By Michael John Sanchez

You have many different ways to ornament, or embellish, Scottish fiddle tunes. It’s very important to build these sorts of ornaments into your repertoire so that if you ever play in a jam session, you can create variations on the tunes you’re playing.

Here’s a list of the different types of embellishments:

  • Accents: Emphasizing certain beats to give drive to a piece

  • Grace notes: Adding little notes before base notes, played very fast

  • Rolls: Going up from a note, back to the note, down from the note, and back again, to add a different flavor to a note

  • Slurs: Grouping notes together in unique ways to create a different sort of sound

  • Snaps: Changing rhythm slightly to be in snap format instead of a basic rhythm

  • Triplet runs: Attaching three notes at the beginning of a phrase that equal one beat of time

With all these possibilities, the sky is the limit! Take any piece, master the notes/rhythm, and then begin experimenting with doing different things. Obviously, various styles have typical patterns, but you can still experiment to create your own unique sound. The more ornamentation you put into songs, the better they’ll sound.

One of the most well-known Scottish tunes that can be played a number of different ways is “Largo’s Fairy Dance.” This tune was written by Nathaniel Gow and has been recorded in many different ways over the years. Here is one way to play “Largo’s Fairy Dance.”

[Credit: Figure by Michael Sanchez]
Credit: Figure by Michael Sanchez

Here is a second version of “Largo’s Fairy Dance.” After hearing each way, try to put your own style into it based on the ornamentation possibilities. Here’s a third way to play “Largo’s Fairy Dance.”