Understanding the East Galway Irish Music Tradition: Ornamentation continued

Recently, I was thinking how if I were getting the lessons from Eddie today, how much of the incidental experiences and learning on which I would have missed out. I say this because today, we have the smartphone to which most “youngsters” (to coin Eddies phrase) are addicted.

Lessons were at 8pm on a Monday or a Tuesday and sometimes Eddie and daddy would talk about music for hours and we wouldn’t even get started until 10.30! I sat patiently, thinking I was bored and just waiting for them to stop the chatter and get on with the lesson. Looking back on it, it was anything but boring! They both would get so animated about a fleadh and some travesty of adjudication that had just taken place or some awful rendition of a much-favored tune. In fact, one could say most of my learning came from those times, the time spent listening to the heated discussions and hotblooded opinions about the music. And they both were always in agreement with what was “good music” because they both had a passion and love for EGIMT, that steady faithful sound that moved them each and every time.

So to continue the conversation about variations and how EGIMT uses ornamentation and the different methods of execution to integrate traditional-sounding variations into each tune. Yesterday I covered the triplet and how it can be a slurred triplet or a bowing triplet, the most important being it’s ease of execution.

We also have the same idea with cuts and grace-notes.

Cuts and Grace-notes

A cut is where the delay of the principal note is quick. It has a short and crisp feel and sound to it. So, to explain further, we have the the primary note and then this chippy note before it to give this biting sound to the note. The note cutting into the primary note is always higher, never lower.

A grace-note can be higher or lower than the main note and this has a softer and more flowing sound to it. It brings a lift and lilt to the primary note. The lift generally comes if the note is higher and the lilt is brought into the tune if the the lead-in note, so to speak is lower. The grace-note is not quick; in fact it serves to be generally half the time of the primary note so that they have an even blend and together, they sound delicate and even.


Rolls are understood by most if not all musicians to be five notes in the space of one beat (long rolls). In EGIMT we only have long rolls. We also have bowing rolls, where on the open string you would do five up and down strokes of the bow on the string. These ones can be fast and chippy or relaxed and measured, depending on the tempo of the tune.


And lastly double-stops which again are understood by most musicians to be the playing of two strings together, the respective note on each string creating a perfect harmony. Double-stops are particularly important in EGIMT because they really help to create the rich, dark resounding intonation. It brings that lonesome feel that has become widely regarded as the singular sound of EGIMT particularly with Paddy fay tunes that have the F naturals and B flats.

Tomorrow we will delve in a little deeper to variations and the different ways that a musician can achieve that EGIMT lonesome sound and you can hear this sound on The Lonesome FiddleAlbum and also the Searbh Siúcra album

Listen to The Lonesome Fiddler Here

Listen to Searbh Siúcra Here

The Irish Gift, Inc continues to promote the music of Eddie Kelly and the East Galway Irish Music Tradition



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