My First Session- Some Questions. Any Do’s and Don’ts?

My First Session- Some Questions. Any Do’s and Don’ts?

Hi

I have been playing the Piano Accordion for 4 years now and I was asked to come to a session on New Years Night. Only problem, is that this will be my first session and I am unsure as to how things work at sessions.
Is there a "leader" of some sort at the sessions?
What kind of tunes are mostly played (Reels, Jigs, Hornpipes etc.)?
How long do they go on for?
What kind of skill level are the people at the session going to be; Are we talking amateurs, elites, or a mixture of both?
Is there any sort of etiquette that I should be aware of?

Sorry for all the questions, but any answers would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks

Re: My First Session- Some Questions. Any Do’s and Don’ts?

Hi
a couple of relevent questions
First
Where in the world are you ?
Second
Is this session a one off like at a party ?
Thirdly
What type of tunes do you usually play?

David

Re: My First Session- Some Questions. Any Do’s and Don’ts?

First-
South Mayo Area

Second-
Yes, a one off party. But information for regular sessions would be great too.

Third-
I usually play fast tunes like reels, jigs, and polkas. My knowledge of hornpipes and airs is limited.

Re: My First Session- Some Questions. Any Do’s and Don’ts?

Who invited you? If it is someone who regularly attends sessions and has heard you play or played with you at home then they must feel you have something to offer or that you will benefit from participating. As to what standard the other players will be that is impossible to say, sessions can change from one week to the next depending on who turns up. I think the best thing is to spend time listening to what is being played to begin with and gauge it from there. Good luck in your new adventure and I hope you get to enjoy many more sessions :-)

Re: My First Session- Some Questions. Any Do’s and Don’ts?

Most of your questions can only really be answered by one of the other players - the one who asked you, for example. But the fact that you have been invited suggests that your presence will be appreciate.

I shall try to give some generic answers:

"Is there a "leader" of some sort at the sessions?"
This varies from session to session. There may be an agreed leader - sometimes even paid. There is quite often one or more dominant players, who is/are the unspoken leader(s). At some sessions, all musicians may be on an equal footing, but there is very often some tacit sense of hierarchy, based on the relative experience and skill of the musicians.

"What kind of tunes are mostly played (Reels, Jigs, Hornpipes etc.)?"
At most sessions that go under the moniker of ‘Irish’ (and sessions in Ireland, which just *are* Irish), reels and jigs tend to take precedence, with other tune types, like hornpipes, polkas, slides, barndances, waltzes etc. coming up now and again. The mix of tune types will vary according to the tastes of the musicians and, in Ireland, from region to region. It might also vary from one night to the next, or depending on who happens to turn up. Some sessions restrict themselves to tunes, whilst others are more welcoming to singers - some can be dominated by songs, with an occasional set of tunes in between.

If you want to practise specific tunes for the session, you will have to find out from one of the regulars what is likely to get played.

"How long do they go on for?"
Normally, people are limited by having to get up for work next day and general domestic commitments. But, on New Year’s Eve, anything’s possible. There’s nothing to stop you leaving at a minute past midnight, if you want to, but given the chance, some players will keep going till dawn.

"What kind of skill level are the people at the session going to be; Are we talking amateurs, elites, or a mixture of both?"
Any of the above is possible in a session. I don’t know what level you are at, but you are obviously not an experienced session player; since you have been invited to play in the session, you must have been deemed at an adequate level for this particular session. Most session players are, by definition, amateurs - but can be just as good as those that make a living from playing. Some sessions may be set up specifically for beginners/improvers (not to be confused with ‘improvisers’ ;-)), usually with a designated leader. Some sessions assume a high skill level, others are accepting of a much broader range of ability.

"Is there any sort of etiquette that I should be aware of?"
The specifics of etiquette (or whether there are any) vary a lot from session to session. The basic principle is to be respectful of the other musicians. This includes things like: not playing or talking across another musician; not speeding up a tune that someone else has started; not playing on a tune you don’t know.

As a general rule for anyone attending a particular session for the first time, however many sessions they have been to before, is to observe how others conduct themselves and do likewise. The kind of things that vary are, for example: whether the tunes are agreed between the players before starting a set, or whether people are expected to just ‘jump in’; whether there is deference to a ‘leader’ or whether anyone can start a tune when they want to; whether musicians are welcome to join in with singers, or whether songs are left unaccompanied, or accompanied by a designated accompanist.

I hope this has been helpful. Enjoy your first session.

Re: My First Session- Some Questions. Any Do’s and Don’ts?

Hi D J,

"I am unsure as to how things work at sessions."

Even in my own relatively limited experience, they don’t all work the same.

"Is there a ‘leader’ of some sort at the sessions?"

Sometimes. It might not be obvious who it is, or there might be several, and the degree of leadership exercised also varies. I went to one session where the leader decided who should play what and when! Didn’t go back there.

"What kind of tunes are mostly played (Reels, Jigs, Hornpipes etc.)?"

Yes, mostly those, usually in that order of frequency (more reels than jigs, more jigs than hornpipes, with occasional marches, set dances, polkas, mazurkas, barn dances…).

"How long do they go on for?"

Varies.

"What kind of skill level are the people at the session going to be; Are we talking amateurs, elites, or a mixture of both?"

We don’t know, it could be any of these. You presumably know who invited you, and their skill level? And perhaps they are also aware of your own level of skill (or they wouldn’t have invited you)?

"Is there any sort of etiquette that I should be aware of?"

Of course, as there would be in any similar social situation, but the fact that you are asking the question like this suggests that you won’t have too much difficulty with it.

"I usually play fast tunes like reels, jigs, and polkas. My knowledge of hornpipes and airs is limited."

Just play the tunes you know. Take your whistle, no doubt there are tunes you play better on one instrument than the other, and the variation will be appreciated.

Posted .

Re: My First Session- Some Questions. Any Do’s and Don’ts?

The best advice I can think of is to just go with the flow. Every session is different, and you never really know what to expect until you get there, so just watch the others and try to blend in, as you would at any other social gathering. Don’t feel you have to play the whole time - only join in with tunes you know. People won’t think any the less of you if you only join in the odd tune here and there, but they might get upset if you are constantly trying to play tunes you don’t know, and stuffing them up. In the same vein, if you get a chance to start a set don’t be tempted to bring out you most difficult party pieces to show what you can do, but try to pick simple, common tunes that others are likely to know and join in with.

And finally, always remember that your piano accordion is a powerful instrument, that can easily land up dominating the group even if you don’t mean to, so a bit of restraint might be needed.

Relax, have fun, and hopefully this will be the start of a long and interesting journey for you!

Re: My First Session- Some Questions. Any Do’s and Don’ts?

Thanks everybody for ye’re help.
It was the owner of the pub that asked me to play, one of the reasons being that he didn’t have a piano accordion in the session. They are a bit rare (and unfortunately often frowned upon) in this part of the country.

Anyway, thanks for all the advice. :)

DJ

Re: My First Session- Some Questions. Any Do’s and Don’ts?

Don’t begin by buying drinks for everybody there.

They will suspect you deeply. They will also expect it every time.

Returns will be sparse, and only commence several decades after.

;-)

Re: My First Session- Some Questions. Any Do’s and Don’ts?

‘It was the owner of the pub that asked me to play, one of the reasons being that he didn’t have a piano accordion in the session’

Tread carefully then, if it’s an established session rather than just a once off for the night that’s in it.

Re: My First Session- Some Questions. Any Do’s and Don’ts?

It depends I guess. I got lucky with both of the sessions I went to. One session that I frequented in Austin, 3 of the members were part of an active band, and they were really really good. We did have a shortage of melody players, so whatever melody players came were the ones to "lead" the session. Anyone else was welcome to start a tune. The other session I frequented also had good players, but a lot of the players were on an "amateur" level, like myself, because they welcomed beginners as they hosted tune learning/beginner sessions.

Re: My First Session- Some Questions. Any Do’s and Don’ts?

Here are some ideas—none are hard and fast:
Use your stops to shut down as many reed banks as possible—as a session newbie, you want to blend, not dominate. Take your cues from others, don’t try to lead. Play what you know, listen to what you don’t know. Use your left hand for the air button only—it takes a while to get a feel for what chords will fit into the session environment.
And have fun!

Re: My First Session- Some Questions. Any Do’s and Don’ts?

Hold back showing off your entire hotwater bottle collection straightaway.
Remember to change your trousers, regularly.
Buy a round.
Have fun.
Expect some amateurs who are well good and some so-called professionals that are a bit scheit.
Don’t shave your parrot unless you’re absolutely sure.

Re: My First Session- Some Questions. Any Do’s and Don’ts?

All the stuff about playing quietly, and letting other people lead. That doesn’t mean you can’t start a new tune in an available gap, but don’t keep doing it all evening - left everybody else have a turn too.
Relax and enjoy; be prepared to just sit back and listen. Remember an accordion is perhaps potentially the loudest instrument at a session, except for a tenor banjo; try to be discrete.

Re: My First Session- Some Questions. Any Do’s and Don’ts?

I think Creadur covered most of it. But all the questions you asked vary a great amount from session to session depending on where you are (in the world), who is at the session, where the session is (pub, home, etc), and so on so on.

This book won’t help you for your upcoming session seeing that’s it’s only in a few days but it’s great reading if you plan on checking out other sessions in the future. Very entertaining too. http://books.google.ca/books/about/Field_Guide_to_the_Irish_Music_Session.html?id=IkgGAAAACAAJ&redir_esc=y

If it’s your first time just sit back a bit and see how it goes. Generally, tunes are played 3 times over and at an even pace. Meaning - you start the tune at a given tempo and stick to it til the end. This of course varies but it’s a fairly standard thing. Also make sure to stick to playing the proper parts - AABBAABB etc. If you already know how to play this shouldn’t be a problem. I’ve seen quite a few people come in and play AABBBABB…etc. It’s important to keep track of what you’re playing or else you’ll get the stink eye from everyone there.

Like Guernsey said, feel free to start a set when there’s a pause (you’ll probably be asked to start something anyhow) but don’t hog the session. It’s good to play something that you know there’s a good chance other people will know. It helps to get other people playing with you the first few times as opposed to starting a 10 minute set with some odd Bb tunes.

Best of luck!

Posted by .

Re: My First Session- Some Questions. Any Do’s and Don’ts?

Howiya DJ,
As a beginner fiddle player myself, I know exactly where you stand. I attend a regular session at a local pub. The first night I had to brace myself and walk in, trying to hide my fiddle case! I sat quietly for the first few sets, then the leader of the session called to me and asked what tunes I wanted to play. Luckily I was prepared and gave him the names of three tunes that I was really comfortable with (they also go well as a set). "Start off so" he said, I’ll follow you". Well, I started off very nervously and after what seemed like ages, he joined in, and suddenly it all came together. Months of practicing in the kitchen finally paid off. We played each tune three times and along the way the others joined in. I was on top of the world! Thats the night I learned what its all about. Mind you, I didn’t play any more tunes that night, as I didnt know any others, but that didn’t matter! Since then I’ve started to learn the tunes that are played regularly at this session, and my repertoire is slowly growing, along with my confidence! Be patient. Have a few tunes that you are really comfortable with, and don’t worry, they will invite you in (out of curiosity if nothing else!!). Best of luck. Pi

Posted by .

Re: My First Session- Some Questions. Any Do’s and Don’ts?

OK DJ
How did it go ?

David

Re: My First Session- Some Questions. Any Do’s and Don’ts?

I’m curious also :)

Re: My First Session- Some Questions. Any Do’s and Don’ts?

So……. ? Maybe he forgot to sit to the left of the Uilleann piper…. Or he got into a fight with a guy with a low whistle….. :)

Re: My First Session- Some Questions. Any Do’s and Don’ts?

still no answer…. :-/

Re: My First Session- Some Questions. Any Do’s and Don’ts?

Sorry for the extremely slow reply, if anybody is interested still.

It went fine. Started around 9.30pm and from what I heard went on until 2.00 am. I left at midnight because I had to get up early the next day.

It was OK of an experience. But they just seemed to play reel after reel after reel. I think I may have known 10% of the tunes they played. There wasn’t any real variety in my opinion, JUST REELS! When I was asked to start a tune, I started off Maggie’s Lift, a barndance, and the majority stared at me as if I had 2 heads. I think the only person that joined in was a fiddler I was sitting beside me. As for everyone else. Silence. One way to make a newcomer welcome.

Re: My First Session- Some Questions. Any Do’s and Don’ts?

It’s quite possible that they didn’t know your tunes either.

Many musicians get into a routine and, in many case, their repertoire(or that which they may feel totally comfortable with at any one time) is often more limited than an outside observer or visitor might realise. However, even then, it doesn’t always follow that you will necessarily know all the tunes played and 10% isn’t that bad really for a first visit.

Reels are usually the most popular tunes, especially in Irish sessions but repertoires vary from location to location and session to session. So, it’s not always so.

Re: My First Session- Some Questions. Any Do’s and Don’ts?

DJ, When a newcomer starting your first set of tunes in a session, it is generally advisable to start tunes that a lot of folks are likely to know, not try to take the event in a whole new direction. Deciding you know better than everyone else what kind of tunes should be played is not a way to endear yourself to the crowd. Sounds like you found a session that isn’t the type you like, so I would recommend searching further. Perhaps find some musicians with abilities similar to your own and start your own event, even in a home, which gives you total control over what you want to do.

Re: My First Session- Some Questions. Any Do’s and Don’ts?

Or you can do what we do in our session. A lot of times, we bring our own tunes to the table and teach them to each other. So I guess you could say we’re a "melting-pot", tune-wise. As a result, we tend to be able to play a fair bit of the tunes that someone from Chicago, Clare, etc. might bring in. Now, this isn’t always the case, but still. When/if you become a "session regular", you can try pushing in some tunes that add variety. :)