Ornamentation in Irish Music

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There are several types of rythmical ornaments in Irish music. This is a brief outline of the most common.

The Cut
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The cut is one of the simplest ornaments to play.It consists of a grace note played rapidly before the principal note.The grace not or cut is higher than the main note.

The Tap
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The tap is similar to the cut, except that the grace note or tap is lower than the main note.

The Casadh
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The casadh is again similar to the cut, except we now start on the main note; there are three notes instead of two.

The Short Roll
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The short roll has the value of 1 crotchet or 2 quavers. To play a roll, we play a note above and a note below the note being “rolled”. (See diagram)

The Long Roll
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The long roll has the value of a dotted crotchet. Like the short roll, we play a note above and a note below the main note.

Some important points

  • Be able to play the tune from memory, in time & in rhythm, before trying to add ornamentation.
  • Less is more! Don’t use too many ornaments…
  • Ornaments must be played as rapidly as possible, and must not break the rhythmic flow of the tune.
  • It takes time to learn these ornaments, so if at first you don’t succeed, don’t despair! (1 roll = 1 year of toil & labour…)

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