# How many instruments are too many?

### How many instruments are too many?

You’ve all met them. Sometimes they need a separate table or floor space equivalent to half the session space itself. On this they proceed to spread out perhaps five or more instruments — or more!! — to say nothing of bodhran on the floor, 3 or 4 whistles, guitar on its side, banjo waiting in the case, bouzouki ditto, fiddle in the hand. Is this bad session etiquette or just being an instrument hog or simply being silly about what’s possible? What say you mustard boarders?

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

It all depends on how many invisible friends you have.

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

Jack of all trades, and master of none?

Even the people that I know that can really play a whole slew of instruments will only take one or maybe two of them to a session.

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

The worst offenders are the oblivious ones. Ace is camped out with his 42 instruments, taking up two other places for humans in the circle. A melody player comes in, looks for a place to sit, looks at Ace, looks at me. I look at Ace. Ace is oblivious. OBLIVIOUS. I have to play session Nazi. "Please MOVE your ginormous 12 string and the bazooka which you haven’t played ONCE in the two hours you’ve sat there. Thanks."

HA! OK, I feel better now. Thanks.

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

I always bring my fiddle and my flute. I play the fiddle for a while, then put it away and haul out the flute. It seems however that no sooner do I get the flute ready than someone starts "Cook In The Kitchen" with the Fnats that I can’t play.

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

No number of instruments is too many to *play*… but to bring to a session? I say two is the upper limit. And then, only if you can fit them in the same case. Otherwise it just seems presumptuous. "Oh look at me, I’m bringing my fiddle and my concertina and my banjo, because I’m just so good on all three of them that the session would miss out if I only brought one."

There are, of course, exceptions… 🙂

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

A flute players who brings whistles, or a piper who brings flutes and whistles are the exceptions to this. On the other hand, the "one man band" phenomenon peeves me to no end. pick one, learn to play it, learn to play it WELL, and bring that one to sessions. Leave the others at home. And don’t give me that crap about how some tunes sit better on the flute, and others sit better on the fiddle, and others on the whistle, and some are *just* banjo tunes, and if you don’t know the tune at all, might as well break out the bodhran, or, god help us, the guitar. Good Lord. They all work just fine on all the instruments, some just take longer to learn.

Spare us.

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

Someone maniacal might bring several fiddles. Tennis players have several raquets after all…

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

It’s wunderbar to be back!

I like to show off as many instruments that I can get taken to the pub’. My retainer Sritharan regularly carts the tuba, orchestral harp, alpine horn, caliope, tympani, complete gamelan and my contra-bass saxophone. Those of you that can only afford to buy one instrument really should work harder, save up and buy more. Not just another fiddle or flute but a whole raft of exciting different things to noodle on.

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

I think two is fine.

Another combination is mandolin and mandola/bouzouki/whatever you want to call it or a banjo instead of either.

Similarly lots will bring a fiddle with banjo or mandolin.

One of mates usually brings mandolin and mandola, I bring banjo and we’ll switch between them. If he doesn’t have one of his instruments avialable, I’ll bring a spare.

- chris

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

Any more than siz and you look like a Corries tribute act, particularly if one of them is a "combolin"

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

Krick…you’re the man! ha
Joe…Good point. Perhaps discretion is the better part of ability?
Meredith…lucky this doesn’t happen too much. I was just curious if others had experienced this. cheers

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

"any more than SIX" 🙂

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

Rambling
I like to bring a large bag of tippers of every size, diameter, and make including wood, steel, drum brushes, brass and non brass inserts in tips to provide extra or less noise/thumps, those made from ebony, snakewood, maple, oak, iron wood, rosewood, not to mention many variations on the skewer sticks that drummers now use …then i take up the rest of the table with a pint or two….

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

I like to see guitar and bodhran players bring other instruments, because then they can switch when another guitar or bodhran player shows up. That way you don’t have too many guitars and bodhrans.

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

Hey, I thought the RULE was, that there are NO RULES at Sessions?

So only TWO instruments, per person, are to be allowed, in a Session!

Saints preserve us!

In these troubled Credit Crunch / Recessionary Times, some folks here clearly have very little to worry about, when they’re getting their knickers in a twist about how many instruments, other musicians bring to a session!

As for The Corries, they took a bunch of instruments to a GIG, not a Session, which is a different thing altogether.

I never take more than a couple to a session, ……… but for a gig, I may take 4 or 5 …. so what!

Cheers
Dick

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

And of course there’s the Andy Irvine line that Jackie Daly relates about a guy who brought an armload of instruments to a session: he’s multi-talentless.

### Re: No such thing as too many….

Some really great musicians bring three instruments to a session. They may only play one or two, depending on what else is being played. Aaron Olwell, for instance, grew up playing two instruments (flute and fiddle) and through his teen years played concertina as well. He’s a master of all three — as is Kevin O’Reilly. And Tommy McCarthy. Michael Rooney is a great harp player and is also an all-Ireland concertina player.
It isn’t showing off if you can do it, do it well, and make everybody around you better.

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

I’ve cut down, and now never take a guitar to a session, partly because there is usually one guitarist there already. It’s bouzuki, english concertina, and a bodhran that tends to get handed round when someone doesn’t know the tune.
"Er Indoors, on the other hand, now brings one of those large re-usable shopping bags with her, with flute, whistles, washboard, ukulele, jews’ harp, bones, spoons, and sometimes a 5-string banjo as well.
Of course, I have no control over my better half.

### If she can play them….

If she can play them well and contribute to the session then where’s the harm?

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

If someone can play a load of instruments really well, and contribute to the session on all of them and everything, the ones they’re not playing still get in the way! And if someone can contribute on four instruments, then he can contribute just as well on one or two. Bringing more is unnecessary, and is often a subtle form of showing off.

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

Assuming they aren’t piled up on the table or in the middle of an aisle, how are they getting in the way? If someone comes with three instruments, say, and will play the instrument not otherwise being played in the session, how is that showing off?

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

If the excess instruments impede others’ ability to participate in the session, that’s rude - particularly if the person bringing them is of the sort that gets annoyed if someone touches their instrument.
If the excess instruments merely impede the player’s ability to participate, then that’s annoying. A player who spends more time laying out their instruments, tuning them, discussing the merits of each and the difficulties of being a multi-instrumentalist, basking in the glory of their collection, et cetera, than they do actually playing any of them, can be more of a distraction than a contributor to the tunes.
Not that there is or should be a "rule" about it - I think this all falls under the rubric of "collective griping about a common annoyance", sort of like complaining about the guy who spends fifteen minutes trying to remember the start of a tune he obviously doesn’t know, and isn’t going to play, or the guy who asks after every set of tunes "what was that last one?" like he’s going to remember the answer, or cares especially about the last tune in each set…

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

"collective griping about a common annoyance" … yeah, maybe…

Or the sharing of sour grapes….

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

there is the problem, simply, of physical space which people who bring multiple, large instruments seem to fail to comprehend

"most" sessions I’ve been to don’t have acres of room so to some degree it’s a matter of consideration for others sharing that space that they don’t bring everything but the ktichen sink…

Has anyone experienced the instrument player who simply insists on also bringing instrument stands so that they can take up even more room? You’d think they were on stage.

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

Sour grapes? This sounds like the discussion is coming a little close to home…

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

I agree that space may often be an issue in a session.
Also that one wishes to safeguard an instrument that one might have spent a large percentage of ones disposable income on.
Therefore, I have some sympathy with the use of PubProps, instrument stands, hard cases, etc.
On the other hand, bringing large numbers of large instruments, just in case someone plays the one or two tunes that they are especially fluent on, in the course of the evening, is coming the raw prawn a bit.
A bit of give and take is what is required.

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

oh I don’t think anyone is proposing rules Ptarmi’ just saying waht they feel is reasonable, which largely comes down to space and portability.

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

If you can rip tunes out on several instruments, and you’re not taking up room that other musicians could be using to sit in with, then god love ya, what’s the big deal?

Common sense folks.

However, as we all well know, some folks out there go to sessions not for the music or the camaraderie, but for their own egos. These are the ones that will come to show off their collection without actually being able to competently play.

These are also the ones that cause me to actually have to say things like “DUDE! That thing you ain’t even played yet is taking up a seat and Ms. Thing just got here with her concertina. MOVE!” 😉

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

I have reduced recently - now I generally only bring the one, keyless, flute. I’ve stopped bothering with the whistles unless I know someone is going sing (then my A or G whistles or F Flute may get an airing). I may bring the smallpipes from time to time, depending on the session. I sometimes bring the Boehm flute too especially if I know there is likely to be a bunch of tunes outside the main ITM keys (e.g. Swedish, German, Klezmer etc.).

The Forbes Christie ("Windward flutes") #141 keyless in D is always with me though!

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

One instrument, if played determinedly badly enough.

This does not apply to one spoon, provided it is only rapped on another imaginary spoon and nothing else.

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

If you are a piper you will probably have a whistle or two in your case, not taking up room. A mandolin player might have a guitar for when the session gets loud and drowns him out. All the box players I know (not many) stick with the box. It does seem a bit pointless taking more than two instruments unless you are trying to balance the sound by switching. I would be worried having things lying about that I couldn’t snatch from under an approaching buttock. And it always seems harder carrying them home than bringing them. Instruments, that is, not buttocks.

Posted by .

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

Are you finding this a problem, Michael, or is the question rhetorical?

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

Haha SWFL, do you give code names to your session mates? Ace, Ms. Thing, so what’s yours? If you haven’t picked one, I vote for The Joker.

I can see bringing two fiddles if you’re doing cross-tunings and don’t want to spend the time to re-tune between tunes, or if you want to switch to octave fiddle or viola for certain tunes. But how many people do that?

It’s not about numbers though, it’s about space. Bring as many whistles as you want, as long as you don’t spread them out all over three tables. But if you play both Cello and didge, then please, pick one.

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

How about the "percussionist", who brings bodhran, and enough spoons, shaky eggs, and bones for all? 😛 I’ve actually been at some sessions where someone will hand out percussion to the punters and encourage them to get involved <shudder>

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

A likeable person who helps drive the session can do whatever they
want in my opinion - they have a license to kill. Others - it’s different rules.

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

I do play the cello and the doo… And I would bring the cello if I didn’t already play the box and the bodhran and the whistles…

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

B:
Mainly rhetorical, but based on some incidents…so some experience. Boxes ALWAYS welcome however! ;) God love em, someone’s got to carry the tunes!

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

If it involves more than one trip in from the car it’s too many. And yes if you bring it you must play it.

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

The Joker, Marklar? I’ll take it!

Once knew a HD player who liked to play jigs and reels. We called her Hammers Mahoney.

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

Oh? I usually bring two of them, along with my fiddle and ukelele…

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

You may laugh. In Finland, the harmonium is a popular session instrument - perhaps equivalent to the guitar or bouzouki in its role. At the Kaustinen festival in 1997, I saw several people walking around with portable harmoniums (harmonia?) - the legs and pedals fold up like a clothes-horse, whilst the rest of is carried like a suitcase. Bet it weighs a ton, though.

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

…although I never saw two in one session.

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

I admit, myself, to sometimes being a multi-instrument brandisher. It depends, of course, on the session - I happen to know that some of my regular session companions like it when I bring more than one instrument. Sometimes there is even a certain amount of instrument swapping. I know the only one I can *really* play is the mandolin, but sometimes it’s fun (is that allowed?) to try something else. The banjo’s useful when there’s a loud box player. The fiddle often comes with me, just in case the opportunity arises to play a few tunes at a moderate pace. The whistle hides in the pocket of the fiddle case, and only comes out on occasion - and disappears quickly if another whistle appears.

If I’m attending a session as a visitor, I generally take only the mandolin.

Surely such an open confession is grounds for a reduced sentence.

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

Organic…your bio sparked this discussion actually! ;)

Yes, fun is allowed. But not too much….

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

One instrument is enough for me whether or not I am at an Irish Session or some other type of music session.

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

And I don’t have any imaginary and/or invisible friends either.

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

German or Swiss or Austrian posters may be able to tell us if Alpenhorns have ever been brought into Irish music sessions over there.

For those who haven’t seen one of these, your usual didgeridoo is a sort of one-day-old infant alpenhorn.

I wonder if they come in different keys, and players have to lug three or four of them around with them.

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

if there is someone at a session with a piano accordion, that is one instrument too many! lol

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

I never intended to bring lots of instruments to the local session, but generally I bring guitar, accordion, harmonicas and whistle. If other rhythm players are there, the guitar doesn’t come out, as I am trying to become a melody player who sometimes plays guitar. I was going to give up the whistle, until the whistle player left the band I am in, so I play it pretty frequently now. If I don’t bring out the harmonicas, people ask me to, I guess they like the sound. And I play the accordion as much as possible, as I would like eventually for that to be my main instrument. To use a baseball anthology, at my local session, and in the band I play in, I serve the role of the utility infielder, playing whatever position I have to in order to support the overall sound.

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

Did you mean to say "baseball analogy" AlBrown when you mentioned a utility infielder? As the piano player at the local sessions, I do my best to (literally) play a similar role and contribute to the general cacophony.

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

Ooop, yes, analogy, not anthology.

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

I think PA gets a rough ride. Whilst I generally prefer botton box, there are loads of very good PA players of Irish music in glasgow. Perhaps because their is such a preponderance of PAs in scotland as a whole (most scots will think PA by default when they hear "accordeon").

I used to hate the PA because I associated it with the awful clumpy sound of many scottish country dance bands. But the PA can be played very well in Scottish music too. The problem is that many Scottish players really over do the bass in ensemble situations, drowning out the other instruments. I find english style "melodian" players i.e. on qunt boxes, are often guilty of this too, it probbaly comes down to porting musical techniques from one tradition (or situation) where they are suitable into another where they are not.

That said, I’ve heard bass work on a PA that has worked well in an Irish session, and it can really add to arrangements in a band. I don’t think anything fills out the sound of ceili band quite like a PA. Even those awful clumpy SCD bands that I mentioned above can do the buisiness for a social dance

- chris

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

For my sins, I play the devils instrument in a SCD band, but don’t play bass in session. I also use quietest register if not leading a tune - which doesn’t sound far removed from concertina.
Can melodions be played without using the basses - you wouldnt think so?
Would banjo players please bring two instruments, one of which IS in tune, the other for the other musicians to get it in tune.
Would 3 chord guitar merchants please bring a case …… and use it to protect their guitar from damage during the session.

IF , and only if, you are a competent musician, you might have an instrument you don’t play as much as you would like to - no harm in bringing that along as well.

A pair of clowns come to a local session and need two trips to the car …. I always ask if their shop is open.

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

>A pair of clowns come to a local session and need two trips >to the car …. I always ask if their shop is open.

do the doors fall off & the horn honk every time they get in?

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

There’s a guy who brings uilleann pipes, flutes, whistles, a concertina, and various stringed instruments including at times an electic guitar and its amp!!! Makes one ask "what’s the point?" because if the point was simply to participate in the session one only needs one instrument. Makes one think that the point is to show off how many instruments one owns and can knock a tune out on.

About percussionists, years ago some of us did a wedding reception and the leader said "Oh, I hired a bodhran player to play with us." Well the guy showed up with nearly every percussion instrument imaginable and took an hour to set up all that sh!te.

He had a row of congas of various sizes, djembes, a talking drum, cymbals, shakers, who knows what all… oh and a few bodhrans.

### Re: How many instruments are too many?

"Organic…your bio sparked this discussion actually!"

So, I’m a session pariah even before any of you have met me! (I don’t believe I’ve met anyone who’s participated in this discussion so far. Well, you’ll recognise me now, should I ever chance to darken the door of your local. Anyway, I am glad to have given you all the opportunity to vent your spleens about such ‘arsenal supporters’.

Perhaps what is needed is a sign at the door saying "Only one instrument per person", much like the signs saying "Only one bodhran", seen in a few session pubs in Ireland. The only risk is that the offender might, on being confronted with such a sign, decide to take in an instrument other than that on which they are most competent, thus offending the ears of all around them for the whole session, instead of just for the odd tune.