Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Melodeon Ornaments 2 – Replacing Notes

The second area of melodeon ornamentation is the replacement of melody notes with an ornamented phrase or variation. Numbered examples follow directly on from article one, starting with 4 (just in case it looks like there are diagrams missing!).
4. Trills
A trill involves taking any melody note and very quickly switching between the specific melody note and any other. Whilst you can trill between any notes, a certain few will always sound better.
In general: a scale note above, or below and an adjacent button in the same bellows direction will usually sound good and be easy to execute cleanly and smoothly. See example 4a.
In 4a button G3 is played with the first finger and alternated quickly with button G4 with the second finger.  This can be written, as in bar 1, by a G note followed by a B grace note, and the notation “tr.” or “trill” written above.
The exact make up of the trill is decided by the player, but bar 2 shows two options for the make up of the trill written in full. The first group shows 6 notes being played in the space of the single G, the second showing 4. Obviously the duration of the notes and perceived speed of the trill change between the two in order to facilitate fitting all the notes in the given space.
A trill like this is best placed on a long melody note which is not the final note of a phrase. Trilling on the late note of a bar or phrase can give an unresolved sound which is not pleasing to listen to.
A better use of the trill where a bar is ending can be seen in example 4b. Bar 1 shows the original melody, bar 2, with the trill. Here, the penultimate note of A is trilled between an A and a B before the final resolution to G. The notes a trilled across the rows on the pull, as indicated above the stave.
It is worth learning this trill if nothing else, as it can be applied to all melody phrases which descend the scale before resolving to a G.
An exception to the adjacent note trill is the octave trill. This is very common in Cajun melodeon playing, but less so in English and French styles. It is very easy to execute as it simply requires playing a melody note and then trilling between it and the same note an octave lower of higher. Example 4c shows four variations on this.
It is worth experimenting with different combinations of notes to trill between, and different trill rhythms, as almost all can be used to good effect in different tunes.
5. Triplets
A melodeon triplet involves taking any single melody note, or group of 2 identical notes, and playing 3 of the same note in their place. See example 5a.
The triplet its self can be slightly difficult to finger and there are 2 main approaches. 
Firstly using 3 fingers to play the three notes. Using a slight rotation of the hand (think of the Jedi mind trick motion from Star Wars…) the button in question (in this case G3 to play the G note) is played firstly by the ring finger, then the middle finger, then the index finger. In quick succession this gives three distinct notes.
The second method uses two fingers, and here button G3 would be pressed firstly with the index finger, then the middle finger, and then the index finger again. The same process can also be repeated with any other finger combinations such as middle/index/middle or middle/ring/middle.
The exact fingering will be dictated by the fingering requirements of the tune – an ascending melody might need an index/middle/index triplet to facilitate the subsequent higher notes played with the middle and ring fingers.
A descending melody might need a middle/ring/middle triplet to allow the first finger to then play a lower note.
A triplet to finish a phrase, perhaps resolved to a G as in example 5a, could be played many ways as there is no immediate following note to consider. A three finger triplet could be idea here.
A good triplet exercise would be to play up and down a major scale, on the row, with a triplet on each note. See example 5b for a representation of the first bar of this exercise. All different finger combinations can be practiced on each ascent/descent of the scale. 
6. Specific Phrases
Many different variations on tunes are possible, and the line where an ornament becomes a variant of the melody is very fine. One last note replacing ornament, which is important to mention, is the replacement of a single note with a triplet trill. This can be used on any ascending or descending melody line.  Example 6a shows this in practice.
The descending melody shown in bar 1 is replaced with a triplet between the original note and the scale note above. When used on consecutive scale note phrases it sounds very musical.
Because such phrases are fairly common it is a very useful ornament to know in order to enhance a normally boring phrase of tune. It could also be adapted for fewer or more consecutive notes by simply choosing the use of the triplets on the notes they are required on. 


  1. If you have time, will you post some videos of the ornaments, played slowly. Many thanks. Great blog, by the way.

  2. Yes, I can do a video of the given examples - I have been meaning to for a while! Check back soon!