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Thread: Ornamention - Rolls

  1. #1
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    I'm getting pretty good at grace notes, triplets, but rolls are giving me a hard time.

    First, I'm not sure how to play them, and secondly, I'm not sure if this type of ornamentation is done on the mandolin at all, or is somthing done only on the violin.

    Any help, as always, greatly appreciated.

    Thanks.
    I play badly enough not to be terribly good, and good enough not to be terribly bad.

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    Registered User Bob DeVellis's Avatar
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    They're a killer, but some people do them. One key is that the last note in the roll is usually picked, I believe, not just left to sound from the left-hand action. Not enough sustain to a mandolin for that. I'll leave it to more knowledgable others to correct any errors in this description.
    Bob DeVellis

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    Cafe Linux Mommy danb's Avatar
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    yes- they are done! John McGann or Paul Kotapish are probably the best examples to listen to in my opinion.. both are members/frequest posters on this board.

    Couple things to say though- even on a fiddle I personally feel a roll is a "rhythmic event" rather than a "series of notes". A roll sounds like "Baaa-zipp!". There are lots of other tricks that get similar sounds, or even uniquely mandolinistic ones.

    Here's an example that I can do, though not with the fluidity and beauty that John & Paul get..

    f# g f# e F#

    sounds like "Daaa deedle-eedle"

    The technique is to pick the F#, hammer down the G, pull off the g to F# then E, hammer on the F# or pick it with a light upstroke at the end.

    The mandolin and pick make a huge difference too. Paul & John both have F5s (I think Paul recorded a lot of the open house stuff on a nugget A5).. heavier picks, which have less snappish attack.. so a hammer-down or pull-off isn't *a lot* quieter than a picked note. A gentler touch if you use a thinner pick.. I use Clayton Ultem .72 picks that are the "Rounded triangle" type.. An old t-shell or bluegrass style pick will get those rolls better (meaning first note and next 4 about the same volume) better than a thin one will.. and F5s with heavier picks have a more even note vs hammer-on volume too..

    So yeah.. it can be done.. a big part is the pick, the mandolin itself makes a difference, and the technique is also quite challenging

    The example I'm thinking from Open House is "Chinquapin Hunting" on "Second Story" where Paul just let's rip at the start of the tune.. John's got them all over his Upslide disk too. Both have been huge sources of inspiration for me to work on ornamentation and phrasing..
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    Thanks to all. I have saved all the information and will practice them.

    Dan: I have adopted your technique of single note triplets (if that's what they are) in some reels and hornpipes. While I'm not up to your skill level, adding that simple touch makes a great deal of difference in how the tune sounds.
    I play badly enough not to be terribly good, and good enough not to be terribly bad.

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    Registered User zoukboy's Avatar
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    Rolls on the mandolin are tricky but certainly possible.

    I discuss them in my columns for Mel Bay Mandolin Sessions: http://www.mandolinsessions.com/
    Look at the February, June, August issues. My column in the upcoming October issue deals extensively with working long rolls into a double jig.

    I also cover them in the first volume of the ZoukFest instructional videos/DVDs: http://zoukfest.com/instructional.html

    Roger Landes
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    I just triplet as I try to use the same technique tenor banjo players use and you never hear them roll.

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    Quote Originally Posted by (Unseen122 @ Aug. 21 2005, 15:29)
    I just triplet as I try to use the same technique tenor banjo players use and you never hear them roll.
    Me too. It's one of them things... if you ask "can you do X on a mando", there will always be someone here who can do it, or who has an uncle who can. But it depends on context - for example, things you do in a recording studio get lost or wasted in a pub session. Things you do solo don't translate well to group playing. Etc. I play lots or rolls when i'm playing flute, but i don't "feel" them when i'm playing mandolin. I do triplets or triplet-like things instead.

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    I know exactly what you mean about the Flute thing Glauber.

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    Registered User zoukboy's Avatar
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    I use rolls on the mando as a way to make my playing less like the tenor banjo and more like the core instruments in Irish traditional music, like the fiddle, uilleann pipes, flute and whistle. While they don't come as naturally on the mando as on the core instruments they can help the flow of the tune if used in the right place.

    Even if you don't actually play rolls it really helps to understand them, especially when playing mando with those core instruments.

    Roger Landes
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    The Hal Leonard Irish Bouzouki Method:
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    "House to House" with Randal Bays
    http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/bayslandes
    "The Janissary Stomp" with Chipper Thompson
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    I find that putting in triplets adds diversety to the overall session sound.

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    Registered User mikeyes's Avatar
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    Unseen 122 sez:

    "I just triplet as I try to use the same technique tenor banjo players use and you never hear them roll."

    You can hear them play rolls, but it is not in the (very short) tradition yet and they are hard to do and make them work. Banjo players use a lot of other ornaments other than the roll and if you read Roger Landes articles in

    Mandolin sessions you will see some of the ornaments used by banjo players too. I did an interview with Mick Maloney this last weekend and he showed me most of the ornaments that Roger talks about in his (very good) article. Check it out.

    If you can't do a roll, the world will not end. Ornaments should enhance the music and not be done for their own sake. Otherwise you begin to sound like those bluegrass mandolinists who play great licks but forget to play the tune.

  12. #12
    Notary Sojac Paul Kotapish's Avatar
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    Thanks for the plug, Dan. I do play rolls on Irish tunes, but I don't recall doing any on "Chinquipin Hunting." Might have done, though. I haven't heard that track in a long time.

    The way I do it is with sheer force. It really helps to have a mandolin with a little sustain, and it's a lot easier pull off (pun unavoidable) left-hand ornaments effectively in a small combo or in a solo setting than it is in the midst of a big session. Also, it's a whole lot easier when you start a roll with your index or ring fingers. I do play rolls starting on my ring finger and using my pinkie and middle finger for some tunes--particularly the high parts of tunes up in Am, but . . . ouch.

    I'd concur with my esteemed colleague Roger Landes on my thinking about using ornaments. I've always spent much more time listening to fiddlers, pipers, box players, and flute players than to other mandolinists or tenor banjo players, and my use of ornaments is an attempt to emulate those traditions rather than the plectrum instruments.

    I long ago resigned myself to the fact that I would always play Irish and Scottish tunes with a distinctly American accent, though. I try to put the rolls, cuts, turns, slides, crans, and whatnots in the right place, but I'm pretty sure that my Virginia roots come through even the most convoluted of slip jigs.
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    You got to feel the tune, you can't think about ornaments too much they have to come second nature.

  14. #14
    Registered User pickerfromhell's Avatar
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    I use rolls all the time...I think one of the celtic tunes I have posted on the MP3 site here may have something you can listen to.
    Also, attended a workshop with Mick Maloney a few months back. Bought his CD and his book. He's a real good dude, knows his stuff.
    Chris Bliss
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