Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

As a players of traditional American music for Contra and Scottish folk dancing my wife and I typically use written music, as do all of the other players in the band. However, it can be unwieldy to manage all that paper and difficult to quickly find a given tune. Therefore, I’m thinking about the possibility of putting the music on an iPad so it will be more compact than a bulging binder and easier to find a given tune.

We’ve never used written music for playing traditional Irish music in a session, but as I often play a cittern, which can be used for either melody or accompaniment, it would be nice to have the chords for the tunes handy. I have no trouble memorizing the tunes themselves, but do have a difficult time remembering the chords for every tune.

What do you think about the possibility that, at least for accompaniment players, we might begin to see more players using technological aids to facilitate playing? For example, I’ve been in several sessions where a phone with TunePal installed has been used to find the name of a tune, or to remind us how a given tune starts. TunePal also shows the standard notation for the tunes.

Is it time to relax the ‘no written music’ rule in traditional Irish session playing? Is this happening already? Thoughts?

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Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

er……. No and er…. No
Is this a wind up ?

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

Nope.

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

I’m seeing a lot of iPhones/iPod Touches being used in local sessions for productive, mostly for purposes replacing standalone tuners and recorders. Mostly I see:

1) iStrobosoft tuner - Awesome $300 strobe tuner in a $10 app

2) TunePal - Tune identification for those "senior" moments

3) Various tune recorders like iProRecorder

At least an iPhone is small enough to be relatively discrete in its usage and doesn’t take up a lot of room on a table.

iPad I think is another story.

Might as well open up a laptop on the table. Sucks all the life out of the session, which now becomes about the iPad. I could do the same thing, have an ABC cheat sheet or similar on the iPad as a searchable PDF, but if I’m going to need something like that, I have found that its far more acceptable and far less distracting to have a small paper sheet rather than use the iPad. They just are too much of a novelty and distraction.

Then there is the tabletop hogging factor, and the danger/likelihood that a beer gets sloshed or a flute drips on your device. I’ve seen both happen.

Now understand that I’m a iPad fanboy and trad music app developer, and I still don’t want to see them in a session.

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

Depends on the session, the sessioners attending, and the overall mood. Typically though, I think most people agree accompanyment tends to be better when you work out and practice the chords yourself.

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

I joked on another thread about using an ebook reader at a session. When I went on holiday this year I dumped a few PDF tunebooks onto an Amazon Kindle, intending to maybe look at different notated versions of tunes. The weather was too good to do that but it would be useable to play from. You could only get one tune on screen at a time at a print size comparable to paper, so not much use for dancing.

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

I miss the days when people relied on their minds.

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Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

Dots are for home use only, if then. No dots at sessions!!

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

"Is it time to relax the ‘no written music’ rule in traditional Irish session playing?"

Is this a rule, or just common sense?

I suppose if you’re at a session where people know what they’re going to play after the first one, and they know the name of it, and the name is the same as the name in your book, and they’re willing to stop what they’re doing and tell you what it is (and how many times they’re going to play it, and which variation, and where they’re going to make a mistake and repeat the B part an extra time), and your mePad has software that can line up all the tunes in the set on the fly so you don’t have to stop playing to look up the next tune, and nobody minds you playing a tune that you don’t know - if all of those conditions hold, I suppose it might be okay.

But why would you want to? Why not just learn the tunes?

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One of the reasons I go to sessions is for the spontaneity. I think relying on any sort of tunebook, especially an electronic one, takes that away. I can see how it would make playing at contra dances easier, since that often involves sheet music anyway, but I think it would kill the mood of a session.

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

"Dots are for home use only, if then. No dots at sessions!!"


What about home sessions?

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

dfost, I highly suggest that you don’t impede your progress as a backup player by relying on written out chords in tune books. If you already can play the melodies, you’re well on your way to being able to back them, you just need to spend the time, if you haven’t already, to hear the scale patterns and modes in the tunes you know, and that will provide the palette of chords you can use for the tunes.

One resource I highly recommend is "Celtic Backup for All Instrumentalists" by Dr. Chris Smith, published by Mel Bay. While fairly technical, it does provide, both in the text and CD, a very good foundation and methodology for hearing and identifying the common scales and modes in this music.

You’re so close, relying on chords from music books keeps one often in a perpetual and artificial childhood with regard to the music. Do the work and the rewards will be more than worth it.

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

There are no rules.

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Written music’s potential to smother the life out of music

I miss the days when people relied on their ears - listened to each other without the distraction of dots - and tended to play music with soul instead of off the dots, dull and metronomic, mechanical…

Leave the dots along, know fewer tunes by heart and with soul than following an endless number of digital dots… Too much of that and you’ll only see spots instead of music, like staring at the sun, which can cause blindness, this causes deafness and numbness… πŸ˜›

😏 ~ Leave the dots ‘alone’, except at home on your own, for a little extra fun or to help jog the memory, and even then, leave it aside as much as possible and exercise your ears and your memory, make the music your own, free it up, let it loose from the starch and limitations of black on white, let it breath and be colour full…

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

Three of us were sitting round a table last Sunday trying to remember The Marquis of Huntly’s Snuff Mull. Spotted a tourist with an iPad. Borrowed it, got thestart of the tune from abcnotation.com, handed the iPad back, took off with the tune in a different key. Not a situation I see recurring very often.

Except that the pub tables of the future will all have built-in tablet computers for watching football/playing drinking games/ordering more beer and paying for it by e-cash/connecting to your social network, and you’ll have every piece of music ever committed to notation available right in front of you whether you like it or not. There will be an app that flashes the dots for the Kesh Jig onto the table top every time somebody mentions it out loud.

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

Would be a natural upgrade for all the karaoke screens that seem to be appearing in the same pubs as our sessions…

I can imagine "Now Playing: Helvic Head, Double-Jig, Key: G"

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

You could be closer to the truth there Jack, than we’d like to admit. The nuts and bolts are all there already. I suppose you could line up lots of pints and cover the screens!

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>> I can imagine "Now Playing: Helvic Head, Double-Jig, Key: G"

You know, after Jack’s post, I didn’t think it could get worse, and then it did. But I suppose that is the sort of tune they’d play in that pub.

The future is coming, and I’m agin it.

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

Why have session musicians at all? They just drink all your beer and take up space that could be used by paying customers. Digital sessions. Someone asks for Danny Boy, the iPad plays it without fuss. Every year, in March, there will be an iPaddy’s Night.

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"I miss the days when people relied on their ears - listened to each other without the distraction of dots - and tended to play music with soul instead of off the dots, dull and metronomic, mechanical…"

The two things are not mutually exclusive. I bet you there are plenty of people who could read "the dots" from a tune they’ve never heard before and make some real fine music out of it. There are plenty of people who rely on their ears and don’t have any soul behind their music.

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

"Why have session musicians at all? They just drink all your beer and take up space that could be used by paying customers. Digital sessions. Someone asks for Danny Boy, the iPad plays it without fuss. Every year, in March, there will be an iPaddy’s Night."

Between Bryan Duggan and I, we’ll get right on it. It will be a $0.99 app for the iPad. Just need the speech recognition module, between Bryan’s tune database and my virtual Uilleann pipes, flutes, accordions and concertinas, we’re just about there. πŸ™‚

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I am sure that whatever the sin against the Holy Ghost might be, it is not reading dots off an iPad while playing a tune. πŸ™‚

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Many dance bands use written music, and there is a place for it in that context. But in a session, whether it be paper or plastic? Not anything I would want to see.

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"I miss the days when people relied on their minds."

# Posted on July 2nd 2011 by Will Harmon

I kind of miss the days when I COULD rely on my mind a little more. I wouldn’t go the dot route for sessions though, because in my experience once someone looks up a tune, then somebody else wants to look one up, and pretty soon everyone is trying to play tunes they don’t k now. Talk about sucking the life out…

I think if someone needs dots to play, I can see that they have every right to do that, but the doing of it really does alter the playing in a group of people, in a way that I don’t care for and don’t learn from.

Just my 2 cents. Brave to ask the question here, though, OP.

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Now, I know a very well respected musician around here that has a little pocket notebook with the first two measures of many tunes written in it that he uses as a memory aid. Kind of like the use of the iPad to remember a tune that Jack Campin describes above. But that is a different story.
Sheet music, especially when it is used in by someone who wants to know every tune in the set before it starts, and then needs to root through piles of paper, doesn’t belong at a session.
Although, the image of iPaddy Night is one that will live in my brain for a long time, Michael! πŸ˜‰

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

Nothing wrong with a lilttle bit of memory jog, check it, then put it aside and give attention to the music and the musicians your sharing it with, and dancers if you’ve that pleasure too.

violamike ~ "I bet you there are plenty of people who could read "the dots" from a tune they’ve never heard before and make some real fine music out of it."

And if they’re a decent musician as you say, they’ll quickly be done with the dots and enjoy the music without that handicap. It can serve a purpose, and is a wonderous thing, like writing and print, but the first doesn’t come near to doing justice to the music, and the latter might entertain, but sitting down and having a chat and a laugh with someone is always better done with ones vocal chords, in my experience. I love and value books, and also notation in its many guises, but I’m not so foolish as to mistake dots for music. They are a guide, and with someone who has the craft, like a gifted woodworker following plans, great results are possible.

Maybe the real future is without musical instruments at all, since you can get everything synthesized, digitized, and why not enjoy our beers and leave the music making to our android phones, pads and laptops? Sounds like fun, eh?

violamike ~ "There are plenty of people who rely on their ears and don’t have any soul behind their music."

‘Soul’ isn’t about how technically adept one is. Beginners and the technically less able are quite capable of doing something with soul. You can’t fake soul with a slew of fancy twiddles and an endless stock of tunes… Sometimes it’s just a shared chuckle, or a look, sometimes it’s just that magic electricity that passes between people of different capabilities sharing a tune, a moment, without that being muffled by the distraction of black on white, without that crutch…

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iPaddy’s Night? Well it is iRish music from iLand

IPad & notation

ABC notation takes up less space than full staff notation and would mean you could easily have a whole set of tunes on the one page, or just the first couple of measures of a dozen or more tunes on the one page to help jog the memory…

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

Here’s my ABC cheat sheet with the first few measures of way too many tunes. Forgive the duplicates, it’s auto-generated from a bunch of other ABC libraries:

http://www.tradlessons.com/cheatsheet.txt

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

A violinist could buy a reasonably decent bow for the price of an iPad, and it wouldn’t be out of date in a few months.

The only excuse I can see for playing music from an iPad (other than in the privacy of one’s home) is playing in a band, especially for dancing, when it is essential that everyone in the band gets it right. Even then, printed sheet music is much preferable - it’s darn sight cheaper, you’ve got 100% control over it, no battery to fail, and paper doesn’t break (expensively!) if it falls off a music stand or table.

In my view the only excuse for the dots in a session is as an aide memoire (useful for those of advancing years), and then all that is usually needed is the first bar or two either as dots or ABC jotted down in a discreet notebook. For some, only the name of the tune is needed to jog the memory - but that doesn’t work for me, I keep forgetting tune names πŸ™

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

Maybe actors should read the script from a Kindle when they’re on stage. It would save that whole troublesome business of learning how to be an actor, wouldn’t it.

Re: - an emerging trend?

Send your ipad instead. You could just record every tune you knew as an MP3 file and there could even be your picture on it, or it could be connected through to your hom and there’s even the possibility of video clips of you playing. Then you could leave it to those present to scroll and choose a set in your absence, or not. Think of all the chores you could get done at home while your ipad did the session without you…

You’d never have to worry about remembering a tune again, it would be all prerecorded… And, besides, with samples, you could save so much money on never having to bother with another instrument, bow, or the petrol to get you there and back.

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Or just send your robotic avatar to the session, like in those science fiction movies!

IPad aide memoir for chords?

dfost - "I have no trouble memorizing the tunes themselves, but do have a difficult time remembering the chords for every tune."

Just touching base with the original seed to this thread….

The SIMs Session!

Do it completely digital…

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

The more casual sessioners have been ‘phoning in’ their stuff for years. What’s more, some time in the near future, even you conscientious musicians are going to arrive at your local to find a tv monitor occupying your favorite chair; some perfectly good musician in some place like Bangalore will be telesessioning all your tunes, better than you ever played ‘em. πŸ˜‰

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" Think of all the chores you could get done at home while your ipad did the session without you…"

Not sure about the idea of iPaddy rolling home fu’ every weekend. Singing the latest top iTunes downloads at volume 11 and waking the neighbours.

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

bloody hell

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Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

The iPad and digital music will be about as sucessful in killing live music as the Jukebox.

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

When I first started playing this music 5 years ago, I went out and bought a bunch of books, so I could "learn" the chords and accompany the melody players. I didn’t know much about theory, so I thought the books would help.

Well, it did to some degree, but I noticed a couple of things while using music.

1) when I used the books, I was not listening to the music, and what was going on around me.

2) the chords in the books were often wrong, or did not sound right to me.

3) it impeded my ability to learn the theory and chord progressions.

So, no matter how you learn, the best way, in my opinion, is to listen and use your ears. It can be painful, but, in the long run you’ll be much better off. I cannot tell you how many musicians I have run across that can sight read music flawlessly, but, as mentioned above, the music often sounds mechanical. Add to that, that if you take away their music, they can’t play anything.

So, beware if you go to a session and see music stands on the tables instead of beer. It could be a long night of souless playing.

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Recently, we watched 3 folks come in, buy their drinks & sit down at the table next to us, then each produced their cell phones & just sat quietly supping their pints, while footering with these gadgets …….. who says the Art of Conversation is dead! ;-(

If anyone produces an iPad at our session …………. they better make sure it’s not a round, cylindrical shaped one! πŸ˜‰

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Stopped for lunch at a tiny restaurant yesterday. Included in the price of the lunch were two ukelele players obstructing passage to the tables from the main entry. Not really their fault, the place is very small. What aggravated the situation was the music stand and very large binder of sheet music. The range of music they abused was Respect to Sultan’s of Swing. Oh, they sang too. My whole impression, helped along by the obnoxious music stand, was not ready for prime time.

Don’t discount the effect of the cheat sheets on those who might otherwise want to listen. I don’t think there is likely to be a way the tunes can be spontaneous if we have to stop the momentum to reference a tune in any format. A dance may well be different, particularly if the dance requires specific music.

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Thanks very much for all of the interesting replies to my question.

There was one underlying theme that seems interesting: nine mentions of how written music in sessions would take away the ‘soul’ of the music or render the music ‘soulless’.

Yet I can’t help thinking about our bands for Contra and Scottish dancers - we all use written music, yet the music seems far from soulless. At a perhaps a far extreme, neither would the Dublin Philharmonic, in which everyone uses written scores, likely be accused of playing without soul.

Are these other musical settings just too different from a session to qualify, or has perhaps the negative impact of using music in a session been overstated a bit? I wonder how much of this is based on actual experience, or just on personal impressions.

Despite the question, I’m not advocating for the use of written music in sessions and don’t use it myself there, but am a co-founder of a lively session here in the U.S. and try to be open to the fact that different people learn the music in different ways.

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Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

i like you dfrost. I think that folks get feel that the music will be less free because some folks treat it like they’re bound to the paper. Or at least that’s what’s implied.

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That’s one of the many problems, Jerone.

dfost: An organization playing tightly-arranged music can certainly make use of sheet music as an aide-memoire. That organization will know exactly what they’re going to play ahead of time and will have rehearsed the music extensively ahead of time. That organization will know who’s going to turn up and what each person’s responsibility will be.
In other words, it’s nothing like a session.

A piano soloist performing a concert might also use sheet music. That player is performing pieces from a large repertoire of music, again tightly composed and intended to be played exactly as written. The performer has freedom for interpretation, but only within the confines of the score.

Neither of those situations resembles a session in the slightest.

I don’t know about soul, but I know that if I had to stop and think about what tunes I was going to play, what their names were, and then wait for some jerk to assemble his sheet music, I’d put my box in its box and be off in a minute. I’ll try to shout out the keys as I go, and I might even sit out a tune to point out some possible changes on a more intricate tune, if the guitarist is new to the game but actually trying to learn and interested in having some pointers. That’s as far as I’ll go towards accomodation. You do have to make a stab at learning the music on your own time.

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dfost- the argument is that it is impossible to notate irish music on paper, while it is par for the course for classical music. That’s the difference. One of the things I love about this music is the freedom, and "the dots" do repress that freedom, but not enough so that I think they deserve the negative connataion they get. Maybe that’s just cause I’m American who just doesn’t get it. Maybe it is just easier to just dismiss the dots altogether instead of accepting any exceptions of the rule.

Jerone-it’s my experience that in most cases people do get bound to what is written down, especially beginners and those who can’t sight read at tempo. So generally speaking it’s true. This is why "the dots" are discouraged for those starting to learn Irish music.

(put this in the right thread this time)

Contra & Scottish dance bands using written music - πŸ˜›

I have yet to hear a group like this that wasn’t lacking in soul. Part of their attention, aside from for the music and each other, would be ideally on the dancers too, that straight communication all round without the sheets in the way… From the dance floor and elsewhere I have mostly found such productions, their output, to be somewhat dull. Yes, you can dance to it and enjoy yourself, but something of that previously mentioned appreciation, ‘soul’, is missed.

That’s my personal experience with such things. Maybe the perception is different from behind the sheet music and stand?

Celtic Guitar & meuritt - Yes! & thanks - enjoyed, appreciated and understood…

dfost: "- am a co-founder of a lively session here in the U.S. and try to be open to the fact that different people learn the music in different ways."
~ and for some, behind the props and crutches, it is unlikely to ever light up…

fiddlelearner - much more than ‘implied’…

Jon Kiparsky: "You do have to make a stab at learning the music on your own time." - basic respect, courtesy, consideration…

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

@Ceolachan- I’ve gone to play with at one of the local contra dances a few times (which is somewhat friendly with sheet music), and I would hardly consider it soulless, however there are a few core members who rarely, if ever, have to rely on the dots.

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What’s the first tune on the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra you tube above? I know what it says at the beginning of the clip, but I’ve been unable to find such a tune anywhere….

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That is, the tune called A Hundred Thousand Welcomes on the clip….

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"What’s the first tune on the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra you tube above?"

Exactly what it says it is. Ceud mΓ¬le fΓ ilte. I’ve a sneaking suspicion that it was written by Addie Harper, but I may be wrong.

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

If you have to read the words from a sheet of paper, you’re not a singer. If you have to read the music from a sheet of paper, you’re not a musician.

Hard but fair.
m.d.

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

It’s sad that so many disparage a skill simply because they ;possess it. If you cannot sight read, that’s your problem, but don’t suggest that others shouldn’t. And the bit about actors reading is REALLY silly. Several successful shows have been presented as readings, and I personally was very good at reading through plays at sight. Great fun, much like sessions, actually. It would be ridiculous to memorize a piece that was only being read through for fun.

Look, I would never use sheet music at a session simply because I find it cumbersome. It’s not for me. But dismissing it to me smacks of someone who simply doesn’t know what they’re talking about because they cannot do it themselves.

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Ailin, you’re way off mark.

Most of the strongest opponents to sheet music at sessions here do in fact sight read. I’ve read since I was 7—45 years now. I can sight read new tunes at typical session speeds. But I would strongly dissuade anyone serious about playing this music from using the dots at sessions. It simply misses the whole point of what sessions and this music are all about.

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"If you cannot sight read, that’s your problem, but don’t suggest that others shouldn’t."

I don’t know about other people on this thread, but I can sight read most tunes without difficulty - that is, I can pick a random traditional jig or reel, unknown to me, and play it in a reasonably idiomatic style from printed music. That’s not the problem - the problem is that a session is a place to play tunes you know with people you know. If you don’t know the tunes, you’re in the wrong place, at least if you want to be playing.
If you want to read music with people, go read music with people. You can even call it a session if you want. Just don’t walk into a session with sheet music - on paper or on your chatterbox or in any other form - and expect to play from the sheet music, unless you already know that that’s what you do there, and that this is a "special" sort of session.

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

Real music is learned and played by ear, there’s no talent in reading notes, in my opinion.

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Your opinion is not worth a lot when you don’t have a clue what notation is for or how people actually use it.

It’s not often very sensible to try using sheet music in a session, but that doesn’t mean it has no role in the process of making the music happen.

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

Sheet music is impractical at most sessions I’ve been to because it’s too dark to see it and there isn’t room on the table for music along with the beer and other instruments. When I play for dances we have stands and light (and no beer).

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

Sorry, Will, et al, but I’m afraid it is not up to you to define what a session is. You are, of course, entitled to your opinion, but permit those who do not share it to attend your sessions without the risk of you rolling your eyes. Seems to me that, as long as it does not interfere beyond perhaps creating a shock to your sensibilities, there is no reason for your dissenting viewpoint. I’ve already stipulated that sheet music is not particularly practical, and I will add that I wouldn’t advise it, but the sheer snobbery I see in threads like this just gets so tiresome. "Dots" this and "bodhran" that. Some of the members here could lighten up a little, ya know?

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Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

Well, it seems we disagree about what sessions are - that’s fine. Perhaps you and Bodhran Bliss can get together for a Real Oirish Session with sheep music and bodhrans galore, and I’ll play at the fake New England sessions where we don’t read from music stands and the bodhrans are mercifully few, and we’ll all be happy as pigs at high tide.

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

Ailin, you can ignore the conventional way 98% of Irish sessions operate and do whatever you want. Just don’t expect sheet music to be welcome or even tolerated at most. It’s not how the music’s played. Has nothing to do with shocking my sensibilities and everything to do with understanding the social (and musical) norms of a group you’re trying to fit into.

If you want to play from a score, fine. If you bring it to my session, don’t expect us to play pre-arranged sets so you can get your sheets out, and don’t be surprised if your notation doesn’t gibe with the aural tradition of the tunes as they’re actually played. Frankly, you’d be better off playing orchestral music.

If someone doesn’t understand this basic reality of how the vast majority of Irish sessions really work, then you’re really setting them up for frustration and failure if you suggest that they *can* bring sheet music, and that it’s the session’s fault for not including them. Not helpful at all.

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P.S.

I’m not "defining what a session is."

I *am* explaining how Irish sessions in the real world work, based on every session I’ve been to across the US and in Ireland as well, over more than 25 years of playing this music.

I’ve never seen a session that used sheet music *and* able to honor this music. And I’ve never seen a truly musical public session that tolerated the dots.

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Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

Hmmm.

Why is it that people who are dependent on the dots so often call the rest of us "snobs?"

Why should people playing music without crutches be expected to change their tradition for the sake of people who can’t be arsed learning how to play the music from heart?

How is it *not* snobbery to expect an aural tradition carried by generations of players to suddenly accept the pre-arranging, loss of spontaneity, and adherence to unvarying scripts that playing from dots entails?

To call traditional musicians snobs for sticking to their centuries old way of playing the music reveals either a chasm of ignorance or a tall mountain of hubris.

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Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

I’m with Will on everything he just posted.

The fundamental issue I’ve seen with players who insist on reading the tunes out of a book (not talking here about using a cheat sheet to remember how a tune starts) is that quite often, they aren’t listening, sort of like someone driving a car while talking on a cellphone. Much like the driving suffers, so does the music, the player is in a attention loop with the page, and not with the other players. I’ve seen some pretty unpleasant confrontations with the sheet-music dependent players where they are essentially unfollowable because they are living in their own mental and acoustic bubble while reading from the page. Taking the historical traditional practice out of the discussion for a moment, it’s that separation and lack of ability to blend and interact with other players that to me is the fundamental practical issue with players reading out of books at sessions.

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

Michael, yes, I agree that the distraction and interference of the dots prevents most people from playing *with* the other musicians. And that’s the real problem.

Sessions are fluid, spontaneous, unscripted form of ensemble playing. Thank goodness.

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Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

Will, with all due respect, it has taken you four long posts after mine to say what Shakespeare would call an infinite deal of nothing. Give it a rest. You might at least try to be persuasive instead of pedantic. I think the conversation is mostly academic in that you will never find many (if any) that would use sheet music at a session. But for some reason you seem to feel it your duty to point out just what an awful, awful thing it would be. Well we take your point. Good night.

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Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

Ailin, do I really need to point out that Will is in fact answering the question that was asked, and responding to the discussion that followed? Do try to keep up, it’s all there for you to read before you start typing away.

The question was, would it be awful if someone sat down next to me at a session and tried to follow along reading chords off an electronic doohickey. That’s the question, and the answer is "yes, it would be". Done.

If you think there’s another answer, as I say, go off to Ireland and find Bodhran Bliss’ "real Oirish Session" - look for the trademark inflatable leprechaun - and play along to your heart’s content.

If you try to call someone a snob when gives the correct answer, he’s likely to respond. And in this case he’s right, and you’re wrong, and that’s that. Good night yourself.

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

Huh? The guy paraphrases Shakespeare and calls *me* pedantic?

The mind boggles.

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Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

Apart from the very obvious fact that sheet music has absolutely no aesthetic place in any Irish Music Session setting, the acid test is surely that sheet music is totally impractical on so many different levels.

For example, the best session I attend has a Melodeon player who plays a C#/D 2 row, & also two single rows in D & G & both he & I, revel in playing tunes in all manner of alternate keys, as the mood & instruments take us, which is all part of that glorious "fluid, spontaneous, unscripted form of ensemble playing" you so elequantly described above, Will.

Here’s another thought too, one of the most memorable sessions I ever had the honour & pleasure to be a part of, saw us quite naturally drift into playing with Flat Pipes, C Flute, tuned down Fiddle, Guitar … for 12 hours non stop in C, down in Derrygonnelly!
Now Sheet Music would have been really useful that day! πŸ˜‰
Mind you, a passing B/C Accordion player was overheard to mutter the word snobs, so clearly, you can’t please all the people all the time, & no doubt he would probably be quite happy to see all the historic sets of Uilleann Flat Pipes just gathering dust in a museum! πŸ™

Och maybe he’s right though, perhaps we really should all stick to fixed pitch instruments, always play in perfect concert pitch & only play O’Neill’s versions of each tune …… using only sheet music, of course! πŸ˜›

As for me, call me an Old Fart if you like, but I reckon there is just no place for Sheet Music, at a session.

Cheers,
Dick

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

I like reading recipe books. You get great ideas from them. But I never cook from recipes … and though I say it myself, I’m a pretty good cook.

Can’t bake though … bread and cakes and biscuits etc. … I’m totally useless at that kind of stuff. It’s because you have to measure.

Diddley sessions are like a big communal cook-in where everyone pitches in to make a great curry. People bring their own ingredients and decide what to use and what not to use depending on what everyone else is using. And the curry can only be great if everyone is watching closely to what everyone else is throwing in the pot.

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Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

"Diddley sessions are like a big communal cook-in where everyone pitches in to make a great curry."

Nae nan or chapatis though, ‘cause you cannae bake.

Actually, I make my bannocks and chapatis without measuring. You get to know the right consistency. Even bread I only make a rough measurement, as different flours require different amounts of liquid. You get to know when its right.

I wonder how many tunes played today come from Mrs Beeton’s 1850.

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

"Too many cooks…….." πŸ˜‰

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

The thread goes off in two directions.
Looking up the name of a tune or looking how a tune starts, is fine. You can do that before the set starts.

The unwritten "no music" rule operates once the set starts.
We don’t want sets "set in stone" and only played as per the ipad.
Tunes and sets change over time.
Unpredictability is the essence of sessions.

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

My chapatis are fine. But they are not baked are they.

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Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

iPad, can’t see it catching on with the "weighty binder brigade", for whom the whole idea of humphing the weighty binder out to the session seems to be some kind of "big among beginners" oneupmanship. iPad’s are heading the wrong way for that crowd, no kudos in small neat packages.

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

"My chapatis are fine. But they are not baked are they."

They do come within the technique known as baking, because they use dry heat. They don’t have to be baked in an oven, a tava is much the same idea as a girdle (griddle for you down south), and girdle scones are baked on a girdle.

So, in short, they are baked.

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

I do my chapatis on a hotplate for less than a minute then throw them on the open gas flame and they puff up like footballs.

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Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

Hey Yaalhouse, what a fantastic address you’ve got there:
1 London Road

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Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

"Real music is learned and played by ear, there’s no talent in reading notes, in my opinion."

"If you have to read the words from a sheet of paper, you’re not a singer. If you have to read the music from a sheet of paper, you’re not a musician."

"If you cannot sight read, that’s your problem, but don’t suggest that others shouldn’t."

Has it ever occurred to anyone else that the color of this site and of vomit have something in common?

What a bunch of garbage. Look: Any aural tradition demands the players interact. So does any chamber music tradition (string quartets anyone?). In one situation music is decried and in the other it is expected (at least usually). So, is one group musical and the other not? Don’t be silly they’ve developed different sets of skills that allow them to interact.

That said, it is silly to not recognize that traditions develop for good reasons. There are many psychological, social, and musical reasons to leave the music behind at an Irish session. And, the term "session" certainly implies no sheet music. One should not even ask….

On the other hand, to imply one can not make music while reading notes is equally stupid. Good chamber music players do it all the time, and often do it amazingly well on the first read through. High level performers often use rehearsals more to come to agreement about how to play passages; not to worry about synchronization or other things which are taken for granted.

I’ve been involved in reading situations for about 55 years (egad!! I had to stop and count…), and memorized/ear learned no music situations for about 35 years. I’m much less capable without the music than with it, but I’m learning how and I wouldn’t think of insulting others by hauling in a collection of dots. But, either way I can make music. That is, I can interact with those I play with in ways that increase the enjoyment of all. That is, after all, what this is all about.

The kinds of pronouncements I quoted at the start of this note are either indications of lack of intelligence or annoying trolls….

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

"I do my chapatis on a hotplate for less than a minute then throw them on the open gas flame and they puff up like footballs."

Still baking. Dry heat. In the Punjab, your chapati has become a phulka once you’ve puffed it up.

I quite like Kerry phulkas.

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

Chuck, it’s not vomit but bile. But Jeremy doesn’t appreciate it when you point that out.
πŸ˜‰

I smiled the last time I heard the Muir Quartet live. Peter Zazofsky dutifully spread his sheet music open on the stand, and then proceeded to play with his eyes closed nearly the entire time, head back in reverie. He knew the music. He also knew the score, always "awakening" just in time to sit up and turn the pages he wasn’t looking at.

Michael Reynolds, on cello (whose father and mother taught my wife to play violin), tends to read the whole while, even though he too clearly knows the pieces. I find that a little sad, that the act of reading along is so ingrained he does it even when he doesn’t need to. It’s an unnecessary filter between a mind and the music.

And then there are cases like my brother, who’s played piano for 54 years and was Leonard Bernstein’s arranger and musical assistant for the last 15 years of LB’s life. But my brother can’t play a lick of music without the score, none of it truly internalized. Sorry, to me, that’s sad.

I’ve played from dots (for contra dances) and I’ve played by ear, from the heart. When it comes to engaging in this most aural of art forms, I don’t believe you’re truly free to express what you’re playing till you drop your crutches and give your mind over to the real task at hand—the sounds.

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Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

If I give a lecture and read every word from a piece of paper in front of me, people soon look bored and start to fidget however good a reader I am.

If I speak from notes that are headings only and talk around them it’s a very different speech - lively and informative.

If I know what I want to say in my head and get up deliver an impassioned speech, it can set the world alight and I am an orator.

That’s the difference sticking with or doing without the dots makes. And I know - I could do either. But this music I choose to go to the effort of learning by heart, because it sounds so much better.

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

Sorry cross post

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

No apologies, Sky. Good analogy.

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Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

I’m not so sure it is a good analogy. Playing in a diddley session is not anything like giving a lecture. I can’t think of anything less like playing diddley in a diddley session that giving a lecture.

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Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

Erm, it’s not just "giving a lecture." Read Sky’s post again. He gave a range of speaking, from reading lecture notes aloud to inspiring with heartfelt oratory.

The part that’s "good" is distinguishing between reading from a script versus speaking from the heart, eh?

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Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

A better analogy would be being down the pub with your chums and discussing stream of consciousness literature and one of your chums gets out his dog-eared copy of "On the Road" and starts reading it to you.

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Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

Yep, that would be ugly all right. Not as ugly as hearing Naked Lunch read aloud, though. 😏

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Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

Or worse, Ayn Rand.

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

Something Will said, "by heart"…I think that explains it well. If you need the dots, then you don’t have the heart. I’m not against dots, mind you. But if you can’t get the tune by ear, then the dots may not help. The bits that you miss not getting it by ear are not going to magically show up with the dots. If that makes any sense at all.

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

"to imply one can not make music while reading notes is equally stupid. "

And to imply that that’s what’s being said here is inane. What’s being said here is that the particular sort of interaction that we value in session playing is defeated by the introduction of sheet music.

You can go home and play from sheet music with your friends and I’m sure you can play perfectly good music and enjoy yourselves quite well. But if you come in to Tommy Doyles’ on a Wednesday night with a binder full of sheet music and try to play, what you’re doing is not anything like what the rest of us are doing, and it simply can’t be brought into line with it.

That’s all. Is that so hard to grasp?

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

Well said, Jon. Nail. Head. Hit.

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

"What’s being said here is that the particular sort of interaction that we value in session playing is defeated by the introduction of sheet music. "

I don’t disagree for a minute, and I too feel sadness that Will’s brother can’t do music without a score.

And, no good chamber player "reads" the music. They all have it more or less memorized.

My point is just this: Different situations may have different sets of "rules" in re using music. But, real music (as Will pointed out) can be made in all sorts of situations with or without the dots sitting there.

Limit the comments to sessions and I’m with the no music crowd. Try to make huge generalizations that are inaccurate and show lack of knowledge or just plain bias and I’ll complain…

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

So this is it. There’s not enough room for sheet music. It gets in everyones’ way. There’s not enough "time" for the sheet music. Most tunes only get played thrice through right? By the time you’ve asked someone what the tune is, and they recognize it, it’s already been played through once, now you have to find it in a binder(be it physical or digital). There’s the possibility of the sheet being different or wrong. So now you’ve found the tune, they’re playing it the last time through, and you can’t match the notes you see with the notes you hear… Now the next tune starts… "So whats THIS one called?"Does that answer the OP?

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

Now how about a new perspective. I don’t like this word "Crutch". You know why? Cause my crutch was my ear. My piano teachers had the hardest time teaching me how to read because i learned everything by ear. So all the amazing, rediculously hard, melodically and harmonically rich pieces of piano music that i was exposed to take me forever to learn, and some of them are so hard i give up before i get past the 1st page. I’m such a bad sight reader, some things i dont even try, even though i would very much like to learn them. But that has nothing to do with this music.

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

Now, the offense. One thing i am noticing now, is that when people are really good sight readers, they can read things they’ve never heard before. But they also don’t know the music well enough to have it memorized. This music being traditional, i’ll assume that it’s something people learn how to do their entire lives. So to try to play something you don’t know is wrong aye? When you’ve never heard something, you play it a lot different than when you’ve heard it.

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

Now the 2nd offense. Saying that there’s no talent in reading notes, and that people that have to read aren’t musicians, thats just ignorant smut. It takes some people 8 hours a day of sitting in front of an instrument, constantly reading, and slowly learning pieces that you would think were impossible if they were never played before. If there’s no talent in reading the notes, there’s definetly talent in the patience and work ethic. I for one, have niether when it comes to learning sheet music. Of course it’s sad if someone depends solely on their sheet. Its another reason why i didnt wanna learn how to sight read. But to be able to pick up something you’ve never heard or seen before, and play it *well, thats talent.

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

The problem with written music at a sesh is that it’s highly highly unlikely that the version of the tunes being played will be the same as the dots/abc/tab etc on the paper/fag packet/iPad.

Also it rather begs the question; so what tunes are we going to play? Which rather stifles the normal answer: Lets just kick off with this and see where we end up! What is the tune you plan to kick off with called? Normal answer; I’ve no idea but it goes like this!

Ooops, who’s weighty binder/iPad have I just poured my pint over as a result of my overenthused boot thumping.

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

One of my fellow local newbies did take his folder to a pub session. He came away disheartened because "they only played two tunes that were in the book and those were completely different versions". There were knowing winks between some of those hearing this tale. If only he had read the yellow board…

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

Well, i learned some things from the board, but i learned other at the session. I’ve never taken music to a session, but i understand that it’s very fast paced so there’s no time for it. And another thing. If you don’t know how a tune sounds, how will you even know what tune to look for in your repetoire book?

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

"If you don’t know how a tune sounds, how will you even know what tune to look for in your repetoire book?"

That seems to me like good enough reason to leave the book at home.

All the other ones, they’re good reasons too.

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

Ah - the rot set in when we started writing. Suddenly, stuff that was "in here" (in our heads) became "out there". Happens all the time even in big businesses - the organisation chart is the equivalent of the "dots" but doesn’t represent what’s really going on.

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

"And another thing. If you don’t know how a tune sounds, how will you even know what tune to look for in your repetoire book?"

That’s where TunePal can be helpful. Frighteningly accurate even in noisy pub situations. Takes about 10 seconds to identify a tune, will even give you the notey bits. However, just because something is possible, I wouldn’t recommend using it for other than avoiding having to constantly ask "what’s the name of that tune, and the one before it, and the one before it…" which can be very annoying.

Re: Using written music at sessions - an emerging trend given iPad?

Of course, constant fiddling with an iPhone while others are playing is also very annoying to others so best to do your TunePal-ing outside the playing circle as an observer.