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Ornamentation used by the fiddle and voice

This page looks at the different ornaments and effects used by the fiddle, some of which are applicable to the melodies of vocal music.

Anticipation

This is where the fiddle or voice starts a bit ahead of the beat. In the example, you can see and hear that the fiddle starts a little ahead of the guitar.

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Double stops

A double stop is two notes played together. Since "stopping the strings" is one term for making notes with the left hand fingers, it is probably correct technically that both notes of the double stop must be stopped or fingered. However, the term is sometimes used loosely to mean any pair of notes played together, including pairs where one or even both notes are open string (non-fingered) notes. The example shows a "true" double stop, one sometimes used to count off fiddle hoedowns for dancers.

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Drone notes

Drone notes are notes played along with melody notes to enhance fiddle tunes. They are almost always either open string notes or unison notes. (See "Unison notes" below.) The drone note can be either above or below the melody in pitch, and our first example illustrates both. When the drone note in this example is the open D string, the melody is playing above it; when the drone is the A string, the melody is below the drone note.

The drone notes in the example above are all open strings. Here is a bit of the well-known fiddle piece "Sally Goodin," which illustrates drone notes made on the A note of the D string, which is in unison with the A string played open (not fingered.) The open A string serves as the drone note only when melody note needs to be played on the D string, and these instances are indicated by the red arrows. Otherwise, the A drone note is the one made on the D string. As you can see and hear, this piece is allows for maintaining a solid, uninterrupted A drone note clear up until the last measure.

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Held notes (fermata)

The fermata instructs to hold a note. For the sake of documentary obligations, it is largely avoided in the book, the times of held notes instead being written literally. Another reason for not using the fermata is that it commonly suggests an interruption of the piece's regular accompaniment rhythm, as heard in the example below. In transcribing the music of Dear Old Illinois, this only scarcely would have represented an accurate interpretation of the source performer's intent. However, some singers may want to incorporate this effect into their own versions of some songs. Remember, it is not incorrect to do so.

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Grace notes

Grace notes are quick notes attached to other notes, the latter of which can be of any duration. They are indicated as shown, simply by small notes tied to the notes they enhance. In terms of sound, one way to think of it is that grace notes change plain notes from "da" to "dya" or from "dee" to "dlee". The example is given at moderate speed to make the effect more clear.

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Harmonics

Harmonics are notes made by what might be called false means. That is, they are high-pitched notes made by fingering notes of much lower pitch. Of the thousands of notes in the book, a total of only three employ the use of harmonics, and detailed comments on them are given at the score. However, here you can get an idea of what they should sound like.

First, here is how these three notes are represented in notation. This is how they appear in the book.

Here are the notes as they are fingered with the left hand, along with a clip of how they sound.

However, if you just touch the strings lightly with the left hand, you will discover that you can produce these notes.

As noted in the book, expect it to require a bit of experimentation and practice.

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Plucked notes (pizzicato)

Pizzicato means simply plucking rather than bowing the strings of the fiddle. The plucking can be done with either hand, and the two are shown differently in the score. A pertinent text note is included at the score of each piece where either type occurs.

The first example shows notes plucked by the left (noting, non-bowing) hand. These notes are represented by crosses.

 

Right hand pizzicato is represented by a bracket below the plucked notes and the instruction "pick".

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Punch

The punch is a bow ornament used by traditional fiddlers as a rhythm accent, most commonly at the ends of lines. It amounts to playing a note and adding another note to it. In the example, the first note is a G note, and a B note is added to it. The G note is continuous from the time it begins, so to show this, the G note is written as two tied notes, a 16th of solo G note and another 8th after the B joins it. Here is how it looks and sounds.

For the sake of clarity, here it is played a bit slower.

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Slide (glissando

When a slide is the means of going from one note to another, it is shown as below.

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Slur

Slurs are indicated by slur marks as seen below. For the fiddle, slur marks are instructions for the bow. They mean to play the designated notes with one bow stroke. The difference between slurred and individually bowed notes is not all that discernable in the synthesized example below. The difference between the two is more pronounced when performed by human and fiddle, but it is still subtle.

 

In vocal music, slurs most commonly mean a syllable is represented by more than one melody note, as is true of the syllables "fell" and "-ford" in the example below.

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Trill

A trill is a quick flutter between two notes. In the book, the two notes are always the written note and the next one higher in the scale. The total duration of the trill is that of the written note. In the example below, the two notes involved are the written B and the C above it, and the total duration of the trill is a quarter note.

Incidentally, there is no significance to this example having accompaniment.

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Triplets

Triplets are groups of three notes that say "diddle-da". The individual values of the notes are not normal. Most commonly (always, in the book) the value of the triplet is double, not triple the value of the notes shown. In the example below, the 16th note triplets are each worth a total of one 8th note, meaning they are worth two, not three 16th notes.

There are two functionally different types of fiddle triplets. One is made with the left (noting) hand, the other with the bow. A rule of thumb regarding triplets appearing in fiddle tunes in the book is:

When the notes of a triplet are not all the same in pitch, the three notes are slurred (as defined above, played with one bow stroke.)

This type might be called a left hand triplet. Our first example is of this type. See the Pickup Notes page for another example.

 

The other type is the bow triplet. It is made with three short bow strokes. The three notes are usually of the same pitch. Here is an example of the bow triplet.

Triplets are also used in the melodies of vocal music. For instance, in the sound clip of "Kind Old Husband" on the Clips Page, the words "What'll you" are a triplet. This example would be a bow triplet if played on the fiddle; all three notes are of the same pitch. For a vocal example that would compare to a left hand triplet (notes are of different pitches,) see the example for 5/2 time on the Rhythm Examples Page in the Guitar section of the instruction pages. There is one right after the pickup measure.

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Turns

Turns are groups of notes used by traditional fiddle players, most commonly at the ends of lines. The notes of the turn are slurred (played with one bow stroke.)

The turn has a symbol, which is shown below. However, the use of the turn symbol was avoided in the book due to documentary obligations, because there are variations of the turn. Also, there seems to be some debate over how specific the turn symbol is, so using it to represent the variations rendered by some traditional players may have been inappropriate anyway. For all of these reasons, turns are represented literally in the book. The examples below illustrate this.

First, here is the turn symbol. The sound clip gives the result when this is entered into the notation program. The examples are all played at slow speed so you can hear them clearly.

This example gives the notes of the turn symbol when written literally, four 32nd notes.

Here is a variation that uses a 16th note triplet.

And here is another 16th note triplet variation with different notes.

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Unison notes

Unison notes are made by fingering a string so that its pitch aligns with the next higher string played open. As can be seen, they are written by two notes of the same pitch on the same line or space. In standard GDAE fiddle tuning, the possible unison notes are D, A, and E. Our example shows A unison notes, meaning the A (5th) note is played on the D string along with the A string played open.

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