Ornamentation - in Playing

Ornamentation - in Playing

Intro

Ornamentation is difficult to explain in text. Ultimately, it is much better understood by listening and by practice. However, some of the main elements, the roll, the cran, the cut, and triplets, are explained in this section

Sliding from one note to another, double-stopping (playing two strings at once), emphasising a note through stronger blowing, plucking, squeezing or pulling, or a louder bow stroke are just some of the other means of ornamentation. Of course varying the melody itself is a huge part of this process, and accomplished musicians will, instead of playing just the same melodic line time after time, go off on tangents and turn the tune upside down and inside out to find another way of expressing the self. The possibilities are truly limitless and each player and instrument will have colours that are unique. It is very much this sense of freedom that lies at the heart of traditional music.

Musical expression on Highland (Scottish) pipes is executed through the use of embellishments. These embellishments are simply a means of decorating the melody, but they have other important functions, too. Since the chanter cannot be stopped, the embellishments are used to separate notes of the same pitch and are also essential in order to express certain notes or phrases differently from one another through subtle variation in time or stress.

Embellishments can be divided into three distinct types; 1) single grace notes played immediately before the 'theme' or main note; 2) doublings, where the theme note is doubled by adding grace notes; 3) more complicated groupings of grace notes. Different groups of grace notes are given different names and serve different purposes in the music.

For example, a group of grace notes known as 'grip' or 'leumlath' (pronounced 'lame-lua'), is used to leap from one note to another and in fact, the name is accepted as meaning 'leaping'. On the other hand, the 'taorluath' ('tour-lua') is a falling movement. And the 'cruanluath' ('crown-lua') with its accompanying variations, is known as the 'crowning' movement and is the pinnacle of technique in pipe music. Embellishments, in all of their variations, take their time off the following theme note and not the preceding one.

The Roll

The roll is common to all instruments and varies to some degree depending on both the physical attributes of the individual instrument and the idiosyncrasies of the player. But fundamentally, in dotted crotchet form (as often found in jigs), this would be the sounding of the principal note, the note above, the note itself, the note below, and returning to the principal note again. In crotchet form (as found in reels), a roll is executed by playing the note above, the principal note, the note below, and returning to the principal note again.

Listen to long roll
The Roll

Listen to short roll
The Roll

The Cran

The cran is a piping ornament, though it is common on flute and can be adapted to most other instruments. It is confined to the bottom note of the chanter and the note above it (the supertonic), where the execution could be the bottom note, then the 3rd, 4th and 5th notes of the scale rapidly played with the bottom note sounding momentarily in between those degrees of the scale. In the case of the supertonic cran, it could be executed by playing the note, then the notes a 4th, 3rd and 2nd above it, and with the principal note again sounding in between each of those notes of the scale.

Listen to d cran
The Cran

Listen to e cran
The Cran

The Cut

The cut is a single ornamental or “grace” note, very often the note above.

Listen to the cut
The Cut

Triplet

Triplets are three notes played in the time of two. Triplets can be played on all instruments. For example in fiddle playing, there are two forms of triplets: “bowed” and “left-hand”. Bowed’ triplets are the quick playing of three notes on either open strings or on stopped notes. The three notes rarely, if ever, are of exact equal value. Left-hand triplets are essentially “passing” notes, conjoining notes a third apart.

Listen to the triplet
Triplet