Slow/Learning Session ~ Where do we go from here? ~ Orwell’s Animal Farm?! πŸ™

Slow/Learning Session ~ Where do we go from here? ~ Orwell’s Animal Farm?! πŸ™

I’ll warn you ahead of time, that as this is forefront at the moment in my mind, trying to secure a venue to restart an old passion, a slow/learning session and community ceili(dh) band, I’m likely to suffer a certain weakness to ‘ramble’, to walkabout in my curiously wired brain. But now you’ve been warned, let’s kick off with another title for this ~

Animal Farm - When the slow session escapes into that greater ‘reel’ world.

What happens when an ‘ideal’, such as a slow or learning session, misses certain important points with regards to the full context of ‘tradition’. It is too easy to merely focus on the mechanics and the acquisition of too usually raw and lifeless renditions of the music and miss some even more important points than following the dots. We all know, or those of us with it deep inside, that ears and listening are important, and more so than playing when it comes down to it. I believe the greater number of us also have a huge respect for it that includes a respect for its history and for those that have managed to accomplish that understanding and skill. I have no problem just sitting down and listening, and when amongst the talented, or the passionate, it’s so easy for me to follow, and to learn as my ears lead me forward. I don’t feel any driving need to interject a tune set in the moments of pause, or for me to play for every damn set offered up by others. I love the music, I love listening closely to what others do with it, and letting it soak over me and in to echo the bones. I don’t mind giving up myself to it.

While I have a generally positive impression of most folks caught up in this shared passion, I’m not blind to the jerks, having had a few step on my toes in the past or treat me with worse than mere disrespect. I’ve known my share of arseholes, including on site here, and wind-up artists, and w*nkers. There are even some severly disturbed folk that wander through this ‘scene’, some seeming to curiously seek therapy, some just wanting to cause trouble for others. But there are always strange folk, and under ‘character’ that can be good and bad. However, where we’re taking about the want to share and pass on the torch of this passion to others, as in teaching, one-to-one & the likes of slow/learning sessions ~ we need to also address issues other than what note follows what or which version to promote, teach, play.

I once got myself into trouble doing a poor imitation of George Orwell and writing my take on his "Animal Farm" but applied to traditions, and trying to show how we can and do miss some of the other less technical aspects of tradition when sharing it with others, like ‘heart’ and ‘respect’ and where the greater focus and emphasis should be going. There’s also that feeling that when missing the wider context of tradition, we might end up with something akin to the ending suffered by the farm, an unwelcomed revolution.

I doubt there’s many that would disagree that ‘ears’ and ‘listening’ are paramount. But let’s use a few examples of where either I’ve failed or where there’s been failure that I’ve personally experienced ~

1.) Attitudes ~ and how easily they can pass over in the process of sharing tradition. I had to teach something to several hundred people, in this case a bit of dancing. I’d not slept well the night before, and someone had wound me up a little by being an arrogant shight at the session the night before, cutting off the only set one young girl had been offered to start, basically stomping on her set and doubling the speed, leaving her in the lurch, with putting her bow and fiddle away. And, she was quite capable, a decent player. So, all that, and a few other things, I was not in the best of moods. I wasn’t keeping track of it but I was teaching in a very impatient way, not giving it the attention it deserved or the dancers enough time and clarity. Fortunately I caught myself being mirrored on the floor with the dancers getting impatient with themselves and each other - and, this time, I was able to catch it, point it out, apologize, and laugh at myself, and then move on. Sometimes we’re not just teaching a step, a move, a twiddle or a tune, sometimes we’re handing over much more, and we should be aware of this and take care, as well as learning to laugh at ourselves, our stumblings.

2.) Respect ~ and how we can forget to even mention or discuss this subject. A respected fellow musician had started up a little community ceili(dh) band, a sizeable group. He was teaching them tunes. Unfortunately they were all tied to the sheetmusic, so the ears were not getting any just exercise, and it was obvious in their playing, which was stilted. They weren’t listening to each other and consequently weren’t ‘together’. I offered to let them come and play for a dance class once a month, to get some experience there, and so they did. I also got them down for at least one dance in an evening, most of them, and I worked to try to free them up from the sheetmusic, even if it was just one tune at a time. When they loosened up you could hear the difference, as they heard each other, without the suffocating influence of a sheet of music in the way.

What I didn’t know is that in his ‘slow/learning sessions’ with them they never talked about ‘tradition’, nothing about ‘sessions’, or anything about respect or etiquette. This proved to be quite destructive. For their first session they all arrived early, before anyone else, set up in their little circle, put their music stand up, their sheets out, and played from them with every opportunity, in a sense, with such presence, taking over the session. Understandably someone eventually went over to them and said something to the effect of "F’k off!’ They packed up and left and we never saw more of that lovely little group of hopefuls. Yeah, I admit it, I was wounded. I wish I’d known and could have warned them, prepared them somehow, so they could have avoided that verbal slap.

BUT, it wasn’t ‘their’ session. They were guests. They were the RUDE ones, not the person who’d been pushed to his limits and ended up telling them to shove off. That’s one of the important points I always drive home with anyone that comes under my influence, and I even go so far as to say ~ JUST LISTEN ~ the first time you go anywhere. Get a feel of the place. the people. Hell, in the end it might just not be for you. Give yourself and your ears time to suss that out. There are quite often other sessions to choose from, or you and some friends can start one up that suits your needs, rather than imposing those needs on a pre-existing situation. If you take heart and go out to experience a session, go to listen, to find out what they play and how they play it. Learn from them. Forget the damned books and dots and commercial recordigns. Go local!

AND, for the first few times, unless asked, and you can say no to that the first time, DO NOT START ANY TUNE SETS. And for your first foray into contributing, choose things you know you won’t be left alone with, things others can join in with, old favourites, especially local old favourites. As a ‘guest’, remember that the session you’re visiting has been there before you, often times long established, with rules, even if those norms are not obvious or are taken for granted. Any session has its own history, its own traditions. Learn these, be observant, ask. If you do get asked to start a set and go for it, a chance to make your contribution, be happy that you’ve had the one. That’s really enough for starters. Follow the established group’s lead, not your own. Listen, listen, listen, and listen some more, there’s never too much of that…

WORSE CASE ~ Just one example from many, one I’ve used in ‘teaching’ and session leading ~ a piano accordion player who in their mind had nothing to learn from anyone, knew it all, was determined to be in the centre of it all. I did try to warn them, to try to get this person to respect others when they were a guest at someone else’s session, to respect those established traditions and ways with things ~ but that just irritated them. Who was I to tell them these things, trying to be diplomatic ~ to temper their volume, ease up on the badly chosen and executed chords and bass, to just focus on one set of reeds and the melody for awhile, and to do more listening than playing, and to not feel every pause was an opportunity to start up another set of tunes. And, that as a guest, they should NOT sit in the middle of it all but join outside the core group, maybe even show late so that the old timers had time to find their seats and way first, out of RESPECT!

This PA squeezer was impatient, sure of themselves, and despite any warning ignored all and in the end gave up on our little slow session. Instead they graduated themselves to the local session scene ~ ALL reeds blaring, as LOUD as they could, BASS & CHORDS stumbling along, and almost EVERY pause that gave them enough time to gather their wits and squeeze they’d try to fill with their choice of tunes, tunes they couldn’t actually hold together, even slowed down, which at times was ploddingly awful, nothing steady, lacking any feeling, as the struggled through it, while, credit to the locals, some others were kind enough to try to help them with their joining in, even if unsure of what exactly was being played… But, their attempts to help it along never really worked. As I hope was already made clear, any help fell on DEAF ears, as this person just didn’t have the tools or sense to listen or even realize they had something left to learn, other than just tunes and twiddles…

I think that in the end they have come less and less to sessions, having made it miserable for themselves, often being left on their own to struggle through to some kind of stumbling end, while never managing to realize the faults were their own, no one elses… I can’t help but feel I failed them in some way, possibly not quite understanding them enough to break through their thick skull and let in a little light of understanding, and ‘respect’ for the music, the tradition, the others that share that passion with them, and that listening is divine, oh so very, very important.

So, to try to sum that ramble up, in teaching or leading, one-to-one or in slow/learning sessions, we have added responsibilities that are in some ways more important than tunes and twiddles, that are the greater body of ‘tradition’, including the heart of it…

Discussion: Running a slow session is good for you…

# Posted on March 4th 2011 by cag
https://thesession.org/discussions/26945

One of the roots to this, but curiously the discussion before this one seems to have gone "POOF!"

Discussion: Slow session in Sydney

That’s the now missing one!? 😏

Re: Slow/Learning Session ~ Where do we go from here? ~ Orwell’s Animal Farm?! πŸ™

Thanks, c. That’s a really nicely written ramble! I am involved in teaching and leading the Small Circle tune learning session here in Colorado. It has been going for almost exactly 10 years now, and has had a profound impact on both my playing and the playing of many people that have found their way into this music through that tune learning session.

A lot of our focus over the years has been to talk about things like how to fit into sessions, etiquette, the fact that the tune learning session is a ‘safe’ environment, and trying to prepare people for the ‘reel’ world. But after reading this, it occurred to me that we haven’t talked much about the heart and respect recently. Most of the people there inherently understand these ideas. But it doesn’t hurt to actually talk about it from time to time.

And it also just dawned on me that I haven’t talked about maybe the most important bit in a while, and that is that this music is passed from person to person. That’s what the tradition actually is. And while it may feel a bit like an elephant sitting on your shoulders when you are first starting out, because there’s so much to learn, and you know none of it, it’s important to teach people a sense of where they fit into the tradition. And to do that, it’s good to encourage people to share and pass on what they’ve learned to other people, even when they’re first starting out. Because that gets you in the habit of sharing the music with others. Where would we be, if we hadn’t had people play music with us, and teach us these things when we were first starting out? You can’t get that from YouTube, or thesession.org.

Leading the tune learning session has had more of a profound impact on my playing than actually being a student. You learn a lot by teaching others. Partially, because there’s no better way to know a tune inside out than to break it down, and teach it to someone. But also because you start to realize that you need to show the respect for the music and the tradition even more when you’re passing it on than you do when you’re working on it on your own, or sitting and learning from other people.

There’s obviously no monetary compensation for me when I’m teaching at the learning session. But the compensation really comes from filling the role in the tradition of passing it on. And from "paying it forward", so to speak.

Discussion: Slow session in Sydney ~ bless the powers that be (J)

https://thesession.org/sessions/2851
https://thesession.org/sessions/2851/comments

The ‘other’ discussion had been moved over to ‘Sessions’…

Nice one Rev. In this case I am trying to wind myself up again and find a venue and get things going once more here, while trying to learn from past mistakes and oversights, and finding some inspiration here. cag’s last two contributions have been helping me think and rethink the topic, and have also served as good self-administered kicks up the backside. Now all I need is to do the legwork, yet again, and try to get things rolling. But, I can promise, iit isn’t like I’ve completely stood still, despite recent tragic upsets. πŸ˜‰

Re: Slow/Learning Session ~ Where do we go from here? ~ Orwell’s Animal Farm?! πŸ™

Ceolachan, it seems to me you are beating yourself up too much about ‘spilt milk’. Teaching/leading of any sort is a real-time activity, and no two interactions are ever the same.

Even with the best of intentions and loads of practice, there are things that you wish could have gone better each and every day. In fact, perhaps it is precisely *because* we feel the stakes are high that we over-analyse things that others would just let pass.

The only thing to do is to move forward and learn from past experience - no point in spending one’s life wishing we could re-run it. Hope your new project works out.

Ian

Re: Slow/Learning Session ~ Where do we go from here? ~ Orwell’s Animal Farm?! πŸ™

It’s wonderful to have you around, ceolachan, so I can point to threads like this when my friends complain that I think too much….

😎

For me, teaching music (and especially this music) is less about music and so much more about connecting people. Connect them to each other through a shared passion *and* generosity, good humor, and compassion. Connect them to *themselves* through some same qualities. Music is the lubricant that lets it happen.

Posted .

Re: Slow/Learning Session ~ Where do we go from here? ~ Orwell’s Animal Farm?! πŸ™

nicely said, will: i think that last bit is very important. thanks!

Re: Slow/Learning Session ~ Where do we go from here? ~ Orwell’s Animal Farm?! πŸ™

Honestly, I think that the reason we play music is to connect with ourselves and with others. That’s music’s purpose.

But not everyone groks that, or is ready to in the moment you happen to cross paths with them. And maybe some folks are never going to figure it out.

Maybe one of the most difficult things in all this is when compassion for someone else’s flaws isn’t enough, and they’re unwilling or unable to fit into the group, the community, and their behavior risks ruining the fun for everyone else.

As with ceolachan’s example of the PA player above.

Sometimes all you can do is let people be who they are. They alone are responsible for that.

And set clear boundaries about what’s acceptable and what’s unacceptable behavior. For sessions, that’s not too hard. "Play in time, in tune, and only what you know or can genuinely pick up on the fly. Match your volume to the group. Let your demeanor and behavior be an invitation and support for others to join in and contribute."

When someone flies in the face of this, repeatedly, after friendly words to call attention to the problems, then compassion has to shift to protecting the session, not the offending individual. Or you lose it all.

My 2 cents.

Posted .

Re: Slow/Learning Session ~ Where do we go from here? ~ Orwell’s Animal Farm?! πŸ™

Ceolachan, your discussions are invariably quickly identifiable (as yours, you don’t need to sign them) and constructive.
I would like to frame your first paragraph and keep it handy for constant reference, and I think it worth repeating here. It’s application goes far beyond Learning Sessions.

"What happens when an ‘ideal’, such as a slow or learning session, misses certain important points with regards to the full context of ‘tradition’. It is too easy to merely focus on the mechanics and the acquisition of too usually raw and lifeless renditions of the music and miss some even more important points than following the dots. We all know, or those of us with it deep inside, that ears and listening are important, and more so than playing when it comes down to it. I believe the greater number of us also have a huge respect for it that includes a respect for its history and for those that have managed to accomplish that understanding and skill. I have no problem just sitting down and listening, and when amongst the talented, or the passionate, it’s so easy for me to follow, and to learn as my ears lead me forward. I don’t feel any driving need to interject a tune set in the moments of pause, or for me to play for every damn set offered up by others. I love the music, I love listening closely to what others do with it, and letting it soak over me and in to echo the bones. I don’t mind giving up myself to it."

Re: Slow/Learning Session ~ Where do we go from here? ~ Orwell’s Animal Farm?! πŸ™

Another thoughtful post, c. It is so easy, when involved in any activity about which you care deeply, to take offense at every real or imagined instance of disrespect. That over-analysis that Ian is talking about can be an impediment to ANY action. It’s like you’re playing chess with only yourself, imagining a certain set of moves that inevitably spell defeat for your opponent, which of course is…yourself. So why would I even bother to initiate a slow session, because I know what will happen 6 months or so down the pike? Talk about chasing your tail….

But then I notice that Rev Pete’s Small Circle has been chugging along for 10 years (!), and I’m sure that there has been drama and angst and whatever. But I’m equally sure that some people have forged some friendships and have learned a thing or two about themselves and the music. I particularly like the idea: β€œBecause that gets you in the habit of sharing the music with others. Where would we be, if we hadn’t had people play music with us, and teach us these things when we were first starting out? β€œ

Yes, Will, it is all about connecting with other people. And for those of us who are unabashed, flaming introverts, it is fraught with peril. Because we want to make those connections, but to do so, we must do it in our introverted way: sitting back, processing information, infuriated by the extroverts (PA person!), over-analysing, and looking like saboteurs when we finally speak up and offer suggestions. (Maybe every session should require prospects to submit to a Myers-Briggs analysis before being offered a chair….nah) But then that is part of the reason to keep coming back: the tunes, yes, but it’s like a serial drama. What will happen this week???

So the slow session is not so much about the tunes as it is about building a critical mass of understanding?

Re: Slow/Learning Session ~ Where do we go from here? ~ Orwell’s Animal Farm?! πŸ™

It seems my lack of sleep is still invading my writing, having thought but not written it exactly ~ "to echo in my bones…" But I take it the gist is understood despite a few misspellings and lost words…

Somehow music makes it easy for me to give myself up to it, and in the hands of someone more masterful than me, it’s a cich, being one of the best natural highs going.

Yes Michele, it is the flaming introverts I want to prepare for the potential burn that can come with that flame…

The Myers-Briggs has its own problems. πŸ˜‰

Yup! ~ "building a critical mass of understanding!" ~ nicely put…

On that just made slip about ‘someone more masterful’, it doesn’t have to be that ~ beginners, improvers, anyone with a love for the music can easily catch my attention, appreciation and respect…

Re: Slow/Learning Session ~ Where do we go from here? ~ Orwell’s Animal Farm?! πŸ™

I suppose the rub is in encouraging playfulness in others’ while letting them know there are certain expectations, & then walking the talk, but not turning everything into a chore. Does that bring things full circle? Or, am I chasing my tail; again …

Posted by .

Tradition is about chasing one’s tail, in a manner of speaking, the great Oroboros… πŸ˜€

Re: Slow/Learning Session ~ Where do we go from here? ~ Orwell’s Animal Farm?! πŸ™

That I can manage with ease.

Posted by .

I think, when I was very young, I actually caught it once. It’s gone now.

Posted by .

Can slow sessions have unhealthy consequences?

Where are the naysayers? I have known a few, and occassionally someone claiming that the concept of a slow or learner session is a complete anathema in direct conflict with what is appreciated about a traditional session.

The main seed and motivation for this was sharing tales with others, and recently, including tales of beginners being unleashed on well established sessions, a kind of invasion from ignorance, lacking knowledge and tact, rude, without respect, elbowing in and forcing themselves on an already well established social structure, the bull-in-a-china-shop approach. The china won’t adapt, the cases are pushed over and the china breaks. That’s in opposition to settling in over time, with ease, stepping lightly and with care and respect, a friendlier and more considerate approach without the elbows extended out, without any head butting. There’s generally no need for elbows or swagger as there’s usually a welcome, but it can be hard pressed and wear thin with abuse, as if too often they’ve suffered someone jumping in and splashing about and ruining the fun.

As I’ve slipped into mentioning ‘splashing about’, for a laugh let’s compare a good session to a pool party, a hot tub, a Jaquizzi, one of those with a deck, the stars overhead, drinks all around, folks relaxing, enjoying each others company, a bit of chat, getting to know one another, each others interests, ideas, passions and ways with things. And then, as if out of nowhere, some newcomer no one knows comes running across the lawn shouting "I’m here!", goes bounding up the steps, leaps up in the air, pulling their knees in to make a ball, and comes down hard, the human cannonball landing smack dab in the middle, WHOOSH! ~ "It’s me, Me, ME!!!"

Somewhere as the waves settle someone lunges back up to grab air and says under their breath, "Who’s the arsehole?" Someone else fumbling for their glasses mumbles almost inaudibly, "F’kin’ p*r*ick!" I can’t say as I blame them, even if a part of me likes the whole idea of upsetting the status quo so… πŸ˜‰

Re: Slow/Learning Session ~ Where do we go from here? ~ Orwell’s Animal Farm?! πŸ™

It’s at a time like this I wish I wasn’t out digging ditches when I was fourteen.

Re: Slow/Learning Session ~ Where do we go from here? ~ Orwell’s Animal Farm?! πŸ™

ceolachan, you covered the naysaying almost completely. Leave something for the rest of us, why don’t you.

Posted by .

Re: Slow/Learning Session ~ Where do we go from here? ~ Orwell’s Animal Farm?! πŸ™

Sorry Ben… πŸ˜€

Re: Slow/Learning Session ~ Where do we go from here? ~ Orwell’s Animal Farm?! πŸ™

You’re very good at filling the void. No need to change course now.

Posted by .

Re: Slow/Learning Session ~ Where do we go from here? ~ Orwell’s Animal Farm?! πŸ™

Have looked through "Animal Farm", and could find no reference to slow sessions; nor to hot tubbing. Plenty of stuff about pigs though… Orwell didn’t address the burning issues of hot tubbing and sessions — slow, or fast — in any of his books. (Really, do you need to see a smiley emoticon here?)

Re: Slow/Learning Session ~ Where do we go from here? ~ Orwell’s Animal Farm?! πŸ™

Well said, ‘c’.

I’ve always thought different tunes have different functions. This is one of the hardest things for beginners to learn because a knowledge of how tunes function only comes with greater experience of different sessions in different places over a long period of time. Learners need to learn your Drowsy Maggies and your Kesh Jigs, but that doesn’t mean that they should necessarily play them all the time. When a more experienced muso finds him/herself in a session with a less experienced player, your Drowsy Maggies and your Kesh Jigs are the tunes they will start in order to include the less experienced player if they are obviously having difficulty with the repertoire.

But what the more experienced players really want is for learners to learn the local repertoire, which is most likely NOT your Drowsy Maggies and your Kesh Jigs. This involves the learner first of all LISTENING, taking a recording device, recording the tunes they hear and then taking them home and learning them by slowing them down if necessary (using the readily available software). If the learner does not engage with other people’s repertoire like this, a session ceases to become a mutually rewarding swapping/sharing of tunes and instead becomes one-way and polarised into camps. The more experienced players think "we’re prepared to play Drowsy Maggie and the Kesh for you but you’re not prepared to give anything back, therefore you are not interested, therefore why should I be prepared always to play your tunes with you. GIVE ME SOMETHING BACK!!! LEARN ONE OF MY TUNES AND I’LL CRY WITH JOY!!!"

Let’s say the learner eventually grasps this and learns some tunes from the local repertoire. This means that the learner (beginner) is splitting their time between learning common fall-back tunes and tunes from the local repertoire. Takes a lot of listening, a lot of time too, but gives a lot of joy and reward to all concerned.

Learning a tune from someone is not taking, it’s giving. You are showing that you respect that person and that you are open to them socially and musically.

Re: Slow/Learning Session ~ Where do we go from here? ~ Orwell’s Animal Farm?! πŸ™

Oops. I just came for a quick swim, but it seems the pool is full of teachers with piano accordions.

Posted by .

Re: Slow/Learning Session ~ Where do we go from here? ~ Orwell’s Animal Farm?! πŸ™

Mr C
You can take a horse to water but you cannot make it drink guiness πŸ˜‰
I have noticed that her royal tootyness is having an effect on the local flute players here in Angers in that they are copying her tunes or should I say the tunes she plays, as she owns them not nor would she want to.
In a way a session that attracts new or outside players is a bit like the parable of the sower sometimΓΉes the wheat grows other times it does not depends on the soil .
I just accept it as it is .

To quote a recent email - "LISTEN, RECORD, TAKE HOME, LEARN"

~ and then to paraphrase someone else’s personal experience with this ~ "What’s wrong is when beginners and developing players think that they are ready to contribute fully to a session, despite having a limited ability and repertoire, and understanding - when all they are really ready to start doing, in the main, is to LISTEN, RECORD, TAKE HOME, LEARN. A slow/learning session can be a decent starting point, but I don’t think it completely readys anyone to think the outcome is quite full graduation to play in a session ~ "I can play in sessions now!"

The friend who shared this with me was worried they’d come off sounding like a snobby killjoy, and to risk the same accusation, I understand what they’ve said here, and I agree. A slow/learning session is a good next step, playing and sharing the music with others in a relaxed and unthreatening environment, a little preperation for starting to make sense of the social milieau that is a session, and to start attending and ‘slowly’ working ones way in, from the outside, with care and understanding and respect.

Another friend liked my idea of telling neophytes not to arrive early, or at least not to take the seats normally filled with the old guard, emphasizing how rude and disrespectful that’s taken. It’s not a good start. I’m glad they added their bit, as I don’t always mention it, though I’ve noted the scowls of others when someone new elbows in that way, and I’ve been in sessions where a whole family shows up early and makes a point of placing their promising young star smack dab in the middle of where the session usually takes place, as if all will bow to the magnificence of their percieved child prodigy or prodigies…


* AQ ~ it’s not smiling. Poor Orwell was forced by his publishers to remove the references to hot tubbing, or the more graphic descriptions of mud bathing, and they thought that the inclusion of musical animals in a session was too specialized, wouldn’t be understood clearly by the general public. So he removed these. I only happened to have been given access to a small safe box of notes obviously damaged in a fire. He had expected that they would never see light, directing in his will to have them destroyed. I’m glad they weren’t. It’s some of his best writing, and the bit about saunas, whew!

* BAZ ~ We can cultivate and nurture. Growing things do not survive a vacuum. To survive and prosper all living things require nurture of one form or another, and a healthy environment, regular watering, or Guinessing… πŸ˜‰

* Dr. D ~ Yup! That’s what I was saying in one of the previous threads by cag, that those damned books, any book of dots, can be a kind of malevolent influence on a long established local tradition of tunes and playing. They should only ever be treated as a loose guide to this music, not bibles, as some folks treat them.


Dear Bannerman used these books in his slow sessions in Dublin and Ennis, but, as I understood him in times we’ve shared on this topic, he also provided ABCs or sheets that better represented the local ways with the tunes, or made ‘adjustements’ to fit the tunes to the local repertoire, rather than being tied infexibly to what some have taken as almost the Comhaltas doctrine of standardization.

Dear Bannerman is missed. He was definitely a welcomed guiding light here, a balance, as he was within Comhatlas. He would have definitely had something to say here, and I’ve had made sure he’d been directed to this discussion.

Re: Slow/Learning Session ~ Where do we go from here? ~ Orwell’s Animal Farm?! πŸ™

I was one of the "graduates" of Pete’s Small Circle session. For those of you who’ve had my playing inflicted on them, it’s his fault!

Ceol, did my wee stories in part inspire your post? πŸ™‚

Anyway, Pete and Zina talked a lot about session etiquette in that slow session, not just about learning tunes. I don’t think it entirely stopped me from doing dumb things when I was starting out, but it may have at least tempered it. It was fantastic for being able to go out and play in a comfortable, "safe" environment and learn loads of tunes, a mix of common fall-back ones and specific to the local sessions ones. Other slow sessions I’ve come across don’t talk as much about the tradition, or session etiquette, as the Small Circle one did.

Another issue with slow sessions are the people at the opposite end of the spectrum from ceol’s flailing beginners in a normal session. They are the ones who never leave. I’m sure we’ve all encountered these slow session lifers. The good news is that at least they’re in the slow session, but it just seems that people should get better and want to move on. Not everyone does.

Yes S S! πŸ˜‰

Curb your enthusiasm?!

That could be one gentle nudge of a reminder for newbies as they make that large leap from a slow/learning session into the reel world…

I’ve often made the mistake of teaching a dance, steps or figures, walking through it slowly but never speeding up, and then hitting them with the music at tempo. They usually lose it, as I hadn’t taught it to them at speed. Usually, if I’m fully conscious, I’ll teach it to them relaxed and slower than norm, but we’ll take it up tempo before I expect them to make the leap to the more usual tempor a dance is taken at.

In a slowlearning session there is something similar, and in the ones I’ve been involved with in the past we usually had a moment at the end where we’d play a few tunes at an acceptable session tempo, or damned close to it. I’ve never hesitated to warn them that some people like to steam through it all, which is also true with the way some folks dance and play for dancing nowadays. Sometimes things can get a bit manic, in which case I tell them to just sit back and enjoy their drink, that there’s little positive learning from roasting this music at manic, usually erratic, tempos, or trying to join in, which will usually only make the cacophany worse…

Robert’s Rules of Order ~ ? πŸ˜€

That’s something we don’t need, but ~ every major influential body of people does seem to need some kind of ‘rules of order’, to temper the more voiciferous and aggressive while offering opportunities for the quieter and more timid. Such things attempt to strike some kind of balance, to offer a fairer representation for minority voices, without completely sacrificing the interests of the majority… The problem is that rules by their own complexity end up supressing some voices, intentially or not…

http://robertsrules.com/

Re: Slow/Learning Session ~ Where do we go from here? ~ Orwell’s Animal Farm?! πŸ™

Nice to see ceolachan s reference to Bannerman who is missed terribly. Brian Prior was always a help and never a barrier to those interested in tunes.

Re: Slow/Learning Session ~ Where do we go from here? ~ Orwell’s Animal Farm?! πŸ™

So Emily, you get all the credit for the good stuff, and we get all the blame for the bad stuff? Is that the way it works? πŸ˜›

One of the things that I try to stress at SCTLS is that the "S" stands for "Small", not "Slow". It’s a learning session, not a slow session. The idea being that we’re not there to be a session, we’re there to be a learning environment. There are people who have hung on for far too long, and treated it as their only place to really get out and play music. We generally encourage those people to head off. Or, as I like to put it, "it’s really good, when you’re first starting out, to be spoon fed tunes. But sooner or later, you need to learn to go out and kill your own."

Every week, we go back and play tunes that we’ve learned in the prior months, and we’ll play them at any tempo that people are comfortable with, including what I would consider to be "session tempo".

Interestingly, we have had periods where we had no new beginners showing up. What invariably happens is that the tune learning pace increases. Last year, we had a sizable collection of players that would pick up tunes incredibly fast. Paddy O’Brien came in and taught 4 tunes in about an hour and a half, and I’d say 75% of the people actually got all 4 tunes well enough to stick, and the other players have since acquired them from having them played over and over in the subsequent weeks.

But then you get an influx of newbies, which is really good, because we slow down to the learning pace that the new players can handle, which is often extremely slow. This has a couple of good consequences for the other players. First, it forces them to realize exactly how far they’ve come, because most of them started out exactly like that with us. Secondly, it makes them bored, and more likely to get out on their own into the ‘reel" world. And finally, it also helps illustrate just what is possible to the newbies, who are feeling completely overwhelmed, and are having doubts that they’re ever going to be able to do it. It’s a big, self regulating cycle!

Re: Slow/Learning Session ~ Where do we go from here? ~ Orwell’s Animal Farm?! πŸ™

I’m not sure there is much good stuff, Pete. You guys get credit for the bits where I get by. πŸ™‚

Re: Slow/Learning Session ~ Where do we go from here? ~ Orwell’s Animal Farm?! πŸ™

Beginner’s learning the beginning tunes should learn to listen for variations and try playing tunes without variation & with variations ~ control & experiment, always listening. This way tunes *like* the Kesh or Drowsy Maggie aren’t cursed to always be beginners’ tunes. But more importantly it opens up the ears at an early stage.

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Re: Slow/Learning Session ~ Where do we go from here? ~ Orwell’s Animal Farm?! πŸ™

Dr. Dow’s point is critical. Regardless of how you teach the tunes and the tradition, please, please, please ***teach the local tunes.***

Sure, it’s okay to introduce new tunes to the local repertoire, but if you’re ostensibly helping newcomers into the music, *teach the local tunes,* the ones that get played at the local sessions.

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Re: Slow/Learning Session ~ Where do we go from here? ~ Orwell’s Animal Farm?! πŸ™

I have only ever once seen anyone teaching anyone anything at a session - and even then it was only one phrase and not a whole tune. I am not quite sure how this process is meant to happen in a room full of people who quite reasonably will not want to stop so that one newbie can be taught.

The only option is of course to pick things up on the fly, but while that may be O.K. with a weekly session, it doesn’t work so well if your only option is monthy, as is the case here. It’s taking forever for me to pick up even a few tunes as a result. O.K. I could resort to dots, but we all know what we (supposedly) think about that…

Surely a slow session supporting a main one is a good tool under such circumstances. and not only for beginners? One local English session here does have a beginners’ hour before the main thing kicks off, but it’s only for English tunes. Nice idea though.

Re: Slow/Learning Session ~ Where do we go from here? ~ Orwell’s Animal Farm?! πŸ™

Bring a recording device or failing that, ask people the names of tunes and then look them up on recordings you may own or youtube or whatever.

Slow/learning sessions can be great tools in the right hands, but if not well run, they can be dire.

Re: Slow/Learning Session ~ Where do we go from here? ~ Orwell’s Animal Farm?! πŸ™

Ben, I don’t believe in the category "beginner’s tunes." They’re either tunes worth learning and playing, by anyone, or they’re not.

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Re: Slow/Learning Session ~ Where do we go from here? ~ Orwell’s Animal Farm?! πŸ™

People get weird ideas of what progression in the music means. Just because you can play tunes does not mean you are ready to contribute to a session (mind you, I was sitting in sessions far too advanced for me but I suppose I at least knew to hang back at those sessions and didn’t have any delusions that I was contributing anything). This reminds me of an "intermediate" piping class I was in at Catskills Irish Arts Week. Jerry O’Sullivan was asking each student about their piping experience and then to play a tune for him. This one guy said, "I can play a scale now, so I’m intermediate." Jerry was like, "Er, uh, right. Can you play any tunes?" "Nope."

It’s great to play along and you can develop your musicianship by playing along with people who have a really good feel for the music. Trouble is that many neophyte players seem to think they *need* to contribute to the session and starts lots of sets. Like that’s the most important part of a session. It’s not! People don’t get that. The whole starting tunes thing seems to be what beginners latch on to, more than anything else, at a session.

Re: Slow/Learning Session ~ Where do we go from here? ~ Orwell’s Animal Farm?! πŸ™

I’m sure I read that somewhere recently… πŸ˜›

Hijacking a session ~

This is something I have seen and felt the pain about, not so well done when it is one person, where the regulars can at least attempt to get their exhuberance under control and directed, but when a slew of beginner to mdiocre players suddenly decend on someone else’s turf, and take seats, make themselves comfortable, and start dominating the play list with tired renditions of tunes to slow for a Zimmer frame, well, I don’t know what the answer is. On the one hand I wouldn’t want to throw a whole bucket on the fire of their passions, but I sure as hell wouldn’t want to let that kind of usurping be left unchallenged. Have a heart, even if you’re damned good and an advanced player visiting, consider the old fart in the corner with the button box, who has come here regularly for years and years, and the little group around who are all local musicians of varying ability, who’d love you to have a moment too, but, when it comes down to it, IT IS THEIR SESSION, NOT YOURS!!! We’re back on that issue of respect, and not forgetting care and consideration for others and history.

It there’s one of you and your new to this session, then a set or two in the evening is enough, if you’re asked. If your a dozen friends spilling over from some slow or learning session, then, a set or two in the evening is enough, if you’re asked… Don’t take things for granted, every session has its own dynamics, and those can change depending on who’s there, or the weather, or the general mood. Be aware, you’re a guest, respect your hosts…

Re: Slow/Learning Session ~ Where do we go from here? ~ Orwell’s Animal Farm?! πŸ™

Will, sorry if I didn’t convey the very message you stated. I was definitely trying to imply exactly what you said.

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Re: Slow/Learning Session ~ Where do we go from here? ~ Orwell’s Animal Farm?! πŸ™

Pete said

***
Interestingly, we have had periods where we had no new beginners showing up. What invariably happens is that the tune learning pace increases.***

And also

***But then you get an influx of newbies, which is really good, because we slow down to the learning pace that the new players can handle, which is often extremely slow. This has a couple of good consequences for the other players. First, it forces them to realize exactly how far they’ve come, because most of them started out exactly like that with us. Secondly, it makes them bored, and more likely to get out on their own into the ‘reel" world.***

And this mirrors my experience exactly…

Newbies often start sets in sessions before they are technically ready because it is the only way they can get their few tunes played. I can’t see why this is a bad thing unless they barge in with them within seconds of arriving. A little dialogue is a fine thing….

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Re: Slow/Learning Session ~ Where do we go from here? ~ Orwell’s Animal Farm?! πŸ™

It is barging in if they arrive fresh and aren’t actually invited to contribute a set. In most sessions there will be that courtesy. However, a few ‘beginner’ tunes/sets is more than enough, especially in an already well established session, where too much of that really does spoil the craic for the regulars. Worse is when once isn’t enough and the ‘beginner’ repeatedly forwards their needs, ignoring the norms of the session they are the guest to. Yes, it is wrong, no question about it. It’s not their slow session and they should be there more to learn, listen, record, not to impose thier own will on it all. I don’t think it is too much to expect a little respect where there’s an already well established session. Yes, respect goes two ways, but the greatest of it should be for the music and for those that have put the greater time and effort in…

Having discussed this topic over a long span of time, with friends and acquaintances, I hear repeatedly where the inconsiderate beginner or developing musician or musicians have spoiled a good thing, even leading too the regulars leaving and the whole thing winding down to a full stop. Ignorance and a lack of respect can do that, kill off a good thing.

Re: Slow/Learning Session ~ Where do we go from here? ~ Orwell’s Animal Farm?! πŸ™

If it’s ignorance then it’s important to inform individuals who do not know. If it’s a lack of respect, that’s when there can be a larger problem.

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Re: Slow/Learning Session ~ Where do we go from here? ~ Orwell’s Animal Farm?! πŸ™

I can appreciate that beginners want to play and get "their" sets in and feel a bit out of it while the more experienced players wile away the hours on tunes they don’t know. I think most people on this board were in that position at some point or another. It’s awkward and it sucks. Sometimes it sucks a lot. But at the end of the day, tough. When I’ve seen novices behave this way at sessions, there’s a desperation to it that more advanced players don’t have.

There are plenty of sessions whose standards I’m not up to and I just play along. They play a feckload of obscure tunes so I’d use my phone or a wee MP3 recorder to get some tunes down and learn them. I learned a good number of their tunes, but you couldn’t pay me to start a set in those sessions. Believe it or not, that’s actually fine. It goes back to the desperation issue. The thing is, in my regular session, quite a few of the tunes that are regularly played are the warhorses, cause they’re good tunes. So if people just *chilled out* those tunes would come round in someone’s set at some point.

I think it’s nice when the experienced players throw the beginners a bone, like chucking in The Silver Spear or whatever at the end of a set but they shouldn’t be feeling like they have to do that all night. It’s nicer when players of all levels are included in the general craic, even if not everyone is included on all the tunes, but I think respect for the tunes and the session has to be there for that to work.

Re: Slow/Learning Session ~ Where do we go from here? ~ Orwell’s Animal Farm?! πŸ™

Well summed up Ben. And nicely put Silver, I too am quite happy with following someone else, or listening to their take on a thing, or their way with a new tune…

Back to the ‘responsibility’ of anyone teaching, including slow/learning sessions, if the local repertoire is the greater focus, then there will be other tunes that their charges might be able to join in with in the regular sessions, without having to interject anything. Better anyway that the tune is started and carried by someone more familiar with it and at the session’s usual pace.

Sometimes unprepared beginners can arrive with the expectation that things won’t be greatly different from their slow/learning session, or their one-to-one lessons. For starters, the tempo will usually have a bit more life in it, and the music more pulse and drive, ideally. But, having been on all sides of this, where I was involved in a session the occasional laid back playing of a tune was welcomed, if only occassionally. I’m no fond of the manic anyway, and the local sessions around here are generally not manic, but fun, welcoming and relaxed. By relaxed I don’t mean dull and plodding. It’s better that beginners learn to breath life into the music, and the best way for that is to follow someone who already has that, a more experienced and able player. Learn the bones in your slow/learner sessions, and a bit of the heart, but find the craic in listening and following along in your local sesh, getting to know the locals and their way and humour with it all.

cag, you’ve said above "Newbies often start sets in sessions before they are technically ready because it is the only way they can get their few tunes played." I just have to ask, if this is so isn’t the person who is teaching them at fault in not giving them the proper preparation, meaning the local repertoire and way with things?

‘Barging in’ isn’t rare, and it can take numerous forms. Again, while we can’t always coonvinceeveryone that come under our influence, don’t you think that any of us teaching should at least try to find constructive means to temper and direct that exhuberance?

cag - "I can’t see why this is a bad thing" ~ ??? 😏

Really? When they are ‘guests’, when it is an established event with a history and regulars? Do you really think that beginners have a right to circumvent expected etiquette and respect? Don’t you think, as with most things, that their time will eventually come, and that if the person responsible for building their repertoire, technique and understanding succeeds in also imparting some of the wider aspects of tradition, like session etiquette ~ their ease into the scene will be more productive and friendly, respect both ways?

I can’t imagine we’re actually in any real disagreement here, but there’s a hint of a possibility in your comments above, or that possibly you haven’t actually considered these issues before, or addressed them in your slow sessions?

Re: Slow/Learning Session ~ Where do we go from here? ~ Orwell’s Animal Farm?! πŸ™

These are the times I wish I had met Brian Prior. Are any of the young players who learned from him now hosting sessions for learning?

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Re: Slow/Learning Session ~ Where do we go from here? ~ Orwell’s Animal Farm?! πŸ™

Ben, Although based in Co Clare Brian worked full time for Comhaltas. He spent many years hosting a session in the Comhaltas headquarters in Monkstown and many people were warmly welcomed to this session who might have been left very much on the sidelines in other musical gatherings. It is incumbent on all of us to somehow aspire to Brians welcoming nature with the music. It isnt always easy. He also was part of a lovely session in Cois Na hAbhna in Ennis before he passed away. I dont hear much about either of those sessions now so I cant answer your question really. He was Bannerman here and posted many clips of great music. A lovely man.

Bannerman / Brian Prior

Ben, Brian had a lot of old farts too… As to be expected with such a spark, they found confidence under his direction and because of his patience and way many of them took the next step to joining their locals, in Ennis and Dublin. There was a marvelous calm about the man. I wish I’d have had the opportunity to attend one of his slow sessions, and we had actually discussed it, hauling the group that used to meet here, or some of them, over there to mix it up. I did make a point of including some of his tunes in ours. I still have his lists.

I too would love to hear from anyone who attended his sessions. As he put it toward the end, they were so successful that most of them had progressed quickly and moved on to their local…

It could make an interesting new discussion thread, not just Brian’s gatherings, but slow/learning sessions in general, something to get participants past and present too contribute to? As has Silver Spear here.

Nice one b_t…

Re: Slow/Learning Session ~ Where do we go from here? ~ Orwell’s Animal Farm?! πŸ™

‘He was Bannerman here and posted many clips of great music.’

Clarebannerman on youtube, who posts all the clips, is a completely different person.

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Listen! ~ Record! ~ Hang Back! ~ Follow!

From another standpoint ~ and a reputable source, if in this case ‘anonymous’. I’ve cut out a few ‘specifics’ to protect all… As said, this topic happens elsewhere, and recently in shared emails and discussions with friends, and this was one recent part of that, arriving this morning ~

"Interesting. Its the history of bluegrass and old-time jams ~ that they die because the newer and the mediocre musicians dominate through sheer number. The tempos gradually slow down to a crawl and the tunes all come from the ‘same’ collection and the ‘same’ bluegrass songbook. It takes a special human being to lead a jam, someone who can guide the group enough that everyone gets something. But the jams are always leaderless, and as the quality of the music deteriorates even the beginners get bored with it. The people running the string band class ‘locally’ are working on this, teaching people how to take part in a jam session, to hang back and try to pick up as much of the tune as they can on the fly, and bring a recording device. Maybe that will help in time, but right now jam sessions are short-lived here."

~ a valued and respected friend

Slow Session / Learning Session

Slow Session / Learning Session ~ something for the bots… πŸ˜‰