Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

Any tips.

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Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

I find due to their complexity they are less singy than polkas and jigs.

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Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

I learned how to play songs on the fly by playing at church services, parties, and jamming with friends. It’s an impressive skill to your peers. But the setup of the music I learned is so different from Irish music.

With the songs I learned how to play "on the fly", all you had to learn was a chord progression. A chord progression that you would here literally dozens of times in a song(you already hear it four times before the chorus). But when learning tunes in a session, you get what, three tries to figure it out? Not to mention the simplicity of four chords vs the complexity of long
melody lines. And those melody lines sure get long! And with reels, you also have to deal with the speed which greatly affects how difficult they are to learn. Learning tunes on the fly seems very difficult, and I wouldn’t doubt it if it was much harder than it sounded.

Why do you wanna learn tunes on the fly?

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

Reels are no more complex than polkas and jigs.

Posted by .

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

"Reels are no more complex than polkas and jigs."

I agree. A few polkas and jigs do come to mind that have given me quite a bit of trouble. And a few reels come to mind that haven’t given me any trouble at all.

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

I disagree, Reels have many more notes, than jigs and polkas,They also go faster than jigs.
A few reels like rolling in the Ryegrass and Heather Breeze that have lots of broken chords are easy enough, but as far as I am concerned they are not the norm.
The problem with following chord progressions is that you end up playing chords not melody, I was asking a specific question about picking up melody notes of reels in sessions on the fly.
Asking me Why I want to do it, is not an answer to my question, why do you think I want to do it?
So I can join in on reels that I have not heard before.

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Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

That’s not something that is worth working on, or even thinking about. Suppose somebody starts a reel you don’t know: they will either play it well or badly. If they play it well, they don’t really need you playing it badly alongside them. If they play it badly, they don’t really need you playing it badly alongside them.

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Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

I think picking up tunes on the fly is an important part of session playing. I’m not suggesting you should be trying to join in the first time you hear a tune, but if someone has played it four weeks in a row, by the fifth week you probably know it well enough to take a stab at it. What’s the alternative? You hear the tune, go away and learn it from sheet music, then come back the following week and find what you’ve learned isn’t what the guy at the session is playing, so now you’ve got to learn what he is playing on the fly.

As to what helps, there really is no substitute for practice. Not necessarily in sessions though - play along at home with recordings of tunes you haven’t yet learned. One thing that will help a bit is ear training - getting to know and recognize intervals. There are numerous websites that will help with this. It’s pretty boring, but just ten minute a day will pay you back in spades in the long run.

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

"So I can join in on reels that I have not heard before."

What Bernie said. Why do you wanna play a tune badly, in public, amongst peers? Also, by the time you’ve figured out only a small portion of the tune, everyone else is moving on to the next tune(probably early because of your noodling). It’s better to listen, try to get the name or source, and learn it at home so you can join in next time it’s played.

The only advice I can give you is don’t neglect your ear training during your routine practice. Learning complicated pieces of music, impromptu, by ear, in a limited time(likely less than a minute), is a musical superpower. A master class skill. There are no shortcuts or tips.

Want to experience how difficult this is without ruining someones’ wonderful session? By a new Irish music CD with a bunch of tunes you don’t know on it. Then play along with the CD without pausing, rewinding, repeating, or slowing down. There’s your simulation.

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

Playing a tune when you have heard it four weeks running isn’t picking it up on the fly. Picking up tunes on the fly isn’t an important part of session playing.

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Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

In context, I think what Mark M may be referring to is learning variations on the fly?

"You hear the tune, go away and learn it from sheet music, then come back the following week and find what you’ve learned isn’t what the guy at the session is playing, so now you’ve got to learn what he is playing on the fly."

Variations of tunes you already know that someone else plays a different setting of. That’s not near as hard as learning an entire tune, new and fresh.

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

This remind me the first time I went to a live session. I am from Norway and when I was about 18 years old I decided to travel to Ireland for the first time (there’s been several more trips since). I had been listening to Dubliners,the Pogues, Ron Kavana, The Chieftains and many others for many years already, but I was not yet into ITM or had any clue really what it was all about (not sure if I have a clue yet pushing 40). I took the bus from Dublin to Galway and strolled down Shop street and talked to a black bearded banjoplayer named Pat busking outside Taaffees, his dogs sleeping by his side (anyone knows how he’s been). He directed me into the pub (I imagined Taaffees had been there forever, but I later learned that the pub just opened a few years before) and soon after I attended my first ever irish session.
I was totally blown away by the musicality of it and how the players tune after tune just listen a few rounds and then played the tunes perfectly on the fly!! How was that possible!

I have learned a bit more since then.

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Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

Mark M. "if someone has played it four weeks in a row, by the fifth week you probably know it well enough to take a stab at it."

That’s how most of us (traditional players) learn most of our tunes, I think.

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

I recently did what you suggested fiddlelearner, just out of curiosity (I’m very interested in how I learn). I got a cd of tunes I didn’t know, and played along with it, over and over again, without first trying to get the tune into my head so I could sing it, which is my normal approach. When I eventually tried to play the tunes solo it felt quite weird, as if I could play the tune without knowing it. But I haven’t repeated the experiment.

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Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

Main notes, intervals, and patterns. Listen once through to enjoy the shape of the melody. Second time through, find the main notes, maybe recognize the key, which will help you find other notes, see if there are any patterns you’ve played in other tunes, and try to find intervals from the main notes. Third time through, if you have a framework of notes, see if you can fill in some of the phrases. All this is assuming you play an instrument that you can play quietly enough that no one will hear if you play a wrong note (accordions are out of luck here). Sometimes, this will work and you’ll have a good bit of the tune by the time it’s done. If not, stop trying and go back to listening, and hum it quietly in your head. I usually pull out my phone and make a recording as well, so I can listen to it later. I usually only do this with one or two tunes at a session, for fun—-it’s too much like work if you do it more than that.

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

I spent many years teaching, and my approach was to find out what the person wanted to get better at, and come up with strategies to address their particular area. (Which made teaching more interesting for me; what fun would it be having a rigid pedagogy?)

So once there was this woman who was a pretty good player already, and could sightread anything, but couldn’t pick up tunes by ear, and knew that this was a skill she needed to acquire. It was interesting for me because it made me (for the first time) become conscious of what was going on when I picked up a tune by ear.

Our lessons consisted of me putting on a CD of reels that neither of us knew and just tootling along. She could observe what bits I was grabbing onto, in what order. I think it made her listen to tunes differently.

Anyhow for me at least, with reels, the easiest thing to pick up is the rolls, because that’s when the tune is parking on a note for a bit. In some reels rolls make up a good portion of the tune and if you have all the rolls you’ve got the tune half off already.

Actually it’s more than just the rolls, because the rolls are normally occupying only three of the four notes in a beat; what I’m really picking up first is the beats with rolls in them, whether the roll takes up the first three notes of a beat or the last three notes of a beat. If the latter, I’m also picking up the first note, the one independent melody note of the beat which precedes the roll.

For example, here’s what I might hear first in a particular reel:

EEE_ GGG_
Beee Beee

Well now, I’ve only identified the rolls, yet I have 14 of the 16 notes in the first two bars down!
Later I can fill in the last note of beats where the roll occupies the first part, in this case pretty obvious filler notes going scalewise to ‘connect the dots’

EEEF# GGGA
Beee Beee

I would have this off immediately.

The other thing I grab onto is arpeggios, especially in jigs, in reels not so much.

And scalar runs.

And there are a number of stock phrases which occur over and over in reel after reel, such as the ‘rocking phrase’ for example

E2BE dEBE
G2BG dGBG
G2dG eGdG
B2eB f#BeB

or the ‘pedal’ can be above

f#2df# ef#df#
B2EB GBEB

or sometimes fully reversed

A2F#A DAF#A

The more of these stock phrases you have under your fingers the faster you can identify them in a tune you’re hearing and more importantly be able to immediately play along with them.

Oh! Another thing which is very helpful is to immediately identify the SCALE that the tune is using!

Because many tunes are in ‘gap’ scales, in other words they don’t use all seven available notes of the scale.

It’s amusing, and sometimes frustrating, to hear somebody trying to pick up a tune who’s playing notes that aren’t even in the scale the tune is in! Also sometimes tunes vary from part to part.

For example the first part of the reel The Boys Of The Lough has no G or C, in other words it only uses five of the seven available notes of the D scale D E F# A B (Pentatonic, in fact).

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

That’s funny Bernie. I’ve never tried it, or even thought about it until now. It sounds frustrating. It would have to be a short CD lol.

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

some interesting ideas here and I think it probably reflects a lot about how people have learned or are learning ie formal lessons with notation or aural learning.I am someone who comes from the aural school and it took me years to realise that lots of people really find it difficult to pick up tunes on the fly.I have tried mostly unsuccessfully (at least initially) to get note readers to pick up tunes by ear which is actually what I think you mean by "on the fly" as be it at home or in a session its the same thing .so hears a few observations
1)you have to practise this like you have to practise anything else.(people who sight read music also cant site read very quickly if they don’t practice.
2)how loud is your instrument?can you mute it ?
3)learn to identify and improvise in the modes used in trad music.(this will really really help)
4)practise being an accompanist on your instrument be it a flute a fiddle or even a whistle(you will need to do this to feel your way into the tune)
5)look for the basic shape of the tune and pick out the best phrase to play second time round.
6)Explore other kinds of trad music THIS WILL HONESTLY HELP french or english trad sessions are great as the music is so simple (compared to Irish Scottish trad) bluegrass and gypsy music also have the "fly"about them.
I could go on but wont unless asked to:)

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

"The other thing I grab onto is arpeggios, especially in jigs, in reels not so much."
Exactly my point about the Heather Breeze.
I have no problem picking up bits of polkas quietly, or jigs, I find them more catchy to remember, for the record I have been playing all sorts of music but [not exclusively TIM since 1974]
Thankyou for your replies, it has been helpful.

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Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

Yep the Heather Breeze.

The other one that comes to mind is… well I can’t think of the name of it, but it’s a reel which some people play full of arpeggios, while other people don’t.

The arpeggio version has the 2nd part:

d2AG F#DF#A
df#af# gf#eg
f#Adf# eAC#e
df#ed C#AAC#
BDGB ADF#A
df#af# (etc you know how it goes)

Obviously these are various arpeggios or chords
DF#A (D Major)
GBD (G Major)
AC#E (A Major)
in various combinations and inverted various ways.
These are quite easy to pick up by ear at full speed because they’re so easy to recognize.
If you’ve practiced arpeggios as part of your learning process even more so.

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

Hi Roddy,

"On the fly" isn’t the same as "by ear". "On the fly" means you join in with other people playing a tune you don’t know.

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Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

Richard, do you mean Rolling in the Ryegrass

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Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

It is not a question of wanting to ruin the session, I do not play the Bombarde or the Trombone, if I am attempting to play on the fly, I play quietly holding my instrument close to my ear.

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Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

No, John. He means Wise Maid.

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

Bernie 29 ok fair point but the two things are related.in some ways I wish all session goers played on the fly whenever they joined in as no two good musicians play the same tune exactly the same way it vastly improves a session when people join in the tune in the style and rhythm that is actually being played instead of how they learnt it from cd,s notes ect. Thats when real music is made. two good points john towsend.As a side note pretending to be a bombard player and only playing the repeats ie the answer (QandA) and then playing the question has been a great way for me to pick up tunes at sessions.have you got alot of trad music on an Ipod why dont you select all your trad music to play random and play along with it or stream a radio station that just plays trad and play along with that.I love the fact that you dont need to re tune your instrument to the recording like you used to have to with tapes and vinyl..

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

I am unconvinced that this is a learned ability beyond whatever acumen can be developed by sheer persistence. I am a very good ear musician in that if I can think a melody, I can play it. However, getting a new melody into my head takes some time and I don’t go to sessions often enough to be able to pick up new tunes quickly. I think the only effective way one can improve in this area is to constantly try. Persistence will pay off, but are there any tips to get you there faster? I doubt it.

Posted by .

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

This was…. an interesting thread.
At first, I swore it was a wind-up or something.

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

Most reels have a clear logical structure to them. The phrases are often repeated in a ‘Statement’, ‘Response’, ‘Restatement’, and ‘Final Response’ sort of structure. And there are often similar parallels between the A and B parts. If you listen to a reel, seeking the logic of it, it makes it easier to decipher and to remember.

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

Yes,Fiddler 3, when I am practising at home that is what I do, divide the tune in to phrases, anyway thanks everybody.

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Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

Yeah, playing along with recordings (or TV/radio - it doesn’t matter, anything develops your ability to pick up melodies on the fly) is the easiest method (nobody else will be bothered by the mistakes). As many have said, tunes generally have recognizable patterns, and if you can hear/identify/guess the tonal centre/"home note"/key/mode, you’re slightly better prepared. Try this with an entire album or playlist. Let us assume that the musician plays a tune three times before going to next tune. For an AABB kind of tune, you already have a couple of repeats during the first iteration (typically the first 30-40 seconds). Maybe you’ve figured out the key and who knows, an arpeggio or any other recognizable "pattern"? Don’t stop the recording. See how much you can play during the second repeat, and any following repeats. Oops, now they’ve started another tune! Keep listening and playing along. After the first set of tunes (2-3 minutes?), you might not have picked up enough to call them "tunes". Don’t worry. Play along to next track. And next … When you’ve "finished" your album, there’s a chance that you still don’t have a single tune. But you have covered A LOT of material during 30-40 minutes. Play along with another record. Maybe you’ll recognize one of tunes. Maybe more. Maybe none. When you’ve gone through your collection, start over. Unless you only have obscure titles, it’s very likely that some tunes will show up on several recordings. Each time you hear something familiar, the fog clears.

If you do this regularly, your reportoire will grow in no-time. Faster than if you didn’t try it at all, and possibly even faster than learning each tune on its own.

There’s always room for improvement, exploring variations, solidifying your version(s).

Chop wood now - sharpen your axe later.

Nearly 18 (!) years ago, Philippe Varlet wrote an interesting post on IRTRAD-L:
https://listserv.heanet.ie/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind9603&L=IRTRAD-L&P=R6709&D=0

Enjoy!

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

"Most reels have a clear logical structure to them. The phrases are often repeated in a ‘Statement’, ‘Response’, ‘Restatement’, and ‘Final Response’ sort of structure. And there are often similar parallels between the A and B parts. If you listen to a reel, seeking the logic of it, it makes it easier to decipher and to remember."

I would also add a term I’ve heard before, i.e. "Lego bits". Many of the tunes have interchangeable, or at least very very similar, phrases. Learn all the common Lego bits, and you’re a fair ways down the road.

Matt

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

Bernie, - ""On the fly" isn’t the same as "by ear". "On the fly" means you join in with other people playing a tune you don’t know."

That might be your interpretation of the phrase, but I don’t think it is how most people would use it. in this context. "On the fly" generally means "in real time". So in terms of sessions, yes, an accompanist attempting to accompany a tune he has never hear before is doing so ‘on the fly’. But someone learning a tune within the session, without having gone home and deliberately learned to play the tune in their own time between sessions is learning it ‘on the fly’. That, I think is what most people on this thread are referring to. I doubt if anyone ever tries to play melody along with a tune they have never heard before.

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

I doubt if anyone ever tries to play melody along with a tune they have never heard before."
That is what a few people appear to be doing and doing quite successfully.
I have noticed several musicians who appear to know every tune, I am convinced they are picking some of the tunes up by ear as they go along.

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Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

Learning tunes "on the fly" is sessions is fun I suppose… to everyone except the people who know it already or others who are trying to listen and enjoy the music. I find it very annoying to either be playing or listening while someone is trying to guess how the tune goes with instrument in hand and making noise. What’s wrong with just listening and enjoying the music for feck sake? If you have heard a tune played enough times where you hear it in your head while you do the dishes or ride your bike or whatever… then it might be time to either learn it on your own (best way to do it) or give it a try at the session. People that HAVE TO PLAY EVERY TUNE regardless of whether they know it or not have some sort of session disorder. I don’t know what to call it, but I’ve seen the symptoms. When a tune starts they have an involuntary reaction and lift their instrument to playing position and start playing randomly. There’s a delusional aspect to the symptom where they believe they are successfully playing the tune. Very few gifted individuals can actually accomplish learning tunes on the fly… but most people are just wearing the Emperor’s new clothes. If you want to learn tunes on the fly, please do it in the privacy of your home with your CDs.

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

Mark, you said: " someone learning a tune within the session, without having gone home and deliberately learned to play the tune in their own time between sessions is learning it ‘on the fly’.

I don’t see how that is different to my interpretation.

You said: "I doubt if anyone ever tries to play melody along with a tune they have never heard before."

Well, I do, and other people at my session do. It only happens with simple tunes, usually when a less advanced player starts one we don’t know, people will try to pick it up on the fly and join in, the aim being to support the less advanced player.

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Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

I think in case of sessions playing a tune alongside others when it’s repeated the second or the third time also counts as "on the fly", and I don’t see how that is impossible or wrong. If you’re good at remembering tunes, that doesn’t mean you’re going to play them badly when you’ve figured them out. There are lots of simple tunes (and I totally agree with John on most of them being polkas) that even I can play right away after hearing them once, even though I’m far from being a virtuoso.

If you’re already able to pick up simpler tunes on the fly, I don’t think there’s anything to help with reels but practice, because the way to do it seems to be the same, but there are more different kinds of those "building blocks" that are easy to remember and to build the rest of the tune around.

Bernie, the idea of a person in a session who plays well and doesn’t need you to play with him sounds strange to me. I don’t see how it directly relates to people playing tunes on the fly as soon as they know their limits and understand when to play and when not to play. But that’s something you should now even if you’re playing the tunes you know well.

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

I don’t understand what you are saying to me Ruthruin.

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Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

I’m saying that
1) implying that someone playing a tune on the fly is playing it badly is wrong;
2) avoiding playing badly in a session shouldn’t be done by NOT leaning to play on the fly, but by learning to listen, common sense also helps;
3) sessions are to play alongside each other (that’s a reply for your first post)

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

Bernie means that someone who plays a tune well doesn’t need someone else who doesn’t know the tune stumbling and fluffing it up along with them. They can play it fine — better, even — without that.

I find that I can pick up tunes after hearing them three or four times if they are fairly straightforward and consist of very predictable phrases. Others, no chance. I have to sit and learn them at home phrase by phrase.

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

I understand the thing about stumbling and fluffing. I just can’t agree with that being an reason not to acquire a skill of picking up tunes on the fly.

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

"I don’t know what to call it, but I’ve seen the symptoms. When a tune starts they have an involuntary reaction and lift their instrument to playing position and start playing randomly. There’s a delusional aspect to the symptom where they believe they are successfully playing the tune. Very few gifted individuals can actually accomplish learning tunes on the fly… but most people are just wearing the Emperor’s new clothes. If you want to learn tunes on the fly, please do it in the privacy of your home with your CDs."
What a load of cobblers,the people I am referring to are not playing randomly.

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Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

What are they playing then, John? Irish tunes are not simple melodies and are often composed to be unique and unpredictable. I have seen people guessing as they attempt to pick it up on the fly thinking they are following the tune, but they are just making it harder to play for the people that DO know the tune. So what are you referring to?

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

No number of examples of people failing to pick up tunes prove absence of people able to do so.

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

A couple of additional points …
Very often, experienced players may not ‘know’ a tune, but it is not because they never heard it before. Perhaps it is one they heard many times, but never before bothered to pick up; or it is one they used to play long ago but they have ‘forgotten’ it. Once a tune is in your head, it is not so difficult to put it on the instrument.

There is a bit of a danger in ‘predicting’ where a tune you do not know is going to go. It is tempting to make guesses, and if you guess wrong, you might be lucky enough to hit something that harmonizes, but you can possibly hit a note that spoils — which is why noodling is rightly discouraged in sessions where people care a lot about the quality of the music. Even so, one technique is to get the idea of the phrases down on the first time they come up, and then hit the key notes the second time through. Fill in the rest as you go. Often, you can be playing every note by the third time through. And hitting a few correct notes can give the impression you are playing a tune ‘on the fly’ that you never heard before.

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

Ruthruin, what I really think is, sometimes it’s appropriate to join in and try to play something you don’t know, and sometimes it isn’t. I don’t think it’s an ability you should try and work on, because it’s not something you need to be able to do, and not something you should do frequently.

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Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

If you are deeply immersed in this style and have been playing it for decades, with a repertoire of a thousand or more tunes, then maybe—just maybe— you could try to pick up a tune ‘on the fly’ in a session, every now and then. But if you have to come on an internet forum and ask how to do this, please do not think that it’s something you can learn with ‘just a little practice.’ There is a gentleman in my city who comes to sessions who has deluded himself into thinking he can pick tunes up ‘on the fly’. He can sort of approximate them. He ruins every session he attends. He is extremely annoying and disorienting to sit next to.

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

Whenever someone comes to the session and attempts to pick up tunes on the fly I’ll ask them what the tune was. They say, "I dunno… I think I heard it somewhere," or something along those lines. Now this seems acceptable to a lot of people in this forum and it has been passionately debated… or maybe I should say, passionately defended. There are different perceptions about why we get together to play tunes in sessions. Some people think it’s where they learn tunes… and the end product, or music, is secondary. You wouldn’t expect to sit and listen… even though you’re in public and there is usually people sitting and listening. And of course musicians aren’t interested in the music—they just want to see how many tunes they can play along with. Or do they? I for one come to sessions to enjoy and celebrate the music I have devoted myself to because I love it so much. But one man’s meat is another man’s poison. Some people think it’s entirely wrong to expect to hear good music and see it more as an exercise of some sort… and sometimes it’s hard enough to enjoy the music with all the noodling… oh… excuse me… learning tunes on the fly, is happening. Now I don’t expect the music to be perfect… I’m not perfect by any stretch, but I don’t see why we can’t have enough respect for the gathering to do the tune learning and practicing at home instead of imposing it on everyone around the table… and in the pub.

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

Everyone has different ideas and expectations when it comes to defining what a "session" is. But for me, if I want to play great, mistake free music for the benefit of people sitting listening, then I’ll get together with the band, rehearse and then perform.

As far as I am concerned a session is something completely different - we are not there for an audience, but for our own benefit - to share tunes and learn from each other. And that inevitably means some less than perfect playing. If anyone isn’t happy with that, if they only want to put on a respectable performance for the sake of people listening, then they don’t need to come to the session, they can form a band and perform.

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

Fair enough, Mark. But there’s a lot of room between playing in a note-perfect band, and playing in a free-for-all session where mediocre or worse players play along. On. every. tune. Whether they know it or not!

I’m somewhere in the middle, sort of aspiring towards ‘great’ music. But no musical endeavor that involves ME will every be ‘mistake free’ that’s for certain. But I am both audience and participant in a session (we’re playing for each other, not the punters), and I enjoy it more when it’s as musical as it can be.

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

"I enjoy it more when it’s as musical as it can be"

And often, that means that I sit it out, and listen.

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

Yes, I think we all want our sessions to be as musical as possible, and sitting out and listening is a big part of the process. But having listened and learned and got a tune into your head, sooner or later you are going to want to play it for the first time. And you are going to make some mistakes. Does that mean you should never attempt to play the tune, or should the session give you (and everyone else) a little latitude?

One thing that puzzles me about this thread is how people know when someone else is learning ‘on the fly’ - how do you know if the other guy is familiar with the tune or not? Personally, if I sit in on a session with strangers, I make far more mistakes and fluffs on tunes that I know well and play regularly than on tunes that I’m familiar with but have never actually played before. With the tunes I already play in only takes different phrasing, or a faster tempo, to throw me off completely. So I pick up my fiddle, start to play along, and stuff it up. But it’s not because I’m ‘learning on the fly’. With the tunes I’ve heard before but never played I know enough to know where the tune is going, but I’m following the leader far more closely than I would on a tune I know, so the result is fewer fluffs, even if he plays it slightly different to what I am familiar with.

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

What u describe of learning at home with your phantom buttons and iscabs is not the tradition but I guess if we are going to impose rules and make others follow, I will only throw meta mustard on my hotdogz.

We are not your office cubicle conformists so although u will no doubt get the "last thread," U can sip my noodles. They are ninja delicious. Allz love. Lets work together towards a common vision.

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Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

Mark M. writes: "One thing that puzzles me about this thread is how people know when someone else is learning ‘on the fly’ - how do you know if the other guy is familiar with the tune or not?"

You can tell because the Emperor is parading around in his undies. People that learn tunes on the fly think they are doing so much better than they actually are.

Mark M. writes: "But for me, if I want to play great, mistake free music for the benefit of people sitting listening, then I’ll get together with the band, rehearse and then perform."

And here’s the exploitation of the word "perform" again. You are performing your ability… or lack there of, any time you sit down and take out your instrument and play. The only time you aren’t is when you are practicing; something you should only do at home.

Mark M. writes: "As far as I am concerned a session is something completely different - we are not there for an audience, but for our own benefit - to share tunes and learn from each other. And that inevitably means some less than perfect playing. If anyone isn’t happy with that, if they only want to put on a respectable performance for the sake of people listening, then they don’t need to come to the session, they can form a band and perform."

I made it clear in my post that perfection certainly wasn’t the goal… you seem to have missed that part. Also, you are using a Reducto Absurdum logical fallacy by suggesting that it’s a "band rehearsal." Just because people want to get together and play tunes without someone noodling in order to "learn the tune on the fly" doesn’t mean they’re a "band" or putting on a "performance."

Mark M. writes: "But having listened and learned and got a tune into your head, sooner or later you are going to want to play it for the first time. And you are going to make some mistakes. Does that mean you should never attempt to play the tune, or should the session give you (and everyone else) a little latitude?"

We also covered this point in this thread as well. If you have the tune in your head is the best time to learn it. Learning at home when you’re practicing is the least disruptive. If you want to try it at a session please be courteous and make sure you are close enough that you aren’t putting others off. This is the whole point; making certain you aren’t disturbing the flow of the music.

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

Kook writes: "What u describe of learning at home with your phantom buttons and iscabs is not the tradition but I guess if we are going to impose rules and make others follow, I will only throw meta mustard on my hotdogz."

My observations are based on visits to Ireland and participating in sessions with people steeped in the tradition. Also it is based on conversations I’ve had with well respected luminaries of the tradition. Suggesting that people be more courteous and to try not to disturb the flow of the music certainly isn’t imposing rules on anyone. For you to characterize it as such suggests you might not understand what being courteous is exactly. You might want to Google it.

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

The ppl I knew in Ireland who I learned tunes from didn’t have recording devices so your argument is baseless. Fandango your googleheimersz

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Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

Kook, I never even once mentioned "recording devices" so your attack is baseless. Please be courteous when visiting other people’s sessions. If they are well understood to be having "learning sessions," by all means—noodle away. If they are playing because they want to celebrate the music… don’t assume it’s your personal tune learning event and start noodling to learn tunes. Is that too much to ask?

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

Are u calling me a noodler?

;)

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Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

I know of Phantom Button to be an extraordinary player, with depth and knowledge of the music and tradition.
Perhaps, kook, you could regale us with some of your own playing in order to provide context for your argument - otherwise, if there is a lack of depth in your abilities, perhaps, due courtesy is needed, for those who have spent a lifetime with the genre.
Ya think?

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

I’ve never been blamed for being a noodler and I am not insulting anyone’s musical abilities

If u are w someone else learning tunes u are having a session

If u are at home by yourself learning with sheets screens or pads or your abc then u are by yourself using technology

If u are having a concert, then by all means let us know but I guess could you call in a concert instead of a session. My ignorance on the definition of session

The tradition wasn’t carried on iclouds

It was on Earth.

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Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

Kook, you will never find anyone blaming you for being a "noodler." Unless it’s a learning session (or that’s what they do at a particular session)… this is something that will only be said after you’ve left. I have learned all of this the hard way… take my word for it. You have to sus out the session you are visiting and determine what the MO is before you join in—don’t make assumptions. If it’s your session or one you frequent where people are learning tunes on the fly—great—do it. Just be observant about sessions you’re visiting if you don’t know about them already. The people having the session will appreciate this.

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

Like I said I’ve never noodled at session.

So u can try to put it in preserve bottles and have your "concerts" but tradition was carried by noodlers before technology.

So if u think it your job to throw that to the threshing floor then u are disrespecting tradition for your concert. In my humble view. If u decide to take that way of learning away, I will just draw attention to the facts. Telling ppl to stay home and noodle with their iPads is pretty rude

And not part of tradition

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Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

Kook, I have not once mentioned technology, so I don’t know why you keep bringing that up. Neither have I mentioned anything about concerts. At this point you seem to be having this discussion with someone else, so I’m done.

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

If u expect no noodling at a session then u are having a concert….
If tradition was carried at sessions in this fashion, why isn’t it allowed anymore? In my view, perhaps it has to do with concerts that ppl call sessions.

If u are with another person having tunes u are having a "session" and we need to open ourselves out of our technical boxes and respect the ancestors way.

If it was good for them why would it be unacceptable in modern times?

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I expect that even two or three hundred years ago someone playing tunes would not necessarily want a guy to sit down next to him and noodle along if he didn’t know the tune. Tact and discretion or the lack of, are not modern inventions. If anything, people probably took the music much more seriously before ‘technology’ allowed for it to become aural wallpaper.

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

"If anything, people probably took the music much more seriously before ‘technology’ allowed for it to become aural wallpaper"

Aural wallpaper? I’m not sure I get it lol. Ambience?

"If u expect no noodling at a session then u are having a concert….
If tradition was carried at sessions in this fashion, why isn’t it allowed anymore?"

I always thought that practice(learning tunes) was for learning sessions, the privacy of your own home, or lessons with your teacher. And on your own time, not everyone else’s. In places like this, sessions aren’t every day. You have all week to learn tunes and practice. Now how would my new session feel if everytime I visited, I decided to noodle instead of playing tunes that I already knew?

And seriously, it’s not that hard to get the name of a tune(or the source it came from) and learn it at home. I’m sure everyone would be much more impressed if you came back to the session every week and knew more and more of their repertoire as the weeks and months went by. It takes time, but it’s worth it. I know cause i’ve done it.

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

"Aural wallpaper? I’m not sure I get it lol. Ambience?"

Today you couldn’t get away from music even if you tried, it’s everywhere, constantly being blasted at you. Compare that to a time when people didn’t even have radios. Hearing a musician play was a big deal, hearing a new tune was a big deal, a dance was a big event for the community. If there were no musicians around people would even lilt for others to dance too. Can you imagine? It’s something I think about a lot.

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

@Mark M:
"Personally, if I sit in on a session with strangers, I make far more mistakes and fluffs on tunes that I know well and play regularly than on tunes that I’m familiar with but have never actually played before."

Same here. I had my worst sessions two months ago. The tunes - all standards - just didn’t work. On several other occasions last summer I picked up tunes (which I may have heard) after just a couple of rounds. Playing in the same pub many days in a row with more or less the same people helped.

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

"Can you imagine?"

Sounds like the time I feel like I should’ve been born in :)

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

For sure, most sessions are a good way short of concert performance standards. You’ve got all sorts of variations in tune version, feel and phrasing going on at the same time. You’ve got intermediates who know the tune but don’t yet know it well enough to play it without gaffes. You’ve got advanced players finding their way back into a half-forgotten tunes.

For all that it’s still important to keep the resulting sound well on the right side of cacophony. You don’t want the other customers in the premises thinking "Jeez what a racket".

There are definitely players with a good ear and a practiced ability to pick up unknown tunes. By the third time through they will be playing a version which at least doesn’t clash, even if it isn’t quite there in all the fine detail. I think that’s acceptable.

There are also players of lesser ability who just thrash around hoping to find the tune. I think that’s unacceptable. I don’t think there is a clear dividing line, it’s just a question of degree.

Personally I don’t attempt to learn tunes on the fly, I’m quite happy just to sit back and listen. For goodness sake, how often in this hectic modern world do you get a chance to just sit and listen? Make the most of it.

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

Sorry I should clarify when I say "on the fly" I mean by ear at full speed, either playing along with a CD or playing with other people.

I’m pretty good at it, not as good as some others, better than some others. With most reels or jigs I’ve never heard I have around 80% of it learned by the third time through at a session. If a session played a tune four or five times I’d have the whole thing off! But no, I only have a partial thing, and as soon as they go to the next tune it all flies out of my head.

That’s because most reels are made up of traditional phrases and have a simple structure. Occasional there will be a reel that has unusual phrases in it, and that will take longer to have off.

I must say that at a session I don’t ‘noodle’, that is, play various notes hunting for the notes in the tune. That would sound terrible! I watch a fluteplayer, piper, or whistleplayer and silently finger along with them. Only if I have the tune mostly off will I join in on the 3rd playing, only playing the notes I have correct, taking a breath/leaving a gap anywhere that I’m not 100% sure of how it goes.

Years ago there was a certain person who would always show up and noodle on whistle on EVERY tune whether he knew it or not! In person it wasn’t all that annoying, but I taped some very nice tunes at one session and later when I listened to the tape that noodling whistle was louder than the rest of the players put together! I couldn’t hear how any of those tunes went, and the tape was useless.

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

Fiddle : if you really, really must noodle, or go the motions of the tune you’ve almost got right, it’s quite possible to do it so only you can hear yourself, and nobody else can. I’m not sure you could get that low a volume on any other (non-stringed) instrument.

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

I seem to have about 3rd of my session repertoire that I don’t remember ever learning at home and I don’t know the names of these tunes.At some sessions I would not play many of the tunes that I know as there is perhaps a fire being lit between the other musicians there.At other sessions a will blag noodle and pick up tunes on the fly sometimes this is how the night is working.some of the best sessions are not the most musical sometimes a session is killed by to many musicians sometimes the more the better.soft furnishings and loud drinkers all play a part in how the night is going to go!I think its sometimes better to not make a set of rules.We all no the musician who comes along and trashes the session by just not listening enough and we have all been to the session where its dead because the "experts" are in.If you are the musician who learns tunes on the fly be considerate.

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

The only time I ever try and "learn a tune on the fly" is if I have heard the tune before, recognize the basic melody and have always wanted to learn it, but I only play the notes I know and listen carefully to the 1st and 2nd endings to each section, that is usually where variations and settings differ

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

I completely agree with Phantom Button on this one. There is an ocean of difference between an experienced musician who, after soaking in Irish music for years, recognizes a melody and quietly susses it out while the tune is rolling by versus somebody who is noodling about on a tune they’ve never heard before thinking they’re "picking it up on the fly."

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

I could actually compile a list of the tunes I learned just by hearing them at sessions repeatedly. Of course it was only after years of sitting and listening to them week after week until I had them inside my head so well that I instinctively picked up my instrument and played along not realizing I had never *learned* it. I’ve astonished myself on those occasions, but I reckon that’s how many tunes are learned… especially before technological advancements developed tools to assist in the tune learning process. But if I don’t know a tune I don’t pick up my instrument and start doing what Richard Cook described so well; playing "various notes hunting for the notes in the tune." Again… listening IS a tune learning process. I find that the times where I attempted learning tunes on the fly that it actually inhibited the process because I wasn’t following the tune accurately and I was rewriting parts without realizing it till later… when I listened.

Note to Mark: This is the first comment where I refer to the "technology."

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

Like PB says, often when someone ‘picks up a tune on the fly,’ even though they haven’t played it before, they have heard it many times.
I don’t understand why someone would clutter up a nice session with tune learning work that can be accomplished much more effectively at home. Listening can be as much fun as playing!

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

Just tell them they are noodling

I’m guilty of that. I have scoffed at musicians and regretted it thirty years later when they rip. but truth will set u free.

Though, the Ancestors way…….

Passing tunes was the tradition. That was its survival. Once in awhile they went to a concert in some fancy place to see some specials performing. Otherwise, learning "getting" new tunes, passing tunes was the session any time two ppl got together to play tunes. Why I may not noodle around for quick access to your weird tunes, the Ancestors probably would in the comforts of circular groups of musicians in cozy tavernas.

I’m sorry about my rants about technology and saying that in reference to Mr P Buttons. My point is entirely baseless and I raise a toast to mr Phantom for my misgivings. He never mentioned technology. Perhaps I’ve spent too long a time sipping noodles of improvisational malarkey and not enough a time learning all these new fandango tunes.

Maybe u should call your session a concert. If u close that way of learning in whatever session u want to call it, u are trampling on Ancestor learning tradition. /alt/

Love u all don’t take me the wrong way, just rocking the boat

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Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

Kook, suggesting I call the session at my local a "concert" is a straw man fallacy. Also, your so-called "ancestors" might not have anything in common with the musicians that played in the first sessions in Liverpool towards the beginning of the last century and they might not agree with all of your characterizations of them and your assumptions about how they function. The bottom line is that a session is whatever the people having them want them to be, and if you show up at one you need to figure out what they’re doing and try not to disturb the flow of the music. Hint: sitting down and noodling might not be called for. Don’t make assumptions or try to lecture them on what they’re doing wrong based on your knowledge of the "ancestors" and how they supposedly did things.

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

Trad is at heart a solo art form, group playing in unison reflects that. The earliest pub sessions (started in my own county in the thirties, I believe) were musicians taking turns playing solo or perhaps duet, sometimes a trio. This format lived on until well into the seventies. It wasn’t uncommon for a single instrument, a fiddle, a set of pipes, a box, to be passed around the company as known musicians were invited to play. "circular groups of musicians", nonsense! Pub sessions took place solely in Irish communities, whether here or abroad. The whole community enjoyed the music, not playing together, musicians could be scattered all over the pub with their friends and family, and invited up (sometimes onto a slightly raised platform), sometimes playing where they sat.

In those days someone noodling along while a musician, asked to play by the acclaim of the company, played solo would have had the fiddle slapped out of their hands.

Plenty of very fine musicians dislike todays pub sessions for ignoring the soloist foundations of the tradition, and the often "flattened out" quality of the music from group play. Hence, in part, the resurgence in kitchen sessions, house dances, and solo playing coming back into pub sessions.

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Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

One thing is for sure, you can’t sit on stage and enjoy a drink with the musicians at a concert. Concerts don’t feature the comradery found in sessions.

Here’s another tip for the OP. Since I can’t learn tunes on the fly, I just listen to the tune and soak it in the best I can. That way when I find the source of the tune(usually a specific recording if I wasn’t given the name), I recognize the tune. If you’re focused on your noodling, believe it or not, you won’t soak in the tune as well as if you had just focused on listening and soaking.

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

"If you’re focused on your noodling, believe it or not, you won’t soak in the tune as well as if you had just focused on listening and soaking."

My experience is the opposite (and the simultaenous listening/noodling on my own is more time efficient than listening alone).

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

"If you’re focused on your noodling, believe it or not, you won’t soak in the tune as well as if you had just focused on listening and soaking."

Well, you’ve got to do both. Listen to a tune a few times before playing, that’s fair enough but you’ve got to tackle it sometime. You’ll still not get it just right first time no matter how many times you listened to it before hand.

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

Sorry, I wasn’t clear. My point was that you only have 3 turns to familiarize yourself with a tune during a session. I don’t think you can absorb a tune enough to remember it on the ride home if you don’t take at least two of those turns just listening. It’d be different if a tune was played 6… 8… 12 times

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

Plenty of very fine musicians dislike todays pub sessions for ignoring the soloist foundations of the tradition, and the often "flattened out" quality of the music from group play. Hence, in part, the resurgence in kitchen sessions, house dances, and solo playing coming back into pub sessions.

# Posted by The Hurler on the Ditch

Mighty pleased to hear you say that, Hurler. You come across as one of experience, so I’m gratified to know I am not alone in this. I just haven’t heard it expressed this cogently and succinctly.

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Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

@fiddlelearner:
"My point was that you only have 3 turns to familiarize yourself with a tune during a session. I don’t think you can absorb a tune enough to remember it on the ride home if you don’t take at least two of those turns just listening."

It still depends of the tune, and your ears. Some patterns are more predictable than others, and many here have experience of picking up for structurally simple tunes (e.g. polkas) in real time. I have tunes that I’ve learned in real time - not that I could (or still can) play them to perfection, but well enough to practice on my own.

Let us assume that there’s an experience session player with good ears, who (for some reason) haven’t heard tunes like The Kesh, Sullivan’s polka, John Ryan’s polka, Morrison’s jig, The Banshee, Murphy’s hornpipe (the two-part in G). Of course that person will be able to pick up these tunes in a short time. I’d be surprised if s/he didn’t.

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

They frown on that Jeff

:(

They prefer learning at home with technology. And so now our tradition is being carried on iCloud’s.

I am not lecturing anyone. U are the ones setting rules and regulations. U may be the regulator but perhaps I’m the chanter. Or some fancy shite jacky, alright? Your views are imperialistic and don’t apply to all situations.

Noodling was necessary in ancient times. So I am not saying u can’t be the noodlin police, if that is your choice. I am just saying that I will be the fing ninja noodlin kook, is that ok with ya?

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Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

By the way there is nothing the mind "focuses on" while noodling. The mind is empty

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Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

"The mind is empty"

Yes, Kook, that is the trouble.

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

fiddlelearner writes: "If you’re focused on your noodling, believe it or not, you won’t soak in the tune as well as if you had just focused on listening and soaking."

I agree with this. As I said earlier: if you’re noodling in an attempt to learn the tune you end up guessing and actually teaching yourself the tune rewritten by your imagination instead of embedding the actual tune. When I learn tunes from people that do this primarily I find I will often have to relearn parts to get it straight. The problem is that some of the more interesting turns of phrases are eroded away due to the noodle-learning process. The best way I have found to learn a tune is to have it firmly in your head before attempting to play it. I will often ask people where they got a tune before I ask what the name is, and then find that source and use it to enhance how the tune is embedded in my head. Thankfully we now have the much maligned technology to assist in the process.

Kook writes: "Noodling was necessary in ancient times. So I am not saying u can’t be the noodlin police, if that is your choice. I am just saying that I will be the fing ninja noodlin kook, is that ok with ya?"

I’m not telling you not to noodle… I’m suggesting you’re careful about when you choose to do so. You seem to want every session to adhere to your misinformed "ancient times" and "ancestral" dogma to justify your noodling. Who’s imposing their self on other people’s sessions again?

I find that the most passionate defenders of noodling tend to be the people with the smallest repertoire of tunes. It’s as if they don’t want to consider ceasing a disruptive activity they might be doing because it will mean they might have to listen to the music and not be playing all the time. That strikes fear into their heart and might spoil THEIR fun… which is what matters to them most. Other people’s fun is expendable for the noodler’s cause.

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

"They prefer learning at home with technology. And so now our tradition is being carried on iCloud’s."

Hardly. Listening to tunes on my iPod is hardly different than any of the older fiddlers listening to their vinyls. Besides, since the word tradition is a clue here… It seems to me that people did learn tunes at home, under their teachers which were probably their parents, their older brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, correct me if that is not how the tradition worked?

And again about what I said above about absorbing and soaking. One of my creative art teachers taught me a very significant universal artistic rule. She told us "The more you examine an image while attempting to draw it, the more accurate your drawing will be to the image", a rule i’ve learned applies for learning music by ear.

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

I heard a session a week ago where for a lot of the time, 1 guy was playing the tune, and others were "noodling". It was scheidt.

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Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

"I heard a session a week ago where for a lot of the time, 1 guy was playing the tune, and others were "noodling". It was scheidt."

Perhaps the 1 guy playing the tune should have made more effort to play tunes that others knew - if they knew any. (Since you say you *heard* the session, I am assuming the 1 guy in question was not yourself.)

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

"Perhaps the 1 guy playing the tune should have made more effort to play tunes that others knew"

If we only played tunes others new the session would become stagnant. A session is for celebrating the music and sharing tunes—not ensuring only the same tunes are played every time.

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

It is just a question of balance play some tunes that are familiar to everyone and gradually introduce new tunes, that stops session stagnation, Moderation in everything including playing old chestnuts and introducing new chestnuts.

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Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

"I heard a session a week ago where for a lot of the time, 1 guy was playing the tune, and others were "noodling". It was scheidt."

Ah jayzis, Kenny. Ye shoulda told us you were in town! ;-)

Re: Improving the abilty to pick up reels on the fly in sessions.

:)

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