Embellishing tunes

Adding embellishments to a tune

Embellishing tunes

Tonight we learnt the jig Dhu Hill. It’s a 3 part tune, which works really well played quite slowly.

Once we’d got the notes, we decided on some embellishments for the tune. Here’s what we came up with.

A part:

  • hammer-on, from a B to the C#
  • a grace note on the top F#
  • adding dynamics t the top F#
  • adding a chord with an open A, to the final F#

B part:

  • Making the notes in the run up (A,B C#) staccatto
  • adding dynamics to the top F#
  • adding vibrato on the last F#

C part:

  • adding bowed slurs
  • sliding into the top F#

We worked on the bowing hand, thinking about flexibility in the fingers. We played around some more with holding the bow up vertically and using the individual fingers to move the tip of the bow around. We noticed that when one finger moves (in order to move the bow tip), another has to respond to the bow, to allow the bow movement to happen. We played around with the vertical bow for a while, using the thumb as a pivot, and moving the tip in different directions, and noticing the impact that bow movement had on the other fingers in the hand. When we’re playing , having a similar fluidity in the bowing hand will help us to be able to control the bow without needing to have a rigid grip on it.

We tried out playing a long F# (on the D string), thinking abut how the fingers were moving independently on the stick of the bow, keeping it perpendicular to the strings. We played the F# on a long down bow, over a count of 4, then lifted the bow for a count of 4. We played round this pattern together, paying attention to keeping in time with each other. Then we moved on to playing 4 separate notes on the 4 beats. We tried out playing the 4 beats as staccato notes, again paying attention to playing the start and end of each note in time with one another.

We also briefly looked at using the 4th finger. It can be tricky to get notes sounding confidently in tune with the 4th finger. This is partly because we rarely use the finger in day to day life, so it’s considerably weaker than the other fingers. We played an E on the A string using the 4th finger, and checked ur tuning against the open E string. Ding this for a few minutes each day, even for just a week, will make a big difference to the strength on the 4th finger, and help make us more comfortable with using it.

We also revisited the steps to playing with vibrato. I’ve added a new page to the website under the ‘basic techniques’ section, with details of the steps to learning how to play with vibrato,. It includes a video that shows all the steps in some detail.


Adding embellishments to a tune
Photo ©Ros Gasson