Session Etiquette 102

Session Etiquette 102

This came out of some email correspondence and an agreement a thread should be thrown out there for the wider world’s perusement. I’m also desperately procrastinating. πŸ™‚

When I go to a new session, I hang back, only start when asked, and if it went down okay, I might start another set or two later on, but it’s my policy to pretty much let the regulars do what they do and just play along on the tunes I know. If asked to play immediately on walking into the session, I try to get out of it with, "Maybe in a bit. The pipes need to warm up" or some such excuse (which is true, by the way), as I like to hear the sort of repertoire being played and choose tunes which seem appropriate to the session. You know, the ones your fellow players *might* know but won’t be bored sick of. Takes a bit of psychic ability (and stress!) to work out the perfect tune set for the occasion. πŸ™‚

Anyway, in my travels and often in my regular sessions, I have found that a great many people do not use this as their standard operating procedure as session visitors. Oftentimes, I encounter the blow-in player, who starts tune after tune after tune in the session, far more sets than the regulars are getting in. There is a small part of me which admires the chutzpah and wishes I were as un-self conscious as them, and a larger part of me which thinks, "Bloody hell. Chill the f-ck out."

If the person in question is an amazing player, I’m actually really happy to just sit and listen to them, but usually they are a fairly middling, mediocre player. Nothing wrong with that. I’m a fairly middling, mediocre player, but I don’t expect everyone to sit and listen to me play and start sets all night. Ugh. I don’t want to listen to me play and start sets all night! The amazing players, when they do show up, often don’t start many sets at all and you find yourself nagging them to start more so you can hear them play. That said, some amazing players can run right over you with their egos, while another person, just as good, can start a bunch of sets but not do it as if they have some God-given right to run over a session they perceive as being far inferior to them. It’s in people’s sort of energy, body language, the way they interact during the lulls between tunes.

So the discussion I am throwing out there is… what are people’s expectations, experiences, whinges? Am I just being a bit neurotic and surly (well, we know the answer to that)? How "should" — if there can ever be a *should* in a session — one behave on venturing into a new session for the first time?

Re: Session Etiquette 102

I think your approach is the right way to do it, TSS. A bit of humility goes a long way. Also, not chatting when folks are playing, even if you have just met someone new and interesting who plays the same instrument as you and wants a chinwag. Also waiting for a gap in the music to visit the bar/toilet.

Offering to get a round in early doors can help, too πŸ™‚

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I agree with just about all you say and I’m one of those who prefer to "hold back" too. Usually, I’m happy enough to start off no more than two or three sets in a night.

However, this means that I often tend to actively "seek out" sessions where I’m likely to know a large part of the repertoire and I’m usually quite happy to go with the flow. If I was more pushy, I’d get more of my own tunes in but, like yourself, I wouldn’t want to be rude.

Sometimes, I’ll also say "maybe later" but not so much these days in case I don’t get asked again. πŸ™‚

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More important that anything to do with playing is to be friendly and chatty and have a laugh and buy people drinks.

Posted .

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No one does rounds in the Oran Mor, as no one can afford it!

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Maybe a simple equation could be:

If the amount of people in a session is equal to more than the amount of pints each person will ("will", not "can") drink, i.e. at the very least, one round each … then said session is not worth joining.

(This assumes the caveat, of course, that one should more or less match the drinking of the company … as not to do so would be rude.)

Posted .

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"(This assumes the caveat, of course, that one should more or less match the drinking of the company … as not to do so would be rude.)" llig leahcim

Blimey llig, my liver is twitching (and not in a nice way) just thinking about some of the likely characters you wouldn’t want turning up when applying that dic-tat………

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Hilarious. On so many levels.

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"be friendly and chatty and have a laugh and buy people drinks" —just like you do here llig, eh? Apart from the drinks, that is.
πŸ™‚
(friendly chatty face)

Posted by .

Re: Session Etiquette 102

Personally, I don’t hold with the bribery tactic of buying drinks to buy friends. Let’s face it, that tactic usually only buys you spongers! πŸ˜‰

Living out in the country & always having to drive to sessions, & drive for a living, I never drink at a session, except for Tea/Coffee or Pints of Water, so I never get caught up in ye olde macho round system anyway.

The fact is, I’m actually doing people a favour, cause I’ve noticed that most of the macho men, really do not like asking for soft drinks, Tea or Coffee.

Call me crazy, but I go to a session to … play music! πŸ˜€

Cheers
Dick

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TSS, I agree with most of your points also, with the exception of not joining in with the tunes I don’t know. If I hear a tune I like and don’t know, I’ll quietly try and get on it without ruffling feathers if I can, if it’s a solo recital or otherwise lacking suitable cover I’ll desist.

Thats how I’m picking up tunes, get the emphasis, try and remember the feel and hopefully join up the dots in the morning. Sometimes, providing the tune isn’t too difficult, I actually manage to get on it and play it well enough to fit in at the time, 3rd time of asking. But I’ve still got to go away and learn it, even if I was fooling myself and others at the time.

I appreciate thats tricky for you with the pipes.

I’ve got lots of gripes about sessions, thankfully hardly any concerning sessions local to me and my gripes there concern a lack of sober drivers, plus the background noise at my most local tune in the summer. But it’s funny what the wind can blow in from time to time. Arrogance and overinflated egos I don’t like, and I’m often mildly amused when we get one of the "well this is how they do it in, "fill in your hero session/country here ***********". Invariably they disappoint but like to blame it on everyone else……….

Generally though I’m more than happy to go with the flow, let others start the tunes and only start sets if I have too……

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Dick is one bloke I’d go a long way to have a few tunes with. He involves everyone and he always throws in a few better known tunes among the sets to keep things sweet for those with smaller repertoires than he’s got. πŸ™‚

Unlike certain session ‘leaders’, he’s not averse to a song now and again, either.
m.d.

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Aye, the pipes are all or nothing. You can’t noodle quietly until you get it, though if I think I know most of something, I’ll try to see if it will go, but very quickly back off if it isn’t gonna go.

The sessions local to you, are in my experience, lovely. πŸ™‚ You’re very lucky! I could easily write a novel complaining about sessions, but the ones in your wee bit of the country never give me cause for complaint.

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The amazing players aren’t likely to be driven into rushing in by a nagging need for self-proof.

They are more liable to be haunted, indeed psychically gralloched, by the uncanny wizardry exhibited by rival titans of trad (or indeed other musics) in their playing, drinking and other significant activities. Legends course through the musical undergrowth attesting this.

This is unlikely to be a problem for most of us.

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TSS, they are that, when there close sometimes you don’t fully appreciate them, but not going out all that often (being chained to a desk for months on end) keeps them fresh. There never being a dull moment helps also…

emmdee, I like a song as well, next time I’m in Antrim I’ll be looking the white grouse up for the heads up on some sport n play :~) The girlfriend has taken a shine to Donegal and is planning a revisit and insisting I come. So I’ll be insisting we take the long road, round by the A2.

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Soon enough we’ll get a tune out that way. Thinking of stopping in Edinbane or Dunvegas (depending on what day we leave Glasgow) on our way to the ferry, so get a wee fix then as well as on the return.

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I’m definitely with the "lie back, play a set if invited, enjoy a pint and the company/conversation" suggestions. I’m about to set out on a two-week session roadtrip so I’ll have a lot of opportunity to practice what I preach.

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I’m with you, TSS. I tend not to lead much when I`m a visitor, not just out of politeness and modesty, but for another reason I`ve not seen mentioned and that dovetails nicely with the `rediscovering old favourites` thread above: I can play `my` tunes at my local sessions. When I`m away, I get to hear fantastic new tunes, as well as great ones that I enjoy playing but that for some reason either never get played at my home sessions, or that I never think to lead. I`m out of town now, and last night enjoyed a wonderful evening at a small, friendly session that featured tons of tunes in both those categories. I led two sets in three hours, and both were well-received, but I’d have missed some great music had I spent significantly more time trotting out the tunes that I regularly at home.

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You go into a pub. A group of people are discussing politics. You are interested in politics.

Now do you sit in the middle of them and immediately start espousing all of your theories and beliefs, and totally dominating the conversation?

Or do you slowly infiltrate, add a bit here and there until you feel comfortable, and the original group are comfortable with you?

So if you are a "dominator" you will attempt to dominate the discussion, or a session.

If you are like MOST people, you will take the latter course.

Ability and knowledge do not really have much to do with it.

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You go into a pub. A group of people are discussing politics. You walk out.

Posted .

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You go into a pub. A group of people are casually shaving parrots and slowly eating paisley deskfans. The bar has the whole of the old West rolling out behind it, Montana, Oregon; magnificent large sky. You jump on a covered wagon and watch the sunset before you whilst your shaved parrot recites Ezra Pound and the Observers Book of Bicycles. Suddenly the deskfan stops and in the silence you see it melt from Paisley to Girvan. Is this the curry goat of life or just another Big Tom McBride album on eight track cartridge? No, it yet another Clarice Cliff chain saw and a Gertrude Jeckyl catamaran.

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Whoa! Step away from the SyrupStik!!

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Some years ago, I couple of visitors turned up of one of our local sessions, and launched into "The Merry Blacksmith" before any of the regulars had played anything at all.

And if this weren’t had enough, they played it at an excruciatingly S-L-O-W tempo. But we all dutifully joined in with it, without saying a word …

But as soon as they had finished - also without saying a word - we played that tune again - at something approaching the usual tempo …

I think that they got the hint … πŸ˜‰

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and I’ll bet they never returned

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"You go into a pub. A group of people are casually shaving parrots and slowly eating paisley deskfans. The bar has the whole of the old West rolling out behind it, Montana, Oregon; magnificent large sky. You jump on a covered wagon and watch the sunset before you whilst your shaved parrot recites Ezra Pound and the Observers Book of Bicycles. Suddenly the deskfan stops and in the silence you see it melt from Paisley to Girvan. Is this the curry goat of life or just another Big Tom McBride album on eight track cartridge? No, it yet another Clarice Cliff chain saw and a Gertrude Jeckyl catamaran…"

No, it sounds to me like a recitation by Ivor Cutler!

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His style, anyway, as far as I can remember it…

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Bliss says: "Ability and knowledge do not really have much to do with it."

The analogy works only for the bodhran.

If you want to fit in on a melody instrument, you do have to know the tunes and be able to play them.

At least Bliss can admit it.

Posted .

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You go into a pub. A group of people are discussing politics. You walk out.

# Posted on July 7th 2011 by llig leahcim



I think it was you who introduced politics into this thread Michael. Buying rounds? The price of a pint? Why is something that consists of 85% water so dear? Why so much tax? What does the tax go on? Trident submarines? Why do we need them?

ALL of life is…..politics.

Mind you I doubt if you do talk to people anyway from what you say.

Except to ask them not to play the bodhran.

πŸ™‚

Re: Session Etiquette 102

If you want to fit in on a melody instrument, you do have to know the tunes and be able to play them.

At least Bliss can admit it.

# Posted on July 7th 2011 by Will Harmon



Very true Will.

Could you admit you can’t read?

After all these years you know EXACTLY what instruments I can play.

Could play you melody tunes on a variety of instrumets all night long.

But………I LIKE the bodhran and what it contributes.

To me, the bodhran contributes more to the session that playing melody tunes on a mouth organ or mandolin.

Is that too difficult to understand? Or maybe you were being …..satirical?

πŸ™‚

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And….just for the "cousins" overseas.

The greatest ever piper arrives at your session, sits down, plays all night, totally dominates, ignores everyone else, starts every set without payinjg heed to anyone………..

Or a middling piper comes in and does the same thing.


That is what I mean when I say "Ability and knowledge do not really have much to do with it."

Manners is what it is about.

Everyone understand?

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Bliss. Nail. Head.

Obviously the people who behave in this manner do not hang out on thesession.org. πŸ˜‰

I had an interesting, perhaps enlightening, conversation with a fella who could often be one of these a serial "tune pouncers." He was rabbiting on to me about how important it was to learn lots of tunes, so one could lead lots of sets. He used to climb, so I said jokily, thinking I was making the point in kind of an ironic friendly way that he would get, "I bet you hated being the second man on the rope." He answered, completely serious, "Oh, yes, you’re not really doing the climb unless your leading it."

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So Bliss, do you mean to be a living example of the bad manners you’re describing, or are you simply unable to stop yourself here from being a condescending, domineering, too-clever-for-your-own-good git?

Posted .

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Belatedly: πŸ™‚

Posted .

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So Bliss, do you mean to be a living example of the bad manners you’re describing, or are you simply unable to stop yourself here from being a condescending, domineering, too-clever-for-your-own-good git?

# Posted on July 7th 2011 by Will Harmon


Bliss says: "Ability and knowledge do not really have much to do with it."

The analogy works only for the bodhran.

If you want to fit in on a melody instrument, you do have to know the tunes and be able to play them.

At least Bliss can admit it.

# Posted on July 7th 2011 by Will Harmon




Standing in front of a mirror are we Will?

Re: Session Etiquette 102

"Oh, yes, you’re not really doing the climb unless your leading it."

# Posted on July 7th 2011 by TheSilverSpear


I fear we do indeed have some like that on these boards, where it is a case of they know best, like the elders of the tribe, the wizened leaders of the throng.

Thankfully I am a mere backer and know my place.

πŸ™‚

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Based solely on the evidence on this thread, everyone on these boards is perfectly well-behaved, courteous, and is a joy to have in any session.

πŸ˜‰

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But of course.

Goes without saying.

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And not only courteous, but apparently well lubricated, if they are drinking at least a pint for every other person in the circle! As I have gotten older, and beer no longer agrees with me, a whiskey chased by water, and followed by refills for the water but not the whiskey, is my libation of choice during an evening of music. Now I find, at least in some pubs, that would be seen as impolite!
And speaking of libations of choice, I have a suspicion after reading his pub scene, that whatever libation it is that yhaalhouse prefers, it is probably not legal for even medicinal use around here!

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No Bliss. Just championing the obvious. If you weren’t so enchanted by your own sound and fury…. Ah, well, there’s no use.

Posted .

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I’m not a pub person and I don’t have the drinking gene. I go
because that’s where the tunes are happening and the drinks
are on the house. If I had to deal with the politics and cost of
buying everybody a drink, I’d have to give it up. How does that
work anyhow - you’ve got 10 people at your session - you have
to drink 10 pints? It’s crazy.

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" the caveat, of course, that one should more or less match the drinking of the company "

Well, I’d hate it if I had to do that as I’d feel rather miserable if I had to make a half pint of beer or a soda water last me all night.
πŸ™
I know that the Sandy Bells people still retain a certain amount of the old tradition as far as "scooping up" is concerned but many people who attend sessions today are extremely "wimpish" indeed.

Of course, I wouldn’t encourage anyone to drink and drive nor to over indulge but it’s good to have a small libation..at the very least.

Actually, my drinking habits have moderated greatly in recent years for many reasons but I see no harm in having at least two or three drinks when attending a session. I seldom have much more these days… not even at an all day festival… it might stretch to four or five over a longer period. Mind you, publicans would probably make more profit out of soft drinks with the prices they charge….so why encourage them?

I’m all for being friendly too but there are some sessions where the regulars won’t even talk to each other let alone visitors!……. (I’m not referring to the well known Edinburgh hostelry here as, in the great scheme of things, it’s not a bad place.)

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Jings, Johns J. Good for you. I always start on the understanding that I’m drinking nothing and it can often pan out that way. There are some places where good intentions fall by the wayside though.

One such location on skye is a bit like that. The hosts would make a big thing of showing me where I was to sleep. Almost every time though I’d wake to find the old cleaning wifie giving me the gentile nudge and the news that the bar was about to open in 15mins. Sweet woman would only wake me because she needed to finished up the sweeping under the bench on which I lay. :eek: I’m wise to it now mind, well maybe the jury’s still out on that :~|

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I’m fairly well behaved these days and usually stay on this side of sober. πŸ™‚

I know "Solidmahog" probably doesn’t believe that for five minutes and might have some evidence to the contrary, but it’s true. :P

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All this moaning about drink completely misses the point of my equation:

"If the amount of people in a session is equal to more than the amount of pints each person will ("will", not "can") drink, i.e. at the very least, one round each … then said session is not worth joining."

So, if there are four people in the session and they are going to drink three pints each, then there’s a good chance it could be a good session. But if there are seven people in the session and they are all gonna drink eight pints each, then I’d avoid it.

Posted .

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So, it’s advisable to drink to more than three or four pints a night.
Very sensible.

Also, it’s up to the visitors to buy the drink. So, if there are only three or four people there then it’s at least affordable.
πŸ™‚

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Not at the price of a pint these days, John.

And I always did think that was a bit crap.

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You’re Ok as a whisk(e)y drinker though.
πŸ™‚

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Aye, there’s always malt of the month.

How would you be feeling after six or seven drams, though? Probably sleeping in that wee alley behind the pub!

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"Of course, I wouldn’t encourage anyone to drink and drive nor to over indulge but it’s good to have a small libation..at the very least."

John, that could be like saying to someone with a gambling addiction, och go on, have a wee flutter on the gee-gees, sure what harm can it do!

I just wonder how many folks have been done for Drink Driving, or even crashed their car on the way home, after some friend told them to have a "wee libation" cause their selfish abstinence was spoiling other folks idea of the perfect session atmo. πŸ™

Believe it or not, I remember thinking naively, back when I was just a spotty teenager, that I simply HAD to have a few drinks before the music could possibly start to sound good & before I could play properly. ….. I suppose most of us were eejits like that, when we were young! πŸ˜›

Like I say, I go to a Session for the Music, not the drink, if other folk can’t cope with me drinking Tea/Coffee or Water, then that’s their problem. I can play tunes like An Cupan Tae, The Cup Of Tea, Boil The Coffee Early, The Teetotaler, Going To The Well For Water etc etc all night long! πŸ˜€

Cheers,
Dick

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Apparently, that would only be the same unit equivalent as three pints…..

However, I always feel it’s much more than that.

All depends on the size of dram, I suppose.

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One thing I do try to do when entering a session where I’m not a regular, even if the drinks are on the house, is buy at least one drink before I take a free one.

Standing on the "non-session" side of the bar for a while before joining the throng, you soon pick up the vibe on how the pub feels about strangers turning up expecting free drinks. Some are fine about it , and positively encouraging (take a bow The Magnet, Holloway and Drunken Poet, Melbourne)

If the staff are serving through gritted teeth but the musicians are oblivious , you’re not surprised to log onto "thesession.org" some time after and see "this session is no longer active", complete with expressions of bewilderment and disappointment at the management’s sudden failure to understand the session ethos.

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"I’m fairly well behaved these days and usually stay on this side of sober." TSS

Usually I’ll accept, exclusively? Na. It’s not what they say about you up on Skye ;~ 0

I, however, do have a reputation as a sober driver. If so charged I’m able to maintain that condition. Like Dick, I go to tunes for tunes not drink. I manage well enough at home in that department. But occasionally, in less constrained circumstances, I have been known to enjoy a wee Deoch an Doris….

@ llig

We knew what you meant. How many Wednesday mornings have you toiled to work on your bike wishing you weren’t such an enthusiastic fiddler? Must have been a big session, eh. 8 people = big swally.

Three pints, aye!

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Now where were we, S.E. 103? ~ or is it GCSE?

I think I’ll stay at home tonight and enjoy some Redbreast and a homemade pizza, and then, after Iv’e washed my hands, play a few tunes to the ether…

Shaving parrots is too much trouble, and you’re more than likely to shed some blood and do a poor job of it with the wrong tools, and then there’s the BOPC, Bureau of Parrot Colmplaints… πŸ˜€

If you’re in the neighbourhood Silver! πŸ˜‰ Sadly there’s no single malt left in the place, but we do have Redbreast Irish whiskey and stout…

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Good advice, Bren on buying your first pint and watching. When I first started going to different sessions, I committed some faux pas by assuming that everyplace provided free drinks just like my home pub, and that anyone with an instrument was welcome to one. Not always the case!

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Ah, the free deoch malarky.

I’ve had years of "drink all you want" situations and I’m glad to say I’ve never abused it, very much.

In my day job I sometimes find myself in the situation where the people I’m working for will say: there’s an open tab at the Bar in the hotel etc help yourself. My policy there is to have one drink with my dinner and thats it. No more. Well, no more on the tab. I may have had too much to drink, I may not have had any more than one. For me to know and for them to guess. To go wild at the Bar on a tab is IMO, giving too much information away to people you don’t really know that well. The hotel invoice speaks volumes and I’d rather present a minimalist expenses foot print.

I have a similar policy with free drink out at the session. I’ll make a point of buying myself a drink and maybe a couple of others if I’m in their company. Some places basically get their music for Β£50 or Β£60 worth of drink and thats fine, but to my warped mind, to take a pint is akin to taking the soup.

Usually I’ll start with soda water and a pint later (can’t play drunk) if someone asks me I’ll often take one, even if it’s coming from the tab. The important thing for me is that I don’t expect it or ask for it. I can buy my own if I’m druthy. Once you’ve taken the soup your in their pocket.

Wee gigs, that’s different, your working and often accommodation drink n food are part of the deal. Although if the proprietors are about at the end I/we usually make a point of buying a drink for them by way of thanks.

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Went into a session to find I was first there, so enquired at the bar and sat down at the alloted table.
Session Leader appears.

SL: Can you not sit there as there are going to be musicians sat there
Me: How do you know I am not a musician?
SL: No, these are Irish musicians
Me: How do you know I am not an Irish musician?
SL: Are you?

As far as the ettiquette goes, if I am a stranger in a session, I try to start a tune every two or three if there is a lull. I also try to pick tunes that people will know, but will move on to the next tune if no one joins in.
If they want to hear you play on your own, they will ask.

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Yeah, I’ve had that happen.

"This table is reserved for musicians."
"But I’m a musician."


Even better one happened in a session where we were semi-regulars, not visitors passing through. The session leaders sit at the head of the table, everyone else sits wherever, though some of the other regulars have "their" seats, which annoys me a bit but that’s how things are. Myself and my boyfriend sat down at the table, not at the front of it, and not in anyone’s special seat that we were aware of.

Session Leader to boyfriend: You can’t sit there. I don’t want a guitar there.
BF: I don’t play the guitar.
SL: It’s better if a fiddle player sits there.
BF: I play the fiddle.
SL: Oh.

If there’s a lull in a session I’m just visiting, I usually just let it go, as people like having a wee bit of a gap between sets to have a chat, and I don’t want to be that annoying musician who squeezes a set into every available gap. Sometimes, though, you get sessions where a lull that consists of an awkward silence, where everyone is nervously waiting for someone else to start something. I’ll happily kick sets off more frequently in sessions like that.

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I think the conduct towards the musicians in playing the music is what matters, not buying your own drink or anyone else’s. If the musicians ever expect you to buy a drink for either yourself or them, their interest is clearly not your music, it’s their own drinking or the bar’s profits. Whereas a musician visiting a session should not be treated like a customer of the bar (as they almost always are in Dublin) if the session is a genuinely friendly open session with the purpose of entertaining the bar’s patrons.

In Clifden, Connemara last week I visited Lowry’s Bar Tuesday Wednesday Thursday and Friday. I put my hand in my pocket once, to buy the barman a drink, he simply refused point blank to take any money from em for my drinks, I even said once "look I’d like to buy myself a drink but don’t be giving it to me for free" and of course I lost teh argument but won the reward of yet another pint, at which point I despairingly asked "is there any way you’d let me buy a drink, for you lets say?" and he said fine, I suppose I can have one and drive home.

The Tuesday night session was the only night that it wasn’t a gig and being an intermediate ability fiddler I wanted to stand close to door and watch for a while, which is when the bar maid first insisted I sit down play and have a Guinness, I couldn’t very well object. The musicians told me I would be most welcome to return during the week to join them in mic d up gigs, I expressed hesitancy and they said "we’ll have a mic here if you come down and you can play into it or turn it off and play but please do join us".

So other than recommending everyone get to Lowry’s in Clifden asap, I think that it is not a part of session etiquete to buy a drink for either yourself or other musicians and that it is part of the paid regulars etiquete in a sense to reward you if you are a player they would like to have back by buying you a drink, if not the first week then the next.

Posted by .

Re: Session Etiquette 102

Basic etiquette is the same everywhere: treat other people as though their thoughts, concerns, needs, and desires matter to you. Understand what matters to the other person, and take that into account.

Buying a drink or not buying a drink isn’t a critical part of etiquette, but showing up willing to take care of yourself and not expecting something to be given to you is, and accepting a kindness gracefully is as well. Etiquette is not about which seat you sit in or which tunes you start or how long you wait to start a tune, it’s in paying attention to the other people around you.

As a corollary, it should be pretty obvious that banging on a bodhran while musicians are trying to have a tune is not consistent with basic etiquette. πŸ™‚

Re: Session Etiquette 102

Very knowledgeable post again Jon, where can I subscribe to your newsletter!!?

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