphrased) to abandon all thoughts of style, the approach to style is through simplicity .

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Heres a few tunes round a table, first three sets;

http://soundcloud.com/fiddlerwill/werty
http://soundcloud.com/fiddlerwill/jigs-willie
http://soundcloud.com/fiddlerwill/jigs


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 Post subject: Re: Ornamentation
PostPosted: Wed May 23, 2018 12:51 am 
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Yes with crans but many rolls seem so integral to the melody to me that they seem natural to include when I learn the tune. As I said above to create a roll-less version of a tune (say for teaching purposes) leaves you with a product doesn't sound authentic somehow.


I hear what you're saying about the 'Boys of the Lough' and the F rolls there and there are plenty of tunes like it, the ones you 'hear' and can't imagine any different (can you imagine playing the Dublin reel on the pipes without those growling F rolls?) but then again, if there's one thing I learned from listening to Séamus Ennis, it's taking each tune on its own merits and treating it accordingly, to get the best out of it. Avoid a formulaic approach at all times.

A similar situation, to the 'Boys of the Lough' is perhaps the 'Flogging reel' BG ~G2 DG ~G2 BG ~G Bdg as we all learned it. A few years ago I got a lovely version of it from Tony Linnane that starts BGGF DGGF BGGA Bdg. Which works lovely, in fact I have Kevin Crawford on tape playing it with Tony and waxing lyrical how lovely that phrase is that way. There's room to question the status quo and step away from the accepted versions. It can be a breath of fresh air.

It is a matter of style I believe, but at the end of the day it is all in the rhythm and how you achieve it. From a leaving out perspective it is perhaps more easy, or natural, whatever you want to call it, to play jigs cutting out the rolls without feeling anything lacking (in fact I have know some older players in Clare who wouldn't play rolls in jigs at all, considering it 'not right') but I find it refreshing to leave them out in reels at times too, not all the time maybe but there's definitely a bit of a rush once you have established your basic phrase as say ~G3 B AGFA ~G2 Bd cAF to go GFGB AGFA GABd cAF. It gives a nice contrast and to be honest, as a variation, you don't miss the rolls at all and it doesn't feel in any way less natural to me. And ofcourse you can release the whole thing nicely by going ~G3 B ~A3 c ~B3 d caf the next round.

But as I said, it's a vast subject with stylistic choices at every turn and keeping it varied is keeping it interesting. Too many people already playing, as a friend put it, 'like they've been taught' and all singing from the same hymn sheet. And a particular type of sessionplaying acting as a great leveler, perpetuating blandness all round. Variety is the spice of life, and other clichés that fit here. But from that point of view I tend to find it refreshing if someone just breaks away from the mould because they 'hear' the tune in a different way, even if that means stripping away certain layers of 'stuff' (or adding a few).

Also with regards to the 'need' for all this, compare what Pat Mitchell wrote about his reaction to the playing of Jim Brophy and Matt Kiernan (or Micho Russell, Mary Haren etc) (article here and read this one as well, while you're at it). And there we're back to what I said above, get your essentials right first, overlay them with whatever you feel right or are comfortable with at any given time. Make the tunes shine.

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 Post subject: Re: Ornamentation
PostPosted: Wed May 23, 2018 6:05 am 
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When I'm learning a new tune, I hum or whistle it (with my lips) pretty much all through the day.It cements the tune in my head which makes it easier to play on the whistle. Plus, ornamentation (or whatever you choose to call the little twiddly bits) starts to sneak into the tune and that is handy in transferring the tune to the whistle.
This only applies to figuring out where I want the ornament. The only way to learn to actually play it is practice.

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 Post subject: Re: Ornamentation
PostPosted: Wed May 23, 2018 12:44 pm 
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I find that I mostly use cuts, sometimes taps, less often rolls or other ornaments mostly due to lack of skill at this time.

Is ornamentation a different beast on low whistle? I find it much easier on standard tin whistle but on my low d (MK Kelpie) it seems a bit more difficult. For example on the standard tin whistle I mostly cut at B or the top note and G or the third note. This sounds good on both the first and second octave, but on my low whistle it seems off or a little shrill on the second octave. Perhaps I need to just practice cutting on the immediately preceding note rather than at B or G?

I suppose what also trips me up is if I give any thought to ornamentation at all, I tend to mess up. It's only when I do so spontaneously does it come out right.


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 Post subject: Re: Ornamentation
PostPosted: Thu May 24, 2018 5:48 am 
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Hello

When I am learning a tune by ear one of the first things that I do is fix where the player is playing their rolls (if they are). I know that I can take a breath where there is a roll (roll on G = G Breath G). One of the penny dropping moments for me was realising that people dropped notes to take a breath. This meant that if I picked up a tune from an LP or CD I had to figure out where the breaths were as well as what the notes were.

I attended tin whistle classes in 1978 where I was told where to cut, where to roll etc. I was taught a number of tunes with the ornamentation already attached (probably the way that most people were taught). Then I was left to my own devices. I had the mechanics and the willingness to learn and, over the next forty years was able to develop a way of playing that suited me. I can now play a tune with or without ornamentation. I can breathe where I want to in a tune and can play at a slow, medium or fast pace. This took time to develop. So try not to be in too much of a hurry.

The above worked fine for me on whistle and flute. The pipes, however, are a different story.

Keep well

John


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