Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

So, I play in three or so different sessions in my town, all with a sort of core group of men aged 50+. I am frequently the only female (which may have nothing to do with anything). But the issue is, when I like someone’s playing, or tune choice, or notice improvement, I have a natural impulse to say so—but I’ve noticed that no one else does this. No one ever compliments anyone. The only compliments I’ve received (other than being invited in the first place) were given in private, never in front of others. So, I’m wondering:

Is it considered rude to compliment a player? Is it an issue of offending the people you aren’t complimenting? Is it rude because no one asked? Is it a typical male thing? Or just an ITM thing? Or are my session mates weird? It just seems strange to me. We’re all friends, right? We’re not competing? Or are we? Am I off the mark? Or totally overthinking it? What does it mean?!

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

Is it considered rude to compliment a player? No.
Is it an issue of offending the people you aren’t complimenting? No.
Is it rude because no one asked? No.
Is it a typical male thing? Yes.
Or just an ITM thing? I wouldn’t have thought so.
Or are my session mates weird? I wouldn’t have thought so.
It just seems strange to me. OK.
We’re all friends, right? I couldn’t comment on that.
We’re not competing? You shouldn’t be.
Or are we? No.
Am I off the mark? About what?
Or totally overthinking it? Possibly.
What does it mean?! Probably very little.

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

I think you’re looking too much into it. Most players, unless they’re young or new to an instrument, have a pretty slow rate of improvement. They may not have noticed. Also, personally I wouldn’t compliment a fellow session peer as it would have a high chance of coming over as patronising. I agree with all Nigel’s points above other than if it’s a male thing. The females who go to our sessions don’t tend to compliment others either. Maybe we’re more reserved in Scotland but I’ve always found public musical compliments (among peers) a bit cringy.

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

The ‘normal’ thing would be to clap, whoop, else tap the table following an exceptional, moving, or just plain enjoyable performance.

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

Reelsweet,

It’s never been that common to dish out compliments in Scotland, Ireland etc. For some reason, there is the concern that an individual may get above him or herself. When someone gets successful, there’s the attitude of "I used to ken his/her faither", "There’s hundreds more like her"(I heard someone say that when I first discovered Sharon Shannon!) and so on.

Sessions are also a little different in that "the tune" or "the music" is usually considered to be more important than the player(s) although you’ll still get people with egos. There’s always the perennial issue(often discussed here) about poor players who occasionally disrupt or bring down sessions. As regards the latter, I don’t believe you need to be a top musician to play in a session as long as you are polite and learn to "fit in". The only drawback is when there lack of space as is often the case. Then, I would give the regulars priority.

So, sometimes, you do get compliments in sessions but they are more likely to be along the lines of "That’s a nice tune" or "Where did you get that one?" and so as opposed to "I think you are a brilliant player."
Usually, musicians are unlikely to say even that if your playing is completely "bowff". So, it’s also a sign that they think your playing is fine too.

It’s a funny old world. 🙂

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

I’ve thought and felt the exact same thing over the years (almost identical, in often the only younger lady, etc). I’ve noticed that when we trad players do complement one another it’s done super passively - ‘That was a lovely tune’ or ‘the sound off that fiddle is mighty’. People seem more comfortable commenting on the objects (tune, music, sound, or instrument) rather than the person.

I don’t think people think it’s rude to complement, but maybe trad musicians are actually just allergic to passing any sort of judgement one way or the other. That’s my sense. I definitely feel uncomfortable telling a musician that o hear a serious improvement in their playing, because it insinuates that they used to not sound to great.

I think there is a balance - I’ve occasionally straight up told people I think they are a brilliant player, but that feels a little awkward. Trad musicians seem to be slightly embarrassed or humbled if you harp on about how amazing they are. So now I tend to do more subtle praising myself - like just saying at the end of the night how much I enjoyed playing tunes with them, etc.

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

In our sessions we compliment each other all the time, even if it’s just a nod in recognition. However, at most sessions there is always something of an edge of competition. Is this built into our masculine genetic? It isn’t unusual to find people playing against each other rather than with each other.
Players instantly compare themselves to the other players and a pecking order obtains, even if never formally acknowledged. It’s not so much about being "the leader" as it is about being the best player, or knowing the most tunes, or having the loudest instrument in the room. Everybody strives to be better. Better than everybody else? probably, on some level.
It’s lovely when everybody is playing so quietly that you can hear everybody in the session. Most people do play louder than they need to and then everyone, in the struggle to hear oneself, ramps up the volume. Playing pretty, hearing everybody, is hard to do when there more than four or five men all playing (or doing anything) at once, and nearly impossible with ten.
We should listen to each other — and compliment each other — more often.

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

I see the "competitive edge" thing sometimes when professional musicians get together after gigs or at festivals and so on but less so at your average "community" session.

While there may be an informal "pecking order" and most participants will know who the better players are, "show offs" and pushy musicians aren’t usually appreciated either.

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

Public praise is a touchy thing. It’s not always welcomed. Not everyone seeks the spotlight—even musicians playing in public. There may be anxiety of triggering divisive envy. It can be embarrassing. The code is, be indirect: compliment the tune as in “Ah sure that was a lovely tune.” The players will know that it was their playing that made it lovely.

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

In a world that often seems to be chasing it’s own tail around "self-esteem" we often hear gushing compliments where little is deserved. In my part of the world a performer is likely to get a standing ovation for showing up. The other end is stoic silence (the Silent Ovation). No harm in acknowledgement of something well done. Just be sure it was well done. I doubt that a tasteful compliment is unappreciated, but too much for too little is embarrassing to say the least.

Funny story about that. One winter day some years ago I was running up one of the local canyons at my usual slow painful pace when I was passed by a fit, athletic rabbit ( or so he seemed to me). A bit later I caught up to him when he’d stopped at a picnic table for a while. I’m no fool. I know that I’m just a slow, sweaty, wheezy, old guy, lumbering up hill so all the "strong work" and "good job" comments really wouldn’t apply. Instead what he said was "Huh…you here already?" We ran down together, but I doubt my feet ever touched the ground! Now if I could just hear someone say my playing sounds more like a flute than an elk bugling in the woods I might recapture that feeling.

So yeah, compliment what’s real and move on.

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

I think Johnny Jay’s point is at the center of it. If someone tells you how great you are in a session in Ireland, it might be time to pack up and go. If they say "rubbish!" after a set you just led, it means that they like you enough that they feel comfortable slagging you.

I heard a secondhand tale of a quote of Kevin Burke’s, so I don’t know the validity, but it went something like this: "When I first moved to America, people would come up to me and tell me how amazing I was after every performance. It took me a couple of years to realize that they were sincere and weren’t just takin’ the piss…"

For myself, I got a lot of encouragement and praise when I was first progressing as a player, and even though I am from a culture that embraces praise more, it made me uncomfortable. Partially because I could see that the players weren’t complimenting the other players who were way better than me, and partially because it felt patronizing. I was fully aware of how much I still sucked.

The most common praise I give and receive is "I really enjoyed the tunes tonight", or "I enjoyed playing some tunes with you". That’s enough…

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

I’m not sure there’s any real downside in someone receiving a compliment that they don’t "deserve". Except that you might get the sound of some embittered third party gnashing their teeth in the background.

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

(Cross-posted: that wasn’t particularly in response to rev’s post).

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

"Public praise is a touchy thing. It’s not always welcomed. Not everyone seeks the spotlight—even musicians playing in public. There may be anxiety of triggering divisive envy. It can be embarrassing. The code is, be indirect: compliment the tune as in “Ah sure that was a lovely tune.” The players will know that it was their playing that made it lovely."

Yes.

In a similar vein, as a fiddler, I might compliment another fiddler’s playing by saying something like "Nice tone on that fiddle."

PS - I’m a guy - 50+.

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

It depends on the session (format). A big festival session is different from a small session with your friends. Both can include highlights like a new set of tunes you’ve never heard before (or haven’t played for a long time), some really nice variations and so on. Nods, verbal compliments, claps, high fives… All of a sudden musicians across the table shake your hand and introduce themselves after a set. That alone can feel like a compliment.

Some comments I’ve only heard in Ireland are "lovely" (and not everybody says it either) and "an-deas", "maith thú" and similar phrases.

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

"I’m not sure there’s any real downside in someone receiving a compliment that they don’t ‘deserve’." The devaluation of sincere compliments?

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

It’s a British thing.

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

Thanks for your thoughts everyone. I thought it might be an ettiquite thing. I’m certainly not going around gushing with compliments, nor could I ever be accused of being patronizing. I’ve ocassionally said something like "that was great", when truly moved by something. I just noticed how different it is from other musical spheres where people encourage one another, and offer feedback. Of course that’s generally in situations where people are performing, or desiring to be performers, so a completely different animal than sessions. Now I understand how to do it properly, and what it might mean when someone compliments a set, or a tune, or an instrument. I think I get it now.

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

Okay, I guess I should have listened to my second mind; allow me to re-phrase: "I’m not sure there’s any real downside in someone receiving a sincere compliment that they don’t ‘deserve’."

Does that devalue sincere compliments that are ‘deserved’? I really don’t see that as a big issue, where I live. YMMV.

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

1. No
2. No
3. No
4. I seriously don’t know. Both (all) genders surprise me & I tend not to think of
anything as typical relative to one’s gender(s).
5. There are several ITM things but not always characteristic or universal.
6. Yes, but weird is good.
7. Yes!
8. Probably not, though I think people usually tend to compete a little. But, no,
I doubt this has much to do with competition.
9. See #8.
10. I’m sure your observation is correct. (i.e. your local sessions rarely have
vocal compliments during sessions).
11. Isn’t that what the Discussions page is here for?
12. If it was me I would read all the responses here and take the information accordingly
but ultimately I would go back to the session and be myself.

Personally I appreciate conversations with other players about tune choices, sets, improvements, sound characteristics, etc. more when I’m in a small group of people 3 - 4 or one on one.

In sessions I appreciate banter more than praise or compliments. But that’s not to say vocal compliments are out of place. Having said that I have heard compliments and slaggings which are best taken with a grain of salt. It varies.

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

Two of these are small groups 3-7, and one public session that ranges from 5-30.

I’m in the US (West coast), and haven’t heard much slagging here. There’s a lot of passive aggressiveness in this culture in general, and one needs to be careful with slagging, since it’s often taken the wrong way, and some people get offended too easily.

In my past lives, I played GHB in a pipe band, where there was frequently encouragement and critiquing (maybe we were unique in that?) Also, I was involved in a classical guitar society, and played in ensembles. All of which involved a great deal of commenting, either observation, encouragement, compliments or critiques. I think that’s why I find the silence odd. I’ve been playing with these people for years, and consider them all friends. I just found it puzzling. Thanks for all your thoughts.

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

Just thought I’d mention the other side to this. The response to a compliment, deserved or not, is "thank you"….and we move on. No need to overthink it.

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I’m not far away in Vancouver, Wa. I think a lot of this has to do with the culture in this area of the US, perhaps all of the US. Part of the hippy/whatever roots is thinking lots of things are neat, cool, righteous. In the context of a session or pretty much any social event, this ends up being a friendly, yet somehow reserved atmosphere. (Fake humility?) Most compliments end up being "That groove was cool" or "we really had that tune dialed in", that sort of thing. Sort of indirect compliments. I think your experience is more a representative of the culture at large than of a specific session behavior.

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

I don’t talk to people all that much, and the reason is that I feel the need to always be true to myself. A compliment, by definition, is just a polite lie. If you tell the truth it can’t be a compliment; just your truth.

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

How is a compliment a lie? "Compliment" and "Truth" don’t seem to be mutually exclusive terms to me.

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

If it is the truth how can it be a compliment? It is just true and nothing complimentary about it. If somebody says that they like your face it just means they like your face. You take no credit for what they like. But anyhow, just ignore me, I often wonder if I’m not a bit autistic. Okay,… I can see that a person receiving the truth can take it as a compliment, but I can’t accept that the truth can be offered as a compliment.

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

It’s lazy of me to take the first defintion Google offered, but it fits what I thought; "a polite expression of praise or admiration". So does the specific thing mentioned being true* invalidate that?

* Or it being regarded as undeserved (thanks for the clarification ‘meself’ - I get your meaning now)

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

I guess what I was getting at in relation to the O.P. is that if I was at her session I wouldn’t comment on somebody’s playing or their improvement unless I felt compelled to express a complete truth (and that is not INTENDED as a compliment). I don’t know if this is a male thing or not, but I suspect that if her session members were 50/50 men and women there would be a lot more ‘compliment’s flying around.

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

"I might compliment another fiddler’s playing by saying something like "Nice tone on that fiddle." "…
You see.. to me that isn’t a compliment. The other fiddler shouldn’t respond with ‘thank you’ but with either agreement or disagreement. There can be nothing complimentary in the truth. And to what degree is the fiddler responsible for the tone on the fiddle. I once heard a guy stop a woman on the street by saying, "That’s a nice cardigan’. she actually stopped, smiled and said, "Oh thank you!". I mean, talk about gullible’s travels;- he was either (most likely) lying, or he genuinely liked her cardigan, which requires no thanks, but how can she accept it as a compliment? She has had nothing to do with the whole thing!
Maybe you can see why I don’t socialise much or get invited to parties.

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

I am inclined to agree with Nigel that it is ‘typical male thing’ - though not exclusively so. In my experience blokes are more likely to show appreciation in an indirect way (e.g."good tune" )

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

Gobby, I think you’re are mixing up different uses of the term compliment. It’s entertaining, but can be difficult to follow your unique way of thinking.

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

You are right Ben. I think I’ll shut up for a while and just keep reading.

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

Gobby - maybe she chose the cardigan.

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

It’s OK, Gobby. Actually if you lived here I think you would fit in at some of our parties.

Cheers!

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

I have only been given clear ‘postive feedback’ at sessions three times. All in relation to the same tune, after I had worked on it a lot.

A mate said "You have been practicing". A women young enough to my granddaugher, but a peer in the context of an improvers session, said "that was good" after I had made a better than average job of leading a set. A very experienced male player said "well done" after I just about managed to hang on in after someone started it at what I knew he thought was a ridiculous tempo. The mate didn’t need a response, for the others it’s just ‘thank you’ and move on - as ross faison said above

The moral to me is - keep practicing.

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

Gobby, I relate. Small talk is annoying. Compliments are basically small talk. I do try to balance my own ideas with social norms, but often end up failing somehow.

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

There are a lot of misconceptions about complimenting and admiration, I know in our American culture. I’ve always been a complimentary person and have been accused of everything, from being an arse-kisser to a brown-noser. It makes me sick that people feel so threatened that I have something nice to say about someone else. But for the most part, I’ve gotten over that, and if I like something, I’m going to say it. I don’t have to silence myself over someone else’s insecurities. But I am much more likely now to pass my compliments in private.

But a note more directly about sessions in general; At our session, the tunes and sets get all the compliments. We all seem to really like each other’s repertoires. We tend to have "all the instruments" at our session, except for the harp and piano accordion, so maybe that’s why there’s such a spread of tunes? But I’ve found myself recording at least a half hours worth of material some nights. Especially when I finally met the other concertina player. I like everything that man plays.

As for me personally receiving compliments, it flatters and embarrasses me coming from peers. I’ve been fortunate to have met and known some remarkably talented individuals who are at levels I could only dream of reaching, so when getting a compliment from someone like that I never know what to say, so I just say "Thank you.", probably for fear of saying something stupid or coming off as arrogant. I take compliments from my Irish peers much easier because they make me feel like I’m not an outsider anymore. That I’m welcomed and appreciated for taking part in the culture. But I still get flattered over it. Compliments from an audience is a different matter. They give me life, and motivate me to keep working hard. Those compliments are the reason why I even take playing music seriously, cause I know that it means something to someone else.

All in all, it may just be a cultural thing. Here in the American Southeast we pride ourselves in being more open and friendly about matters like this. I wouldn’t expect it to be the same up North.

Edit: Reading David’s comment reminded me of something I started experiencing when I started street performing. Compliments from Children.

Getting a compliment from a little kid is probably one of the coolest feelings ever, because you know they mean it and are sincere. A kid isn’t just going to say they like something they don’t like, to a rank stranger. They’re more honest than that. So I always make sure to give them a smile, a wave, and a loud and clear "Thank you!".

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Don’t get me wrong Jerone, if I genuinely like something or even somebody, I have a compulsion to say so. If I have genuinely enjoyed somebody’s company I will always tell them. They may take that as a compliment but I don’t intend it as one. I relate to what Aaron says about small talk, and to me most of what I’d recognise as ‘compliments’ are gratuitous. I also think there is another, more acceptable word for me,and that is ‘encouragement’. I will always offer encouragement.

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

If I feel moved to say something, I say something. Enough said.

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

I think it’s both cultural and contextual.

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

I also suspect there are the varying gender dynamics to be considered.

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

Find a session that has more women and pass the compliments around. 🙂

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

Gobby, I get the first part of what you’re saying but I don’t have the slightest idea why you do not intend it as a compliment, to me it is simply & clearly a compliment, "if I genuinely like something or even somebody, I have a compulsion to say so. If I have genuinely enjoyed somebody’s company I will always tell them. They may take that as a compliment but I don’t intend it as one." But neither do I do get why any compliment is thought of as gratuitous.

Puzzled.

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

I guess it’s just my own interpretation Ben. I shouldn’t have got into it. but basically, how I see it is that if somebody tells me they like my face (pretty rarely) I either believe them and think, right, they like my face. But how is that a compliment to me? My face is what it is whether they like it or not. it isn’t (to me, a compliment that they state their truth ABOUT THEMSELVES!. In reverse, I have sometimes stated my opinion about somebody and been told, "Thanks for the compliment". I always say that it wasn’t a compliment just the truth (and by ‘the’ truth, I only mean ‘my’ truth’. I just can’t see that truth is complimentary because truth carries no intention but itself.
One thing that really niggles me though is when somebody attempts to compliment me on something I’ve done and they clearly aren’t qualified to judge. in other words I have to respect the right to judge by the person making the assessment. Then I would take it as an honest assessment, and not an annoyingly polite compliment. But there again, I would comfortably accept, a statement saying, for example, "I like that!", because that is not a statement about me or my ability, it is a statement about them, and therefore (in my mind) , not a compliment. One should really answer something like, "I’m glad you like it", or simply ‘Good", but usually out of pure indoctrinated social etiquette, or maybe ego, one takes it as a compliment and answers "Thank you". But all of this is just pedantry. I know what everybody else means.

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

I think I should have worded the OP differently, and used "feedback" rather than "compliment". I really wasn’t thinking along the lines of flattery at all. As I mentioned earlier, in other musical settings I’ve been in, people were very forthcoming with feedback (not necessarily flattery), and very responsive about each other’s playing. So, it was just something that stood out to me.

I’d be hesitant to take "good tune" or "nice set" as positive feedback, since I’ve heard players say that to people who’s playing I know they don’t care for… Anyway, sounds like if I were to have occasionally said something like "nice playing!", although it would be better stated as "nice tune" or "nice sounding flute" or something, at least I’m not making some sort of egregious faux pas. That’s really what I was concerned about.

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

I’m sorry reelsweet, I unthinkingly took your thread on a poiintless diversion. I shouldn’t be so bloody pedantic.

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

I tend to agree with some of the others that what you observe may be due to your sessions being predominantly male. But the word ‘feedback’ kind of changes the question a bit. I can’t imagine working in a group situation without feedback. Surely it is essential Other than that, I was just wondering,… you stated that the only compliments you’ve ever been given were in private. Is it possible then that this happens with everybody else? Feedback however should be done in the open, at the time.

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

Sorry, Gobby, I did not intend to draw you out (or is it draw you in?). Thanks for the pedantic explanation. I’m just not sure if I am complimenting or encouraging you. But, like I said above, "11. Isn’t that what the Discussions page is here for?"

Ben

Thanks, reelsweet. Your response helps clear it up when you introduce flattery into the concept. I totally get the connotations associated w/flattery.

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

Feedback is a whole different discussion.
Carry on though.

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

If I say, That’s a nice tune!, I mean that it’s a nice tune. It’s not my way of avoiding complimenting someone’s playing.

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

Somewhere way up in this thread I mentioned that if I was in your position, reelsweet, I would be myself in your local sessions. I have only been to two sessions in Ashland and those were some ten years ago. From what I recall I cannot imagine that paying a compliment for someone’s playing it would be a faux pas in any way shape or form. Unless it was Gobby on a rare visit stateside. ;)

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

ha, ha… yeah, well… being someone who has forgotten more about social etiquette than you lot know, I was just thinking how we’ve has a run of session etiquette discussions recently and none of them ever seem to get resolved agreeably, which given the definition of ‘etiquette’, seems to be a little contradictory ..

"the customary code of polite behaviour in society or among members of a particular profession or group"

( I just took the first definition I found by the way). So given this definition, is it possible, as David50 stated, that it is always both cultural and contextual, and that session etiquette and behaviour will vary so much locally, that many of these questions can’t be agreeably answered within our community? Or is it not an etiquette question in the first place?

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

I’m just slagging you, Gobby. You know I love you. Now go practice.

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

Wow! All this angst over a simple acknowledgment of something done well. I’m impressed.

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

Not helpful, Mr. Faison.

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

I think the point of th OP to ask why the others in her sessions never seem to make such a simple acknowledgement, and is this the norm.

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

Oh yes,.. thanks for the compliment Ben.

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

But they do acknowledge each others playing. At least when I was in Ashland I never felt I was not acknowledged for my contribution. Has it changed so much in 10 years?

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Re:Session Feedback

Sorry for all my extreme posts above. Reelsweet, I have not been to Ashland, Oregon in about 10 years. And I have only attended 2 sessions at that time. So I have no concept of the current session environment there. Hopefully the sessions you attend appreciate your contributions both in terms of feedback and tunes played. I cannot imagine they do not. You did mentioned a passive-aggressive culture. Sorry if that has worked it’s way into the session environment. If it has I still think it’s good to just be yourself. There is too much self-doubt and divisive attitudes brewing currently in America; which is "absolutely" self destructive. Music can be a positive motivation, socially. I strongly think it was when I was last in Ashland.

Take care,
Ben

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

AB: Yes, people are still welcomed and acknowledged. It’s not like anyone is being rude, and people are nice to each other for the most part. It’s a great fun, friendly atmosphere! I love all the sessions I attend here. I think perhaps I was just missing the subtlety of how people respond to each other. I’ve been attending the main session for 7 years or so, but only playing in smaller ones for a couple. So, still quite new at this.

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

The passive aggressiveness I mentioned wasn’t in relation to the sessions at all, just society in general, and perhaps why slagging can be misunderstood here, in general. Everything, session wise is really great, I’m very content, not complaining at all. I just noticed how this one thing I’m used to is different. As I said above, I was obviously missing the subtlety.

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

Is there some confusion regarding the term ‘slagging’? I would take it to mean insulting, ‘dissing’, ‘bad-mouthing’, ‘tearing down’, etc. I’m wondering how ‘slagging’ - the action, not the term - might be ‘misunderstood’?

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

I think when used here “slagging” refers to the exchange of friendly insults. Some people are not familiar with the practice - which is why I stopped doing even though it was a practice in the culture of my youth.

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

@Gobby. If I think of what I would refer to as flattery in your references to compliments then I can make sense of, and agree with, your earlier posts.

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

"I might compliment another fiddler’s playing by saying something like "Nice tone on that fiddle." "…
You see.. to me that isn’t a compliment. The other fiddler shouldn’t respond with ‘thank you’ but with either agreement or disagreement. There can be nothing complimentary in the truth."

"And to what degree is the fiddler responsible for the tone on the fiddle."

I’m surprised to see that you’re a fiddler, yourself, Gobby, especially with that last question.

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

Whatever you say, say nothing..

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

The exchange of ambiguous complimentary insults and insulting compliments used to be a big thing in many of the sessions I attended 20 and 30 years ago. For instance: "You’ve been practising!" implied that (a) you needed to practise, (b) it was a thing nobody did and was in some way cheating and (c) that you’d improved. To say an instrument (usually described as a frying pan or a blowpipe or in some other derogatory way) was almost in tune - or might be in tune next year - probably meant the playing had been good. References to rockets or fire at the tail end meant the speed was high - or you might claim to be able to get to the bar between notes.

Women did it too. The banter used stock phrases, which made it easier. It had the downside of being aggressive and it could become obnoxious ("Chop his fingers off!") but it tended to diffuse aggression and it usually had the upside of allowing everyone to join in the exchange and everyone to take what they wanted out of it. It was necessary, of course, to understand the code.

People at sessions tend to be more literal and careful in their speech now - but the result can be uncomfortable silences and it doesn’t seem to result in us understanding each other any better. The contrary seems to be true. Perhaps all successful social interaction requires some kind of code?

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

Several instances of the "thumbs up" sign across the room this afternoon at a mixed songs and tunes session. Simple, but expressive gesture, no-one thinking they’d over-egged it. All given and taken as compliments, no hidden agendas.

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

trish santer you’re right. The thumb’s up and the winding-up gesture are all I can think of that we’ve got left of the old codes.

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

"The banter" - that’s the term I would use - in my experience, the term ‘slagging’ is not used to mean anything good-natured.

Btw: what is the ‘winding-up gesture’? I’m far too young to know anything about the ‘old codes’ … !

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

Sometimes we jump up and do high-fives when we’ve nailed a set. Over the top, of course. But it’s fun.

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

I believe high six’s are common in Tasmania.

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

Meself, I get that. Slagging literally means something insulting. That’s not how I’m using it, not how I’m intending it, in this discussion. Also, whenever something I intend as good-natured banter is causing someone distress I do my best to let them know I care about their feelings. I’m with you on banter being a better term for more universal understanding of one’s intention.

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

It’s turning into a dictionary thread. I too would use banter. I got the expression "exchange of friendly insults" used above from book translated from French about one of those ocean raft voyages. I wonder if it avoided potential confusion in translating whatever the French call such ‘teasing’ exchanges.

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

Going back to the OP. It has occured to me that the leaders of workshops and ‘open access’ community musical endeavours often avoid individual feedback, positive or negative (except maybe in private - I wouldn’t know). Getting negative feedback or not getting positive feedback when others were could be very upsetting. Something similar may be happening in a session.

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

Reelsweet, I have played music in situations where there is open discussion, lots of feedback, and
often going back over something we just played. It’s very helpful when a group is actively collaborating
toward a particular goal. But it can tend to be a form of practice. Also, for gig rehearsals, real time feedback can be essential. Having said that I’ve played in Irish sessions where I’m sure the session is collaborating,
even making subtle adjustments/improvements(?) as the session progresses but absolutely no overt feedback. It seems to work best when the players are very familiar with one another. When newer players’ join
there may be some feedback broadcast in the group; but more often it’s just the person next to them saying something in their ear. Lots of communication if you sit next to the right person.

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

Reelsweet, as you may know, women are more often than not a kinder tribe than men.
This is surely something we men can give thanks for and strive to emulate. I think your feeling free to compliment a player you admire is nothing but a good thing. Being nice to people costs nothing and spreads cheer and friendliness. Who cares if the compliment was earned or not. I encourage you to change nothing. Good on ya. As for whether you can expect us men to feel and behave as you do……here’s hoping. Whatever you say, say something kind….. (advice I hope I can follow one day).

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

Now that’s flattery!
;)

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

We regularly kid our piper about hitting the plumbing aisle at Home Depot to find stuff for his pipes. That’s what I consider slagging.

PS - he slags me back….

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

Yeah, just like I just slagged the Tasmanians about having six fingers. In Australia slagging can be both friendly or a put down. You can slag your mates, in fact it is the normal thing to do.

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Re: Puzzled. Tasmanian High-Six?

Just recently I have begun over thinking my thoughts.
Do Tasmanians have thumbs?
Of the six fingers is one a thumb?

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

I’m only talking about the term, not the practice. Where I am, in Canada, ‘slagging’ just doesn’t refer to anything friendly, in my experience. If someone is slagging you, you punch them. At least, if you’re tougher than they are. Which I’m not. (If they’re Australian, you punch them twice, for good measure - previous proviso applying.) I can’t think of a current familiar term for teasing banter; we used to say ‘razzing’ back in my younger days, but I don’t think that’s used anymore.

Btw, now that I’ve raised the subject, a friend’s father who was with the Canadian army in the war, said that in England, they tried to keep the Australians and the Canadians far apart, because they were always beating the hell out of each other. Don’t know if that’s true or not; never heard it from anyone else.

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

I actually heard the same thing once from an Australian guy who served in the Korean war. Anyhow meself, that bit where you wrote, "If they’re Australian, you punch them twice, for good measure", made me laugh, and that’s a good example of slagging over here.

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

I’ve played sessions with Canadians, an Australian and a Tasmanian (5-fingered/counting the thumb) and we have not had any outbursts yet.

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

I think that in Australia,the term ‘slagging’ is perhaps more often used to indicate what goes on verbally between players on the sports field. In general society it is more commonly referred to as ‘taking the piss’. You only do it to your mates though.

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

"I’ve played sessions with Canadians, an Australian and a Tasmanian (5-fingered/counting the thumb) and we have not had any outbursts yet". That’s cos we are muso’s Ben. Musicians are more civilised.

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

You got that right, Gobby. "Musicians are more civilised."

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

Gobby - I was just testing to see if you really did have a sense of humour … ! Glad you do … !

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

85 comments in from maybe a dozen different people, and I swore I wouldn’t…

I can’t believe anyone thinks complements are a bad thing. The key to a good complement is making it sincere, specific and actually about something the recipient has done. Like: "I really liked your accompaniment on Tarbolton." or "You must be working hard, because I notice that you are playing along a lot more than when you started coming a couple months ago.".

I suggest that everyone still posting here make it a point to complement someone at their next session. Make it a good complement, something that they would feel warm about on their way home.

You know the other secret about a good complement?

It feels even better to be the one delivering the complement.

There is so much anger and abuse going on in our public sphere these days, that we all need to do our own part to make our buddies feel good and our social circles more warm and embracing.

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

Justin Trudeau once said, "I had to learn to dismiss people who would criticize me based on nothing, but I also had to learn not to believe the people who would compliment me and think I was great based on nothing. And that led me to have a very, very strong sense of myself and my strengths". Maybe that’s what I meant when I say that I don’t compliment people but just tell them the truth.

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

It’s a strange and wonderful world you in the New World inhabit that’s for sure. I certainly can’t for the life of me understand where practically any of you are at. It doesn’t sound like much fun out there anymore. Is there anything wrong with just having an instinctive response to something someone says or does? Does everything have to be googled and approved by a random bunch of "peers" in social media to be understood?

Is it because you’ve all got guns?

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

Is that it? Are you all scared because there’s every chance some Muppet with a prescribed opium addiction is on a come down and is carrying an out of tune acordian?

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

I think New Zealanders would find your comment offensive Steve T. As for myself, who is an Englishman living in Australia without agun, my comments are purely my own. I don’t speak for the nation. I have merely expressed my own personal attitude to the word compliment, and my attitude towards it us reflected by Justin Trudeau: I don’t want to hastily and gratuitously give either criticisisms or compliments to people, and so I personally make sure that I only ever tell the truth. I can’t see why that should upset you or make you rant like that.

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

Sorry, I took the words ‘New World to say ‘New Zealand. As I live in Australia and Steve T. was saying something derogatory it was a Freudian slip on my part. "Is there anything wrong with just having an instinctive response to something someone says or does?" Well obviously yes!

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

(we are always slagging the Kiwi’s over here. It’s a national sport… hence my mental Freudian slip).

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

Jackmccann2: thank you.

Steve T: no, yes, yes, and yes, but an out of tune guitar (accordions are rare here).

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

My apologies Steve T. I totally misread your comment. I thought it was aimed at me.I get paranoid on this site sometimes.

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

Tom Stermitz: While my initial reaction would be similar to yours, I think there is a difference in the world that one might like and the world there is. While I also tend/tended to say to people I like their playing, there are certain issues.
There are indeed groups where there is a pretty clear code. When you say "he’s such an idiot", it’s affectionate and positive, while "oh, what a fantastic chap" means something like "yeah, I met him 5 years ago for 2 minutes and it wasn’t too awkward". "I really hate you" means something like "damn, you sound so good, I’d have to practise for years to get there", etc. Praise in a pure form is not common and thus makes one wonder what is behind it.

If I hear "oh, you’ve practised a lot", I’ll feel mortified that I was ruining the session for years before.

I find "a great tune", for example, much easier to read. It means I presented the tune in a way that didn’t do the tune a disservice and people enjoyed it. Although yes, I do see that in some groups, this could probably mean "well, you messed up, so we cannot congratulate you on your playing, but the tune is actually quite nice" - but I don’t think it’s really used this way…

If I was a fiddler, I’d have thought that a comment on nice fiddle/nice tone would be a big praise (given how much that is controlled by the player). While in classical music, the tone of the violin is probably the key factor, as the technique standard is very high for all the players, in trad music, I find the player to have a much greater impact on the music than the instrument. But that’s fiddle - on the pipes, when someone comments on it being a nice instrument, I don’t know much, as it may be just them liking the shiny regulator keys…

So yes, I agree, and when I complimented some players, I was maybe surprised they look shy/taken aback, rather than pleased, but I think one has to understand first how compliments/expressions-of-enjoyment are formed/passed at the particular session they’re visiting.

Btw. as a non-native speaker, I really appreciated the discussion of the linguistics here - very illuminating (and that’s the truth, not a Gobby-interpretation compliment 🙂)!

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

"And to what degree is the fiddler responsible for the tone on the fiddle.(?)"
I don’t play fiddle but I would guess what ever degree of the tone is inherent to the fiddle there is at least the same degree or more coming from the player’s ability (bowing, finger placement, finger pressure, etc.)
Is this not true?

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

Yes, AB. that would be true.
I now feel that I must make a public apology for my reaction to SteveT’s comment yesterday (for which I have already apologised personally). I was experiencing a brief period of psychosis, which happens sometimes when I don’t take my medication. Although slightly embarrassing it is no big deal to me. I hope it isn’t to anybody else, but i feel obliged to mention it. Sorry again Steve.

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

I’ve noticed its far more common for people to complement the tune itself or the set after a great moment. "That was a nice set" or "great tune, that" - is usually the closest anyone comes to an actual complement given to a player. Or there is also the back-handed complement. Something like "Wow - that didn’t entirely suck this time - well done, amigos!" It doesn’t really matter though. We all know when we’ve connected with other players and it sounds decent or when it’s an unholy mess and sounds like rubbish. Well, at least I like to think we all know….?

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

If your playing music with other musicians the highest compliment you can get is they listen to you play, with maybe a nod or a smile or a h’on. Compliments are nice but a worded compliment is secondary to an action that implies a compliment.
And agree with Steve, jeez ye all are so needy!

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

Just to clarify my OP again, I was in no way complaining, or feeling needy. I had just noticed how this etiquette seemed starkly different from other musical contexts I’ve experienced, and wondered what I was missing. A lot of subtlety apparently. Ha! Thank you all, for the elucidations!

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

I must have missed something - I didn’t pick up on anyone being "needy" here. Care to elaborate bainseo5? (I hope I’m not being needy).

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

I’m very needy. It’s OK baine you can single me out. I’ll survive whatever you care to send my way.

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

Despite my pointless distraction from the intention of the OP, I think this has been a perfectly reasonable thing to discuss. I also can’t see who it is that this supposed to be needy, or that there have been any grounds provided to suggest that the experience described by reelsweet is geographically specific. Surely it could happen anywhere?

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

Gobby, your distraction from the intention of the OP was not pointless. It was the less traveled trail which eventually found the more common trail. And here we are, richer for the experience than when we first began this quest.

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

Thanks Ben, but I was a bit off the planet yesterday.

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

Good to have you back on Earth, Gobby!

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Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

The needy bit was a joke

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

Hmmm … that joke was a bit needy, if you don’t mind my saying so … !

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

Sorry, PSGP alert. Can we get "Compliments" - saying something nice about something - distinguished from "Complements" - completes or enhances something? I’ll get my cote!

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

No harm done. It’s only a "compliment slip"!

Re: Puzzled. Is it etiquette or something else?

We literally have a guy in our session who compliments everyone and everything. It would not be complete if he didn’t; compliment constantly. You could say his compliments complement him. True story.

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