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Ornamentation Guide

Ornamentation is a key element of Irish music which enables greater expression and creative play.
Grace notes as ornamentation played in the time of a crochet or dotted crochet are known as a ‘roll’.


  • It initially takes a lot of consistent practice to play a tune smoothly with rolls.
  • Very rapid finger movement is required to cut between the short duration notes.
  • First repeatedly play only the 5-note sequence of the roll until it becomes automatic.
  • Practise the sequence until you judge by ear that the correct rhythmic timing is being achieved.
  • Then play the roll in the tune at a slow tempo until it starts to seamlessly blend in time with music.
  • Play the tune with a recording or others at slow speed.
  • It is a process of trial and error – try applying the rolls to tunes you know to embed them in your playing.
  • Once the technique has been mastered it can be applied to other tunes instinctively.

The following are some tunes featuring ‘rolls’ – notated to as close an approximation as possible.

Full Tune: Tin Whistle

Full Tune: Tin Whistle

Full Tune: Tin Whistle