Sessions-The truth for those willing to face it.

Sessions-The truth for those willing to face it.

I am growing weary of threads here relating to limiting guitars and bodhrans.

Weary because within the first three posts it degenerates into "I was at a session, 3 bodhrans/guitars and two of those were dreadful".

Now imagine you were at a session and there were three fiddles. Imagine two of those were dreadful. Would you be submitting a thread suggesting fiddles should be limited to one a session? You can insert pipes/flute or whatever instead of fiddle.

Try and answer honestly.

In short, bad PLAYERS are the main problem, not the instrument. As I said in the guitar thread, 6 guitars and one fiddle would not be much fun.

However imagine time again. There are about twenty people playing at a session. Three guitars, all top class, brilliant backing just as you prefer, and two absolutely fantastic bodhran players, playing just the way you like it. Fifteen other melody players, giving it dixie. In short a session resembling an orchestra. Great music flowing and mighty craic.

Would you enjoy that scenario? Again, try and answer truthfully.

Re: Sessions-The truth for those willing to face it.

bb,

It’s been pointed out before that too many fiddles is just as painful.

And if there’s more than one other box playing I stop, because I’m simply not adding anything to the music. Even two can be pushing it unless we’re playing different settings of the tune. In fact I purposefully change what I’m playing to try to compliment what the other player is doing.

You’re right, of course. It’s not just goats and guitars. But guitars are more obvious since they have such a full sound, which gets even fuller if they’re played badly. And I can play steady in a room full of p*ssed people clapping and stamping out of time with each other and the tune, but give me a crap bodhran in one ear and it gets a lot trickier.

As I’ve said before, my favourite spot is between the guitarist and the bodhran player. But the key words in that sentence are ‘the’ and ‘the’.

Eno

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I think I would enjoy that session Mr. bliss. Actually, I think I have been in sessions like that, though not recently. You are correct about bad PLAYERS. One bad guitar player is too much and is especially horrible when he/she is the only guitar player. The same with one bad bodhran player - too much. But a great number of great musicians? That would be excellent.

I like sessions where musicians come together to play tunes with each other. What else is the session for? I am very disappointed in sessions where musicians come to play for themselves - guitars, bodhrans, fiddles, flutes, whatever. The whole idea of the session is to share. I don’t like it at all when people come to sessions to play their own agenda. Guitars and bodhrans may be the obvious offenders because they can play so loudly, which is often their agenda. Pipes can be bad as can out of tune fluters who don’t realize that they are out of tune. (How can they not realize this if they listening?).

My favorite place in a session is to the right of a strong melody player, to the left of a great guitar player, and across the table from a great bodhran player. If there were four people in the session, this is what I would want. If there were twenty people in the session, you can multiply all the players by five - its still what I would want.

Thanks for finally pointing this out Mr. bliss.

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Yes, I absolutely would like that scenario, given that the guitar and bohdran players are all in synch and playing perfectly. It’s just that the nature of the backing instruments makes such a scenario so rare—that being the fact that they go "beyond" the melody and do their own thing. While everyone else is playing roughly the same melody and blending together, the guitars and bodhrans are doing their own thing to a large degree. If there are more than one of each, even if their players would sound great individually, they might musically conflict with each other, especially in the cases of the bodhran players not having virtually perfect rhythm and the guitar players playing different chords. It’s the nature of the instruments’ roles, nothing against the players. I love guitar and bodhran backing myself.

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I don’t think anyone enjoys playing at sessions where the majority of attendees are not listening to each other. What ever the session make up, if folks are not listening, then they’re wrecking it for everyone - aren’t they?

Unfortunately it is often almost impossible to hear other musicians playing over the top of two+ guitars. Or even one badly played one. Since we are there for a musical conversation, it seems useful to be able to converse musically.

If some folks can’t hear that they are making it difficult for others to participate fairly, then they need to be told - and hopefully they’ll take on board the feedback. It’s easy to be wrapped up in the wonderfulness of the sound that your instrument is making - but I think you need to ask yourself regularly "am I making what is happening better by my contribution?". If you have open ears, the answer should not have to bite you…

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The session I play at has lots of bohdran players, guitarists/ mando’s, but usually it’s very controlled. The leader, Shay Black of the Black family singers, is the main backer on guitar; when he plays, all the other loud guitarists DO NOT play; other more beginning level guitarists will sit on the periphery and play softly. All the bohdran players play quietly almost all the time. So all in all, even though it may be half melody players and half backers, it still works out OK.

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The instrument bashing does get old. Most everybody I play with has a modicum of awareness of what is happening around them. If I have two instruments at a session, and someone else picks up a banjo, I tend to put my banjo down and play my other instrument (depending on the situation, of course. If the session is boisterous, and can support two banjos without the other players being overwhelmed, then I don’t worry much about it. The point being that I try to be aware of what’s going on around me, as do most of the people I play with…)

But Whiddler points out the rub with both guitars and bodhráns, if there is more than one of them, and they’re playing different stuff, it can clash and be distracting. As you mention, Bliss, bad players are part of the problem, but in the case of accompaniment, even two *good* backers can clash if they’re interpreting the tune differently. A bad melody player can be as distracting as anything - but very rarely will two good melody players clash with each other.

Add that to the fact that many people (mistakenly) consider either the bodhrán or guitar to be their easy ticket into being part of a session, without having to learn much first, and you seem to get a plethora of uninformed backers. I started out that way. I played guitar for a long time before I was introduced to Irish, and figured it would be "easy" to learn how to accompany. I was wrong. I actually consider accompanying to be harder than playing the tunes (which is why I play the tunes instead of backing…)

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Having done both tune playing and accompanying, I prefer to accompany the other musicians because that seems to be what I can do the best and am most comfortable doing at a session.
With my background and training (which is different from the Reverend’s), learning to accompany the other musicians at the local Irish Session was easy for me.

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I only really enjoy a good diddle if everyone is listening really hard to everyone. Yes, it doesn’t really matter what the instruments are, but there is a physical limitation to the amount of music you can simultaneously assimilate. Fiddles, flutes and pipes mostly play one note at a time. Bad guitar players play six. So in that scheme of things, I’d rather 6 fiddles to one guitar.

Diddley music is really really dense anyway, so any avoidance of too many layers is always welcome. Like, for example, the avoidance of a layer that may well add to the overall timbre of the sound, but by its very definition cannot add any music at all.

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In all honesty, I could happily do without any fiddles at a session. I think they’re over-rated. Give me a couple of flutes, a whistle, 2 banjos and a box any day. And maybe an unobtrusive bodhran and/or spoons. Call me troll if you wish. As I say over-rated. Unless they are actually good.
Same goes for pipes, in fact more so as good pipers are like gold dust.

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I think the key word in this whole discussion was ‘aware’.
If you have ‘musicians’ who are unaware of the effect their playing is to others, then the whole problem starts.
And, as previously said, there are people who think that the guitar, or the goat, is an easy way into the session, before they can properly assess what the effect of their playing is.
The key thing is to be both sympathetic, but also to advise,where neccessary, that moderation is the key to enlightenment.

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I am also still not convinced that you can have too many fiddles, flutes, or whistles, at a session, but I might draw the line at boxes, though probably not concertinas.
And I won’t mention banjos……

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What I find interesting here is comments such as

"not adding to to the music" (BC Box player)

and Llig’s

"Diddley music is really really dense anyway, so any avoidance of too many layers is always welcome. Like, for example, the avoidance of a layer that may well add to the overall timbre of the sound, but by its very definition cannot add any music at all."

We have so many discussions here about what an "ideal" session should be but it’s extremely difficult to prescribe for this unless you wish to turn it into a "closed shop" if not a "performance 🙂 (I do realise there’s a big difference here).

I do see the argument that musicians should firstly consider whether or not they are adding something to the music. Obviously, too many guitars or bodhrans are superfluous in a small session and are even a nuisance. However, you can easily argue that too many of the same type of melody instruments are also unnecessary although they might cause fewer problems and less hostility.

It surely depends on the circumstances and type of session as we’ve often argued before?

Not everybody likes larger sessions or those which verge on a "stramash" but these can be enjoyable to in certain situations. However, in such a situation, you wouldn’t worry too much about how many fiddles etc there were. You might even welcome/tolerate two or three guitars and a couple of bodhrans. 😛

Yes, in a smaller set up, there is definitely an argument for a more tasteful or subtle combination of instruments. Again though, I don’t believe this needs to be rigidly enforced. In most good sessions, the participants will instinctively know what is appropriate and play accordingly or, perhaps, not at all.. in some cases.

Of course, in the real world, sessions can be big, small, good, bad, anything in between and, possibly, even on the same night! I don’t believe there’s ever going to be an ideal scenario which suits every one.

Re: Sessions-The truth for those willing to face it.

Johannes J

< I don’t believe there’s ever going to be an ideal scenario which suits every one.>

You could not have said a more Truthful Thing ,, jim,,

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Sounds like you’re under a bit of torment BB.

In my experience when there’e more than one Bn or Guitar, the players themselves usually co-ordinate who plays and who sits out a set, also most poeple carry another instrument in anticipation, eg some of the guitar players also bring a banjo or a mando or a whistle.

I have to say they are all fantastic musicians in their own right, but I think their experience of how the sessions sounds when it’s going well is probably the key. I suppose if they weren’t as experienced and they were not competent with their instruments there would be a lot of frowning faces…

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"also most poeple carry another instrument in anticipation"

Bringing along more han one instrument isn’t a bad thing in itself as long as you play which one is most appropriate for a particular tune, set, or existing combination of instuments. As I say, most good musicians and even mediocre ones such as myself ought to have enough savvy as when to play a particular instrument or not.

However, I’m less enamoured about the not uncommon practice where a melody player….experienced or aspiring…. will revert to picking up a bodhran or guitar just because they don’t happen to know a particular tune. Of course, some of them might be equally proficient on accompaniment as playing melody but, more often than not, it’s that they just can’t bear not to be "contributing". The thing is they are probably not!

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I have to agree with the Right Honourable members from Muswell Hill North and Edinburgh East. It’s all down to common sense really.

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I’m glad you raised this subject. Even if there is only one guitar backing, often I feel his/her choice of chords could be better. I only wish the people who have got a good ear and play guitar were to share their knowledge so the beginners have a good start.
Why couldn’t people submit their chord sequences to this web site attached to the individual tunes in the tune section? Then if someone disagrees they are free to offer their own interpretation and slowly a census will emerge.

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Common sense and awareness, which is listening basically, all the old chestnuts. Inclusive, informal, sure, but wouldn’t it be nice if it sounded good too? The only way that can happen is listening. The number and make-up of instruments should not be an issue providing everyone is listening and has the common sense to know when they are adding or detracting to the overall sound. I was once a melody player guilty of backing on tunes I didn’t know, I had to cure myself. It’s not hard, you just don’t do anything and bam! You’re adding to the music. 😉

All that being said, my favorites are smaller groups heavy on the melody players of any and all stripes, I’m liberal with the exotics too. The only time I see two backers on similar instruments at the same time is at bigger sessions or someone’s teaching someone and the pupil is playing quietly, or copying the teacher.

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…and "I had to cure myself" because I’m not one of those lucky melody players who is also a skilled backer. There’s not that many of us though, now be honest with yourself. There are a few though. I’m certainly NOT one of them. 😛

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Well, there’s scope for this within the comments section.

However, I’d be against submitting the chords as part of the actual tune submission, ie in the "abc" although it is possible and has been done.

However, I’m not sure that "consensus" is necessarily good thing. There are various possibilties which may be correct and tasteful enough as a backing. That’s the reason why it’s not a good idea to have more than one guitar unless you are sure that what you are doing is complementary and doesn’t clash.

It would make things really dull if all backing was exactly the same, ie a lowest common denominator.

As for consensus, it’s not always possible to reach this even with regard to the tunes themselves.. ie there are so many different interpretaions, styles, and settings.. .. let alone with the backings.

Having said that, of course, there is obviously an "implicit" consensus re what happens(or should) at a particular time.. eg which setting of tune is played etc and session players obviously must adapt to the situation and not play a completely different version…..
Same goes for accompaniment too.

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Sorry, I was replying to Sandy’s post.

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We don’t get chance to audition people on the door, so it has to be done whilst playing.
If there are good players, fair enough.
If there are un-good players there, make them work for it. No warning of key-changes, tempo-changes, tune changes - they will soon get tripped up/hoisted on own petard etc..

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I always found that irrespective of numbers and the imbalance of musicians, Sessions usually sort themselves out and ‘the cream usually rises to the top’ in the end. The thing that kills a Session for me is those immortal words…"Call Yer Man up for a song"

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I will shamelessly, plagiaristically say:
"Ditto the Rev." (That includes the intro via guitar to ITM. Man, I wish I could play the backer really well - it is a grand thing, when done well. )

A thought: Perhaps the apparently large supply of alleged "wannabee" backers is because many are content with a standard for good ITM accompaniment that does not pass with the rest of the ITM musicians? Ex. The bluegrass backer (just an exampe, not to attack bluegrass guitarists) who thinks he can do it all, and thinks his backing sounds just fine as he turns a hornpipe to a hoedown with his rhythms.

Usually, it seems to me the problem is just a lack of listening to many many hours of ITM to get a clue before jumping in at the deep end. Unaware, not intentionally rude or contrary. So Sandy’s point above may have value, tell them and offer to help. Their loss if they do not think they want any.

As for the specific question about session preferences as described, once again we have four blind people describing the elephant. As a Taoist, when folks start stating authoritatively that something "is THIS" or "is THAT" when it is really all relative, I tend to look for the exit sign. Opinion should not substitute for fact or truth.

My opinion, of course. 🙂

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If you go to an open session you take whatever comes, good or bad. If you don’t like it stay home.

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Can’t remember where I read "Great minds talk about ideas, mediocre minds talk about things, and small minds talk about other people". So… let’s talk about some people!

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Don’t most of these limitational queries come from North America?

I’ve never been unfortunate enough to find a session over-endowed with either guitarros or bodhránistas in either Ireland or the UK.

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You should try Lewisham, Geoff. Should be renamed Shakey-Egg City. Fortunately there are oases of Irish music normality, eg the BHT, from which the cabbages are in de facto banishment.

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I’ve never been to a session in North America where there were too many guitars or bodhrans, but I did play in a session in Ireland where there was NO bodhran, and it was just dreadful 🙂

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i think you’ll find the reason people don’t like too many guitars is because they are accompaniment instruments. as are bodhráns to some extent. one in a session can be lovely- a good thing.

but if you had four or five they could dictate the session (i.e. speed etc.) leaving the humble whistle unheard :( lol.
and no matter what you say melody is the most important element of the music….. without fiddles, flutes, concertinas etc. there’d just be a load of guitars and drums playing uninteresting loops.

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Blissful one, I totally agree with your point, and would enjoy the session you described (although sometimes a session THAT large becomes difficult to keep on track). It is not any particular instrument that causes a problem, it is bad playing.

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We’ve been lucky here in SF as far as guitars and bodhrans go. There’s rarely more than one guitar and or bodhran at most sessions. If there is more than one, they usually take turns. Occasionally they might play together, but the operative term is "together." The reason for this is that those instruments can easily overpower a session in duplication. But any instrument in the wrong hands is capable of destroying a good session.

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I think we can get a bit too hypothetical at times. Sessions are a lot more than who’s playing what (not that that isn’t important of course, but let’s not forget that having a good time is all about people as well as chunes and axes). You can get as theoretical as you like about sessions but you’re buggered with your theory if everyone’s having a good time in spite of the apparent mismatches/imbalances/amateurish pillockry going on. You don’t judge my session from a distance and I won’t judge yours. Having said all this, just don’t come near mine with your friggin’ bodhran. 😀

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At last some sense from Al, Button and Steve. If it is good, why fix it.

I have been at sessions with 5 guitars, one bodhran, and one banjo. The banjo player was a one man session on his own, you had trouble hearing the guitars the way he played. But they were great nights.

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>Why couldn’t people submit their chord sequences to this web site attached to the individual tunes in the tune section? Then if someone disagrees they are free to offer their own interpretation and slowly a census will emerge.

Except that the consensus will _only_ be among those who actually participate in this site on a regular basis.
And what if you disagree with this "consensus"? Someone on another thread said at their session they only like guitarists who do the standard I-IV-V chord progressions. Fine and dandy. But not all of us follow that dictum, and guess what — there are plenty of melody players out there who seem to like guitarists who throw in relative minors or the occasional 7 chord, etc.
I sometimes find it trying to navigate through session etiquette, which is why, in addition to guitar and bodhran, I play an instrument — bouzouki — that can fill a few different roles: rhythm, melody, counterpoint, etc. If I find there’s already an entrenched guitar or bodhran player at the session I go to, I’ve got a "fallback."

One other thought: For most of us, I suspect, going out to a session is not just a casual decision. Yes, it’s — theoretically — a form of recreation, as well as a means of musical, even personal, development. But it’s also an investment of time and money (for gas, if not for drinks as well). When I go out to a session, I do so for the purpose of participating. I will certainly take pains to avoid stepping on people’s musical toes, and I know that listening to music is a very valuable exercise, but folks, above all I am there to play.

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Help ma boab. Crazy days indeed. Yes I find myself agreeing with Steve and Bliss. My pre-ordained *preference* for what I like to call a good time is a bunch of flutes + box + whatever else. I like that wild untamed sound of a finstrapulation of flutes… or a banjaxulorgicasm of boxes … let loose on a session. Or just a session with players with that Sliabh Luachra feel. But - if it’s good without all that, it’s …still good….nurture it.

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sts, I take your point, my session is 200yds from this house, where I type.
But yet going out to a session is not just a casual decision for me either. Everywhere I have lived, since my mid/late 20’s, I have been integral in succesfuly starting up and maintaining a session in a pub very local to my house. Or I have somehow contributed without complaint - In England and in Scotland.

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Absolutely, KML — even if your session is almost literally outside your door, it takes a certain combination of nerves, guts, chutzpah, blood and onions to go there and make it happen.

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I am in a landcare group which is also endlessly discusses how many trees, what type of tree, endemic or indiginous, little or big trees etc etc we should plant
To them and to youse lot I say the same thing "Green side up"

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Going to a session isn’t a casual decision for me either. Even though, twice a month, there is a session at the local version of Cregeen’s here in town. It takes me maybe ten or fifteen minutes to drive to Cregeen’s from my house. Besides these two sessions at Cregeen’s, there are three other regular sessions every month but they are all much farther away.
I haven’t been integral to starting and maintaining the local session but I have put in a lot of time, effort, and energy to help keep it going since it started in 1995 even though I play a non-traditional and atypical instrument. I am welcome to play at the local session because I understand this music and I am willing to listen carefully to what the other musicians are doing instead of being disruptive by trying to do my own thing.
As Bodhran Bliss said in his original comment which started this discussion, it is "BAD players" which are the problem and not their chosen implement (or weapon) of musical destruction.

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Yeah, don’t sweat the small stuff too much cos it might muck up the big picture, hey?

Geez I hate you guys going on and on about the same auld things about something that simply isn’t here. Any Irish trad session, any trad instruments, any standard, any time day or night, any venue drink or dry, u’d do me (but then I’m one of those diabolical, to be shunned, BAD players, that shouldn’t be allowed anyhow, so I guess its just as well there isn’t one. As Llig says, how could it be any different? Big sigh!

… I’m in depression from not even getting to the "local" folk festival, albeit 2 day’s drive ( nearly 1,500 kms) each way away (I know, bluudy boring, who cares!) Hope bb and the Aussie lot are having a great time at the Celtic Festival at Port Arlington. Yay guys!!!! Hope the "locals" are having a great festival at Mary River. Yay again! Don’t mind me … I’ll just retreat inta me Bilby burrow (if there were any of these to be had around here anymore).

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Well, if you cannot play along with Pachabel’s Frolics; then maybe you could just sing the lyrics to Blues Traveler’s "Hook"

Suck it in suck it in suck it in
If you’re Rin Tin Tin or Anne Boleyn
Make a desperate move or else you’ll win
And then begin
To see
What you’re doing to me this MTV is not for free
It’s so PC it’s killing me
So desperately I sing to thee
Of love
Sure but also rage and hate and pain and fear of self
And I can’t keep these feeling on the shelf
I’ve tried well no in fact I lied
Could be financial suicide but I’ve got too much pride inside
To hide or slide
I’ll do as I’ll decide and let it ride till until I’ve died
And only then shall I abide by this tide
Of catchy little tunes
Of hip three minute diddys
I wanna bust all your ballons
I wanna burn of all your cities to the ground
But I’ve found
I will not mess around
Unless I play then hey
I will go on all day
Hear what I say
I have a prayer to pray
That’s really all this was
And when I’m feeling stuck and need a buck
I don’t rely on luck because

Because the hook brings you back
I ain’t tellin’ you no lie
The hook brings you back
On that you can rely

Hmmmm

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Hmmmm indeed … 🙂.

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I find that people who turn up for a tune on anything other than a casual basis to be a right pain in the arse. All this effort and agenda and eagerness and wanting to play non stop and itching to try out their latest whatever.

The best listeners are the best sessioners. And the best listeners turn up with no agenda

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On the original subject, I don’t think clasifying players as "bad" is any help. Inexperienced players may participate in sessions without doing any harm as long as they behave with discretion. If properly handled, most people will do this.

Of course, anyone complaining about bad players is automatically putting themselves in the other group. Maybe we should insist on a link to a sound clip of anyone writing here about bad players.

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Not necessarily. There are two types of bad player:

Those that know it and are activly improving. No boby ever has a problem with these people because they are self aware.

And those that haven’t a clue and will never get it.

One could be either of these and still have an opinion of others. Including thinking someone else is really really good, when they are not.

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part of the problem with guitarists in numbers is this:
they play different chord progressions which are not compatible with each other,if in these situations they stuck to the more basic chords there would be less discordancy.
there is often more than one way of harmonising a tune,and each guitarists progressions might fit perfectly with the melody player,but not with each other,then there is the question of volume in relation to the melody instruments.Dick Miles

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Yes, that is usually the problem with guitars in numbers. But if they are listening then they shouldn’t be clashing harmonies. The only real limitation on numbers is the physical limitation to what your ear can assimilate

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the best sessions have small numbers of players.
ideally one of everything is enough, with the added condition that the players know (and agree) what they’re trying to do.

any more than that and it’s pot luck

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I’ll take two lousy fiddle players over two bad accompanists any day of the week.

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… and one good fiddle player over one good strummer any day.

Even if you end up with a session of just six fiddles.

Six good fiddle players, all listening is a great sound.

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I have told you Mr Llig, only good bodhran players listen.

And what you describe Millionyear BC is a performance, which is a touchy subject here.

Think of a table quiz. Four people, all good overall, one good at sport, one music, one TV and one celebrities, you have a winning team, but it is boring winning all the time. When you have ten in your team, no chance of winning but the craic is great.

Now apply that to a "session".

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I like that analogy, quiz table. Imagine four people, rubbish overall, but each one specialising in only sport. Sod the quiz and the rest of the pub, they are gonna have a right good natter among themselves.

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I’m thinking…. someone said "If there is another box player, I’d stop playing because I wouldn’t add anything to the music". But then, what’s the session for? Playing together? Or having anything to "add to the music"? If you only play if you can add anything to the music, then it’s a gig, or possibly a so-called closed session (which I think is nothing more than a gig).

I play in an open session every Tuesday, with 3 or 4 box players, 2 or 3 banjos, a few fiddles, sometimes a whistle, 2-3 guitars and a bodhrán. It sounds good, people have fun and the people listening say it sounds good. I sometimes play the bouzouki, sometimes mandolin, sometimes fiddle. What instrument I choose is depending on the tune, not how many of the other instruments are playing.
Now I might think there are too many box players. Not for the box in itself, but because box players looove polkas and I don’t (at least not with the zouk, because I hate backing polkas).

We’ve good fun and this is what I call a session, it’s a gathering of musicians who meet to play music together. No hassles. I’ve been there every week since January and I’ve never noticed there have been any problems with inappropriate behaviour or such from musicians coming in (more than one fiddler getting drunk every time, but it doesn’t disturb much, he just plays his fiddle and don’t do no harm).

But now, the sessions in this little town are waay different than the ones in the big city, where all sessions seem to be closed no matter what they call them…

Re: Sessions-The truth for those willing to face it.

Yep, the truth about sessions, for those willing to face it, is that more often than not, the people playing give no thought whatsoever to the sound they are collectively making. They are not bothered whether they are adding or subtracting. I can’t abide most session because of this. There is no listening, no effort for the creation of an ensemble at all, just individualls, heads down, it’s bloody awful.

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Re: Sessions-The truth for those willing to face it.

That’s because you and your friends are "performing" Mr llig, as an ensemble. I have a lot of sympathy with this viewpoint.

I also have a lot of time for Susiakasinead’s viewpoint, because a session is about playing together and having fun, it doesn’t have to be perfect.

A performance might.