Rolls: an introduction

Before we begin: you have read my thoughts on the relative importance of rhythm and ornamentation, haven't you?

You have? Good! No? Then read this section before you even thinkabout learning rolls.

Now that we've got that little point straightened out, you may continue.

What is a roll?

A roll is a device very characteristic of Irish music, and comes in many flavours. I'm not going to describe it or define it here - we're going to start by doing.

For many people learning Irish music, rolls assume a kind of mystique. They are considered to be difficult, complicated and elusive. While it's true that mastering them fully will take years, they are actually very simple, especially on the whistle, and I have developed a method of teaching them which reflects this simplicity.

If you keep things simple, and follow my method, there's every chance that you'll be playing perfectly acceptable rolls very nicely in a very short space of time.

If however you fail to follow the simple instructions to the letter - usually because you bring preconceived ideas into the process, or because you like to think too much - you can easily succeed in making them difficult, complicated and elusive. It's up to you!

Before attempting to learn rolls, you should be able to execute "cuts" and "taps" easily and quickly. (See the topics on these ornaments.) If you can't, you'll be wasting your time trying to learn rolls.

All clear? To learn rolls using my celebrated "dah-blah-blah" method, click the "Next page" link below.

Updated 14 October 2004