Ornamentation 2: Rolls and Cranns
The following assumes you have a good understanding of the basic articulations, especially cuts and taps, which are discussed here.
G xxx ooo eighth note cut xox ooo G xxx ooo eighth note tap xxx xoo G xxx ooo eighth note
Practice this very slowly and make sure the notes are coming out crisply and evenly. Remember, you're making three equal eighth notes. It's crucial that your rolls be as rhythmically precise as you can make them -- this is part of the snap and drive of the music.
Practice rolls on E and F# (cutting with the left third finger), G (cutting with the left middle finger), and A and B (cutting with the left index finger).
Whereas a long roll is applied to a dotted quarter note (dividing it into its three constituent eighth notes), a short roll is applied to a quarter note to divide it into two eighth notes. This is a little trickier because you have to start with a cut before the main note:
cut xox ooo G xxx ooo eighth note tap xxx xoo G xxx ooo eighth note
Since you're starting with a cut, it's easiest (and therefore common) to short-roll a note only if it comes at the beginning of a phrase or after a lower note.
Because it's impossible to play a roll on D on the pipes, it has its own ornament: the crann. Legend has it that this technique was adapted to the flute by Matt Molloy; listening to his albums is probably the best way to hear how it sounds on the flute. Cranns are a bit more difficult than rolls, and they can sound muddled if they're not precise. Many accomplished flute players never use them.
The basic idea of the crann is to break up a long D by inserting two or three cuts, each with a different finger. Different players might use different fingers for the cuts, or do them in a different order. The important thing is for the rhythm of the ornament to be as precise as possible.
A short crann divides a D quarter note into two sixteenths and an eighth. This is done by inserting two cuts, as follows:
D xxx xxx sixteenth note cut xxx oxx D xxx xxx sixteenth note cut xxx xox D xxx xxx eighth note
This movement forms the core of the long crann, which happens on a D dotted quarter note. Simply cut one more time with the right index finger, adding another eighth note after the short crann:
D xxx xxx sixteenth note cut xxx oxx D xxx xxx sixteenth note cut xxx xox D xxx xxx eighth note cut xxx oxx D xxx xxx eighth note
As often as not, I tongue in lieu of the third cut.
In reels and occasionally in hornpipes, you’ll often encounter a situation like the one below -- a short crann is preceeded by another D, which means adding another cut before the short-crann movement. I do it like this:
A xxo ooo eighth note D xxx xxx eighth note cut xxo xxx D xxx xxx sixteenth note cut xxx oxx D xxx xxx sixteenth note cut xxx xox D xxx xxx eighth note
Practice these very slowly and strive to get the rhythm as perfect as you can.
When you crann the middle D, compare the oxxxxx fingering with xxxxxx. Cranning the former produces a hard crackling effect -- all the cuts are turned into C naturals -- whereas the latter is a little softer and less jagged. Many players also use cranns on E, using the same cuts described above.
It can't be overstressed that you must have a clear idea of the timing and rhythm of your cranns and rolls in order to use them effectively. Long hours of listening and practice will definitely pay off in the long run.