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Ornamentation guide for fiddles, violas and even cellos if you’re ambitious!

About a year ago I (Allison) finished a masters in classical violin performance and as a part of that, I had to write a thesis. Since Celtic music is clearly a dear aspect of my life and playing I couldn’t help but bring my love for traditional music into my masters.

During this process, I chose to study the composer Alexander Campbell Mackenzie, a Scottish classical composer from the 19th century who eloquently incorporates his national identity in his compositions. He did this through the use of traditional tunes (not only from Scotland though!), ornamentations, bowings and harmonies.

What interested me in this was that A. he was barely known as a composer even though some of his work is truly excellent and B. even though he included all these traditional elements it would be so easy to miss them if you didn’t know the history or the tradition.

My task was then decided, I chose a piece for solo violin and orchestra (The Pibroch Suite) and decided to write a historical guide and performance guide to the work with an accompanying annotated score. Because of this, I knew that it was vital to include an ornamentation guide and a bowing guide for non-traditional (classical) players. The bowing guide will be for another blog post…

In this post, you can see the section of my thesis (the thesis is published but write a comment if you want the link!) that includes the ornamentation guide. This is an outline of what you can expect to hear and how it is played as a Scottish/Irish fiddler. Of course, this is not taking into account regional differences or time period differences but is meant as an overview and intro guide to ornaments.

I've attached the file from my thesis below. Enjoy! 

Ornamentation in Scottish and Irish Traditional Music Blog.pdf

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