Unusual Instruments at sessions

Unusual Instruments at sessions

I like opening cans of worms it seems, so here’s another! What do you lovely people think of unusual instruments at sessiúns? A good friend of mine once advised her clarinet playing friend to not even dare showing her clarinet at a Milltown Malbay sessiún, I thought that was a bit of a shame that she was this close-minded, but it was probably more her fear for what might happen her friend when the trad police caught her! There was a time when a bouzouki or mandolin would have been seen as a real oddity at a sessiún, but now they are commonplace, so what will be the next instruments to start breaking through?

I know it is common for English trad sessiúns to have everything from a Tuba to a kitchen sink (I don’t mean Irish sessiúns in England, I mean sessiúns of English trad music) but how do people who play ITM feel about unusual instruments in sessiúns? I’ve a few unusual instruments myself including a thing called a Turkish Banjo, which is generally a form of Banjo-Mandolin. My experience with it is that people tend to either not take it seriously or not like the sound, so I’ve kind of given up on using it and instead got a resonating mandolin, which is more mellow in tone but is more audible than a regular mandolin. I dare say it’s got quite a sweet sound and I have already had people remark that they were surprised by how nice it sounded, but I’m still a bit wary of bringing it to Milltown Malbay!

So what unusual instruments do any of you like playing and how do people tend to react to it? I’ve seen quite a few unusual instruments at sessions, everything from a Sax to an African Kora to a weird but insteresting Thai instrument a bit like a harmonica.

If you don’t play an unusual instrument but have strong opinions about them I want to hear these opinions be they positive or negative. However, I’m not really interested in your opinion if you are enlisted in the trad police who don’t like banjo’s, bodhráns, guitars, accordions, etc, so why would they like any other instrument?!

Posted .

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

I think any unusual instrument is okay if it meets the following criteria:

1: The player KNOWS THE TUNES and doesn’t try to play different tunes which are not only known by no one but also are a different kind of music altogether.
2: The player can play the instrument reasonably well.
3: The instrument is not so loud that it drowns out those of the other sessiongoers (i.e. tuba, highland pipes)(I know highland pipes aren’t unusual except that they look kind of like demon-posessed octopi, but I needed an example).

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

Oh, yeah, the trad police. *shudder* They attacked my dad for playing a Newfoundland tune, for Bob’s sake.

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

My experience is that if you’re a good enough player to pull it off, probably no one will bother you. I’ve seen the guy w/ the wierd Thai thing play a couple’a times at Matt Molloy’s: he’s good. Keep in mind, though that just because there is a session going on it doesn’t follow that anything goes. You should be respectful of the fact that some people host the sessions, some are listening and still others are paying some musicians to host. If you can’t fit in with what is going on start your own session, or band even. But I’ve yet to see someone really talented ostracized from a session because his instrument is wierd.

Posted by .

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

At one of the Salisbury (England UK) sessions a guy played a clarinet - all the usual jigs & reels stuff. He sounded pretty good to me, although a few jaws dropped with surprise. As the afternoon wore on, more tradders joined in. The clarinettist (can’t remember his name) kept the end of the instrument pointing toward the floor to keep the volume down. By the way, his main love was playing Klezmer music, but IMO he did a good job of Irish.

Jim

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

There’s also a link on this site (It’s been lost in the mists of time and my alcohol :-) to a soundclip of some guys in London somewhere where a sax is playing jigs & reels. Sounds good to me. Aha! It’s on one of the "Murphy’s Mob" clips, but I don’t know if the link is still there. If anyone wants to hear it, just mail me.

Jim

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

Well the Highland pipes are damned unusual if it’s an Irish session.

Not sure what a sessiun is. But I don’t think you’ll find this word in either an English or Gaelic dictionary.

I would be unlikely to be unfriendly to anyone who brings wierd instruments (or tunes) to a session, but very likely to make my excuses and leave feeling disappointed.

We hear a lot about the session police etc. and I take the point. I don’t care for people who are unfriendly or rude about other folks music in a public place. However, the other side of this is that sometimes you go out hoping (even expecting) to spend the evening playing - oh, I don’t know… just for example let’s say traditional Irish music - and after half an hour you find the session hijacked by somebody who plays the pan pipes (albeit very well) or somebody who just wants to show off how well they play Cape Breton music. Worse things could happen, I know. (Big screen sports, a guy with a keyboard and expander doing Tom Jones covers) But nevertheless, some of us just might feel a bit disappointed - even frustrated. Sorry!

Posted by .

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

I don’t mean they aren’t unusual at a session, I mean they aren’t really just plain weird like some instruments are.

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

Played in Matt Molloy’s with a woman who was playing an electric keyboard. Mind you I was playing a block of wood with a stick, so I suppose no-one noticed the keyboard being odd.

And my English mate played the recoeder at sessions for years, probably still does.

Oh, and a viola, once.

What is a seisiún?

Sorry I mis-spelt the word, but seisiún is the Irish gaelic way of saying session, (am not a fluent Irish speaker I was thought it badly in school but am working on it!). If you listen to Irish speaking people they always pronounce it as seisiún (seshioon) rather than the Sasanach pronounciation session! (If you don’t know what Sasanach means, please look it up!)

Posted .

Viola

Viola’s are not very common in seisiúns but they are sometimes found on albums. Paddy Glackin often uses one and plays it very well too!

Posted .

I need to work on my English too!

I should have said ‘I was taught it badly at school’ not ‘thought’ it badly’!! How ironic is that, can’t spell properly in English or Irish, I used to be intelligent, until I started playing in seisiúns, is it the drink or the music I wonder?

Anyway back to unusual instruments……….

Posted .

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

I like Kris’s post. It’s not really anything to do with the instrument, it’s to do with the tunes. If the tunes, the right tunes, are played well, in the right way, then an unusual instrument is fine by me.

Posted .

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

ROFLMAO @ "The Old Búis"! Booosh hahaha…

‘craic’ and ‘seisiún’

The redoubtable Fintan Vallely’s comments are noted and I also freely admit that I’m not a fluent Irish speaker, but I am Irish and like most of my ITM playing friends I almost always say ‘seisiún’ rather than ‘session’ because amongst Irish people a ‘session’ normally refers to a drinking binge, which ironically is what some ‘seisiúns’ turn into! From the Irish I was taught, it has to be said that there are literally hundreds of Irish words which were adopted from English words, so I’m not going to stop saying or writing the word ‘seisiún’ even if Fintan Vallely thinks it is wrong and I say this as someone who is a good friend of his sister Sheenagh!!

But can we PLEASE get off this subject, it is not the subject of the original discussion!!!!

Posted .

Hammered Dulcimer

I’ve found that the slower/intermediate sessions are not opposed to the hammered dulcimer when it’s played well. I’m sure that the faster sessions would just as soon strangle me as have to listen to it…..
Dulcimer comes in handy as an accompanying instrument when you don’t know the tune but can hear the changes. (I play with the leather hammer side down usually)

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

Here we go again: percussion being used as a "handy accompaniament when you don’t know the tune" Hmmm

Posted .

Don’t know the tune?

I knew poor old marygrider would get a negative response, but in her defense the Hammered dulcimer is a string instrument which is hammered, so it’s like any plucked string instrument, if the accompanist has a good ear they can normally hear the changes as marygrider says and can accompany very well. There are few accompanists out there who know ‘every’ tune, so most of them have to use their ear at some point in seisiúns and those who do this well are generally appreciated by those not enlisted in the trad police!

Posted .

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

The most unusual instrument I’ve ever encountered in a session, was a musical saw - it was played by quite an elderly man. I must admit that I was very intrigued by it - the noise he made wasn’t unpleasant and it did provide a novel distraction - he also didn’t hog the session. Although I didn’t join in, I certainly thought of a few other uses for the saw to rid the session of a couple of over-enthusiastic bodhran-abusers.

Posted by .

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

Hammered dulcimer is a lovely addition to the music if the player knows how to tune it, plays tunes they know, and has good rhythm. Iv’e heard some players do a bit of vamping on it for effect now and then that sounded good, but they only did it on tunes they knew how to play well… and very sparingly.

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

harmonica(though probably not unusual), i was surprised at how good it sounded with irish music(the player was excellent so that probably helped), sounded like an odd concertina when played a certain way. anyway, id like to try a sitar at a session..it would definately turn some heads!

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

On a dare, I once brought my tuba to a session. I know how to play pretty well and could accompany the tunes alright. But I didn’t like it. Others thought it was okay though. Of course this was a session with a huge hammered dulcimer (it really just loomed over us all), an incredibly loud and not well played tenor banjo, and a person who got very drunk and sang rebel songs. So, I think my tuba playing was a nice diversion.

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

At the Monday session at the Plume of Feathers in Bristol we occasionally have a visit from a lady who plays the Appalachian dulcimer - plucked, or rather strummed, with one hand while the other stops the strings, a bit like the Hawaian guitar. A gentle sound, and everyone stops to listen when she plays. And she sings Irish very well, too.

Trevor

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

I suppose if you didn’t know percussion, you could play the tune. had a hammer dulcimer at our session, for tunes. Highland pipes, and traditional kazoo.

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

At the nearest local session, there’s an electric pianist (Also a good whistler) and a hammered dulcimer player. Both are "regulars" and probably might raise an eyebrow or two elsewhere but would probably also be accepted to any session worth attending.

I don’t see how anybody could object to an electric piano on the grounds of "un-trad" if one considers that all the old dance recordings had piano accompaniment. Who cares if you plug it in if it sounds the same??

If I ever attend a session with MG or Dow I am going to bring my electric guitar, a wah-wah pedal, and an e-bow.
;P

Speaking of violas, why not? PLayed well, they sound great and add a lot to the music.

I’d also like to see a good upright bass player or cellist in a session before I die. Seriously.

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

In my current mood, I’m for just about any instrument as long as the player doesn’t wait until someone is a few bars into starting a tune and then get in their face and squawk, "Wait a minute, what’s that called?" I really believed up until that point that I had made every possible gaffe in a session, but that one never even occurred to me. And to think I’ve always spoken up for beginning players….

Thank you; I do feel better now. I agree that yes, you do want to see good bass and cello players in a session before you die. The best ones have a great sense of rhythm and know just when to come in. These instruments can really fbalance out the fiddles for a full, fascinating blend. I have never been in a session with Appalachian dulcimer; seems to me that the player would be very familiar with Celtic music in order for it to work at all. My friend Julia plays hammer dulcimer. We were at an outdoor festival in Fremont, California this past weekend, and her playing gave the music a Spenserian sort of otherworldly quality, very pleasant, sort of put a gilt edge on the sound IMO.

I am trying to keep an open mind about electric pianos at sessions because the only such player I’ve ever run into made absolutely everything she attempted sound like it was written by Mantovani.

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

Our pianist is good…she actually initiated me into sessions after I contacted her through this site. Anyways, she can sound like the better sort of those bouncy old dance-hall recordings. It adds a nice flavor that you don;t hear all the time.

Speaking of pianos and violas for trad, Kevin Crawfords’ new(?) album has some of both… very tasteful and tasty.

All the real pianos I’ve seen in session venues have been fairly out of tune.

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

No skin off my teeth what you do, frisbee, but if you think that we require or even try to keep discussion threads on one subject, you’ll quickly find otherwise if you hang out here for a bit. :)

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

Zina will tell you that I tend to be a bit suspicious of unusual instruments- however we recently got to play with a really good dumbek player! It made a nice combination with our bodhran players tasty playing.
I also used to play quite often with a first rate hammered dulcimer player back in the Boston area. She passed away some years ago. She often played sessions in Boston with the very best players, who were always glad to see her. She had figured out how to get the "swing" in the rhythm just right, and had a Sam Rizzetta dulcimer with a "damper pedal" and so was able to counteract the hammered dulcimer’s two worst features (IMHO) -uncontrolled sustain and uncontrolled volume.
So I guess that means I’m in favour of it (No highland pipes though please!) as long as it’s well and tastfully played.

Posted by .

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

I play the piccolo, which used to be commonly played - no D whistles available? but isin’t heard much anymore I’m told. With a good one you can play quite softly if you want.

Posted by .

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

Well, Trevor, I’ve got another Appalachian dulcimer player for you — my wife. She started out playing American folk on it but I helped lead her down the primrose path to ITM. She mainly uses it for rhythm, but can pick out a few tunes as well; she does a lovely job on some O’Carolan pieces, for instance.
She also has a funny instrument called the strumstick, which is essentially a dulcimer with a different sound, somewhat like a banjo. But she tends to use it more for backing songs than playing tunes.

I was interested to read Frisbee’s comment about English sessions — which are not exclusively ITM but might include some Irish tunes — generally being open to "unconventional" instruments. That seems to be the case for American/New England contra dance ensembles, too — although as always the caveat is, you gotta be a good player to pull it off. Some family friends of ours have a son who plays trombone and is quite talented at it. He went to sessions regularly when he spent time in the UK, and developed a pretty good knack for accompanying or playing tunes.
But having had him over for a house session once where we mostly played Irish and Scots stuff, I can see the trombone has its limits. Might be good as a novelty for a set or tune, but after a while I found that it seemed to hem in the flow of the tunes in a way that doesn’t seem to happen as much with English or contra dance music.
(His parents have occasionally suggested I take him out to one of the local Irish sessions, but it ain’t gonna happen.)

Posted by .

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

We don’t have a proper session here in Fort Myers Florida yet, but hope to get one going. I think I would like to hear just about any instrument someone would like to try to play if, as others have stipulated, it is a good player (and fairly sober) making the attempt.

In my fantasy session I am playing mostly my mandolin. I would also try out my melodica, affectionately known by the band as "harmonica on steroids." It is a great tool for polkas and mazurkas. And also the tambourine foot pedal for rhythmic support if no bodhrans appear.

One thing, I wonder if someone can tell me if I can apply to join the trad police? Are there background checks? How rigorous is the training program?

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

how about a reinvented ocarina? i always wandered what they sound like.

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

"…cellist in a session before I die. Seriously. "

I’m getting together with mine in just a few hours. We’re going to start breaking people into the idea with English and American trad, but it is my mission to bring it back into the fold of traditional Irish music. For those that might object I’ll point out that it has provenance and it’s disappearance from the Irish music scene is probably due to the poverty of the potato famine era. Cellos were simply less common and more expensive than fiddles, but they are trad.

The clarinet is to the hornpipe as the wooden Boehm System flute is to the Simple System flute. My personal taste is for keyless woodwinds in traditional music, but I don’t see any reason to get snooty about it. Keyed whistles were once quite common.

A well played oboe is a lovely Irish instrument. Opinion is divided as to whether or not it has provenance through an older instrument, as with the case of the clarinet, but there is circumstantial evidence suggesting such.

The above is not to be taken to imply that I am one of the trad police, but rather to imply that the trad police are often actually applying modern ideas to what they consider trad, denigrating insturments with very old Irish history because they don’t remember them being used.

So the bit of Fintan Vallely that caught my eye were his comments on the session itself. Talking about traditional Irish sessions is like talking about traditional Irish electronic music or Frisbee playing.

I’ve already voiced my objections to piano in traditional Irish music, but remember that such objection is based strictly on their not being able to even play the right notes, and forcing instruments that can to play the wrong ones in order to play along. They are a backing instrument that imposes upon the melody instruments. This objection need not apply to a really good player on the right sort of electronic keyboard, thus I maintain that the modern, electronic instrument is more "trad" than the older one in this case.

It’s about the music, not the instruments.

KFG

Posted by .

The Trad Police

Muddflat, if you want to join the trad police the first thing you have to do is burn your mandolin, hammer your melodica to bits and give your tambourine to a Hare Krishna because any respectable member of the trad police doesn’t like any instruments except Fiddle, pipes and flute/whistle!! You’ll also have to become cynical, unsociable, angry at anyone who plays an instrument or style that isn’t ‘traditional’ and be absolutely against the idea of the Irish seisiún being a happy social event for all musicians of any ability to enjoy! Oh, and you’ll have to unlearn any modern or non-traditional tunes and stick purely to learning every tune in O’Neiils collection by ear from an old master fiddler or piper.
Now if you think you can manage all that I’m sure you’ll get that secret handshake someday that will let you know you are a fully fledged member of the trad police!

Posted .

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

Also - any recording made after 1975 is "newfangled." Matt Molloy has caused the death of Irish music, and Seamus Egan is the Antichrist. Lunasa doesn’t play trad at all - they play jazz. God only knows what Fluke! plays.

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

…..and be totally humble and absolutely gushing with false modesty when someone tells you that you are a good player :-)

Jim

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

At our session last night, we had a fiddle with strings tuned down an octave. It really added a beautiful, dark tone to the music. I like seeing unusual instruments. They can usually add a lot to the session if played well, and I’m always curious about how they are played.

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

We’ve recently had a bowed dulcimer player show up to one of our sessions. I’ve never seen one of those before, so I was a bit skeptical when she first showed up. I commonly can’t hear her playing (not sure if it’s the instrument or the player there…), but when I can hear it, I don’t find it unpleasant - sounds much like a cello.

And prior to taking up the pipes, Dirk used to be an accomplished jazz sax player, and I’ve heard him play Irish on the sax - loads of fun! Especially the crans. But we end up laughing too much when he does it - and I have my doubts that we would ever be able to get him to do it in public. :-)

Pete

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

The man from ‘Sonic Violins’ brought some of his fiddles to our session recently, including a purpose-built octave fiddle. I played it through a few sets and it sounded fine. No big problem with the octave below. If you’re playing the same notes as the others then everything’s fine.

The response on the lower strings is a bit slacker than a standard fiddle, owing to their extra bulk, but you soon get used to it.

Jim

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

A saxophone was in the line-up of the famous Gallowglass Ceili Band, but this was presumably for ceilis rather than sessions. It was used very effectively in tunes by dropping in and out of the melody line to give a change in tone colour. BTW, last week I bought a 1972 LP of the Gallowglass Ceili Band in a second-hand shop. When I’ve sorted out a horrendous scratch on one of the tracks I’ll post something in the Recordings section.
The use of the cello in sessions has been mentioned on this thread. I don’t take my cello to sessions because it needs a lot of space both sideways (for bowing) and in front (because of the angle it is held), and cellos are intrinsically more fragile and easily damaged than most other instruments – and more expensive to repair. My local sessions generally don’t have the necessary space to encourage me to bring along my cello.

Trevor

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

"I don’t take my cello to sessions because it needs a lot of space both sideways (for bowing) "

Just got back. The cello player took a chair, naturally. I sat on the floor next to her. I still have both eyes, I was wearing sunglasses.

We’ll have work more on physical arrangements.

KFG

Posted by .

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

John Doonan made a piccolo LP, "At the Feis." Eddie Cahill plays it with John Vesey on some of the Vesey 2CD. Various old 78s have it - Dan Sullivan’s Shamrock Band had lots of picc.
It’s not so easy to bend notes on the old simple system piccs, I don’t think it would matter much if you had a modern instrument.

Posted by .

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

KFG: What on earth are you talking about? Cellos, while being very nice instruments, have nothing to do with Irish music historically. Also, I cannot imagine it would add much to said music, except as accompaniment, where Piano is better. You are playing with the wrong pianist.

Posted by .

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

I’m with Faust on this one. KFG - are you confusing the Scottish cello tradition (18th century) here?

So Charlie Lennon, Felix Dolan and the like should pack up their ivories and get a synth!?! Is your objection to the equal temperament of the piano? If so, I know what you mean, but still don’t agree. And electronic is no different, is it?

However, the real question comes down to what constitutes tradition (oh no oh my god no please lets not go there not on a sunday…). It there are a couple of historical references to someone playing Irish music on the trumpet, but it never really caught on, that is not historical provenance for a lost tradition that needs reviving - just an interesting historical footnote.

Like it or not, what constitutes a tradition has more to do with what the majority within that tradition perceive to be traditional. Practically every word in that last sentence could have its definition argued ad nauseum. But if you take sessions themselves as an example - as you pointed out, the session tradition is not one of particularly longstanding. Playing at home in the kitchen, playing for money and playing for dancing all have traditions of longer standing. However, the session has become embedded in the tradition now, for better or for worse.

Let’s face it, many of us (and I’m sure I have been guilty) like to think of the bits of tradition we like the most as being that wee bit more traditional than the bits we could do without. Which goes to show how much we value the concept of tradition, I suppose, even if we misunderstand the reality.

Posted by .

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

" don’t take my cello to sessions because it needs a lot of space both sideways (for bowing)"
.. and the spikey bit goes through your neck ..

Posted by .

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

Not a session, but I played a bassoon at an "open band" contra dance once. The dancers gave me a standing ovation, but I think that it was only because there wasn’t anyone on piano, and so I was the only one they could hear the beat from.

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

Nice one, Chris!

Posted by .

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

Heh. Nice, indeed, Chris!

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

Chris, there’s a lot of truth in what you say in your "The Trad Police" article. Can I just pick you up on point one of your last paragraph,
"When I hear people make such an accusation, two things tend to happen: I tend to want to hear them play traditional music well, in person, before I decide whether to pay attention to the opinion…."

So when are we going to hear you play, so that the "trad police" and others can form an opinion? :-)

Jim

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

The most unusual instrument I’ve ever seen, was a theremin.

I remember "Colonel Frazer" reel being played at high speed with such bullsh*t :)

What a dark jam!!! uuuuuuhh :-O

Posted by .

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

Bren, that’s one of the oldest in the joke book. It’s got whiskers. :-)
Trevor

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

fluti31415-
"The dancers gave me a standing ovation, "
What other sort of ovation can dancers give, as they hardly dance sitting down!!

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

Someone turned up with a Stylophone once. They played "Telstar".

Posted by .

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

Dave, are you stirring again? :)
I don’t mind the odd session with a strange instrument; I once brought a melodica to the Liverpool Bar session and we had a laugh with it. However, I don’t think I could go to a session every week with some weird instrument. Stringed instruments of the guitar family are perhaps the exception as they don’t sound that different from each other and are usually not so loud as to overpower the other instruments.

Re: Unusual Instruments filling a much needed gap

I have been to 2 English seshes where french horns featured - both were competant musicians who could play a bass line - I doubt it would work for ITM.
I have been to ITM sessions where a bass clarinet and a cello have appeared. Neither player could play a bass line and tried to play half the tune and a bad bass when they got lost. It did not work.
Melodicas can work if the player is good (Sharon Shannon has recorded a track on one just to prove this point).
Various sorts of Sax can be found in Scottish bands and it can work for fast reels, but this is for dancing rather than in the pub.

What these people should ask themselves is - does my contribution to the session warrant the space I am taking up?

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

Geoff, that last comment may well apply to people like myself, i.e. piano accordion players!

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

There’s a lovely track on Patrick Street’s ‘Street Life’ album, which has some kind of horns on it - sounds like silver, but I don’t know what exact species. Gorgeous! My favourite track on the album. But it’s true that you wouldn’t really want a horn section at a session, generally speaking… :-)

Posted by .

Re: Largest quantity of Unusual Instruments at sessions?

After seeing someone turn up at a sesh with 2 melodions (he can’t play across the rows), 1 anglo, 1 french bagpipes, 1 bass clarinet, 1 flute, I might re-phrase that as - does my contribution to the session warrant the space I take up due to the number of unusual instruments I bring?

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

Jackie Daly says that Andy Irvine once called one such sessioneer "multi-talentless".

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

Just want to thank you all for a very interesting discussion which went off in many interesting tangents. Just one thing I want to clarify. The people I consider the ‘Trad Police’ aren’t necessarily the people Chris ‘coyote’ Smith refers to in his article. By and large any great traditional musician (be they famous or not) is generally open-minded and welcoming to players of all levels, instruments and styles. They often play traditional music in it’s purist sense and were brought up in the tradition etc, but they are respectful of others no matter what their style or level of playing is.

The people I consider to be the ‘trad police’ tend to be people who’ve played nothing but traditional music all their lives but aren’t very good at it, but despite their lack of ability they think they’ve a God given right to tell others that the style or instrument they are playing is wrong. There is a big difference between a ‘pure’ traditional musician and a member of the trad police. I have the utmost respect for traditional music in it’s purest form, with no accompaniment, two of my favourite CD’s are pipe/fiddle duet CD’s ‘Doublin’ and ‘The Whirlwind’ and these are mostly unnaccompanied and wonderful CD’s. Members of the trad police couldn’t dream of being able to play like that, nor would they dream of collaborating with John Cage or Joylon Jackson as Paddy Glackin has done, but you won’t get much more authentic tradtional Irish fiddle playing than from Glackin. I would never call him a member of the trad police, nor any great traditional musician because by and large great musicians are open-minded, you have to be open-minded in order to become a great musician
.
So to conclude, the trad police are generally bad musicians who take their frustration and jealousy out on other (often younger) musicians and can have a terrible effect on the morale of such people who are just basically learning their way as we all must do. I think these people who I refer to as the trad police can have just as negative effect on a seisiún as a ‘musician’ who is ignorant of the music style and doesn’t listen or plays very badly. The best seisiúns are when everyone tries to adapt to each other and respect the different styles and abilities of those present and just have a good time while playing great music. One of my favourite quotes about seisiúns comes from Dennis Cahill, while teaching a guitar class in Feakle he said ‘The best seisiúns are often when everyone plays to the weakest player’. By this I think he means that the best seisiúns are inclusive and give everyone a chance to play and enjoy themselves. Seisiúns involving trad police tend to be exclusive and frankly boring events. So Chris, I hope you now understand what I mean by refering to the trad police and why I dislike them so much, I also hate politically correct people! Not saying either term is a good term to use, but they are the terms which have entered the language. Anyway, it’s late and I’m rambling like a pitchfork! That’s all I’ll say about the trad police for now.

Posted .

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

"Trad police" aren’t those who play strictly traditional, but rather those who offer contempt and condescension to those who choose to play otherwise (And I’m not talking in any particular session, but in general. If somebody starts/hosts a session, than the usual rigmarole about respecting your hosts is the way to go.).

There is a world of diffference.

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

I won my Brown Shirt when I helpfully suggested to a Constant Reader that we have played "that tune" every week for several years now and it might be beneficial to memorize it, since it was probably going to come up again.

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

Depends how good the player is! Once played in a session at Broadstairs where there was a man playing a battered French Horn - it made a really good contribution (he also later played in A on a G melodeon - v. impressive). But also have been to a session ruined by a pillock who made random flatulent noises on a trombone - he seemed to think that if he did a swoop on the slide every so often, it would sound good. It didn’t.

Stylophones - brilliant fun. Have just bought an authentic Rolf Harris model complete with retro packagaing.

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

Not at all Dick - that guy’d more than welcome at our session for a a few sets of tunes. Great craic!

Posted by .

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

Fair enough Ron, I’ll pass his details on to Les & maybe we’ll see him at the M. of K. M. F. next summer!

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

Yeah, great, hopefully the fellow’ll be a reel hoot (ha, ha, ha…).

Posted by .

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

TG4 Sunday 17/2 2200hrs: What looked like a violin but a longer instrument with 14 or 20 tuning pegs. Will someone identify the instrument.

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

Can’t see TG4, but from your description it could be a hardanger fiddle (although they don’t usually have quite that many pegs) or a viola d’amour.

Re: Unusual Instruments at sessions

It was a viola d’amour, it was used as accompaniement to a slow traditional song, whose name escapes me. It was providing a kind of drone effect. I had reckonned that it had around 16 strings, I could be wrong. Getting back to the topic of this discussion, I must say that some of the best (if not only) crack to be had at official Fleadh Cheoil Competitions is at the Miscellaneous Instruments section. What do ye think?