How do I say it without offending?

How do I say it without offending?

I play in a small session and guests are welcome. However recently we have a problem with people joining in who cannot play the tunes. The final straw for me came with a flute player who for every tune did a Jethro Tull style "accompaniement" which did not fit in the least. I asked the flautist to lead off a tune, but he explained he had only been playing for a couple of weeks.
Now I reckon if you have only been playing that short a time you come to a session and listen. Every tune we played was a battle to stay together because of the flute player playing in the wrong key and with the wrong tempo and beat. It drove me mad. So I explained that you needed to know the tunes to play, that this music was all about melody and rhythm and you needed to get that right. We suggested CDs or dots. Then one of the other sessioneers said it was fine to doodle along in the background. My whole point - for me, being selfish - is this is not ok, it is ruining things for everyone else. This is a session, not professional of course, way off perfect, but not a total free for all either. Some tips please, how else can I make my point and not be seen as a complete old grouch?

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Re: How do I say it without offending?

Well, for god’s sake, say something. Gresham’s Law applies to sessions as well as currency markets.
You might point out that, while you’re all for an open and welcoming environment, his behavior is a lot like someone turning up at a golf tournament and laying out a game of bocce. Bocce is a fine game, of course, but it does interfere to some degree with a round of golf, if both are played on the same stretch of grass.
It’d be just as well to offer some tips on actually playing tunes, if he’s interested, but he’s got to stop, or you’re going to have to look for another session - this one, perhaps, a private function.

Re: How do I say it without offending?

"hey mate, can you give us a couple of tunes without the bloody flute?"

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Re: How do I say it without offending?

Sometimes you have to offend for the good of the session. We suffered a plague of bodhran wackers a few months ago - most with a tenuous grip on rythem. They drowned everybody else out. We institued a one-bodhran-at-a-time rule. Offened, they all quit the session.

The leftovers are skilled bodrahn players and fit in very well.

Re: How do I say it without offending?

"A plague of bodhran wackers." Now, why didn’t Moses think of that one?

His people would’ve been out of Egypt in a flash, and the Ten Commandments movie would have had some really neat sound effects.

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Re: How do I say it without offending?

Thank you Grego for that belly laugh.

There are about a thousand previous posts regarding this subject. They all mostly boil down to - speak politely but directly about your concerns. They’ll either be offended and leave, or they’ll get better. Either way, your session benefits.

Re: How do I say it without offending?

JNE,
that’s probably the most concise and informative post I’ve seen in a long time on this site.

Re: How do I say it without offending?

In my college dorm’s cafeteria, we once had a guy doing a drum solo on a table top at lunch—until somebody yelled, "Put it back your pants!"

Re: How do I say it without offending?

My whole point - for me, being selfish - is this is not ok, it is ruining things for everyone else. This is a session-
your right people shouldn’t sit down and join if they don’t know the tunes

Re: How do I say it without offending?

Some good ideas here, although I think the "put it back in your pants" line would cause a bit of a riot. I had also considered one of my perennial favourites " if I want to hear from an a**ehole I can fart perfectly well myself thanks".
No, I want to be assertive without being rude and I know I need to plan that because in the heat of the moment who knows what I could come up with.

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Re: How do I say it without offending?

And redh, take courage from the fact that you are so clearly not alone in this. :-)

Re: How do I say it without offending?

Why not give him a list of the tunes you play and say "We would really enjoy having you at our session but you need to learn the tunes. Here’s a list, you can easily find them on the web. This session is not a jam session although everyone is welcomed to play the tunes he or she knows." It seems simple to be nice.
If the guy is a d#ck just say "F#CKER STOP PLAYING YOU SUCK AND IT’S RUINING EVERYTHING!!!!

Re: How do I say it without offending?

Ask him if he can do that tune on air guitar.

Re: How do I say it without offending?

Much like a fiddler I know who bows along to every tune weather he knows it or not, even if the other players are maybe 2 of them, playing a tune all the other players don’t know and sit out for it, you would think he would cop on and do the same but he doesn’t. He’s a smart guy with a well paying job, doing scientific stuff, maybe I’m just an up-tight artsy type but I wish he would just disappear into a black hole sometimes, and maybe reappear for the tunes he learned (20 years ago)…

Re: How do I say it without offending?

I think I’ve mentioned this on here before: a fiddler pal of mine was punched in the mouth (when he went to the toilet) at a local session for pointing out to the sometimes piano player, who was whacking a goat skin badly whilst the fiddler played a set, that his drumming was putting him off, was out of time and not his instrument so why don’t you desist.

Now all that happened 10 years ago, that session doesn’t happen any more yet there’s still bad blood in the glen.

Re: How do I say it without offending?

Sorry, Sorry to hear. Best music is at home, with the ones who wouldn’t do that…

Re: How do I say it without offending?

At times like that it’s good to remember that you cannot "give" offence. That’s not how it works. One "takes" offence.

So if your numpty flute tooter takes offence when you call him the numpty he is, it ain’t your fault.

Zero tolerance

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Re: How do I say it without offending?

That is a good point Mr llig, but you have to balance that with the likely outcome if offense could be taken. I’d therefore recommend a more subtile approach when dealing with this sort of issue.

Re: How do I say it without offending?

Im a new fiddler, 11 months. guitar 35 years, a couple years on drums and around 10 on harmonica. point is, even though I have a musical background, I wouldnt screw up a session by "trying" to play.
I do feel like Im ready to sit in on a song here and there, but Id be damned if I’d make a fool of myself just sawing to be sawing

Re: How do I say it without offending?

I know you have to be cruel to be kind…..but I’d find it very hard to tell someone (unless of course he is a messer) to stop playing. I’m inclined to play on in the hope that the pain will go away. I once witnessed a very well known box player, who had a reputation of speaking his mind, tell a bodhran player who joined in," Well now my good man you can put that thing back in its case for a start". In front of everybody too. I felt really sorry for the bodhran player. I am however, inclined to lose it with the non player, usually someone I’ve never seen before, who tries to dictate how the session should run.eg: "Let the flute player (or other instrument) play one on his own"and then when the solo is finished, buys the flute player(or other instrument) a drink. Now that really gets up my nose……..God, sometimes I feel so unwanted……!!!

Re: How do I say it without offending?

It seems to me that the person you should be talking to is the one who said it was OK to doodle along in the background. If the flute player is just starting, he will learn how to behave, as well as how to play, from the rest of the group.

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Re: How do I say it without offending?

That is so sad Free Reed.
here, have one on me:
http://www.seanleahyphotography.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/guinness-pint.jpg

It’s cruel to be kind for sure, but coming across as snooty will probably strangle the session in question as surely as a fruitily tooty flutey.Sure it would work find in some long-established session pubs but not when you’re there under sufferance
"I speak as I find" is the excuse for many a boori to indulge their obnoxiousness.
Equally bad is the mealy-mouthed polite but patronising approach.

First thing is to get on good speaking terms with the person. It can ruin the whole pub atmosphere if you speak more about him than to him. And it sounds like you don’t have complete consensus on his tootling anyway, so you have to use your diplomatic skills

You could try something like: "Look, can you just lay off for a few tunes so that we can hear the tune by itself. We’re trying to get this really powerful unison thing going"
Don’t make any comment at all, positive or negative, on his playing. Don’t make it about HIM at all.

Then let him toot away on the big finale.

When Ray Stewart ran the session at the Prince of Wales in Aberdeen, sometimes he’d just turn to someone and say "Don’t play on this one" or "This is for banjo and flute only"

He was such a genial chap and generally inclusive that nobody took offence.
Session was a bit of a mishmash but had some great moments and survived well.
All went to pot after he died of course …

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Re: How do I say it without offending?

I once took on the task of trying to explain the workings of a session to a highly accomplished Lebanese drummer. He was highly accomplished in Lebanese bellydance music - which he played professionally - but didn’t have a clue about Irish music. The problem was, every time I tried to offer my critique, he would would express his delight at the cordial reception he had been given, that he was welcomed into the session and allowed to join in despite not knowing any of the tunes - perhaps he was afraid of what he might hear, had he taken the time to listen. My suggestions that he might (a) play more quietly and (b) listen more carefully to the tunes and familiarise himself with their rhythms before playing along unfortunately fell on deaf ears. Somebody must have taken a harsher line with him eventually, as he stopped showing up to that session after a few weeks.

Re: How do I say it without offending?

I agree with Gam — you’ve got to get some basic agreement fro the group, and one thing that’s kind of important is no feckin noodling…

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Re: How do I say it without offending?

Wot you need to do is

- play lots of obscure tunes. If necessary solo. Then as you are playing them, look intently and psychotically at the offending musician. Tunes that change key a lot are good. Also, it can be especially effective if you play something you wrote yourself, if she/he keeps busking along, and then get someone to ask what that is. With any luck you might shame them into stopping.

Re: How do I say it without offending?

continuo, you miss the point. They don’t know the tune. But more importantly, they don’t even know what the concept of "tune" means. So playing an obscure/complex tune is meaningless to them.

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Re: How do I say it without offending?

So how do they get to know the tunes?

Re: How do I say it without offending?

Ebor_fiddler: by listening to them (at session and at home) and practicing them at home. Having a teacher helps, but if you’re willing to listen * a lot* and work hard, not having a teacher can be overcome.

Re: How do I say it without offending?

I would laugh out loud hysterically and point a limp finger at the real "offender" in this case.

Then explain that he should learn to laugh at his problem; everyone else is.

Re: How do I say it without offending?

You get to know the tunes by listening, in most cases over many years. You get to know yourself through trial and error.

Re: How do I say it without offending?

Whenever we get someone in like that I tell them that their style of play is particularly appreciated at the Sandy bells and to be sure and ask to sit next to Michael.

- Chris

Re: How do I say it without offending?

You should be firm, honest, while at the same time polite. Explain what Irish music is and what it isn’t. Explain that what the offender is doing is impolite and unwelcome—and tell them to stop doing it. Giving criticism can be difficult, but it is far worse than putting up with poor playing, and more people coming in and saying, " But that flute player doesn’t know the tunes either, why are you picking on me?" And the next thing you know, you don’t have a tune session, you have a jam session, and a p#ss poor one at that.

Re: How do I say it without offending?

I don’t know.

I tried a session when I was clearly out of my league when I was just starting. One the the older fellows discreetly suggested some lessons with a particular local teacher would be most helpful.

I have been playing long enough on other instruments to ‘get his drift’

Just say something.

Re: How do I say it without offending?

Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, and imitate the action of a tiger.