The First Tune

The First Tune

Ok, here’s the scenario. You’re in a very small session, or perhaps playing by yourself, and there have been no tunes so far. Some people glance your way with vague interest, wondering what sort of music you might make. The place might be very quiet, or perhaps there’s gentle conversation, but, whatever, people are definitely going to hear you. They don’t know much (or anything) about trad. music. The question is: what’s the best way to start? A jig might seem the right sort of tempo, but perhaps it might feel too bouncy. A slow air (turning into something faster) might draw people in, but then again they might think "boring" and switch off. A full-on fast reel might take people along for the ride… or then again it might leave them cold. I guess this isn’t really a "session" question, but I’ve found myself in this situation a few times recently, aiming to raise the atmosphere, draw a few hoots, to get the feel that there’s a certain level of excitement in the air that wasn’t there before. Sometimes it works like that… (joy!); sometimes it falls completely flat! I tend to think the "slow tune into faster tune" approach ain’t bad… but what do y’reckon?

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how annoying… my newlines have been lost again!
sorry about that, peeps.

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Rog, I think slow to fast is a good approach. Getting attention, drawing them in and keeping the interest is a good start. But how to keep the momentum up, especially if the majority of people present haven’t been introduced to trad irish before. Going for the well known but festive tunes is another way. Last but not least, my sure fire way to raise the excitement would be to play "Happy Birthday". I did that once(albeit w/ juke box). The dead-bored came alive swiftly, asking who’s birthday etc. The excitement didn’t last, but a free pint and chuckles, it was worth it! Deb.

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Forgot to mention, it was no one’s birthday, I was simply bored myself, needed a laugh.

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And the other question, of course: major, minor, or modal? Minor somehow seems somehow less… intrusive, to me. Then again perhaps modal tunes pique people’s attention more, scales they’re not used to hearing…

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My guess is either jigs or reels, doesn’t matter too much, as long as its a set that you and your session mates know backwards. Pure solid standards that you don’t have to think about, but fast enough, as you say, to hold their interest. We’ve been in this situation a good few times, and that’s standard policy for us.

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Mid-session, careening through tunes in the zone is great, but I also really enjoy the puttering and seemingly random casting about that so often kicks off a session, and the noodling and quiet tunes that frequently close out the night as well.

If it’s just me, and I need a warm up but there happen to be punters within earshot, I usually start with an oddball hornpipe or jig, something you’re not as likely to hear in an ecumenical session. And see where it leads from there. But sometimes the energy in the room is already high, and it’s nice to match that with a blast of reels. If it’s not a formal gig, why not gauge the crowd and play something to suit?

Gigs are a different story. Good to start off with a powerful, upbeat set.

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Yes! I can identify with all of this…nobody really wants to start up…
I’ve found over a long long time that a simple straightforward, not full on, set of reels eases everybody in. It also allows the pace to pick up!!!
What set? Again, experience has shown that nearly everyone I’ve met has The Sally Gardens and The Merry Blacksmith. Nice change G to D, easy pace, feet start tapping, and it spins off from there.
After that you have to chose out another 2,498 tunes….that’s when it gets difficult!
Brianx

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Save your best tunes as a reward for those you recognize as listeners, otherwise you might get pumped up and an inattentive audience might miss it. Have fun, and ask yourself, who am I playing for? If YOU have fun and don’t screw up, your audience will appreciate it and congratulate themselves.

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I’m with Danny on this one - the tune isn’t so important as doing it well in this "First Tune" situation. Sure its good to go for something with a bit of life to it, but make sure its something you’ll get right through with flair and aplomb.

If after that you play something less well you can get away with it, punters see you as "very good, with lapses", whereas if you start badly and then get better the punters see you as "poor with odd good bits".

Dave

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Start with a nice bouncy hornpipe or two-step (or the death march, depending on the mood of the pub).

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Drowsy Maggie. Or Mowsy Draggie

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In my view, doesn’t matter what you start with, in terms of type of tune, so long as it’s one that you know most everyone likes to play and that the majority of players present know. (If everyone has their instruments out already, anyway. If they don’t, then might be best to choose a tune that you’d like to play with someone who does have an instrument out. *Then* once everyone has instruments out, start into a set of fairly common tunes to that session that everyone likes to play.) It’s not so much the kind of tune that gets everything going as how much everyone likes to play them.

This is assuming that the goal is to "kick off" the session rather than just sort of puttering into it, which can be nice as well. (I’ll sometimes use the time to run through a tune that I don’t think is quite ready for the full-bore, in-full-bore session mode yet, and want to see if I can get through it in public.)