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off-beat rolls


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When I first heard the term 'off beat rolls' I thought it should have butter on it... or it may be stale bread.. but then I realised, when you think about it that "off beat roll" thing is a bit like if when humming a note, you then tap your chest or sternum, as it creates a similar interruption to the notes!! Or is someone pats you on the back in the process!!! 😁

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6 hours ago, SIMON GABRIELOW said:

Another way to do those repeated single notes more quickly in succession is to very slightly shake, or more quiver, the bellows as you hold on the note. If done rapidly it can also make an effective series of fast repeated single notes!

I'm not sure if you have ever played the Silver Spear for a Céilí.

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@John, Wexford how would you play those three As? The default way...not the fancy variation.

What I aim for is getting it crisp, punchy and with correct rhythm. Silver spear mightn't be the best example - there are tunes that ask for a bit more of an 'off-beat' swing but it's often three As or three Es. 

On Flute I'd do: Note, glottal stop, short roll. 

On concertina playing three As with alternating fingers isn't very fancy but gets them easily the same length at speed. Not mashing it up seems a good place to start. 

But what's a good one to progress to? 


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Sorry Irina,


I'm only seeing this now.


Coming from a flute perspective, you're never going to be able to get exactly the same sort of rolls on the concertina, as you could get previously on the concert flute. In some cases the rolls will not be as good as those on the flute, but in other cases the rolls can be very much better.


Have a bash at this one, it might be a little bit different to what you'd expect, and see how you get on.


I like to use my 2nd playing finger for the first B, and glance it upwards, to replace it with your 1st playing finger, again on B. (You could do it the other way around, but at least, this way, your fingers are back in the "home" position.)


Regards, John.


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  • 2 weeks later...

Also learning the roll...So hard to have a proper sound. Lots of practice needed...

I prefer to use the same technique for all notes...But it is different if playing on the left side or right side (but not the short roll...).

Caitlin distinguish the Long roll (on the beat) and the Short roll (not on the beat). 

But I see lots of player use the long roll also if the first note is not on the beat (Jack Talty, Charles Monod,...).

The Short roll is practically the same but with bellow jerk (I find it very hard).


Here is an example of the long roll on the off-beat note : (slow it down to see what she is doing 😉)





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  • 3 weeks later...

@papawembacan you describe the long and short roll as you understand them from Caitlin and others?

Coming from Flute playing a long roll for me is an ornament on a dotted crochet (or three quavers) and a short roll is in the space of two quavers. Though the long roll can be played as a quaver followed by a short roll. Which basically is the same as a long roll but a short breath pulse added after the first quaver. That puts the emphasis nicely on the second note of the roll and thus adds an offbeat (Backbeat really) rhythm to phrases like FAAA...

What I currently try to get right is that 'concertina cran' that could be written as FA(dB)A and try to give it that offbeat pulse...  It sometimes comes out as FA(dB)AA - kind of like the second A getting a double grace note. That's nice too and I try learning to do it on purpose :)

What I find hard is guessing which version is promising. All of them need a lot of practice and all sound different when done slowly and not yet right. 

For example there's a phrase in Richard Dwyer's reel that's GBBB Addd. Using the right hand B and d I only cut once in each group of three. And I can't decide whether I like it better with a cut after the first or the second of the three notes. 

All the versions that involve quick bellows changes and/or slaps on the concertina will have to wait until I'm better! 

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Keep persevering and practicing, and you will eventually get to where you want to. On anglo system some decorations used in flute, or classical technique, can be quite tricky to imitate, and so you have to find a way round those difficulties, or to a similar effect that will approximate to the desired effect.

Bellows use is very effective and important in achieving many note techniques particularly on the Anglo system of concertina.


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Hello Irina,

Sorry for my late answer... (holiday)

I don't play flute so unfortunately I cannot compare and I am not sure why Caitlin call it a Short roll !

It can be confusing...

From memory, the short roll is emphasis on the middle note (on the beat), by doing a bellow jerk on the second note and lifting finger on the third note. I will subscribe again to her course to learn it properly ! My notes are not enough 😉

I think the FA(dB)A will be for a jig...and FA(dB)AA for a reel...Don't know, I am just an (advance) beginner 🙂

For a reel and long role (first note on the beat) on the left side will be FA(dB)AA  (as I have seen on lessons and many player).

I guess this is the tune : https://thesession.org/tunes/8453

I would do the B on the left side G row on push to apply the GB(dB)BB roll and the ddd on right with cut and bellow jerk.



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I find bellow rolls on the LH side much easier to do than on the RH. Silver Spear & Dinkey's are 2 such egs of reels where a bellows roll can be done in the LH side easily.  My RH side bellows rolls are weak and need work.

I follow Caitlin's teaching - the roll is for 3 of the same notes:  play the note once, then a quick jerk of the bellows to make the note sound again, then release and tap the note again for the 3rd note.  Caitlin's arrangement of Silver Spear also has these short bellow rolls played in the RH in the B part and I find these ones much more tricky to pull off - my bellows jerk there is not very convincing.  But when you get these rolls right and the tune is playing at a good speed it does make a good pulsing rhythm (achievable even for a very average player like myself).


Playing a triplet of the same note in a staccato fashion by using different fingers is my current challenge. 


I find the terminology for ornamentation in Irish music confusing as it seems to differ between players with no standard names agreed upon - I don't understand the difference between a cran or a long roll, or a cut and a grace note for eg.

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  • 3 months later...

Gosh! Haven't been here for ages! And still not sure which way I like best (or might manage better). But I had loads of fun trying all sorts of ways to ornament notes. So much so that I had to pause due to repetitive strain injury... 

Thanks everyone! It's great to hear ideas and approaches on the ornaments and also on the nomenclature! 

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