Bulgarian Accordion Tutorial - Notational Conventions & Glossary

Notational Conventions

Repeats: In my notation, separate all melodies with double bars. I do not provide specific instructions for the number of repeats, so the player must decide how times sounds right. Generally, each melody occupies about the same amount of time. Sometimes you need to move on the next early, sometimes you want to savor a melody a bit longer. The choice is yours. Playing the entire piece through with no repeats is probably the least attractive option.

Ornamental symbols: The following fragment shows ornamental symbols used in this tutorial, along with their common fingerings:

Pralls and trills fingered "2" are executed 232 or 23232, those fingered "3" are executed 343 or 34343. Mordents fingered "3" are executed 323, those fingered "4" are executed 434, those fingered "5" are executed "545". For further details, see the relevant term in the glossary.


antemordent: My term for a mordent executed with the auxillary very close (in time) to the first note of the ornament. I notate antemordents with an initial grace following by two rising 16ths, all slurred together:

bavna pesna: Slow, unmetered Bulgarian song, either vocal or instrumental.

bip: Top note of the gaida used as a grace note to a lower note, for example:

Bulgarian legato: The smooth connecting melody notes essential to Bulgarian accordion playing.

BWB: Black-white-black, refers to colors of keys used by some pralls and mordents.

chanter: The part of the gaida that is fingered to produce a melody.

chetvorno horo: Bulgarian horo in 3+2+2/16.

daichovo horo: Bulgarian horo in 2+2+2+3/16.

Dimitrov, Iliya: Canonical Shope gaidar.

double-note onset hold: Accenting a hold by initially playing both the hold and the half-step below simultaneously.

drop note: Ornamental technique that interposes a low note (usually the tonic, 7th or 5th) between two melody notes.

elenino horo: Bulgarian horo in 2+2+1+2/8.

fast asymmetric: Bulgarian horo with rhythmic pulse in 16ths (e.g. paidusko, pravo, ruchenitsa).

finger switching: Fingering a repeated note with alternate fingers to facilitate Bulgarian legato.

gadulka: Traditional Bulgarian bowed lute.

gaida: Traditional Bulgarian bagpipe.

gaidar: A gaida player.

gankino horo: Bulgarian horo in 2+2+3+2+2/16.

glide: Playing two consecutive notes by gliding the finger smoothly between them.

graovsko horo: Bulgarian horo in synchopated 2/4: S-Q-S-Q-S.

harmonic tupan: My name for the style of accordion bass accompaniment I recommend.

hold: A note held for one or more measures as a transition between sections of a horo.

horo: Traditionally, a Bulgarian round (circle) dance. Here, the term to any Bulgarian dance tune, include ruchenitsa which is not, traditionally speaking, a horo.

Ivo Papazov: Modern Bulgarian clarinettist, pioneer of the "wedding band" style.

Karlov, Boris: Iconic Bulgarian accordionist from the 1950s and 60s.

kaval: Traditional Bulgarian end-blown wooden flute.

kjuchek: A dance tune in the style of the Roma.

Kolev, Kosta: Early Bulgarian accordionist.

mordent: An ornament consisting of three notes, the first and last being the same, and the middle being a lower auxillary. In the tutorial, I distinguish between antemordents and orthomordents, which are notated differently.

orthomodent: My term for a mordent executed with the auxillary sounded very near (in time) to the last note in the ornament.

paidusko horo: Bulgarian horo in 2+3/16.

prall: An ornament consisting of three note, the first and last being the same, and the middle being an upper auxillary. I notate pralls either with a symbol over an 8th note, or as two 16th notes separated by a grace, depending upon context:

prall-triplet: A prall following by the 16th, whose execution time is equal to 3 16th notes. So named, because it forms a basic unit for practicing the execution of pralls.

pravo horo: A Bulgarian horo in duple meter, here notated in 6/16.

Radev, Petko: Iconic model of old-style Bulgarian clarinet playing.

Ralchev, Petar: Foremost exponent of the "wedding band" style of Bulgarian accordion.

Rhodope: Mountanous region in Bulgarian South and Southwest.

Roma: Ethnic group (aka "Gypsies") who are often professional musicians in Bulgaria.

ruchenitsa: Bulgarian dance in 2+2+3/16.

sharp prall/trill: My term for a prall executed with the auxillary quickly following the first note of the ornament.

Shope: Region in Western Bulgaria.

slow asymmetric: A Bulgarian asymmetric whose rhythm is counted in 8th notes, e.g. elenino, devetorka.

smooth prall/trill: My term for a prall executed so the last note of the ornament in on the 2nd pulse 16th.

tambura: Traditional Bulgarian plucked lute.

Thrace: Region in central and Eastern Bulgaria.

trill: An ornament longer than a prall, consisting of a base note alternating with an upper auxillary. Most trills in this tutorial consume 3 6ths, and so contain 5 notes. I notate trills with the trill symbol or with grace notes, depending upon context:

tupan: Traditional Bulgarian bass drum, played with two sticks.

Turkish graces: My term for an ornament in which an upper auxillary grace is added before a downward step or skip, for example:

Varimezov, Kostadin: Iconic Thracian gaida master.

WBW: White-black-white, refers to colors of keys used by some pralls and mordents.

wedding band / wedding music: An melodically and ornamentally complex style of Bulgarian music that appeared in the 1980s.

Yanev, Petar: A Rhodope gaida player whose recordings I've studied.

Copyright 2015 Erik Butterworth. All rights reserved.