Session etiquette

Session etiquette

Hello everyone,
Would like to get your opinions on a couple of things……
1. Do folks only play fast/lively songs at sessions or do they also include Aires, slow Carolans and the like mixed in?
2. Is it acceptable to use sheet music if you don’t know the tune well enough yet?
3. Is there an etiquette common to sessions…. someone leads/dictates what’s played, the tempo played, time for breaks etc?
4. Anything else a rookie should know about sessions before jumping in?

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Re: Session etiquette

1. It depends very much on the session. I attend a session where a little of everything gets played, although it would certainly tend more towards reels and jigs, with the odd hornpipe or slip jig thrown in.

2. I can’t read sheet music fast enough to use it in a session, so I wouldn’t find it at all useful… I think the overall consensus is that you should thoroughly know a tune before playing it in a session (This may mean spending a lot of time sitting and listening!)

3. Some sessions seem to have a leader, but others are more democratic. The session I attend regulary gives each player in turn a chance to choose a set. If peole are taking turns, jumping in when it’s not your turn is a serious breach of etiquette 🙂 Regarding tempo, the general consensus, (from what I see on this board) is that the person who starts any given tune sets the tempo.

4. Yes!! Lots… I would try searching past posts relating to session etiquette. All sorts of opinions have been expressed on the matter! Oh yeah, and don’t start playing the Irish Washerwoman at a session… 🙂

Re: Session etiquette

1. Sometimes
2. Definite no-no
3. Not really
4. Go a couple of times without your instrument, to get a feel for it, and maybe get to know some of the people there. Learn a few tunes that they play. Bring a recorder and ask if you can record it—-usually people don’t mind. And have fun!

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My penny-worth on slow tunes is the following:

The time taken to get through a tune, or set of tunes, matters in a session: in a busy session, one or more people - even if they give their best to the set that’s playing at the moment - will really be looking forward to its end, and the chance to get in with a different tune or set of their own.

Such people can feel a bit peeved if someone starts up a slow tune that is intended to be played twice over - it’s an extra few more minutes deducted from the time they have before chucking-out time to play dance tunes they like…

I don’t think this is unreasonable (unless folks are obnoxious) - it is just how it is in busy sessions where a number of people want to start a number of tunes. You can get more fast tunes into three hours (say) than slow ones, simple as that!

BUT - Plenty of sessions have lulls, or are more about hanging out than wall-to-wall musical pyromania, and slow tunes can fill a break - or catch a mood, and be taken up well by the other sessioners.

Read the people.

*

Nice phrase nicholas ~ wall - to - wall musical pyromania.

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Re: Session etiquette

Just adding to what LowWhistler says regarding tempo, the reality can be that, tho’ you start a tune nice and slow, it will soon be cranked up a notch or two to the pace people are used to playing at.

Re: Session etiquette

Some good information given here, and I’ll try to expand on it a bit from my point of view…

Every session has its own "personality", for lack of a better word. So if there’s a session that you’re thinking of going to, try going a few times without an instrument to get a feel for how they do things. Then take your instrument, but maybe wait for them to invite you in. Or spend some time talking to the players, and let them know that you’re just starting out, and ask them how you can join in.

1. First of all, a common mistake that beginners make is to call what is played at sessions "songs". Songs have words (and many sessions include songs), but the instrumental pieces should generally be referred to as "tunes" (or "chunes" 😉). Most of the sessions that I attend are a mixture of fast tunes - mostly reels and jigs, with the occasional slip jig, slide, polka, or hornpipe thrown in. Then a few times during the evening, someone will sing a song, and occasionally we’ll play a waltz. Airs (without the ‘e’) are very occasionally played, but generally only when someone asks a player for one. If you pop up and start playing an air by yourself, it’s sometimes considered rude, because you’re pretty much automatically excluding everybody else…

2. Sheet music is not accepted in any sessions that I would care to attend. And you will generally be frowned upon for using it (other than *maybe* an occasional memory reminder before you start playing a tune, but that’s still pretty unacceptable). The reason being that you should generally know a tune well enough to play it before you try playing it in public. If you’re referring to sheet music while you’re playing, you may be playing the notes, but you won’t be playing the "music", which is so much more than a collection of notes.

3. As mentioned, the generally accepted etiquette is to defer to the person who started the tune for the tempo, and to some extent the rhythm. In the case where a beginner has started the tune, the more experienced players may gently prod it in the right direction, but it is pretty much always considered rude to speed up a set that someone else started. Beginners should keep that in mind, and not hog a session, because the more experienced players don’t necessarily want to play slowly all night. Another thing that beginners can learn is to ask more experienced players to start tunes for them if they’re uncomfortable doing it themselves. You can ask someone to start it slowly if you want.

4. The most important thing to remember is that it is not a free-for-all. Consider it to be like a conversation amongst friends. Similar etiquette applies. You wouldn’t just jump in the middle of a conversation that strangers were having. And neither would you jump in and start talking in a different language or change the subject abruptly. So common sense applies.

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There is nothing more to session etiquette than mere politeness. Whoever invented the phrase must have had that frontal lobe brain damage that precludes a person from being able to read communal gatherings.

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As Reverend says it is only polite (and prudent!) to feel your way in gently. Even when sessions are declared as ‘open’, there will be people there who have been attending regularly for years, and who have built up a subtle understanding among themselves how things should go. Recent threads on this site have highlighted the perils of disregarding that understanding. If at all possible, try to get ‘adopted’ by one of the regulars, who will take you under their wing, explain things to you a bit in advance, and generally ease your passage.

Re: Session etiquette

>> There is nothing more to session etiquette than mere politeness.

I disagree with that, llig. There are lots of bits and pieces that could be considered "etiquette" for sessions that don’t have to do with politeness. The question of whether using sheet music is acceptable is an example that has little or nothing to do (on the surface, at least) with common sense politeness.

Re: Session etiquette

Back to your excellent "conversation amongst friends" analogy, Reverend. Wouldn’t it would be rude to read from a prepared speech?

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… although some would find it rude to say pretty much the same things every time you joined a conversation.

I suppose no analogy is perfect.

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Re: Session etiquette

>> Wouldn’t it would be rude to read from a prepared speech?

Point taken, grego. So maybe it does sort of fit under the politeness umbrella…

To take the analogy even further, grownups will often have interesting conversations with toddlers, in the name of encouragement… But adults tend to like to have adult conversations too. So a beginner should sometimes sit back, listen, and try to learn.

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Actually, I am with Ilig on this one. My experience is limited, but I have found players to be most welcoming. Don’t come in like a bull in a china shop, or try to force your repertoire especially if you are not solid on the tune.

Someone mentioned that you would end up sitting alot and listening. Very true and Very good advice.

The rest of your questions can be answered with ‘It Depends".

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Session etiquette varies from one session to the next. Even the concept of "session etiquette" varies, from simple courtesy and manners, to unspoken codes of conduct, to written rules.

Chances are, the farther removed you are from hotbeds of this music, the more explicit your session etiquette will likely be. That’s because fewer people will be familiar with the music, sessions in general, and the peculiar courtesies that make for a good session. They have to learn the courtesies, rather than simply absorb them by immersion.

Carol, there are some good sessions in the Seattle area. Why not sit in, without expecting to play, and just listen and observe? See how they run (ob lah di, ob lah dah). Befriend some of the players.

There are also some decent learning sessions there. The players there can sort you out on local customs and idiosyncracies.

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Re: Session etiquette

Mr Keenan recently did a house concert in our neck of the woods and it was quite wonderful. However, there were no gratuitous displays of his (ahem) pipes during the show.

I have to agree with Reverend and Will CPT regarding your question. I know a few people in the Seattle area who regularly session. Send me a private e-mail and I will be happy to put you in touch with them. Also try "mickray" - a regular contributer here in this forum.

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Keenan is one of the few who can pull of a solo concert.. Cahill Mc Connell is another..Very funny man

Re: Session etiquette

pretty comprehensive..I would add.
- Avoid taking mind altering substances that may cause you to trip out mid session and freak people out.
- avoid talking politics
- If drunk leave last..Alternativly anticipate lack of bodily function. Put your instrument away half an hour before closing and do a series of wee practice walks to the bar for Red Bulls in order to quantify Drunkeness.
- Get a girlfreind with magical powers and I can seem like you levitate home.
- Avoid the inevitable question whers my Flute
- Dont fight in Abra-Kebabra in Ennis cuz sumone pushes your flute box to one side on the counter*
- even if you burst him and get a free chicken burger

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Good stuff John, I agree with all that except drinking other peoples pints and caressing women.

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except if U thought it was a woman

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There’s a kind of identi-kit ideal session building up here

Re: Session etiquette

Session etiquette from the old days….Walk in with the fiddle (assuming you are a fiddle player) Lay it down near where the music is taking place, and using the foot, gently push it under a table out of the way. As far as you’re concerned the fiddle doesn’t belong to you. Then go to the bar and after a few drinks make your way back to the music and hover. Eventually someone will nod towards your fiddle case and ask you if you would like to play a tune. Now comes your big moment…..look at the fiddle case as if you didn’t realise it was there,and with a shrug of the shoulders tell the assembled company " Ah sure I don’t play at all". They of course know that to be untrue otherwise you would not have come all the way across town on the bus carrying a fiddle. A bit more coaxing and away you go. Now the problem arises for the other musicians. How the hell do we stop this guy………..?

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if u want to bring your Bodhrán out.. Make sure you have an reasonably expensive or Old looking whistle in the same hand as the drum case..This implys you can play actual Choons. Wack the Goats Arse out and play to your hearts content..play the two Choons you know right at the very end. probably by yourself..Get in early and if another Goat Fiddler turns up..Scowl at them and talk "shop" with the other musicians pretending to be in the inner circle..

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Actually, this is turning out quite good. Maybe an enormous list of all the stuff that annoy folk of at a session would be ideal. I’d like to add….
- No shakey eggs or kitchen utensils under any conditions
- No jumbo bodhrans or djembes
- No smelly trainers of boots that make a loud noise when you bang you foot.
- No trying to talk and play at the same time totally losing it but not caring
- No starting a tune just because you like it without a clue what to do next
- No pop or blues songs or preferably just no songs
- Nooooooooo noooodling
Next………….

Seriously though Carol, all sessions are different. Go to a few as a listener first and try and find one that you feel is right for you.

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produce a million different beaters..You win by your sheer extent of equiptment.. The only way this can be countered..The other Fella produces a Seamus O Kane drum

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The Political and tactical elements of Bodhránship are extensive..

Re: Session etiquette

ha ha, political and tactical elements aside, it’s merely polite not to bring one

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awk now it can add to the overall sound..If theres a good Bodhran player I feel more confident improvising on the whistle..Keeps things on track..Or what about the style perfected by John Joe Kelly? Cant say that detracts from the music..Bodhráns have a place.. ?

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in the case?

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hahaha

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llig, Unfortunately, ‘mere’ politeness is as frequently encountered as the ‘common’ sense that the Reverend cited, in other words, not frequently enough—thus the need for etiquette guides and discussions. If I didn’t know you were a cynic, I might think you were an incurable romantic, thinking that all our difficulties were so easy to solve! 😉

Regarding Carol’s original question, Carol, if you have to ask some of the questions you posed above, you have not visited your local session yet. As a former military type, I know never to commit my forces until I have done thorough recon to get the lay of the land. I would highly recommend that you go to sessions as soon and as frequently as possible, have a pint, eat some pub food, and most importantly, LISTEN and watch. The biggest mistake people often make as beginners is to show up at a session for the very first time with instrument (and sometimes, God help them, sheet music) in tow, expecting to join right in. It is fun to listen, and when you go to listen, there is no pressure on you, or the session, you can just enjoy and learn. Then, when you have a better feel what is going on, you can approach the musicians, ask some polite questions, and you will probably get invited to bring your instrument. Take it easy and slow, and you will find that every part of the journey is a pleasure.
Enjoy!

Re: Session etiquette

Oh, this is special, this is: a member (named CAROL, for those of you whose attention spans don’t exceed the 35 seconds or so that it takes to get through a tune) posts a question related to session etiquette. Advice rendered includes a suggestion that (I presume) SHE procure a girlfriend - one less inclined to heavy drinking than she - as well as contraindications against the fondling of strange women. This second, it is of note, is not without critics in the thread. Do the sessions that those of you posting these clever ideas attend not have any women musicians in attendance (in which case, I can’t for the life of me imagine why not, SURELY IT CAN’T BE BECAUSE THEY FEEL UNWELCOME), or do you just act as though that’s the case?

Re: Session etiquette

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/boob

first definition, not fourth.

All right, I’m bowing out of this thread now; I have a class to prepare for tomorrow, and I reckon my powers of enlightenment would be better put to use educating folks who are both willing and able to learn what I teach, than on those who equate ardent femmmminism with a simple recognition that There Be Wimmins In The Room.

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Did something get trimmed out of this thread that I missed? I left for a moment, and came back to find that the conversation had gone all to pieces!

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I think someone needs a stroll for a Red Bull, to quantify his lack of sobriety….

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Carol,

Scroll up past all the dross about breasts until you get to Al Brown’s post. It’s a really good one. Visit your local session and see what’s going on. I like the old rule "less is more"; meaning, find out which tunes are played regularly at your local session, then choose one reel and one jig that are most likely to be played at your session.

Sing them constantly. Play them constantly. When you can do this effortlessly, you will feel confident playing those tunes in your session. One reel, one jig. Less is more. Then, add one new tune each week.

Let sheet music be a tool for you, but not the end result. If you have a classical background, the role of sheet music is very different in trad music, and it will be a big adjustment for you. I’m a lifelong orchestral musician and only 4 years at ITM; I’ve figured it out. Your ears are your best friend. Good luck to you.

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Above all, Carol - one that may not have been mentioned:

DON’T START PLAYING WHEN YOU’RE PLASTERED !!…

It is tempting for a newbie to drink half-a-dozen pints to summon up the Dutch courage to launch into a tune in public.

The result will be about as musical as a piano landing in the road after being chucked off a seventeenth-floor balcony.

I have heard what I have described (not the piano, the other…).

I have done it.

There are trad codgers like the one in Free Reed’s charming vignette who can walk on water in this respect. Or alcohol, anyway.

You are not likely to be one of them.

So - BEWARE!

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Yes, this thread was a lot more bizarre before the edit. Surreal almost. I came home after a session last night and it so befuddled me that I just said ‘to heck with it’ and went to bed. It was mighty funny though.

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I didn’t find it funny, I found it misogynist and offensive. Crude and childish with no redeeming characteristics at all. I’m glad to see the offending comments removed and the offending poster suspended. That poster is new here and I can assure Carol that behaviour like that is not typical of this site.

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Hey Carol

Sessions will vary a lot by locale and also just are different from each other. So you might find a home at one session but not feel right at another one. If you have several to chose from, I’d suggest just going and listening first without your instrument- you might find that one is way over your head perhaps or another tends towards loads of "songs" of the John Prine/Bob Dylan genre and isn’t even ITM at all. Bring a recording device and tape it if it sounds good- will be helpful to listen to later on.

In terms of structure, there is often a session "leader"- sort of keeps everything rolling and arranges the sessions dates/locales if those change, or else is the host of a session if it’s at a private place. Most sessions I’ve attended sort of go around in a circle and whomever is next gets to start the next tune, or just pass if they don’t want to start one.

In terms of tunes, it depends on the session. I play at one which dearly loves Carolan tunes and we play many of those- but I rarely if ever play those elsewhere. There is lots of crossover between sessions usually,but each session will tend to have it’s own set of tunes that are often played, etc- you’ll pick this up over time.

Some people go bonkers over certain tunes- witness the recent discussion over the poor woman who asked to play "The Butterfly"- some people are more gracious than others over certain shop-worn tunes, and some are kinda rude about it. Again, each session is different although there are some that in general are so overdone,although to be honest, there are some on that list I really don’t know as they are not popular here so again it varies- I barely know the Kesh jig for instance, even though it is supposed to be very old and overdone…..

In terms of sheet music- again, it varies. Some sessions would totally freeze you out for this as a capital offense or something, and others don’t seem to care. My favorite session generally doesn’t use it, but there is one player who always does and who cares really…..

In terms of tempo, that generally is up to whomever called the tune, so if it’s you and you want to go slower, you can do so and it would be rude of others to force you to speed up. That said, one can’t expect everyone else to play at a beginner pace for instance, so you have to go with the flow. I’ve been learning the whistle, so if I start a tune I’ll often do it on the whistle now so it can be a tad slower, and I get some good natured ribbing about it but I’m ok with that; the rest of the tunes are at our typical breakneck tempo…. and I’ll even pull out some sheet music for a whistle tune(gasp!)- but I don’t do this at a gig when I play fiddle anyway….

hope this was helpful- and go have fun-it’s all about the music….

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oh- and realized I should have said it’s all about the music AND the people- the music is really important and when it works well it’s really fantastic, but the people you play with- have met some really wonderful people doing this- and it’s really all about them as well….

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Fiddlinfarmer….. thanks a bunch for your input. Much appreciated.
Carol

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