In this course, you’ll learn how to practice and play Irish fiddle ornamentation. The larger thing you’ll learn is how to practice adding variation to anything.

Are you ready to embark on a musical journey?

In the Irish Fiddle Journeys course, you will learn classic Irish ornamentation, like rolls and melodic variation. You’ll learn a key practice technique: alternating between the basic version and the variation in a “practice loop.”

This will help you to add variation and expression to anything: old-time, cajun, klezmer, and even classical music. Once you can play the variation with flow on a phrase,  you’ll learn how to apply it in tunes.

The deeper thing you’re going to learn is how to be a creative musician. How to transform daily practice. Instead of slogging through rote drills, you’ll learn to see learning and practice as a journey of exploration. How to play music instead of just stringing notes together. How to be a musical scientist, experimenting with different ways to play the same thing.


Before embarking on your Irish Fiddle Journey, I recommend that you make sure you’re confident with more basic techniques.

  • Review and practice the following left-hand techniques:
    • Low second finger, low first finger, fourth finger
    • Triads
    • G Major Scale Two Octaves
      • Master this!
  • Review and practice the following bowing techniques:
    • Slurs
      • Slur 2, slur 3, slur 2 separate 2
    • Fingering And String Crossing
    • Double Stops
  • Review all the Irish tunes that you love (or at least like ?)
  • Practice variations you already know
    • Follow this path: single notes > scales > phrases > tunes
    • We’ll follow the same path once we start learning Irish embellishment

Start with basic tunes

We’ll start by simply learning basic versions of some fun Irish tunes. This will help you to develop your technique as well as your musical vocabulary.

Learn variations in small steps

We’ll use the tried and true method of micro-practice to learn and master the feel of this music. This means that we’ll learn each technique and tune in small, manageable pieces and then do progressively more challenging things. We’ll start by playing an embellishment on a single note. Notice how we alternate between the note and the note with the embellishment:

D0-1-0  {D0-1mord}-0 0-0

Apply variation to scales

Then we’ll learn how the embellishments work and practice them on scales:

Apply variation to phrases from tunes

We will learn to apply these embellishments to phrases. Once you can do this with flow, then you’re in a good position to try it in the context of the whole tune…

First quarter:  D1-A0-0-D1-A0-0-{A1-3mord}1-0-1-{D2}3-A0

Map for the journey

I teach basic and variation lessons for all core tunes. Think of the core tunes as old friends that teach us new things when we re-visit them.

As we learn the basic versions of the tunes, we’ll also learn the following Irish embellishments:




Jig swing

Grace notes



16th-note duplets

Rolls (turns)

Melodic variation

A lot of these ornaments are very similar, which might be confusing and tricky at first. I want to encourage you to start by practicing just one thing. Don’t try too hard to figure it all out intellectually. Listen a lot to the play-along tracks to get the sound of a variation in your ear, then practice it a lot.

If you give your ears and hands time to slowly learn, then they will be a good guide when it comes time to add variation to tunes. 

Start with minimal variation

I have arranged most of the tunes in the course with a relatively simple amount of variation and with lots of repetition within the tunes (similar to how the basic versions are presented in the course). For example, the first and third quarters of these arrangements will usually be the same.


First quarter: D1-A0-0-D1-A0-0-1{A1-3mord}1-0-1-{D2}3-A0

Second quarter: A1-E0-0-{1cut}0-A3-1-3-{1-3-1}-0-D3-{1-3-1}-0

Third quarter: D1-A0-0-D1-A0-0-1{A1-3mord}-0-1-{D2}3-A0

The idea is that once you can do these versions, then you can start to add variation on your own. Adding variation is kind of like a choose-your-own-adventure book. For example, you could simple play the first quarter without variation, and then play the variation on the third quarter.

Eventually, I hope you’ll find your own voice with fiddling and learn to make your practice creative, fun and productive.

Essential teachings

There are three key practices for learning how to add variation to tunes:

  • Practice single repetitions of the variation VERY SLOWLY. Your hands need a lot of time to figure things out.
  • Alternating between the basic version and variation. We will do this on small 2-3 note bits as well as on scales, phrases and whole tunes. Practicing this way is the central idea I want you to learn in this course. It will help you to understand how variations work and bring flow to the music you make.
  • Record yourself. This brings awareness to your practice. You start to see where you could improve. It’s also a way to see if that particular variation idea is working.

Uncharted territory

And to make your Irish fiddle journey even more epic, we’ll explore some untraditional and uncharted territory. We’ll play jigs as polkas. We’ll learn to convert Irish tunes into Old-time tunes and vice-versa. We’ll learn ways to creatively practice with this music. And we’ll have fun along the way…


The intention of this course

The variations taught in this course are loosely based on the Sligo style of Irish fiddling. However, this is not meant to be a musicological study of Irish ornamentation. 

The intention of this course is to get you to play tunes (and all music) creatively. I want you to see that variation is not only an art form, but also a way to make the daily practice of technique fun.

Two ways I can help you level up your fiddling

  1. Sign up for the FiddleHed newsletter below.
  2. Sign up for the Free Two-week Trial. You’ll get full access to all courses and group lessons. Plus, I’ll send you some free lessons tailored to your current skill level.

Thanks for being here 🙏

Return To Top Of Irish Fiddle Journeys >>