The Jargon:



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Unfortunately all subjects have their own language, and acoustic instruments are no different.

Folk descriptions can be confusing since sometimes they don't translate directly from one instrument to another, such as 'crann'.
f=fiddle. w=whistle. fl=flute. b=bodhran, g=guitar
  • Air/aire/ayre
  • Often free flowing melodic song as a tune sometimes extemporized.
  • Alternate style
  • A fingerstyle(g) sometimes used to describe Thumb, Index, Thumb, Big. Americans called this simply 'finger picking' (spanish guitar P,I,P,M)
  • Attack
  • Striking, playing or singing a note with determiation, emphasis and projection.
  • Backbeat
  • /off beat. In 4/4 common time (beats 1,2,3,4) the emphasis is on beats 2 and 4.
  • Bluegrass a form of American roots music, and a related genre of country music. Influenced by the music of Appalachia, Bluegrass has mixed roots in Irish, Scottish, Welsh, and English traditional music. (wiki)
  • Bottom String
  • That which is lowest in pitch.
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  • Capo
  • a device which clamps the strings on a fretboard to raise pitch.(g)
  • Clawhammer
  • A banjo fingerstyle adopted by guitarists where the right hand in particular is clawed and all notes are played on the down stroke using thumb and back of finger nails. (wiki)
  • Cran(Crann)
  • This has been described in many ways. The way I was shown was by using closed fingering on a D, then lifting & replacing separately the bottom finger of the left hand then the top finger of the right hand (Difficult on fiddle). On fiddle sometimes described as a roll but using cuts. Also described as a single note triplet with cut(w).
  • Cut
  • A fast dab with a finger on a string(f) or quickly raising and replacing a finger (w,fl) which is not enough to sound the note proper.
  • Diddle
  • Double stroke at the same speed as the strokes(b)
  • Double stop
  • A chord on the fiddle with open or stopped (fingered) (typically two) notes.
  • Drag
  • Double stroke played at twice the speed of the strokes or diddles (b)
  • Expression
  • To sing or play in such a way that the audience feels what you feel for the piece.
  • Hammer On
  • (f/g)To play a note then bring down another finger on the same string hard enough above the note, that the note above is played and sustained in the same stroke/pick. Opposite of 'Push/Pull Off'.
  • Hornpipe
  • 4/4 frequently ending with 'dee da da da' or 'dee da dee da' timing.
  • Jig
  • 6/8 time tune.
  • Kicker
  • Americanism for a few bars of introduction/lead in/ Nickety Nik Nak Noo
  • Lower mordent
  • A note of decoration played using the note, the note below then returning to the main note.
  • Pat
  • Patting a lower note on whistle.
  • Pick
  • /flatpick or Plectrum. A piece of plastic (generally) used to strike the strings (g)
  • Polka
  • European dance, usually 2/4 time.
  • Project
  • To sing or play with the same expression but with sufficient volume that it reaches the back of the auditorium.
  • Reel
  • 4/4 common time
  • Riff
  • A repeated sequence of notes which can sometimes form the background for a melody or short instrumental.
  • Roll
  • Playing the note, the note above, the note again, the note below then back to the note. (5 notes in all g,w,fl,f)
  • Singing from the belly/stomach
  • Dropping the diaphram by pushing the stomach out to gain extra lung capacity, and so more projection/volume/depth.
  • Slide
  • Sliding up or down to the main note rather than a clean note change. 'Bend' (Up mostly. g & fretted)
  • Slip Jig
  • 9/8 time tune
  • Slur
  • Two or more notes played on the same bow stroke (f) or breath (w & fl)
  • Tongue
  • Single notes played by stopping the breath with the tongue(w&fl). Same as single, separate bow strokes.
  • Top String
  • That which is highest in pitch.
  • Travis
  • A fingerstyle(g) style introduced by Merle Travis around the 1930s which uses a pinch and syncopation. (wiki & wiki)
  • Trill
  • Very fast series of upper mordents (f) or lower mordents (w&fl)
  • Triplet
  • (Decoration) playing three of the same notes in very quick succession. Seldom played on w&fl.
  • Upper mordent
  • A note of decoration played using the note, the note above, then returning to the main note.
  • Up-strum
  • Strum from the low string to the top string. Opposite to down strum.
  • Vamp
  • A rhythmic sequence of chords. Can also mean to improvise.
  • Vibrato
  • Moving the finger on the note(f) to alter the pitch rapidly. Or using other fingers (w&fl) to tap unused holes to alter pitch rapidly.
  • Walkdown
  • a series of notes in a musically downward direction often leading to a resolving note and tieing in chord changes. Opposite of 'walk up'.
  • Waltz
  • 3/4 time tune.