How to start a session

How to start a session

I apologize in advance for rambling a bit. I’m not sure how to put all these thoughts into coherent, concise words.

Well, I have a conundrum. I am having a hard time finding people to play with close to home. I’m an intermediate fiddler/whistler. I live in the suburb of a large city. The city(and another suburb or two) has plenty of players, but this suburb not so much. I have only found one guitarist to play with that actually lives close to home. I have interest from a bodhran player or two, a beginner mandolinist, and an intermediate banjo/fiddler/mandolinist. I have heard of a good fiddler in the area, but have not been able to reach her yet. Most of these people don’t actually live close to me, and would have to battle bad traffic to get here. How does one entice them them to stick around?

I’m okay with a smaller group like the above, and actually prefer a more intimate gathering, but this brings up another problem. If this is going to be a slow/intermediate/learning session, who is going to lead? I’m no leader and not that great of a player. It makes sense that somebody has to anchor the group/organize/plan. Nobody else seems inclined, and I’m a rather introverted person. And how much structure is too much? How loose is too loose?

Any suggestions on how to build such a thing? Where and how to recruit players, even absolute beginners? Where to recruit a session leader or how to be a leader myself? Thoughts?

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Re: How to start a session

Why not just session in your home?

That’s better than trying to start something in a public venue when you’re not confident you can lead it yourself, and you might attract more people anyway, without the stress of public performance.

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Re: How to start a session

Well I’d suggest you work with what you have…. The guitar player, it sounds like it’s a bit early for you to be organising sessions if you can’t lead it yourself. So teach the guitar player your set of tunes and spend a few months to a year working on them and polishing them. Then once your tight your options will have improved and other players might be more interested.
This music is an art form that requires decades of intense energy and attention . There are no short cuts. When your good enough to gig as a duo then your good enough to lead sessions as a duo. But one thing I’d say is just stick to the genre, just play Irish music and the odd scots tune maybe…… Please . If your going to play the music then play it well or go home.
Cheers

Re: How to start a session

If you build it they will come. 🙂

Re: How to start a session

I’d say advertise at a local radio station, a few posters at local music stores. Say you’re having it at your house as a session and to contact you for details. Have a list of maybe 5 tunes that might be common in your area and say you’d like to start with those at the beginning. It will either hang together or it won’t but nothing at all happens if you’re too timid to commit. I did manage to start a beginners session once and it took a bit more effort but it was worth it for a while.

Re: How to start a session

I seem to recall going around to established sessions in the general area and basically begging their players to help me start ours. I also think that, in our case, the experienced players got together for the odd side gig—pubs, weddings, etc.—which helped keep interest up, and keep the more distant players in the loop.

As for the rest of it—how fast/slow, beginner/advanced, grim/jokey—I can’t help you, don’t have a clue. It’s only been eight years or so, maybe I will figure it out eventually. Meanwhile, I just keep showing up on a regular basis, and most of the time two or three others do too.

Re: How to start a session

Pretty much every city has a session Facebook page or some other social media thing.

Meanwhile see if you can find one other person who’ll agree to meet weekly at someone’s house on a low traffic day and set a tune to learn for next week.

Then you play the new tune plus the other ones you’re learning from previous weeks and in a year you’ll have a 52-tune repertoire.

That’s the theory, anyway.

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Re: How to start a session

About six months in, start a social media page and get Sharon Shannon or someone recognisable to "like" and it’ll take off like wildfire.

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Re: How to start a session

@Will Evans

Decades? Not really. I’ve come across far to many little kids who play like pros for that to be true. And quite a few pros who, while playing brilliantly, aren’t all that much more brilliant than they were years ago. I’d say it’s more like x + six months, where x represents the time it takes to get a few tunes together. The six months is the time spent playing with a bunch of others.

Re: How to start a session

Based only on my personal experience I’d suggest taking the bull by the horns.

Ask around to the musicians who seem most open to having a session, whether it’s only one time or something scheduled on a regular basis. Sometimes it’s only one session and a place to meet which gets the ball rolling.

As for who leads; be prepared to start most of the sets but seek out at least one experienced musician capable of starting tunes so the session doesn’t land in the gutter. The main thing is to aim for a reasonable quality of musical experience but also connect with people as people so you don’t need to set the height of the bar right from the get go. Start enough adrenaline flowing & everyone will want to come back for more.

There’s your session. I’ve seen it happen from the most modest beginnings.

Bull by the horns… That’s how I’d start a session. Y.M.M.V.

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Re: How to start a session

Sit down with the guitarist, at home and explore some sets together.
Tell the guitarist to avoid playing chords with the third in there until you both are well used to the genre and where locking down the chord wouldn’t spoil the flavour of things.
Bang e-mails back & forward between you with suggestions for the next meet up.
Just do that for a decent length of time until you’re both really comfortable playing for a couple of hours together.
As you meet people who may be interested and seem keen then invite them along to explore with a bigger group.
Treat it as a shared journey exploring Irish Trad. Take your time together, there’s no stage and no performance about this, just play together for what you are able to share.
Once things get too big for the front room you may like to take it out to a pub so you get more space, but you’ll probably be too busy playing with all your fellows to feel there’s any urgency to doing that.

Re: How to start a session

I was fortunate to have an awesome fiddler, John Richey, to lead the session I started In Boyne City, Michigan. The Traverse City Session shares their session book with us and has been incredibly supportive with members coming to play with us. We initially played in a local bookstore and moved around -Freshwater Art Gallery, Walloon General store…over the last eight years. This has always been on a Sunday afternoon and in a family friendly environment. We are now in the community room of the local library and have access to a kitchen. I make sure we have refreshments and often bring in a potted dinner. The food is my way of thanking folks for coming- some come from over a hundred miles to play- even when the snow is flying. If you build it, put posters up, get on the local community calendars of newspapers-tv-radio-online, it will happen. It has pushed and stretched my musical abilities beyond anything I ever dreamed.
Just do it.

Re: How to start a session

If you’ve got 2 or 3 folk interested, then you’ve got your session?

Remember - It’s about having fun….. if you can do it somewhere relaxed and low key, where it doesn’t matter if you play one tune 3 times, and then forget the rest of the set, or fluff that tune you can play perfectly in yur own kitchen 🙂

A drink or two can certainly help soothe any nerves, but you have to work out carefully what your ‘sweet spot’ is.

Get everyone to suggest a set or two - and work from there.

Jim

Re: How to start a session

I’m in agreement with Nico and subsequent posters - if you are not confident to lead the session yourself and neither is anyone else, perhaps it would be a good idea to make it a house session, at least to start with. That way, you are free from the pressure of having to please (or at least, not annoy) punters and you can choose who to invite. It would give you a comfortable environment in which to build a solid common repertoire; the less advanced players would benefit from playing with you, which would in turn help build your confidence. After perhaps a few months of playing together in private, you might then feel ready to take the session to a public venue, and draw in more players.

Re: How to start a session

Good advice, above.

Another thought, and a solid vote for a house session:
Even if no one is confident enough to lead tunes in a public session, the melody players should have a few tunes that they like to play and can belt out. Share those tunes and pretty soon you’ve got a common repertoire.

Teaching a tune to someone else is a terrific way to acquire a deeper understanding of what it takes to play it well. You can’t just slop your way through it; you have to spend time thinking how to break it down so that the other person can understand it, especially if no one has been playing together for eons. You start thinking of the tune in phrases, which is the point. Not a string of notes, a coherent sentence, with inflection and all that stuff.

Oh, and then be sure to go out and hear some of the local folks play—there are some pretty terrific (and helpful) musicians in your area, if your profile map is accurate. Good way to meet other musicians and learn a thing or two.

Re: How to start a session

I started a house session by luck. I had contacted a member here that lives in my area and asked if he has interested in joining me.. It turns out that we take lessons from the same teacher. I was approached by another guitar player, who also sings and then put out feelers to others. I have set a date and time, Monday 7:30, and work real hard to keep it. Even if no one can make it, I set that time aside to practice. I have been struggling with the tune list and will take the suggestions in the thread to heart. One new tune a week. We do have plans to take it public, but for now, the front room it is.