The Two Cardinal Rules of Embellishments

When we listen to the great players, embellishments really do seem like rocket-science. How the heck are those players getting that sort of sound to come from their fingers?

The way we teach embellishments at the Dojo, you'll see in no time exactly how it happens. Will you be able to do it right away? Of course not! But following the basic rules will get you there way sooner than you thought possible.

embellishmentsteps-300x164-9302024Step 1? Play the steps! Every embellishment is a combination of notes and gracenotes. What are the steps to complete the embellishment?

Now, the next two cardinal rules are very important:

Rule #1: Play each step accurately! Yep. That means all of the fundamentals of scale navigation and articulation need to be completely accurate. If there is a crossing noise in between some of your steps, or if your gracenote quality is poor, the embellishment won't sound good. Period. So.... easier said than done? Of course! But, at least it's easily learned...

Rule #2: Play each step evenly! So, even if you're playing it super slow to start with - it MUST be played evenly (each step the same length). If they're not even, it won't matter how fast you can cram the steps together - it'll be unbalanced! The final step of the embellishment is excluded, of course, because this is our landing melody note.

Ok, once the two cardinal rules are in place, regardless of how fast each of the steps are, the next step is to gradually (carefully) increase the speed of the steps until each step is as short as musically possible. Listen carefully - that's all that the world's top players are doing.

You see, there is no rocket-science here. Conceptually, you can do the same thing!

Take Action

If you're a Dojo student, you can explore the embellishments as part of our Fingerwork Fundamentals course (or better yet, learn them in the right order in the Bagpipe Freedom Phases!).

If you're not yet a Dojo Student, we'd love to welcome you! You can take the 11 Commandments course, which covers the 11 essential mindset tweaks you'll need to prepare yourself for mastery, or explore our monthly membership options and join us as a student, where you can learn more about this topic in a guided way with hundreds of other pipers around the world cheering you on!

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  1. Hi Andrew. I have just finished the 11 commandments exercise.I gave myself 77/110 but found the exercise quite enlightening. I'm now 77y/o but still love to play.My fingers are a bit arthriticky now so some movements are less than perfect. I take the point of practice methodology and particularly recording which I haven't done much of. I think you and Dojo do a really great job and I enjoy reading and going through the weekly assignments. I don't get much opportunity to tune into the live classes at this point but I know I can pick them up from the library. I also love the Friday messages - please continue with those. Cheers, Hamish