The pit-falls of having tune sets

The pit-falls of having tune sets

Steve was concerned about hijacking the "2 questions" thread, and he brought up a topic that I thought deserved it’s own thread. So here goes…

Steve writes: "if he is a good player, he’s the domineering sort who’d take over and ruin all your sets by playing one tune out of each"

Now this is something I’ve thought about quite a bit in relation to sessions. People have different styles regarding the use or non-use of predetermined tune sets. Some people refuse to have them, others will usually play the same three or four tunes each time, and other people will have combinations of tunes that might be predetermined but change from time to time. As for me, one of the things that I find entertaining when I’m practicing and learning tunes at home is to experiment with tune changes. I will bring these ideas to a session, but it’s not static. There are some combinations I’ve come up with that I can’t improve on and they become constant with me, but I’m still very flexible.

So what’s a good approach etiquette wise for dealing with these factors in a session? Personally, if it’s someone else’s session that I go to regularly, I’ll become familiar with their tune sets and try not to break them up with sets of my own. For me, the idea of going to someone else’s session is to play tunes with them, so I don’t want to interfere with the flow of tunes at their session by splitting up sets I know they enjoy.

So what about when it’s your session (or a session you’re a regular at) and someone who might be familiar enough with that session seems to be intentionally breaking up known sets for that session? Have you even ever encountered this? And what are your own feelings conserning predetermined or established tune sets for any particular session and/or player?

Re: The pit-falls of having tune sets

Someone else breaking up my sets wouldn’t worry me too much. Hijacking a set I started could be annoying, if done deliberately by the same person repeatedly, which is what the see you en tea does at our sesh.
If I went to someone else’s session, then started a set (after being asked) which had tunes from different examples of their standard sets, then tough, I guess. Hardly a lynching offence. I’d find it bizarre if someone actually took offence if I didn’t do that intentionally (different from what Steve describes I hope.)
One way round it is if you remember the names ask them out loud before proceeding, or play little snippetts and look up questoningly at the main players.
One thing that got right on my t!ts once was, because they didn’t know the tune I was playing one pr!ck cut across my tune (it was only The Abbey Reel!) and started playing his own (The Lark in the Morning). Fecking raging I was.

Re: The pit-falls of having tune sets

Being a fairly new comer to sessions I follow the person who started the first tune and presume that they will go into the 2nd etc. Within the session I go to, usually the same person will start a tune and we are all used to following that persion’s lead. Sometimes a set will come to an end and another might sense its ending and find another tune to follow on with. The sets can sometimes grow. When this happens there is often a sense of excitement in seeing how long we can keep it going.

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Re: The pit-falls of having tune sets

What might be OK in one setup might not be in another. Our session in Cornwall is in the middle of nowhere so we don’t get visiting players all the time. I do try to get the chaps to vary the sets every now and again but it’s generally by whispered agreement before we start. If someone came along and nicked one or two tunes from the sets we play I don’t think anyone would bat an eyelid, but we have had an arrogant bloke, an occasional visitor, who doesn’t want to chime in with our laid-back and democratic approach and who thinks he has the right to start off a set of his own every time there’s a two-second lull. Of course, he then ends up snatching tunes from our sets all over the place. If only he’d feel his way for a little while and stop assuming that his ideal session format might not be ours.

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Well… as many here know, I am a big advocate of the snippet method since, (among other things,) I can get an idea of how enthusiastic people may or may not be for the tunes I’d like to play. But I no longer concern myself with whether or not people visiting the session, (or other regulars,) are breaking up sets I like to play. The main reason being that I have plenty more where that one came from. I suppose if you don’t know very many tunes and only have a few sets you like to play it might be an issue, but it’s no longer one for me so I’m not bothered.

When I go to other people’s sessions I rarely start any tunes myself these days. I used to start plenty in the old days, but now I prefer to follow what’s going on instead. One reason is that I don’t like playing tunes on my own, so I know that’s unlikely as a follower.

As for the spontaneous see how long you can keep it going thing… I get tired of seemingly endless tunes strung together. The only way it works is if the energy is extraordinary. But that only happens a few times during the course of a session it seems… if at all. If you have a few hot players visiting it’s more likely to happen, but I’m content to just play 2 to 4 tunes in a set most of the time. But that’s what most old codgers like me are like I suspect.

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I’m often lazy with repeating sets so I’m glad when I’m forced to rethink because someone else has played a tune earlier. There are tunes that I just think go so brilliantly together I find it hard not putting them together, so when I’m forced to split thim it’s a good thing. Just chill and remember you can put them back together next week.

I’ve been a fan of sets of just two tunes recently. The concert reel and craigs pipes is a cracker. And Reevy’s Maudabawn Chapel (played fairly slow for a reel) followed by The Groves, (played straight -sorry Dow - and quite quick, for a hornpipe)

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With the intent to keep this thread on a positive note, my limited observation is that someone who starts a tune is assumed to have at least another (and possibly more) to follow, and the rest of the players respect that assumption. In the few sessions I’ve been a part of, dynamics of the session are heightened when the set "starter" deviates from the known set and follows the first tune with another well-known tune, but not the one that regularly follows. This can be pre-planned during practice, as PB suggests, or on the fly. I’ve found that this approach tends to keep everyone on their toes, especially if a known "session rascal" starts the set, and it also adds spice to the evening by mixing things up. I realise this doesn’t work well all the time, because it tends to break the flow of set of tunes, ie: it takes the others a few bars to pick up the "out-of-place" tune. I’ve been the "goat" of a few sessions where I (as the visitor) anticipated the second tune in what I’ve always played in a set, only to discover very quickly and painfully that these folks have a different set, and I’m playing the wrong tune.

Re: The pit-falls of having tune sets

"Re: The pit-falls of having tune sets"

PB, It’s a common courtesy, in my experience, to allow the person starting the set to see the set through as he/she prefers. So where’s the problem ? Only a gulpin would attempt a hijack. It’s as simple as that bud.

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Strath, I never said there was a problem, the proceedure you suggest is usually what I follow as well. The topic is about the different aspects of having tune sets.

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Yes, seeing it through. Though if you like playing just two tunes, people sometimes think you’ve run out and hijack with another tune, thinking they are helping you out. It’s no problem of course, it’s funny actually.

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Yep… funny indeed, Michael. I’ll often just play the two tunes I like and then look around to see if anyone seems to be hankering to add one on. I’ll indicate that I have no other tunes to follow, and they’ll nod back… and off we go… woopeeeeee 🙂

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It’s a mind set isn’t it. You can be p i s s e d for a micro second at anything, then just chill and go with it

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I tend to come down on the ‘isn’t it funny?’ side on most occasions when someone’s set seems to be hijacked… unless it’s obvious that the person did it intentionally. The other thing that, as you guys say, "gets on my tits" is when someone who’s not the anchor or host takes it upon themself to instigate too many of their own sets into the mix. Some people will shamelessly do one right after the other.

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Strath, maybe you should look at Steve Shaw’s post on my 2 questions thread. That was the impetus for this thread. It’s not about hijacking someone else’s set - we (should) know that is a No-No.
Jack, I actually like it when you get a set-athon of tunes, ie upwards of 5 in row. But as you say, there has to be loads of energy around for it to work well. I was priveleged to be in a session recently with Glasgow fiddle player Benny McHugh, who led a set of 7 reels, played brilliantly and at high speed, and every tune was a cracker. But then, that was exceptional.

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" Yes, seeing it through. Though if you like playing just two tunes, people sometimes think you’ve run out and hijack with another tune, thinking they are helping you out. "

That’s not hijacking Michael. That’s a common enough trait, especially amongst box players 🙂

Jack, in my book it’s fine, and fun, to add on to an established set so long as your’e not made to look like the "billy/nanny" 🙂

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A lot of the time it isn’t so much that sets are being broken as the dodgy personality of the guy imposing himself (or am I going round in a multi-thread circle…?). With nice people you can enjoy a good laugh about it all and show some mock indignation, etc. With the arrogant, thrusting type it just begins to feel repressive after a while. I actually find it quite hard to discuss session situations as I haven’t really played in many outside my own area (middle of nowhere here as I said!) and I’m not familiar with setups very different from our own. The ones I saw in Dublin seemed to be friendly and welcoming on the whole and quite democratic, like our ones, except for the one in Hughes’, which was a little quiet on the craic front and a bit on the serious side.

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Strath… I’m not sure what you mean… could you elaborate please?

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I’ve always had fun at the Hughzes session and never found it to be too serious, but don’t order a pint of Guinness there. Something’s gone off.

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Jack, in a nutshell. I was saying that it’s fine and fun to add onto a set once the initiator is through. That’s fine at a session wher you’ve got your foot in the door/welcome. But try it at other sessions and you (you=one) could end up looking like the proverbial session goat. (billy/nanny = male/female of the species ) meaning you might not have any takers for the extended set and hence feel a right goat when others cease playing.

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Ah yes… so true, Strath. That’s why I’m happy to just be a passenger on the bus most of the time.

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I have favorite sets like most, but being a beginning player, and having relatively few tunes, I often feel self-concious about repeating sets, so I try to vary sets as much as I can. It makes practicing more interesting too.

At one session night at the Plough in San Francisco last year, a really slow bar night, Damien McKee of Beoga was at the bar (I think he was in town playing for a dance competition, not with his band). He joined us for two sets, which he started; one set of ten jigs, followed by one set of ten reels (yes…I counted). He’s an amazing player - it was a memorable night. I think the guitar player’s arm was about to fall off after that jig set.

One example of a set that should end sooner than later comes to mind: a common set that a friend taught me is Cooley’s Reel followed by Wise Maid (some play them in the other order). Not long ago, one of the session leaders here taught some of us Cooley’s Morning Dew followed by Cooley’s Reel as a set (Tony Macmahon recorded this set as The Morning Dew and Cooley’s Fancy - really nice stuff). When this set gets played through, then someone jumps into Wise Maid, it kind of takes something away - not the end of the world, but one of those moments where less is more.

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lately I’ve been going to a session that is more of a performance than a session. (I’m not trying to bring up the age old argument, because this is undeniably a performance. the group of people who own the venue play for their customers, and i join in.) i feel uncomfortable, because they only want to play tunes that i know, this way everyone is playing and it’s more of a show. When we end a set, then everyone turns to me to see what else I know. Its very unnerving, especially as we only have a handful of tunes in common. i guess the only solution is for me to learn more of their tunes. As for sets. It wouldn’t really bother me if someone screwed up my set. I might be mad at the rudeness of it, but otherwise I’d be unaffected. What ticks me off is when you suggest a tune that might be simple, but a nice tune that everyone knows, like John Ryan’s, and one person will remark on how they’ve known it since they were 5. I’d understand if nobody wants to play the tune, but when 1 person is disgruntled and rude about it, it makes me mad.

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I think it depends on the tune someone wants to add to the end of your set. I like Off To California and The Salley Gardens just at the moment. Unfotunately one of the locals tends to add a third, slower tune to the end of the set and it just doesn’t sound right to me - we play the Salley fairly fast, so slowing down again just doesn’t feel ‘right’ to me 🙁

And nothing p*sses me off more than people who hijack without even realising they did it. Who ever started the set ‘owns’ the set and should determine how it runs. If you want to hijack, you can just ask ‘do you have one to follow this?’. That seems to work well here. Not only is hijacking rude, but it leads to tedious repetition of the same old sets week after week.

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And how many of you get the line "play one we all know". If you have, have you worked out how the feck you’re supposed to know which ones they all know? 🙂

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this is one where the pb "snippets" approach could head off a lot of potential ickiness at the pass, regardless of existing tune sets, no? i guess a tune hog can still be a tune hog even with advance snippeting, but seems it could ameliorate….we do have one of these characters in my area who can’t seem to refrain from wresting away sets started by others….you have to wonder what the motivation could be when somebody is doing that chronically…..my personal take is that this is inexcusable unless the set-starter is unambiguously at a loss for the next tune…..happens once in a while…a couple of times i have mistakenly thought there was a help-i-don’t-know-what to play-next signal when there wasn’t, and i have always said "sorry, sorry, sorry!" after…

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Rob, I know, I know ! One of the first tunes I learned was "The Tennypenny Bit" and guess what ? Some frown upon it but I think it a great jig. I’m reluctant to play it but in the right company they concur with me.

I guess it’s not trendy at the moment !

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Well… there are plenty of tunes I recently learned that have been standards for other people for years… big deal. If I suggest one of these tunes and anyone sighs or rolls their eyes I feel bad for them because they’ve lost sight of the tune. On the other hand, when someone suggests a tune I’ve known for ages, and it might even have been damaged by over-playing, I try to remember the way I felt when people rolled their eyes at a tune I suggested and I resist doing anything similar.

But if a tune comes up that I haven’t played in umpteen years I might mention it just because I’m glad to see it again… like seeing an old friend. I don’t say it to make anyone feel like their tune is out of date, but rather just acknowledging it. Gee, I hope I haven’t offended anyone when I did that.

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Breaking up tune sets. Well, what if the tune set isn’t very good? I know a guy who always plays the same sets but in my opinion they are good tunes individually but don’t flow together as a set. Even the key changes move down a tone rather than up - E to D for example. I always break up his sets deliberately, but no rules are broken because nobody’s cut up anyone else.

I am slightly alarmed by a couple of mentions in this thread of sets that include hornpipes and reels in the same set. I think that hornpipes should be played slower than reels and I really don’t like it when people play hornpipes fast, as if they were reels. There are thousands of reels to choose from, leave the hornpipes alone! I’ll give the benefit of doubt if talking about going from a hornpipe then speeding up into a reel but I am not keen on these "arrangements" like going from a jig to reel etc. It’s ok for a concert but is a bit ostentatious for a session, IMHO.

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Hornpipes..or jigs, going into reels? I think it’s ok to do this once in a while as a novelty kind of thing, but definitely not as standard. Remember, in the Scottish and Donegal traditions it IS standard to go from a Strathspey/ Highland into a reel. You could, for eg, go from the Stack of Barley into the Dunne Hills as these are near enough the same tune. But just for a bit of variety. Unless of course you were playing for dancers, but in sessions you’re not, most often. So it’s just music for music’s sake.

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What’s so wrong with jigs to reels and hornpipes to reels? If you set your mind against this kind of thing for no better reason than it not being traditional then I’m not with you (I’m not necessarily saying that anyone is saying that but it does come up frequently). Good musical taste and the effectiveness of the combination should be the only guidelines, as ever. You could ask what’s so traditional about putting tunes into sets anyway? I hate rules, whether written, unwritten, unspoken or implied.

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Fiddlebabe, … Maudabawn Chapel into The Groves. Same tempo, no speeding up or slowing down. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.

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But you wouldn’t want to do that all the time would you? That would be just anarchic. Now and again for fun, I say.

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Of course not! But I can think of a good few recordings in which this "rule" has been broken to good effect - Altan, Patrick Street, Bothies to name but a few. Quite a few transgressions here too:
https://thesession.org/recordings/2288

😉

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As one of them oddities that can hold a conversation whilst playing, if I announce what tune is coming next, is that really hijacking a set - surely everyone is aware that something different is happening.
The quickest way to shut these moaners up is to have a round-the-room set - twice through a tune then the next person has to take over the new tune seamlessly. That sorts out the session-rams from the session-goats.

Baa

Re: The pit-falls of having tune sets

And what’s wrong with moving the key changes down anyway? I’m bored sick of your D to Emin and your G to A.

Try this set, all dead common tunes:
The Connaughtman’s Rambles (D to Bmin) … into …
Jim Ward’s (But in Amaj not Gmaj. You can still play it on the flute ‘cause there are no Gsharps) … into …
Will You Come Home With Me? (Gmaj

https://thesession.org/tunes/19
https://thesession.org/tunes/793
https://thesession.org/tunes/1220

If chosen carefully, you can get a great lift when moving down a key that relies solely on the beauty of the tunes and not the artificial predictable upward motion of mere key change

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Is it me or do a lot of peole seem to do a lot more thinking about stuff besides the music at sessions? I just like to play. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy viewing and being a part of the human intereaction. But mainly, it’s the music.

Re: The pit-falls of having tune sets

Do you mean, thinking about stuff at sessions, beside the music?

Or, thinking about stuff, besides the music at sessions?

Or, thinking about music at session, when your bored at work?

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I think quite a lot about beer at sessions.

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I see that LL thinks about commas, tho not possessives

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Geoff writes: " if I announce what tune is coming next, is that really hijacking a set?"

No… unless someone else started the first tune. If that person indicated they wanted you to pick the next one it would be fine.

I try to sus out what the other people in the session feel comfortable with. Sometimes the snippet method doesn’t work so well and I might call out the next tune I had in mind as an alternative. But this is hard to do if I’m playing the flute.

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Even worse with a gob full of metal. The other blokes see that as an advantage though. 🙁

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That bit of metal up against yer gob on your site, Steve - are you sure it isn’t just a shaver that’s worn out some time ago?

😀

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Be very careful, mate - I might have to start a thread about the technical niceties of moustache length for harmonica players…could reach 1000+ posts, y’know…might not mean much to you, but if you’ve ever had a ‘tache hair caught in the cover plates of a Lee Oskar…

Re: The pit-falls of having tune sets

Sometimes I am disappointed to have a tune come up from someone else that I planned to work into a set when it was my turn to start something. But there is no anger involved, as part of the whole fun of a session is having tunes we all know come up in new combinations.