How to influence people to give up sheet music?

How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Hi,
we have a small session in my city. Usually, we are like 5 to 10 people who meet up for a session, up to 2 times a month. Luckily, the number of participants has growm , though the last half year or so (2 years ago, we only where 4 people). But there is a down side. We are only like 2 or 3 people, who don’t play with sheet music. When new people joined us, I hoped (or expected, because some of them are really good on their instruments) that they would transit away from sheet music after a couple of weeks/month, like I did.
But I think, this isn’t gone happen at the moment. Most of the people stay in their comfort zone and I think, when someone has only learned like 2 or 3 tunes over the course of half a year (or even a couple of years…arghhh….), he or she won’t ever learn a substantial number of tunes. I realise, that this situation is becoming increasingly annoying to me and might lead to some passiv aggressive outlashes from me…
We have already initiated learning by ear sessions/workshops, as well as giving the people suggestions to learn some specific standard sets, from which they can start to build a repertoire (and our standard repertoire is pretty small, to beginn with! ).
But the situation has been the same for the last couple of month, most of us rarely play a tune by heart, nearly everyone is looking into sheet music during our sessions.

Do you have some ideas, how to make people learn tunes by heart? Do you think it is possible at all, when they haven’t already done this after a couple of month ?
To some extent, I have lost the hope for this session. I already visit sessions in other cites, because this kind of sheet music sessions is becoming increasingly annoying to me.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Tell them if they’re not serious enough to learn to play without the dots they’re not serious enough to learn to play the music well.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Stop trying to change them - life’s too short. They don’t want to change. Continue to let the sheeties have their space, if that’s part of the deal, and leave them to their own devices. Find a small space for you and the 2 or 3 fiddlers and hold your ‘advanced’ session. If any of the others get off the sheets, let them in.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

I knew around 150-200 tunes in my late 20’s early 30’s. Then I was away from the music for a few decades as life happened. Of those initial tunes I remembered maybe 15 that I could initiate from memory, I also had a couple of cheat sheets (i.e. first two measures of a tune) to broaden that out to about 40-50. As for the rest, I’ve either forgotten them or sometimes I can recall them if someone plays them in a session.

I started back playing a bit over a year ago and now I make sure that I have sheet music for every tune I learn, either transcribed by myself, from another source (I like Bulmer and Sharply), or edited by me. I write them out so I don’t have to rely on my aging mind. As far as sessions - I will work on sets I would like to start and will memorize them (maybe write down the tune names) and I have my cheat sheets or look up a tune in tunepal if the beginning escapes me. So, I’m a firm believer in "the notes" but from the standpoint of long term memory. Except for a learners session I wouldn’t pull books out at a session but a cheat sheet is fine if you need it.

Not everyone has instant, photographic memory of every tune they’ve ever learned. Weening off sheet music (for sessions) comes as you develop confidence in a tune. Maybe suggest that they make flip cards (name on one side, first couple of bars on the back) for the tunes they know, or use a small cheat sheet. As I’m learning new tunes or relearning ones I knew in the 80’s the more I play them the less I need to rely on memory reminders although

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

It’s a bit of a conundrum. My response would be to outlaw sheet music in the session, but that might come at a price of killing any spark of hope for the scene. You could try the passive aggressive route and switch tunes too fast for them to find the sheet music, but that is a good way to piss people off… So I don’t necessarily have a good answer for you. It’s been 15 years since I was in a session that anyone used sheet music.

Some things that you might try:

1. Have a serious conversation with everyone, explaining all the reasons why they should work on getting rid of the dots. Maybe try setting a specific goal to getting the sheet music out of the session in a certain amount of time (6 months?), and ask for people’s input on how they think they could make it happen.

2. At each session, pick a set that everybody knows and set a goal for playing just that set without dots at the next session. (And then pick a different set the next time)

3. Split your session so that the first half of the night, sheet music is allowed and then at a specific time, it transitions away from that with the hopes that some of the people might be inspired to try it. Call it a beginner’s session followed by an advanced session. (People don’t like to think of themselves as beginners for very long)

4. Alternate sets in your session between sheet music and no sheet music. But then take some of the more oft played tunes/sets and do them during the no sheet music times.

5. Maybe work with the players one at a time outside of the session, and try to convert them one by one. If it gets to the point where the majority of the players play without sheet music, then that provides more peer pressure on the other players. Right now, if the majority of them use the dots, they’re just enabling each other.

6. Create a facebook group or email group (or whatever) for the session, and then actively post videos of sessions with new tune ideas that you’d like to add to the repertoire (quietly pointing out that nobody in the videos is using sheet music). And then suggest that everyone learn that specific setting of the tune (which might be different than the dots that they can find…)

7. Let this thread fill up with advice, and then give everyone in the session a link to it, and let them feel peer pressure from people they don’t know ;-)

I really feel for you. You’re fighting the good fight, and if you can get everybody over the hump, they will thank you for it someday!

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Some folks have great difficulty kicking off a tune or picking up what key it’s in from memory. Either flash cards, as mentioned above, or a sheet of incipits helps the "getting the tune going" process and begins to wean away from full sets of sheet music.

Another means is providing or referencing recordings that the learner can slow down on a computer (Amazing Slow-downer/Transcribe/Audacity/lots of others) and play along with rather than learning from dots.

Either of these can help build the confidence to play from the fingers rather than the sheets.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

I have been given the nickname paper trained by our little group and I can’t see myself giving up the sheet music. That being said there is no sheet music aloud at the sessions. I’ve been playing for a while starting like most with classical lessons and I have taken a few helpful workshops on playing by ear, but for myself and my age I feel like I am partly learning by ear anyway, because I have learned how important it is to listen to the music to be able to play it the way it sounds rather than just the way its written anyway. I love my group they have been so kind and encouraging. I decided that learning to play a tune starting from sheet music is the way to go for me, but I will not try to play a tune at the sessions until I feel like I’m ready to and I have it down and up to speed. We do not have a slow session so I just play what I can when I can and that seems to be okay with everyone including the people who have been playing for 30 years + and bring the sheet music themselves when learning a new tune to the sessions that doesn’t allow sheet music. For me it’s just a faster way to learn it. After having said all that my advice is don’t let them bring the music or definately have a slow session where they can bring the sheet music there but not to a regular session and have patience not everyone learns the same way.

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Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

My personal view, is that you can’t get people off sheet music if they’re not self-motivated enough to already be on that path. Maybe one time in a hundred, you might be the encouraging spark that can help someone get started off the paper. But in my experience, the majority of people who enjoy attending sessions while reading off sheet music are stuck in that world. They’re comfortable with that security blanket. Once a session allows the practice, it’s very hard to shift gears and turn it into something else.

If it annoys you to participate in a group like that (and it would annoy me), then for the sake of your own continuing enjoyment of the music, let it go. Cue the song from "Frozen" here. Stop going to this session. Find others in the area, or start a new one from scratch. It’s not going to get any less annoying as you develop your own playing over the years.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

BTW, my comment above is only about sessions, not an argument against the dots in general. At home, my fiddler S.O. and I have sheet music scattered all over our music practice room on stands, and in piles on the floor.

It’s a useful shortcut for getting a handle on a new tune, and then listening to recordings for further refinement. I’ll sometimes use the free MuseScore software to edit a tune found in the database here, changing a few notes to match a local setting before committing to learning a tune. So I’m not anti-dots, but I’ll memorize anything I take to a session.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Patience (But I YAM Patient!) recommended. I’m trying to encourage more new people as they seem to be at the beginning stage, which they seem to be practicing at home with the charts. We have several "private" sessions locally for the experienced players. I am rushing between 2 "open" sessions of a Sunday, the first we are deliberately keeping things a bit slow so the new guys can catch up. The second session some of us have made "the Intermediate & Advanced" session, in which we move the pace up a notch or two. We’ve had very few instances of people bringing sheet music. I encourage folks (repeatedly) to a) join the session.org, b) utilize TunePal, and c) study the dots at home. I have some easy sets that we often play that the new guys can join in on, and it seems to be working, little by little. Another trick to get them to learn by ear is to start with one of the easies, then a new tune, and then another easy familiar one to finish.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

I would suspect that most experienced players who can read can learn a simple piece quicker from dots than by ear. I reckon I can learn a two part jig in five minutes or less from sheet music (whereas it might take ten minutes by ear). The key word here is "learn". After the five minutes I can throw the sheet music away. I’m not really sure of the processes involved and I’m not really sure why some people find this so difficult.
Perhaps what I’m doing is actually learning by ear from dots in that what I remember is the sound that the sheet music is describing. If that’s the case then I suspect that people who can’t play without sheet music are that way because they are using their eyes to play music rather than their ears. But I also think it’s perhaps a lack of musical understanding. You could train a chimpanzee to type out The Lord’s Prayer - that doesn’t mean the chimpanzee understands it. I am often shocked by how little musical understanding some players have.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Next time you’re at your session and someone is celebrating a birthday, have everyone play Happy Birthday (say, in G, which works pretty well across instruments). And then point out that they didn’t need sheet music for it. ;-)

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Does the lightbulb want to change?

Unless it’s ‘your’ session, you probably can’t ban sheet music, or dictate how it goes in any other way. If you have a couple friends who also play sessions by ear, I second the advice to start your own "advanced" session. You can advertise that others might be invited to play in it provided they take the time to play by ear and are interested in learning new tunes and improve. People will only step out of their comfort zones if motivated — either internal motivation to play better and learn lots of tunes, which it sounds like some of these people lack, or external motivation, like wanting to join the cool crowd who have really rockin’ sessions.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Here’s a little story you might tell your session mates: I am a rather good bodhran player, but my main instrument is flute. My practice used to be to switch to bodhran when our session played tunes I didn’t know. Eventually our other flute player took me aside and told me to stop playing bodhran or I would never learn these tunes. Not only was he right, but I now play a number of sets I never set out to learn! I have absorbed them by osmosis, you might say. I think there is something your paper-bound mates can learn from this tale.

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Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

I don’t think you can really "influence" people to give up sheet music: some will do it, some won’t, and those who do, will do it when they are good and ready for it. Some will learn tunes by ear from day 1: others, as Donald has suggested, will learn from notation and later discard the sheet music. It has taken me 10 years or more to play a substantial number of tunes without sheet music in sessions, and like the girl in the video, very happy to stop having to carry backpacks full of folders and books around. So don’t necessarily expect it to happen in weeks or months for the sheet music users.
Playing in concert or ceilidh band, I’m more likely to need the sheet music as I have to play both melody and chords, or added harmony parts, which all taxes my ageing brain. In one of our bands, although generally we do use sheet music, we do have a "play without the dots" challenge for a couple of sets per night in our practice sessions, and they usually sound OK.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Hide their tune books while they are in the rest room?

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

What a great video Jason.

I think that playing from memory is a first step to picking tunes up by ear.

Personally, I’m still reliant on sheet music for learning, especially for tricky tunes. But I’m also finding that I can now sometimes to pick a tune up by ear if I’ve heard it a lot - waltzes or polkas are easier than reels. This did not start happening until I had 100 or so tunes memorized.

@Davidread. How about creating a list of the favorite tunes or sets at your session, the ones everybody pretty much knows. Ask people which ones they think they have almost memorized. Then print them up with an incipit. Hand that out and see if you can challenge them to play them from memory.

Get them to the first step of memorizing their favorites.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

@Tom
Already done that. There is a list of "core" tunes, that hasn’t changed since I started with going to the session, because even from our "core" no one has learned a substantial number of new tunes.

That is all a bit frustrating and I already started putting less energy into this session, because of the stacknation

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Burn it :)

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

I’m torn with this issue because I’m a sightreader, but I also am quick at picking up tunes by ear, and to me both approaches have equal validity.

The only purpose banning sheet music would serve is to get rid of most of your players, who would then just form their own session, I would guess.

I’m tempted to say that if you don’t like the way that session operates then don’t attend it. You can form your own Trad Police session and run it how you choose.

Now with my own students it’s different because they’re coming to me to learn the music. It’s not a session but a lesson. At the get-go I give them the choice to learn by ear or by sheet music. However there’s a point at which I tell the sheet-music learners that it’s time to start developing their ear. I give them strategies of how to pick up tunes on the fly. I put on a recording of a jig or reel that neither of us know, and we use the strategies I’ve taught them, indentifying the various common motifs and stringing them together to create the tune.

If you want to have dedicated learning-sessions with those sheet music folks you could do it that way. Take a tune that they don’t know (and ideally one for which dots can’t be found online) and present it aurally.

Oddly enough I found that people have greater difficult picking up airs by ear than reels or jigs. I would think the opposite.

BTW I experienced a sheet-music session: I attended the Dublin (Ohio) Irish Festival for the first time (I’m in California) and I saw online that they would have trad sessions all day.

Imagine my dismay when they all turned up with music stands and folders! The folders seemed to all contain the same tunes, in other words it was an established repertoire by some club. Everyone opened up the folders and played through their tunes.

If I ever go again I will try to contact these people and get their tune-list or better yet a copy of that folder. And I’ll bring a music stand.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

The etiquette for sheet-music sessions (of whatever genre) is to bring extra folders so that guest players can join in. That was my complaint with those Ohio folks, that the session was advertised as an open session but no measures were taken to accommodate people who weren’t in their club.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Unless these people are much faster at learning tunes by ear than I am it will take them a long, long time to get enough tunes to join in, even if they know how to start learning.

So as DrSpear says, it will need motivation, I think almost the point of obsession, and a lot of people’s interest is too superficial. It is something they do for an evening now and then. I come across muscial get-togethers where I wish I could sight read well enough to join in, so I think I understand.

I think Irish dance tunes are particularly hard to start with, some other traditions are easier. Maybe try some not too ‘notey’ O’Carolan or some polkas.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Bloody session police, telling everyone else what to do - nothing worse. Get a life.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

If they can "keep up" with the tunes and don’t clutter the bar with pieces of paper and music stands, then why not?

However, in most sessions, this won’t really be an achievable scenario.

In more "laid back", quieter sessions, playing the odd tune or two "from the dots" is OK. I’ve even done it myself, on occasion, but it’s usually just as a "crutch" in case I forget a note here or there.

However, relying on the dots in a session situation is not the way to go.

Re Donald’s observation about it being quicker to learn tunes from sheet music than by ear. This really depends on the player. Learning "phrase by phrase" can sometimes be a slow process, I agree, but once you get a tune "in your head" one way or another, it’s relatively easy to play on an instrument whatever method you choose.
For me, a tune can get into my head by a variety of means. Just "listening" is as good a way as any and, I suppose, that is what "playing by ear" really means to me as opposed to the artificial process which is adopted in many workshops. Also, when I play from "the dots", I am also listening to the actual tune and learning it "by ear" from myself as Donald also suggests is a common outcome.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

"Bloody session police, telling everyone else what to do - nothing worse. Get a life.
# Posted by Arbuthnot 42 minutes ago."

Depends on who keeps the sessions going doesn’t it. Under no circumstances would sheet music be permitted at our session. Why? Because it would greatly diminish the quality of the session, ruin it for the regulars and ultimately would probably be the death of the session. If preventing that leads us to be called "session police" so be it.

If folk want their session to include sheet music no problem, just don’t expect others to accept it. Like multiple guitars. Like multiple drums. Spoons. Amplifiers. If your session is ok with that fine but don’t expect others to accept it.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Agree 100%, "bogman".

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Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

I’m glad the session world frowns on sheet music, it means the music retains it’s vitality. In many song circles lyric sheets have come to be accepted, and there is nothing more boring than someone reading out lyrics while they strum. If you need paper then you don’t know the song/tune well enough to be playing it in public.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Short answer is you don’t. None of us has any right to tell anyone how to navigate their own lives. People will do what they will do. You may provide an example and that’s as far as you have any business doing. Your choices are to get over it, encourage the musically literate to play well (just as you would encourage anyone to do), or man-up and dis-invite them to your private session.

Now I’m going to rant a bit. You are free to diverge from my opinions, no hard feelings. I’m getting really annoyed by comments that disparage musical literacy. I’ll say that someone who isn’t interested in learning how to read, at least at some level, and understand the basics of music, just aren’t interested in playing well. I come to this from years of being trapped in the aural tradition. To someone who says " you can’t capture the tune from the dots" I recommend they listen to many of the players around them. I find just as many, maybe even more who maybe perfectly string together notes, slavishly memorized from one recording or another, without any real sense of the tune. To be sure there are many readers who are lousy players and there are many who are excellent. There are some excellent players from the aural tradition, and many who are not. The bell-shaped curve cuts both. The real difference is in understanding how the parts of music, even down to the individual notes work together. My very first flute instructor, at the Irish Arts in East Durham, James Noonan, said to me, "you have to play the notes in some relationship with other" and it stuck. It makes no difference whether those notes come through the ear or the eye. Learn the tune, play the tune. Playing with "heart" is a learned skill no matter how the tune is sourced. If you can’t play be ear, learn. If you can’t read, learn.

To the point of the OP, I’d say to focus rather on the what comes out of the players and go from there. Are you more interested in what the universe hears or in the self-imposed notion of what a "session"is supposed to look like? It’s you session, you decide. I’ll respect the answer and you for making it. My choice, were it mine to make is, no music at my session.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

“”If you need paper then you don’t know the song/tune well enough to be playing it in public.””

Nail.head.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Ross: Your ‘rant’ is really beside the point, as you seem to realize, I suppose: the OP was not about how people learn tunes; it’s about people NOT learning tunes.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Ross, this isn’t anti musical literacy. If I go to the theatre I don’t want to watch actors reading from scripts, but that doesn’t mean I think actors should be illiterate. Same with music, I don’t want to listen to people playing from scripts, but that doesn’t mean that written music isn’t an important part of the learning process.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

The title of the post could perhaps more accurately have been "How to influence people to give up [ playing from ] sheet music [ in a session ]".

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Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

@Kenny
yeah exactly, it is not about which source for tunes people use, its about sheet music in a session!

@Arbuthnot
The problem I have with sheet music IN A SESSION, that it takes all the typical freedom of traditional music away. Another problem is, that in our session you always have say, which tunes you gone play in a set, how (if you are playing a tune more then thrice, because the flow is so fine, nope, thats note gone happen successfully with a bunch of sheet music users, because they are all looking on their sheets and not non verbally communicating with each other, like it usually happens at the sessions that I like)

@bogman
I would say, most sessions in our city are organised by me alone or by me, together with another guy who doesn’t use sheet music (at least for during a session!).

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Yeah I did kind go off on a tangent there. My sincere apologies. To be clear, for many of the reasons mentioned by others, I don’t care for sheet music at a session and don’t use it myself. At our local session I know that not allowing music has discouraged some from attending. I still think that our example is the only acceptable way to encourage others. At your session I’ll respect you and do as you do.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Well, they SHOULD be discouraged from attending - until they have to learned to play without sheetmusic, or unless they can listen and watch and learn without insisting that it be all about them. You know, the way those of us of the Old School did it … !

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Following up on Mark’s last comment, even amateur actors are expected to perform without a script. I don’t see why being an amateur musician is any different.
Ah but, you say, playing in a session is not "performing". True, but session aspirants should, if they are being serious, make an attempt to "learn" tunes by heart. To me, at times, it comes across as arrogant laziness.
If you want people to realise the futility of relying on sheet music then the session has to be far less rigidly structured. No announcing what tunes are to be played, for example. I remember one person who arrived at a session with a rucksack full of sheet music. Mostly, by the time the relevant score was found the music had already moved on to the next tune.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

I do think, though, if you have visitors in the audience or even playing, it’s nice to tell them the names of tunes (if they’re known) so they can go away and learn them. One of my frustrations has been going to sessions, finding tunes I really like, but no one can tell me what they are, and hence I can’t go find them elsewhere (either sheet music or played on CDs, etc.) to learn them.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

I understand that people have to start somewhere. And I’m totally OK with people learning tunes from dots as long as they play them well without the dots once they’re learned. (I still think that people that are tied to paper training are missing out on the joys of learning tunes on the fly, and often struggle a bit more with variation and expression - but that’s a generalization. And as mentioned by Ross, what comes out when they play is much more important than how it got in there in the first place…)

But I think that allowing sheet music at a session is just enabling people to be perpetual beginners. In Davidread’s case in the OP, it sounds like it is the only session around. Yes, he could maybe start a new "advanced session" with his mates that do play without the paper. But that’s not growing the scene into something good, it is splitting the scene and potentially destroying it altogether. So I think it would really be good for him to keep working on getting the players that are already there to lose their reliance on the sheet music. And that’s why I tried to offer a few ways that he might be able to slowly nudge the session in that direction.

Instead of thinking of it as the Trad Police trying to control everything, think of it as the Trad Angel trying to help people live better lives ;-)

>> Ah but, you say, playing in a session is not "performing"

Be careful, Donald, Phantom Button might be lurking around! :-P

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

"Announcing tunes" or, sometimes, playing the first couple of bars of each tune in a set.

Nothing wrong with that, per se.
It helps players to be prepared but is NOT intended, of course, to allow them time to dig out sheet music.

However, like many others, I usually find it easier to get straight into a tune if I know what’s coming. Sometimes, I may find myself struggling with a seemingly familiar tune until I remember the title. No apparent rhyme or reason for this as I obviously still know the tune!

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

"I may find myself struggling with a seemingly familiar tune until I remember the title. No apparent rhyme or reason for this as I obviously still know the tune!"

This seems not a rare phenomenon, I certainly suffered from it for many years; I think I may finally be past it. My theory is that it comes from being "overly literate". Not to disparage literacy, I hasten to add, before I am lectured and harangued, but it can get in the way at times …..

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

What about introducing some simple tunes to the session that are harder to find? If you can’t remember the name they’ll have a harder time finding music for it. There’s always a chance they’ll just tune pal it I suppose, but again, there are more obscure tunes that tune pal has a hard time with. Make sure they’re very simple tunes and encourage everyone to record them so they can learn. I dunno. Or yeah, make the sets more free flowing with tunes they already know. You’ve got one or two players who are more comfortable right? So put sets together on the fly. The others will have to listen carefully if they want to join in.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

@Reverend
Some things that you might try:

1. Have a serious conversation with everyone, explaining all the reasons why they should work on getting rid of the dots. Maybe try setting a specific goal to getting the sheet music out of the session in a certain amount of time (6 months?), and ask for people’s input on how they think they could make it happen.

Yeah, will do that at the next session. I want to be really careful, because I just want the local session scene to grow (up) and not offend anyone.

2. At each session, pick a set that everybody knows and set a goal for playing just that set without dots at the next session. (And then pick a different set the next time)

The "standard" sets I have suggested/sent around so far have usually been chosen, so that the tunes are not completely new and the sheet music players already have played them. The funny thing is, that most of the sheet music players are really good on their instruments and probably a lot more talented then me, but they classical side of music is strong in them! I will try getting everyone to agree to one specific set as "homework"

3. Split your session so that the first half of the night, sheet music is allowed and then at a specific time, it transitions away from that with the hopes that some of the people might be inspired to try it. Call it a beginner’s session followed by an advanced session. (People don’t like to think of themselves as beginners for very long)

I think this might be a a bit to planned and might thin out the session a bit too much, but thanks for the idea, I will have it in mind! Maybe, if there is a basic common ground-not sheet music repertoire on day, I will try that.



5. Maybe work with the players one at a time outside of the session, and try to convert them one by one. If it gets to the point where the majority of the players play without sheet music, then that provides more peer pressure on the other players. Right now, if the majority of them use the dots, they’re just enabling each other.

Yeah, a friend already started a monthly learner session, but I think the most important thing is, that people start learning tunes because of their own interest

6. Create a facebook group or email group (or whatever) for the session, and then actively post videos of sessions with new tune ideas that you’d like to add to the repertoire (quietly pointing out that nobody in the videos is using sheet music). And then suggest that everyone learn that specific setting of the tune (which might be different than the dots that they can find…)

That’s what we have done, a friend even made a website with tunes of our local session…

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Good luck, David! "Sheet music sessions" have multiplied in my area of New York State to the point where they outnumber the "real" ones. It makes the argument that players need to be able to play without dots problematic: musicians have many opportunities to enjoy playing without leaving that comfort zone. The other elements that Irish session players enjoy—freedom to try new tunes, stretch out a set, or change tunes or set order on the fly—can actively turn off many of these musicians who prefer structure.

In some ways it’s a good problem to have, lots of people getting into the music! I’ve been trying to find the people at those sessions who seem to be making progress and are ready to stretch out, and guide them toward more options. It feels like a really steep uphill, though, for both parties. It isn’t easy to bridge the gap.

I’m bookmarking this thread, good ideas.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

In my corner of the world the few dot readers tend to use tablets and they are quite discreet about it— paradoxically, while this reduces the distraction level, it may make it harder to wean those who feel they need to rely on dots as a crutch. Ah, technology!

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

" The other elements that Irish session players enjoy—freedom to try new tunes, stretch out a set, or change tunes or set order on the fly—can actively turn off many of these musicians who prefer structure."

Then they don’t belong in a freakin’ ITM session.

"In some ways it’s a good problem to have, lots of people getting into the music!"

The trouble is: they’re NOT getting into the music.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

One other idea I had that might help a little bit (maybe a bit outdated in this digital streaming day and age) - Build up a session "lending library" of CDs. And let people borrow whatever they want for a couple weeks at a time. That way, you are encouraging your session mates to listen to more Irish music, and you can control it a bit, making sure that it’s all good stuff. That way, everybody potentially gets familiar with a similar set of tunes (which they might want to start introducing into the session repertoire). But most importantly, you get everyone listening, listening, and listening. I have only met a couple of people that I thought could play the music "right" when they were sight reading. Normally, people reading the music play it rather straight and rigid, without much lilt, and basically no lift… So the more listening people do, the better it can get.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

@meself
"The trouble is: they’re NOT getting into the music."

I know a group of later-in-life fiddlers who attend a class together, led by a good fiddle teacher. They occasionally perform in public, using a cluster of stands and sheet music. The instructor has tried for years to get them off the sheet music, but it hasn’t worked. They’re comfortable in that mode, still playing the same small number of tunes they’ve been playing for 10 years, slowly and methodically.

They’re having fun, so that’s fine. But it’s like an endless Möbius strip, or one of those Escher drawings where they keep fiddling but never advance their playing or understanding of the music. As Reverend said above it’s "enabling people to be perpetual beginners."

The thing is, some people are OKAY with being perpetual beginners! Those of us who try to constantly improve may not be able to relate to it, but it’s true. Not everyone wants to put in the work. A class or sheet music "session" can also be a social event for some of these folks.

This can be a trap for someone who does want to advance, and is surrounded by perpetual beginners. I have always benefited by attending sessions with players who are above my level in experience and skill. It helps pull me out of my comfort zone for tempo and repertoire.

That’s why I hope the OP manages to find or start a different session, and not get stuck with a group of sheet music readers who are obviously not comfortable getting off the page. More power to ‘ya if you can encourage one or two to memorize tunes. But if there isn’t someone better than you at playing by ear in your session, then you’re probably in the wrong session. At least in terms of personal advancement, where I believe playing with superior fellow musicians is an essential part of the process. Always has been. Don’t let a slow session of sheet music readers be your own personal Escher drawing trap, where you never get anywhere.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Agreed. There’s no intrinsic harm in people getting together to play from sheet music, just as there would be no harm in people gathering to read scripts, to reference that earlier analogy. It’s just when the claim is made, explicitly or implicitly, that that is ‘fiddling’ or ‘ITM’, that you have a problem, from my point of view - and it seems to be a growing ‘problem’.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

If I’m not mistaken the premise is that if a group of musicians is sight reading (tunes) they are *not* playing Irish traditional music. Is that accurate?

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Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Sorry, I’m don’t intend to go down that semantic/rhetorical/philosophical/cultural/metaphysical rabbit-hole. I’m sure you understand my point; feel free to shoot it down.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Sorry, meself. I’m only asking because of misunderstandings with other members; not yourself. I just want clarity.

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Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

@AB: "If I’m not mistaken the premise is that if a group of musicians is sight reading (tunes) they are *not* playing Irish traditional music. Is that accurate?"

I would put it this way, based on my limited (i.e. not lifelong) experience with this music. I have seen non-musicians in an audience spontaneously get up and dance, whether they knew anything about Irish trad or not, in a lively session where the musicians were playing by ear, and at a good pace for dancing.

I have never seen that response in an audience listening to the plodding and un-synchronized pace of a group of learners playing off sheet music.

Does that answer the question? Is this not dance music, and doesn’t it fail to hit the mark if you can’t inspire non-musicians to dance? Granted, this is my own experience with beginners with sheet music vs. more experienced players who memorize tunes before attending a session. But I think it’s a general principle for this music.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

AB: And my apologies if I was reading something into your question that wasn’t there. But let me put it this way: people playing from sheet music is not what I call fiddling or ITM. There are others who see it differently, no doubt, and who will cite precedents, etc., as is their right … but …..

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Fair play, meself. I appreciate hearing (reading) your perspective.
Ben

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Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

I share many of the opinions being expressed here, that reading off of sheet music in a group setting keeps one stuck as a permanent beginner, that "real" Irish trad can’t be played reading off sheet music, but when it comes to groups of players that I’m not the designated host or session leader, as long as they are happy and have a place to play with other like-minded players, who am I to judge?

I’d not allow reading off of sheet music at the session I co-host, but that’s our barn, our rules.

Those who want to expand outside the paper bubble will figure out how to learn by ear, those who don’t, won’t. Unless you’re the one running the group, you have zero say about what they can or cannot do, no matter how much it might offend your sensibilities or standards about the music.

If you find yourself stuck in a session with sheet music and find it offensive, either find another, start your own and test the waters on who in the other group might share your perspective and want to join you.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

"…with music, I don’t want to listen to people playing from scripts…"

All the film music you hear is being played from the sheet music by musicians sightreading it pretty much cold, often only one or two run-throughs before the red light comes on.

Orchestral music is being sightread, everyone knows that, but most may not be aware that much popular music is likewise being sightread. That great sax part in that song? Maybe it was improvised, maybe the player was reading it.

People keep equating sightread music to "bad" music but there’s no such correlation.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

The difference, I would say, Richard, is that session players and orchestral players are what they are because they CAN sightread but make it sound like it’s not from a script. And a lot of that is because they are good at reading rhythm. In my experience a lot of people who "read" music actually mainly read the notes and struggle with anything but basic melodic rhythm. Put another way, they don’t have a feel for the music they are playing.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

"People keep equating sightread music to "bad" music but there’s no such correlation." I don’t think that’s what’s being done here, is it?

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Watch out for that Wichard, meself. He is one wascally wabbit.
No, I don’t think here on this thread too many are making a direct correlation.
But, yes, here (on these mustard pages) posters have undoubtably misrepresented sightreaders’ abilities
to play good music. It is a bias which still exists in a place known as thesession.org
Richard makes an interesting point.

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Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

There is a difference between beginners in ITM trying to advance in this music by staying only with sheet music and never being able to learn or play by ear, vs. those with experience who can play by ear *or* read from the dots when needed, yes? Can we all agree on that?

Those two things are getting mixed up here.

Re: How to influence people to think outside their boxes?

I would put it this way, discussions don’t always follow a fixed script.
They don’t need to. Do they?

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Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

The subject is “How to influence people to give up sheet music”.

I am imagining someone who regularly attends a session where there is sheet music trying to convince the other people that they shouldn’t use it.

While I agree with the opinion expressed that to learn this music one needs to do it by ear, I don’t think it is appropriate to try to convince people at an event with certain existing norms to change those norms you disagree with unless you are the organizer of the event.

Now, if the original poster is talking about people who come to an event that he/she is in charge of, that is a different conversation.

If I am hosting a salsa dance night and you show up trying to convince us we should be doing tangos instead because that’s “authentic” dancing I am going to show you to the door.

“How to influence people to give up sheet music.”

Spot on, Michael!

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Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

It does not matter …..by memory or with sheet music….we all have the right to tap into all the great music traditions…..come down from your ivory towers……inclusion for all.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

The OP does say, in the middle of this thread: "most sessions in our city are organised by me alone or by me, together with another guy" - so I would say that comes pretty darn close to "an event that he/she is in charge of" - in other words, this IS that "different conversation" …..

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

"Ivory towers"?! I learned my damn fiddling from farmers, fishermen, trappers, common labourers, and truck drivers - and they didn’t use any sheet music.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Well, if that’s the case, then perhaps he should split the group into two sessions. Invite those who might be open to playing by ear to one and turn the other group over to someone else willing to let the paper-dependent players continue doing what they are comfortable doing rather than fight that (IMHO) un-winnable battle,

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Music is not a competition it is for everyone it is not wrapped up in some macho image ie the real ones verse the outsiders….

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Scott sea, I get your comment about inclusiveness, but disagree with you on whether playing off of sheet music “taps into “ this tradition.

If I can complete a paint-by-numbers kit without making a mistake, does that make me an artist? I don’t think so. It makes me someone who can follow a printed template, but not an artist. I think the same thing can be said for those playing this music exclusively off of sheet music. They may be a competent technician , but they aren’t playing traditional Irish music

With rare exception the majority of players I’ve encountered who <only> read off of sheet music don’t sound like they are playing traditional Irish music. The flow is wrong, the settings and ornamentation repetitious and rigid, etc.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Oneills the tutor you have to work with long and hard,Mary Bergins two volume tutor,the session complete with sheet music it is a way to a broader understanding with lots of encouragement from seasoned musicians where applicable….music is for everyone.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

All in support of the music, but even the wonderful tutorials you mentioned, if one just always plays what is on the page, it’s still just painting-by-numbers, I’m sorry.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Individuals who read music can be expressive and stylistic and creative as the musician who plays by memory

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

What you’re describing isn’t what I’m talking about. I agree with you. I’m talking about those who can’t be expressive, stylistic, or creative and are held back by their absolute reliance on notation.

I was a classical musician for about 30 years on silver flute before I got into traditional Irish music. I can read pretty much anything you put in front of me, but 20 years ago when started playing this music I took the time and challenge of switching to learning all my tunes by ear because of the freedom and fluidity it gave me compared to learning from notation. I still keep tune books to remind me how a tune goes, but if I want to learn a new tune, I’ll find a recording and learn from it.

I’m not criticizing the usefulness of notation, I’m pointing out that for many, complete reliance on it prevents them from ever being expressive, stylistic, or creative.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

I’ve heard some memory players and they could do with a few pointers as far as musicality goes.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Most of us could do with a few pointers, there is no end to the work. :-)

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Scott, I see you’re new here, having just joined the site today, and list yourself as a woodwind player. So I’m guessing you play a lot from notation, thus your responses. What’s your story with this music?

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

"Individuals who read music can be expressive and stylistic and creative as the musician who plays by memory"
Never, ever seen that, anywhere in any Irish or Scottish session.
"I’ve heard some memory players and they could do with a few pointers as far as musicality goes."
EVERY player I’ve ever heard trying to play Irish or Scottish traditional music from written notation in a session,
"could do with a few pointers as far as musicality goes".

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Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Do you HAVE to give up reading sheet music? The great pleasure of sheet music is that you can approach a piece of music unknown to you, discover how it sounds and find out if it will gives you pleasure. That’s a plus surely.

Playing by ear is s’thing I’ve discovered over about 50 years and I’d agree that it can be much easier to play expressively without the notes on the sheet.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Nobody has suggested that Susan, certainly not me. I’m just saying don’t bring it to a public session - or at least, that is my preferrence, ie that you should know the tune before playing it in public.

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Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

The ability to read "the dots" is just another additional skill or tool in the box. It isn’t a hindrance in itself.

However, there are many good reasons for not playing from sheet music in a session. The main ones are lack of space and getting yourself organised quickly enough to find the tunes. However, you are also limited in that you have to play what is on the paper as opposed to the actual setting the other musicians are playing within the session. That’s not to mention all the various nuances, ornaments etc associated with traditional music either regionally or in general.

"Individuals who read music can be expressive and stylistic and creative as the musician who plays by memory"

This is only possible, in my opinion, if the individual is also an "ear player" and is also already experienced in the particular musical genre. It’s also the case that many sight readers will also have "ear skills" whether they realise it(or choose to admit such) or not.

However, this still doesn’t justify bringing sheet music along to a session unless the event is deliberately set up along these lines for one reason or other… e.g. a slow or beginner’s session or as in one particular session in Dufftown(I mentioned this before) where each player is encouraged to lead a set and share copies with the others present….. I’ve been a few times and quite enjoyed the arrangement as it was always conducted efficiently and the players were all actually proficient albeit with more of a F & A/Fiddle rally background.

Oh, and I also suggest that there is a subtle difference between "playing by ear" and "playing from memory". :)

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

There is a huge difference between playing by ear and playing from memory!! I can play all night by ear , but none of it goes into memory !!!
How it gets into the memory is kind of irrelevant imo . They are just ideas and In some cases could be said it’s better getting tunes from the bare bones in script and just making it your own without hearing other people’s interpretations…..
I have to point out that Yehudi Menuhin memorized the music for all his important gigs…..he needed music sheets to play but still memorized those huge long tunes !!!

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Most classical soloists in concerti, not just Yehudi, play without music in front of them: they will have memorised all of what takes 20-30 minutes to play, having learned it from sheet music in all probability. But if you listen to half a dozen recordings of the same concerto, and you will find it is played differently by each soloist and orchestra: same notes except in any free cadenza, but differences in tempo, dynamics, rubato sections etc. Classical music is NOT as prescriptive as some would have us believe, even though it may contain all those Italian (or German) words, phrase marks, fffs, ppps and "hairpins". It is still open to the interpretation of the individual player or conductor.

On the other hand, someone mentioned learning from recordings - which may mean that if you only listen to how Joe Bloggs plays it, and he has "folk processed" it in his own way, you may not be getting the tune as played in your local session or the world at large.

In my early days of session playing, I went to slow sessions and used sheet music. As I got more fluent on my instrument and worked on developing my ear playing, I am less likely to use it, but haven’t dispensed with it entirely by a long chalk. I’d defend roundly any suggestion that all people who play from sheet music have no musicality: some do, some don’t, just as some who play entirely by ear do or don’t. (As has been said above!)

It would be interesting to do a blindfold trial and listen to people playing and guessing if they are using sheet music or not: I think you could guess if they are a beginner or learner - or if they were an advanced player, but not necessarily whether they had the dots there or not. Unless you are playing in pipe band competition or sitting music exams, any written ornamentation does not have to be slavishly followed just because it is there in the sheet music: I would use my own ideas on what fits the music, and my instrument, even when using sheet music.

And finally, yes, the person who organises the session has the right to set any rules about sheet music: but I have never yet been to one where sheet music is banned (or song lyric sheets). Again, some do, some don’t.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Back when I went to sessions regularly - we’re talking the 1970s and ’80s, I suppose, into the ’90s - there were no rules about sheet music, AFAIK - because no one would ever think of showing up at a session with sheet music.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

"guessing if they are using sheet music or not"

If they had learned the tune "from the dots" and were playing from memory, you might not be able to tell the difference, of course.

Most of us here, I’m sure, don’t have an issue with using sheet music to learn tunes or even playing directly from it in certain situations.. e.g. musical ensembles etc. However, as far as traditional music goes, we should really strive to be able to manage without same especially in a typical session environment.
I do agree that most "sheet readers" are likely to have plenty of musicality. That’s all the more reason why they shouldn’t need to hang on to the dots as a "crutch".

I can see the need for using sheet music where pieces have been specially arranged and it helps to ensure that everyone either plays the same thing when required and/or different musicians know how, when, and where to play different parts. Many harp pieces and tunes, for instance, do have some quite imaginative arrangements and the "left hand" part can be quite complex (Same with the piano). However, it’s usually possible to keep things simple and use fairly basic chords/accompaniment.

Usually, the melody or "tune" is the most important aspect as far as traditional music is concerned and even more so in a session situation. As we have already seen in the "Maids of Mitchelstown thread", the choice of chords, accompaniments, harmonies etc can be very controversial and it’s arguably not the ideal scenario to try out too elaborate arrangements for which one may require the use of sheet music.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

" I have never yet been to one where sheet music is banned (or song lyric sheets)"

Actually, I don’t think I have either although it’s usually always fairly obvious when it’s not the expected norm. If you attend any "good going" (even if not necessarily fast and furious) session especially in a busy bar with limited space for the musicians there, then common sense should surely dictate that bringing out sheet music in such a situation would be both impractical and disruptive.

Although the players might not say "No Sheet Music Here", they might say something like "There’s not a lot of room" or "We play a lot of tunes and quite fast…" which should be a strong enough hint for most of us.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Agreed: you just take a quick look around and soon see what’s the norm for that session. These days, if I carry any at all it will be limited to 2 or 3 sheets, which I’ll probably not use: no folders!

Interestingly, (and as an aside) my piano music for trad playing does not have left hand written out: just melody line and chords: it’s up to me how I play the left hand in keeping with the chord structure, and of course, the rhythm, as Donald mentioned, and in empathy with the type of tune it is.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

@WSusan K: "Do you HAVE to give up reading sheet music? The great pleasure of sheet music is that you can approach a piece of music unknown to you, discover how it sounds and find out if it will gives you pleasure. That’s a plus surely."

Again, this is mixing up the two subjects (not just you, several others here). :)

We’re not talking about having to give up sheet music, if you know how to read! We’re talking about how sheet music in a session full of beginners is not the way to advance in this music. I have piles of sheet music scattered on the floor of my music room, for the purpose you mention above. I learn most new tunes about 50% from recordings by ear, and 50% from sheet music, followed by further calibration by ear from recordings or listening to session mates.

Sometimes I’ll import a tune in ABC from the database here into MuseScore, so I can adjust the dots to match the version played in a local session. Then I stick that in a book full of sheet music as a reminder I can go back to, later on (the old gray cells ain’t what they used to be). I even manage a small web site with sheet music for one session I attend, as a help for new attendees. It’s just a resource for when you’re *not* at the session.

Sheet music itself isn’t evil, it has a purpose. Sheet music in a session, that’s another story.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Are all people at sessions as described in the OP are as reliant on the sheet music as they or observers think they are?

Rather than banning the sheet music what would happen if, for a set or so now and then, the session organisers suggested doing without the dots? If some proved better at doing it than others might it introduce an air of competion, or maybe bruise some egos, and encouraged an effort to migrate away from the dots?

I go to kitchen sessions where we are mainly improvers and there are often dots around. That includes my folder and if someone suggests a tune that doesn’t immediately leap into my head I may turn to the page and run my eye over it before starting. Usually I could join in at a session with it but when not surounded by strong players I think it is useful to start off confidently from the first note and not come to the end of the A part trusting the the B part will magically appear. How many of the people using dots could do that as a half-way house - quick scan as a crutch and then get on with it?

I realise they may then be reading a memory of the dots from the inside of their eyelids, rather than ‘playing by ear’. But it’s a start.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

David50, regarding your halfway-house idea of allowing sheet music as more of an "incipit" or reminder to get a tune started, my personal view is that it’s not a good idea. Better to go cold turkey, work at home on memorizing tunes before you bring them to a session.

Nobody expects perfection unless you’re playing in a band. It’s okay if you know the A part but can’t quite remember the B part. If you *almost* have it, you’ll pick it up when someone else gets there. Same thing with starting a tune. Don’t start a tune if you can’t confidently kick off on the A part. Practice that at home.

The other problem with allowing sheet music even as an "incipit" is that it slows down the flow of a session. There can be no spontaneous change of tunes in the middle of a set, if everything has to grind to a halt while people locate the corresponding sheet music. It can also fossilize the repertoire and limit anyone bringing in new tunes. Like that fiddle class I mentioned, where they’re still playing the same small number of tunes they’ve been playing for 10 years.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

I doubt if anyone would object to the sight of one person, in the middle of a session, pulling out a sheet of paper and having a glance it - except for the fear that in two weeks the session would be full of music stands and paper-shufflers and heads-buried-in-digital-gadgets, and voices crying out, "Wait! I haven’t found it yet!"

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Many, many years ago, at the Vermont Bellowspipe School, Hamish decreed that all tunes would be taught by ear. Music would then be made available the end of the week, or a bit later, for those that so wished. Lots of griping and fear ensued, and two students over the years dropped out. But Hamish’s decision was brilliant. People adapted, learned the tunes readily by ear, and the music was just better. Much better.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Niall Keegan did exactly the same at a flute gathering event in Aberdeen in 2001, the first ever of its’ kind in Scotland. He was quite adamant - "I want people watching and listening to what I’m doing, not staring at a piece of paper". Sheet music was provided to those who wanted it at the end of the class to take home with them.

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Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

I did say, higher up the thread, that we do try a couple of sets without dots at our regular band practices, just as David50 has suggested for sessions: special dispensation for those new to the band, but for those who have been in it for 8-10 years, they can do it to varying degrees of success. Smiles all round, which you don’t get when heads are buried in the sheet music!
At my other band this week, the chosen tune sheet was missing from my folder (taken away for correction never to be see again!) The other band members said "Oh well, let’s play something else". "No" said I, I’ll just play it as I know it: I might have played one or 2 different chords from the score, but play it I did, from memory, by ear, or whatever.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Michael Eskin wrote:
"All in support of the music, but even the wonderful tutorials you mentioned, if one just always plays what is on the page, it’s still just painting-by-numbers, I’m sorry."

…and this is one of the ways one could do the "blindfold trial" and identify who’s using sheet music. Ask them to play a tune three times. If you hear variations during each iteration, that’s your "by ear" player. :-D

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Not necessarily. Jeff: as I said in my earlier post, I could be playing from sheet music for the basic tune, but still adding different ornamentation as I thought fit, so that each of the 3 times could sound different: especially as I play button box and piano: on both instruments there is the capacity to vary how you play a tune on successive occasions, e.g. on box 1) melody only, 2) Melody+ left-hand chords, 3) Melody + Right hand harmonies - and that’s even before you get to varying ornamentation! And on piano, the permutations are endless. Ok, maybe a combination of using the dots and working around them by ear.

Re: How to *influence* people. (?)

I think it comes down to the group. It comes down to the people who gather to play music.
It comes down to the session, what the musicians know, how much they pay attention, whether they
listen to the other musicians and what *they* strive for in having their session.

Ben

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Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

I still don’t get the painting by number analogy

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Hey Scott. I would suggest that almost *anyone* could get competent at with painting by numbers - but that really does not make them a competent painter (without the numbers).
Pretty much the same with music. Some people can only play with the dots in front of them. Take the dots (numbers) away and they’re buggered.
I don’t agree with half the crap put up here, but I do agree that at some point, one should be able to play away without dots. For me it’s simply a matter of practice, and I can’t see why others can not achieve the same.
I learn from dots, but I am *not* a sight reader, and so it can take me a couple months to get a tune right.
Separate from that, I had the extreme pleasure of playing along side another forum member today. He does not read at all, but could learn, or, ‘pickup’ a new tune, in a couple of minutes. I don’t know how that works. :)

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

The talk of blind tests are pointless. Think of your favourite 20 well known trad players and then tell us which ones will read music at a session or a gig. You’ll not be able to tell if one of these players has learnt tunes of music or ear but most of them will be capable of interpreting a tune through music and all of them will be capable of learning them by ear. The reason they can interpret tunes off of paper is because they are immersed in the music and have got an ear. You will never get a proficient ear for traditional music if -need- the dots. Nobody should need dots for traditional music, it’s a choice some people make.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

@bogman
What do you mean by need-the-dots?
I find your post a little confusing to read.
Are you suggesting that people should *not* learn by dots? Or, that dots should/should not be used at sessions?

"The reason they can interpret tunes off of paper is because they are immersed in the music and have got an ear."
I feel that I can relate to that bit.

Then - "You will never get a proficient ear for traditional music if -need- the dots."
Sounds contradictory to me.

Then - " Nobody should need dots for traditional music, it’s a choice some people make."
Now you’ve done my head in.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

I think Bogman just means that a good traditional player doesn’t NEED the dots.
Of course, they can still use them, if they wish, to learn tunes or even just to play from directly in certan situations (Not in a session, I’d agree). However, it’s a choice and just an additional tool in their box.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Sorry, if the post is unclear Peter. What I mean is people who need the dots and can’t manage without them will never be proficient at playing trad. What I mean by my last sentence is that people believe they need dots and make the choice to never do without them, when in reality the need is just in their heads.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

@ bogman. I totally agree.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Being competent at reading music is not a crutch ….interpretation,expression and nuance are all a product of a lot of factors…..musical apartheid in any genre should be frowned upon ,music is for everyone,embrace all who are having a go….

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

You seem to be completely missing the point Scott sea.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

"embrace all who are having a go….

Whether or not we embrace everyone who is "having a go" doesn’t really alter the fact that someone who relies on "sight reading" in a session environment is limited in what he/or she can contribute or achieve. The tunes will usually come "thick and fast" and, usually although not always, without announcement.
By the time, the sight reader finds the paper or looks the tune(s) up on his or her tablet it’s usually too late.

Yes, it’s OK in slow sessions or other areas where the use of sheet music is part of the set up but it doesn’t really work well in your average session. Certainly not the more advanced variety.
It’s not really fair to expect the majority of musicians who attend a session to "dumb down" or slow up the proceedings just to accommodate sight readers.

Oh, and I don’t think anyone here has actually suggested that being able to read music was a bad thing or a handicap in any way. There’s just a time and place or it and, as I mentioned earlier, in some circumstances it may be even more appropriate… e.g. in a larger group, orchestra, or a performance with elaborate arrangements.

Of course, there are always tunes which "crop up" where I know that I could play them fine "if I had the music" but there’s no harm in sitting these out until I learn them properly either by ear or from the dots at home.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

I think the sound of a traditional music genre derives in a large part from how was and is played. Why should people who play it non-traditionally be embraced?

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

bogman, [The talk of blind tests are pointless]

I agree, if only for the fact that there are too many variables in that scenario.

Blind tests could be useful for something like comparative listening to (eg) different fiddles being played by the same player, to help make preference choices.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

I was talking about in the context of playing off the sheet music as mentioned earlier Jim.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

"embrace all who are having a go….

Why? If some skilled basketball players are having a game, and a newbee shows up, and he keeps kicking the ball down the court because that’s what he’s comfortable with and the basketball tradition has to change to stay alive, etc., etc. - how long will he be "embraced"? Some of the players may initially be nice and forgiving - but if the newbee keeps returning and kicking the ball, showing no inclination to learn how to play the game, well …..

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

"Musical apartheid" is a bit dramatic, no?

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

@ Scott sea: "musical apartheid in any genre should be frowned upon ,music is for everyone,embrace all who are having a go….."

Musicians who have taken the trouble to memorize the tunes are not likely to attend gatherings where sheet music is the norm, and people who can’t play without reading sheet music won’t fit in with most established Irish trad sessions. You can call that "apartheid" if you want, but it’s just the reality. Nobody who can play memorized tunes wants to wait around for people to shuffle pages and find tunes in the middle of a set. There is also a different dynamic in sessions where people are spending all their attention listening to each other, vs. splitting part of the mental attention on reading.

The bottom line is that each of us gets to choose what kind of other musicians we want to play with. You’re not going to get far by suggesting accomplished players-by-ear should make room for sheet music readers in an Irish trad session. That’s not how this tradition started, and it’s not how it has been kept alive for so many years. It is what it is.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

I generally reply to this sort of odd perspective on the music by those like Scott sea by taking the same arguement into another long-established group participation environment: League Bowling.

I would imagine that if I showed up on league night at a bowling alley and just started lobbing balls down any lane I felt like because of some self-entitled challenge to the "bowling apartheid’s" standard of "you roll the ball down the lane your team is assigned to", I’d probably end up being tossed in a dumpster.

Scott sea, the bottom line is your comment on "musical apartheid" might apply to music in general, but not to a specific genre like the practice of traditional Irish music that has long established norms, which do not include people sitting around music stands reading off of sheet music like they were a string quartet.

If you don’t agree, too bad. You’re setting yourself up for some rather unpleasant encounters in the future with that attitude if you intend to attend sessions far and wide.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Oh dear……. SCOTT…. settle!
You sound a little triggered.
You wrote - "Being competent at reading music is not a crutch".
*It’s not*
I can’t see anyone really blasting competent readers (well not many anyway).
That point is not relevant here.
Being a competent reader is *not* the issue. Personally, I admire competent readers. I am not one, but I can read a bit.
Although there appears to be a fairly ‘anti readers’ sentiment here, I can see clearly (and so should you), that the stump of this thread is, how to discourage readers from being totally dependent on sheets at *sessions*.

Whenever I go out, I always have my sheets with me, ‘just in case’. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to use them. I’ve been playing ITM on accordion for only 15 months now, and out of the thirty or so tunes that I have learned, only about half are indelibly etched into the neural pathways, so I’ve got a *really-long-way-to-go*.
And that simply means practise, practise, practise. So I do……. And I *know* that I’m getting better, slowly, but consistently.

In a session setting, I can’t see how a dependent reader would fit. Just how many tune sheets would one need? And then - what keys? I could see that one would need a library of sheets - then perhaps an index system. :)

Stop trying to push your barrow. You’re not going to win.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

I am a session discussion virgin….judging by some of the comments and irrelevant analogies anyone who presents an alternate view is bullied into submission by the people with the AUTHORATIVE opinion…..tradition needs to be kept alive by every means possible…don’t bury your heads in the sand….if people show interest help them out ….don’t have some type of elitist attitude….everyone needs a little help and kindness throughout their existence…..my last word……peace

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Which is the sort of thing that the new arrival in Michael Eskin’s bowling analogy may say. Dip into some of the other 43,350 discussions on this site to get an idea of both the breadth of opinion. You are not hearing an authorative opinion but a widely accepted consensus view.

A consensus view from those who attend sessions and observe.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

So, really Scott.
What’s your point?
Really!!!
Is it all over the sheet music readers bit? …. Or is there something else?
I’m a relative newbie to this forum too (first and only one), and I reckon it’s a ripper!!

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Using the dots at a session means you haven’t memorised your tunes, and honestly, I don’t understand why you wouldn’t make a point of doing so. I also don’t understand how you’re supposed to find the music for the next tune in time to join in with it? And if you know the start well enough to scramble through your library and dig up the right page, then surely you could just put in a bit of effort at home to take that knowledge a little further and memorise the rest of the tune?

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Scot sea, the tradition isn’t just in the tunes, it is a particular way of playing music. The tunes themselves turn up in all sorts of places - in Scottish pipe bands, American old time music, even in classical orchestral arrangements. An orchestra playing arrangements of Irish tunes is doing nothing to ‘keep the tradition alive’, and nor are people reading music in sessions.

If you choose to stick around you’ll find the people here aren’t elitist, and will do anything they can to help and encourage newcomers who want to learn (and possibly change the way they play) to become part of the tradition. But if you come to this music expecting the tradition to change to encompass the way you play, then you are going to have a hard time of it.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

One thing I find challenging at sessions is adapting the way I know the tune to the way it is being played at that session. It is part of the fun, and I get satisfaction from slowly getting better at it. What do the dot readers do when what is on their page isn’t quite what is being played? Or does everyone else have to fit in with them?

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

David50 [What do the dot readers do when what is on their page isn’t quite what is being played?]

There’s a certain irony here :) If the session contains a lot of relative newcomers who are not using music, whose actual tune notes may differ slightly because of the source they’ve learned from, then theoretically at least, it would be a good idea to have a unified version to read and play from.

Even when the newcomers become regulars, there’s a good chance they would still play the tunes the same way.

Ever been to a session, and they’re all playing in tune, in time, but something is not quite right? It’s often because they’re not playing the same notes. It may not be immediately obvious …

The above would be one advantage of sheet music at a session, although it may well be outweighed by the other disadvantages as discussed in this thread.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Jim, the solution to all those problems is for people to follow the the person leading the tune, it doesn’t need sheet music. But in my experience the biggest cause of things sounding ‘not quite right’ isn’t the notes, it’s the timing - some people giving the tune more or less swing than others, or phrasing it differently. And sheet music doesn’t help with that.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Isn’t this topic and the Talented regulars related?

Do your homework. Learn the tunes. How hard can it be?

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

For what it’s worth, in my experience in sessions, some passing notes are almost always slightly different between players, and whole phrases are often played a little differently by a single player each time it comes around. This is true even if we all learned from the same source, whether it’s a written transcription, a recording, or a live, knee-to-knee teaching of the tune.

I’ve never experienced a ‘sheet-music session’ where the music was more than barely OK-ish. But the participants were having a grand time and who can begrudge them that? If it’s the only game in town, you’re stuck. As far as getting people to change, you can only encourage, never compel.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

"Isn’t this topic and the Talented regulars related?"
Hah! Yes, indeed.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Vaguely. Indeed.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Heydiddle: "I also don’t understand how you’re supposed to find the music for the next tune in time to join in with it?"

In a normal session, you can’t, you come in when you’re ready or you listen. But when the balance tips away from ear players to sheet players, the dynamic of the session becomes much less spontaneous, to the point where it becomes something very different. This happened at a session I used to lead, as the core players were too few and far between and the book players took over. Very similar to the dynamic described by the OP.

Rather than use the word "Sheet Music Session" in this response, I’ll call it a "Something Rather Different." :P At the Somethings Rather Different I’ve attended, starting a tune or set involves a process:

1. Say the tune name(s) and/or page number loudly so people can hear you across the sea of music stands and people tuning. If varying from the group’s norm of number of repeats per tune, say so clearly.
2. Repeat #1 again while waiting for everyone to turn pages, grab a second binder, or flip through their iDevice.
3. Prompt the group with a "does everyone have it?"
4. Repeat #1-3 after someone says "what was the tune/page?"
5. Count off and start in unison with the as-written pickup.
6. Play tune 2 or 3 times through as predefined.

Some of these Somethings Rather Different have a defined order where people go around a circle selecting tunes to play next, like a singing circle. Others have a general leader who asks if anyone has a tune they’d like to play next. But in all of them, spontaneity is extremely controlled.

Starting a tune without saying its name is a breach of etiquette, and starting a set that’s not all on the same page in the book is discouraged to say the least (as it requires people to manage pages, leading to more dead time between sets). Failing to observe the process is seen as a breach of etiquette, and comments are made to correct the offending behavior.

Running a Something Rather Different in this way WORKS from the perspective of the democratizing impulse Scott Sea and others have pointed towards. Which is probably why there are now at least five of these Somethings Rather Different playing Irish tunes in this way within a half hour’s drive from me, all of which have more attendees—and hence more recruiters—than the real sessions. So this thread touched a nerve for me.

Joe Fidkid: "I’ve never experienced a ‘sheet-music session’ where the music was more than barely OK-ish. But the participants were having a grand time and who can begrudge them that?"

Yes — and telling people who are having a grand time that what they’re doing is Something Rather Different, not a Session, isn’t a good way to go! :D

Sorry for the rant.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Finding the sheet music? At some point in the 1990s I predicted that technology would soon enable people in a session to find notation for a tune they didn’t know online and join in with it before the players had moved on. I couldn’t have foreseen the exact means (e.g. iPads, tunepal, thesession database etc.) but it must be 6 or 7 years ago now that a friend wrote to me to tell me that my prophecy had come true at his local session. (To make the experience worse, the person joining in in this way was IIRC a classical bass clarinet player. :-) ) iPads are now commonplace in slow sessions, I believe.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Yes, so many iPads at these things! Still often takes the same amount of time to find the page, but at least it takes up less space.

Complete aside re: bass clarinet. Maybe not trad-police-endorsed, but a lot of fun: https://youtu.be/zaLC2S8r_LA

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

"Follow the leader" - think I also said that a while back, but not always as easily done as said, if the leader is on the other side of the room and you can’t hear him/her, especially if you have someone on a very loud instrument next to you! But without the sheet music, there is more chance of picking up visual clues from other players: watching each other is important.

Agree with Joe Fidkid’s 1st para there: so many variations about.

"What do the dot readers do when what is on their page isn’t quite what is being played?" As I said above, I’m doing my best to do without sheet music, but IF I am using it and that happens, I ADAPT to what’s being played. Those who read music have ears too (in my case not very healthy ones!) and using sheet music does not preclude or exclude being able to hear any differences and modify one’s playing accordingly.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Tony McMahon pointed out that it is always the ones who are at the furthest remove from the tradition who are most insistent that it ‘needs to change’ to ‘stay alive’. (I don’t recall if I read that or if he says it on a clip on youtube …..).

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

"You’re not going to win". This phrase really rankles with me. The header to the tab is "Discussions". It’s not about winning or losing however polarised views may be. And not a very nice way to treat a new member either.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Trish, I don’t think we’re talking about a "polarized view" here. Participating in a traditional genre of music means defending it when it’s attacked. Scott may not realize the extent to which the idea of equal respect and inclusion for sheet music readers in a session is a break with tradition. In recognition of that, the first responses were polite attempts to clarify how sessions traditionally operate, and point out the problems with reading in the midst of a traditional session.

Once he persisted in forcing the agenda regardless, the defense of tradition got a little stronger… to the point of reaching "you won’t win" as a true statement of the situation. This is a normal defense of Capital T Tradition when someone suggests a radical change. Try joining a Bluegrass forum and suggesting that since you play saxophone, you should be welcome at every Bluegrass jam.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDtabTufxao

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Ok, jumping in here, a topic I am fairly passionate about! So, for a seisiún to be an Irish traditional one, as found in Ireland, NYC, Philly, worldwide, it needs to come from the oral tradition of passing tunes down, by ear. We need to look at the history of seisiún, where over 150 years ago, trad Irish musicians for the most part did not read music. It was passed down, with kids starting to play quite young. Oftentimes, tunes are unnamed (gan aim), or in many cases have multiple titles. And tunes are played in sets, most often with a musician starting a tune and not knowing what he/she is going to go into next, and after that, until it’s time to change tunes. It’s a very organic way of presenting a set of tunes. It is virtually impossible to do that with everyone having sheet music, there’s no time to shout out "turn to page 42" or "which book again?" After a fashion, one would have a U-Haul truck full of music books.

It’s all in the memory.

I have often said (and I host a seisiún ) if a musician can memorize ten tunes and play them, that is the entry point to the seisiún. It is better to play ten tunes well, than 100 tunes from a book to sound as if it is being played from a book.

For the most part, I started playing in the very early 80’s. On my first trip to Ireland, I had about a mere 20 tunes memorized, and never, ever thought of bringing sheet music to seisiúns in Doolin or anywhere else, I never saw sheet music there anywhere. If I didn’t know a tune, I would memorize the title (even asking after every set of tunes "what was that tune? And that tune?" could be quite annoying). And then when I got home, I would learn the tune by sheet music AND listened to recordings of it being played. Sure, I purchased quite a few tune books, and I have quite the collection, but the way it has been and should be in my opinion, is that sheet music is great for learning a particularly difficult few measures, or to learn the tune. Once you have the tune memorized, the most important thing you can do with that music is either throw it away or put it on the shelf if it’s a book! You have the tune, now comes the work of making it your own, adding ornaments, adding an extra grace note, roll, etc. The tune you’ve just learned will evolve over time to the way that you and only you play it.

Sheet music is wonderful for learning at home. A seisiún is a very social place for musicians to play and interact, make eye contact with each other, smile, lean in a bit, shout out a chord change for the next tune if you know the chord to the guitar player, or if a dancer is there, watch the dancer’s feet and expression. You can’t do that with music in front of you. And when sheet-reading musicians visit another seisiún, especially in a major city, they will be in for a surprise, no sheet music. If musicians do want to get together to read music, that’s great and something different, it is called something different, it is a practice, or a workshop perhaps, but not a seisiún where musicians have the palpable passion for learning new tunes, and just listening and watching when a tune is unfamiliar. I was often told early on, that if a musician comes away from a seisiún with one tune to learn, learns it (memorizing) and brings it back to play next seisiún, that’s golden.

One more thought: it is so important for at least three if not more musicians in a seisiún are strong musicians, to lead it by example. With out that critical core mass, it is difficult to do. Whew! Peace out everyone!

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

> the history of seisiún, where over 150 years ago

uh

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Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

> the history of seisiún, where over 150 years ago

Okay, maybe not a pub seisiún as we know it, which might date from Irish immigrants in London during the 1950’s? But there is the Irish Music Club of Chicago, active from 1901-1909. You know, Chief O’Neill and those guys. That’s an informal gathering 118 years ago, playing the tunes together, and without sheet music (AFAIK). From sources I’ve read, O’Neill himself couldn’t read sheet music, and relied on others for transcriptions in his published works.

From the source linked below: "The Club is the earliest known organisation of Irish traditional musicians in North America. Growing out of informal house sessions in Chicago, it provided a meeting place for (male) non-professional musicians from all regions of Ireland and their American-born children. They came together monthly in a rented hall and also organised public concerts, dances and picnics."

And as happens with some sessions currently: "After prospering for some years, the Club eventually broke up after bitter personal rivalries arose between some members."

https://www.itma.ie/goilin/image/irish-music-club-chicago

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Wow, this thread is still going. Top marks, everyone!

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

@Angela Botzer. So eloquently written. Excellent.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

I once went to an Italian fiddle workshop.
The tutor said "You can play by ear if you wish. I don’t give a sheet!"

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

What I’m getting from reading all of these session type posts is "don’t bother going unless you’re brilliant", which is certainly the message I get from trying to attend local sessions also. While everyone smiles and is "friendly", I get the feeling everyone would prefer to play their own music and if someone who is decent can chime in, then so be it.

Perhaps I’ll try going back to a session after 20-30 years of practice like everyone else has had.

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Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Nx1701. You don’t seem to read so well.
What is so *brilliant* about having to spend a month or two to get a tune right?
Nobody starts from *the top*. We all start from the bottom - in every endeavour .

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

NX1701 : "I get the feeling everyone would prefer to play their own music and if someone who is decent can chime in, then so be it. "

What’s wrong with that, exactly? It’s their session after all!

If you don’t enjoy a particular arrangement, then it’s a case of either seeking out another session which suits or getting together with a few friends and starting one yourself. You can then play whatever repertoire you choose with or without sheet music and at whatever speed you like.

You don’t have to be "brilliant" to attend most sessions. Just be prepared to respect what the regular musicians are doing and be willing to learn.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

"I get the feeling everyone would prefer to play their own music and if someone who is decent can chime in, then so be it."

Yeah, okay - so, what’s the problem? That’s how gatherings of any kind of serious musicians usually work. If you have more than one local session, and generally the musicians are smiling and friendly, I’d say you’re luckier than many.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

A long discussion!
So here’s my view: I am paper-trained, being a harpsichordist, but upon choosing to go into "continuo" (improvised accompaniment) instead of pure solo work, I learned initially from the dots but had to quickly learn how to "wing" it and improvise the bass. The first thing I noticed was how much I had to pay attention to the other players whilst being the one to keep the rhythm and timing. The second thing I learned was how having manuscript in front of me cost me in my paying attention to the others.
I got into Irish traditional music in 1980 or so as a backup artist on piano, sometimes harpsichord and later the bass hammer dulcimer, and by then my improv skills were where I quickly picked up the meter and mode and get into the backup. Very, very few sessions I was invited to used sheet music, and again I’d notice how those few musicians who used the dots tended to pay less attention to the other players…
Now, on a side note, when I also used to play New England contradances, it was always from memory, and again, those musicians using the dots payed less attention to the others, to me at the piano, and worst of all, the dancers: for they were too busy watching the dots.
When preparing for a solo harpsichord concert (or ensemble), I learn from the sheets, but I have from bitter experience learned that if I don’t have those pieces comfortably memorized, then they’re not ready for public presentation. I have been "cornered" a few times, so I borrowed one of the cello scores (single line bass) and improvised from that… still keeping one eye on the leader.
If I’m not mistaken, good session etiquette includes listening to and paying attention to the other players, including watching them whilst playing the sets so as to stay together, so to me, sheet music gets in the way of that, too. I don’t think it’s good for the spontaneity, the "feeling it" of a good session.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

I can not help but agree with you Nx1701 (cool name). And I think this relates to AB’s recent post, https://thesession.org/discussions/43371.
I have often had the impression from this site that I would fear going into a session without wearing body armour and keeping my mouth shut. I have never attended a real ITM session as such. I have however attended many pub-music sessions in North Queensland and I have never come across the "Though shall’t not" attitude which is so often arrogantly and bloody-mindedly defended on this site. Maybe such puritanic sessioners should nail up a list of their top ten"Though shall’t not’s" on the pub door so that the likes of me know not to go in.

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Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

"I have never attended a real ITM session" … okay, so … well …..

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

meself, you do realise you left off 2 significant words on the end of that quote?

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Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Gobby, it’s not exactly the Irish Trad Police rolling up and throwing you in the slammer, if we say that sheet music isn’t the norm in a traditional Irish session. C’mon now. I think that’s understood by most in this forum.

And if it isn’t… if sheet music becomes the norm for amateurs playing together for fun in this tradition, then I’m switching to Macedonian fiddle tunes, or some other Eastern European style where they still know how to play by ear.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

… um … Merry Christmas?

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

I don’t think there’s been a "Though shall’t not" attitude on this particular thread.

It’s been more of a "We should have the right to do what we like" from one or two of the posters here.

I do agree that, in the real world, sessions are usually much more relaxed affairs than we are sometimes led to believe here. However, the participants will still have an implicit understanding of expected behaviour and etiquette pertaining to a particular session.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Thanks, Johnny.
;)

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Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Well Conical, and I call you Conical because I seriously would never like to call you Mr. Bore, I can truly see both sides of this particular argument, and I also see that if everybody could fully understand the two sides of this discussion that they would see that there is actually no argument to be had. But (a) I do agree with Nx 1701’, to the degree that this forum, over the years, tends to suggest that there are indeed some scary Trad police monitoring sessions and laying down commandments. And meself, re:-"I have never attended a real ITM session" … okay, so … well"….. Well perhaps I am explaining why I haven’t. If anybody said to me, Thou shall’t not ANYTHING, I would make a brief announcement and walk out. But Merry Christmas to you too my friend, though you should know (as I’m sure you already do), that there ain’t actually any Sanity Clause!

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Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

I must acknowledge my agreement with Johnny J. I hadn’t intended my target as being this particular thread, and I am, in fact, on the side of those who think sessioners should know their stuff, My support for NX17101’s comment was more of an accumulative thing which Johhny explains with "I do agree that, in the real world, sessions are usually much more relaxed affairs than we are sometimes led to believe here." In other words, we can scare potential sessioners off!

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Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

And when I say"we". I mean some of you guys!

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Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Umm! My comments would probably now be more pertinent to AB’s current discussion, they have become a distraction from the issue here.

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Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Well people next week I shall enter The Belly Of The Beast and attend (for my first time) a local session which is sheet-music based.

If I survive, I shall make a report here.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Gobby, don’t worry about calling me Mr. Bore. I chose that handle here as a sign that I was trying to transition to flute, with a hint of self-deprecation as a bore. I’m certainly no expert player of this music and have a tendency to ramble. :)

These discussions aside, I think I would enjoy playing tunes with most of the people here including you, if we could ever meet in person. It’s both the benefit and the curse of the Internet that we can only talk about the music here, instead of playing it together.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

You are far from boring mate, so I’ll just call you Conical if you don’t mind!

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Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Good luck Richard. I hope you don’t need therapy afterwards.

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Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Where are all the people who are desperate to be reliant on sheet music?

I think Michael’s dance analogy is useful here:

If we went to a tango club and we saw screens and diagrams on the wall, to teach the dancers the steps - we would totally understand this at a beginners class.

If they’d been dancing some of the dances for years and years, and they still held their eyes fixed on the instructions, as they shimmied their familiar moves on the dance-floor (instead of just dancing) - we would rightly think of them as absurd. Or possibly they have some problem that holds them back from the natural human disposition - to remember.

We actually can’t help it - we have probably unintentionally (or even reluctantly) memorised hundreds of simple pop melodies in our head. I just say “Rick Astley” and you recall about 26 notes that you remember without sheet music - even if you tried to give that memory up you’ll never manage it! For the rest of your life.

Tune players using sheet music, for the same tunes they’ve played for years, look equally absurd - and no-one should argue that promoting needless dependency is a good thing.

To suggest that humans don’t remember music naturally is dishonest. We do it without even trying.

For this reason we can agree that, even if people feel comfortable, those who play the same tunes for years while looking at sheet music look absurd. Why? Just like the dancers in the analogy - they are holding themselves back from doing something so natural. (Excepting disabled people)

Here is the good news - don’t fear it - we’ve all got it in us - and we hold ourselves back if we create the dependency.

It’s true (as far as my knowledge serves me) that we use a different part of the brain to to play by ear than to play dependent upon dots.

But the thing is - you can’t fight the brain’s natural ability to learn tunes - you will have learned it already to a huge degree - even if you wanted to be dependent on sheet music - or you don’t want it to be true that we learn melodies very easily even unwillingly…. we learn them all the time.

That’s not to say that it takes no effort to start playing these tunes you’ve been familiar with for years - without dots in front of you.

But the effort to move on is relatively small - and something that someone devoted to a small bit of improvement will be happy to do.

Advocating just using sheet music is holding someone back. Being able to do both (read and remember) is objectively superior and not particularly difficult - unless psychosomatic self-limiting is at play.

Of course some people will enjoy it and that shouldn’t be stopped - but advocating for sheet music sessions *as a norm* is objectively holding people back - and promoting a false dependency: a false dependency that is not helping anyone.

-It looks absurd
-It’s not very difficult for people to loose the dependency
-Promoting it as a norm is holding people back from doing what comes easily

How to influence people to give up sheet music? Solve false-consciousness(?)

But that’s been a tricky problem for humanity for millennia :-P

Where are the people that are wanting to promote dependency on sheet music?

This may sound polemical, but as a teacher I positively hate to see learning impeded - especially with something as beautiful as playing music.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

"we hold ourselves back if we create the dependency". I absolutely agree and I feel so sorry for people who can’t ever grasp this.

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Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Good post Choons!

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Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

(… um … “Rick Astley” … ?)

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Yes, ha, ha… who is that by the way?

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Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Just look up Rick Astley on YouTube- 26 notes you’ll not get out of your head.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

While working away today, (yep, I still work, and love it) my mind took me to a time last century when, in the 70’s and 80’s, I played a lot of popular country music at ‘club events’ that were, all day, or afternoon, evening shows - all sorts of functions (we did a fair bit of charity work). I was the only keys player, we had almost ‘hundreds’ of guitar players (well it seemed like it), a few drummers, lots of solo singers, and quite often ‘guest artists’, and, I toured for I while.
And, you know, thinking back, I recall that I,….. never, never, never, ever, ever, never, ever, ever, NEVER……………..

…saw any dots…

NOT ONCE…..

Then for a few years I moved on to Trad Jazz sessions….. SAME THING!!
In Trad Jazz, even the kids got to get up and have a go…. without dots.

So how is it that some people really need to take dots to ITM sessions?
What’s the deal?

I can understand that dots are OK at ‘slow sessions’, in fact I intend to attend a slow session (monthly) later this year, (perhaps it may not be until next year) because, as I have noted earlier, I am relatively new to this ITM routine, and I need to learn, learn, learn.

But dots at a real ITM session? Why??

Just a thought!

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

In the (not so) "old days", newcomers to sessions would likely have been either brought up in the tradition or had become seriously keen on the music for one reason or other.

Compared to nowadays, the "newbies" would be fewer in number and were likely already known to the regular players. As a result, they were "absorbed" into the company without any due fuss even if they weren’t "quite ready". The younger(although not always) knew their place and, in general, the older musicians were usually very encouraging and patient.

However, there are now many more people from diverse backgrounds seeking to play traditional music. Many of them have attended adult classes and course, have had previous classical or other music experience etc. Some have been inspired to play through the commercial promotion of Irish and traditional music in general via films, stage shows, recordings, and "tourist pubs" etc.

These days, there seems to be an "expectation" that it is OK to just turn up at a session and play.
I remember when the ALP(Now Scots Music Group) started in Edinburgh in the early nineties and, after learning half a dozen tunes, the students were advised to "go and find a session". :-P
Much to the horror of most established session players back in the day! I remember one year at Newcastleton Festival when there was a particularly large invasion. :-)

Of course, things have settled down a bit now. Most of the students now have their own sessions and some have graduated to the real world of sessions but on a more gradual basis. However, there are some who seem forever trapped in the "sheet music session world". They are probably perfectly happy, of course.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Question to the OP: "Why do you want to change people?".

Can’t you, as suggested above, go off and start another session and make it clear that it is only for people who don’t need the sheet music. Leave the sheet music players to it. If they sound OK the bar will probably not mind.

If they don’t sound good they could find themselves without a venue. Don’t they have kitchens to go to?

I live near enough to sessions that cover the range that Johnny Jay indicates in his last paragraph. It’s a case of me finding something that suites where I would fit in, and working out what I need to do to fit into places where I don’t quite fit but would like to. That includes one that looks fun and sounds OK but I don’t play from the dots well enough. It has a big repertoire that I don’t feel inclined to learn more that a small part of - I have enough tunes to work on already.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

This is a great thread.

@meself nailed it on the head days ago. Keep your sanity and start another session without sheet music.

Just because we don’t understand something, does it make it wrong? If you insist on helping your sheet music friends…I recommend a book called the Inner Game of Music, or you could probably host a Star Wars movie marathon (Only the Sith deal in absolutes. Feel the force around you and be one with the tune!).

Good luck and have fun.

Hold sessions without any sheet music.

First friend who handed me a Generation D whistle & taught me jigs and reels (i.e. Irish tunes) told me
I could find tons of tunes (1001) in O’Neill’s. I found a copy & used it but it was obvious the session
was playing something different. I used my ears to sort it out. Written notation is useful but it’s not
much good without listening to how music is played.

Three ways to have a session play without notation ~

1. Absolutely no written music:
Hold sessions without any sheet music or music stands. (I’m serious)

2.Allow people to bring written notation.
Not for use during session playing but allowing for people who want written copies of certain tunes.

3.No formal rules but implicit understanding that sheet music is not used during sessions.
If someone does bring sheet music it may be allowed strictly on a case by case basis. Also the person
who runs the session (assuming there is someone) has a personal discussion with the player about
the session playing without notation.

It is my opinion that having a session which allows players to bring and play off sheet music in the hope
they will become weaned is a session which will always have sheet music & many will continue to
dutifully read the page in front of them as they try to play. Weaning in a session is something I
keep hearing about but I doubt it actually works.

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Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Ha! I wasn’t expecting to get "rickrolled" during this thread! LOL ;-)

I find this thread very interesting. I haven’t seen a sheet music session in about 15 years, as I mentioned before. I run a weekly tune learning (by ear) session - it’s actually where I learned to play this music, and then I’ve been running it for about 13 years now. I guess I’m lucky that this was my introduction to the music, because it has taught me exactly what I needed to be able to play in sessions all over the world. I try to visit sessions wherever I travel, and I just don’t run across sheet music, iPads, or anything similar in sessions - anywhere. So I find it fascinating that there is this other culture out there where using dots in a session is OK, and even defended vigorously.

The one time I saw a sheet music session, it was only about 5 people, and they couldn’t believe that we could just play the tunes without the dots. What was interesting about that session is that the organizer was the one who insisted on the dots, and the other people seemed much more curious about being able to play without the dots. I hope that we helped provide inspiration for furthering themselves in the music.

I will say that an occasional phone comes out to look up how a tune starts, but that’s pretty rare. And the closest thing I’ve ever seen in Ireland was a large session after a Geantraí filming, where there were about 45 people playing. None of the melody players had sheet music, but there were a couple of rather elderly ladies with their electronic keyboards, and they had sheet music.

But I am really disturbed by the idea that talking about not allowing sheet music in a session is somehow being oppressive or bullying of the people that want to use it. I don’t *ban* sheet music in my sessions, because it isn’t even on the table. Nobody brings it because that’s not how sessions work… If someone brought sheet music to my session, I wouldn’t kick them out. But I also wouldn’t dumb down the session for them either, and I would have a conversation with them about it, and encourage them to come to my tune learning session. We have successfully weaned many people off reliance on sheet music to be able to play over the years, and they’re always thankful for it!

>> "tradition needs to be kept alive by every means possible"

Not at the expense of the tradition itself (and the tradition is doing just fine as it is). Would you tell the people of Iraq that they needed to write their language from left to right, instead of right to left? Would you allow aluminum bats in Major League Baseball? Would you walk in to a Japanese home and insist on wearing your shoes because their tradition of not allowing shoes inside needs to change to stay alive (thus, killing the tradition you’re trying to "save")?

We’re not trying to bully anyone into anything. (And in fact, you can look through this thread and count all the times people have said things along the lines of "I’m glad that the people who are using sheet music are enjoying themselves, and I wouldn’t tell them not to do it in their own sessions"). Instead of bullying people to conform, we’re just trying to help enlighten them, and open the world of Irish Traditional Music up to them, so that they, like us, can experience the full joy of sessions the way that they work traditionally.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Somehow I feel lucky that we’re just a handful of people playing ITM in my area… Fewer musicians, but no sheet music in sight.

Re: How to influence people…

Great post, Reverend. I very much appreciate your insight, experience and wisdom. And I encourage others to take heed of your contributions in the discussions pages.

Having said that I have heard from and been informed mine was not a real session because someone in my session had sheet music in front of her. Even when I talked about how she was not reading the sheet music.
Even when I said she is the best ear player I have sessioned with. Even when I said she would be welcome
in any session I have ever played in. I was told bluntly that those are not real sessions if there was sheet music present & my friend could not be playing Irish traditional music because her instrument of choice is banjo.

I considered all that to be discouraging & oppressive.

Ben

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Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

The word you’re looking for, Ben, is "stupid". Who was this expert doing the "informing" and "telling", and what was their CV in playing traditional Irish music ? Although I personally don’t like to see sheet music in a session, if it’s acceptable to the people who regularly play in that session, that’s fine by me.

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Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

There are jerks in each and every field of human endeavour - they don’t define them for the rest of us.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Thanks, Ben. BTW, I wouldn’t be one of the people telling you that your session isn’t "real", especially after hearing that the player doesn’t read the music, and she’s a great ear player… It does beg the question of what she uses the sheet music for, though… But again, what comes out is more important than how it goes in.

So where do you draw the line, then…? I don’t know the answer to that. I guess it lies somewhere between there being some sheet music present at the session and a significant portion of the players *relying* on it to be able to play at all. So that brings up the question of what a "significant portion" means. And I guess the answer is that if it negatively impacts the ability for the session to be spontaneous, or causes any disruption, then it’s too much. For instance, I basically never call out a set of tunes ahead of time, because I haven’t decided what I’m going to play next yet. I like to let it bubble up while I’m playing. But if half the session stops playing when I go into another tune, until they can figure out what tune it is (if I didn’t call it before launching into it), and then they have to find the sheet music, I would consider that pretty disruptive.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

50 yrs ago, when I first started singing in folk clubs there was a strictly no-song-sheet ethos and the room was lit by the warm glow of candles. Now our local sessions are lit by the cold blue light of tablets and written words abound. It has been slowly creeping in over the last 15 years and I have given up trying to persuade singers to learn their material. At the session we started 20 years ago (where no song sheets were used) I have recently caused deep offence by trying to wean the attendees away from written material. Why learn just one song when you can sing dozens from words? They say they have not the time to memorise songs. This habit has also be adopted by semi-professional gigging performers.

So, ITM is not alone in having this problem.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Reverend, "So where do you draw the line, then…?" Each individual session draws its own line, as with anything else. How many guitar players is too many? Do we want a loose format or do we call tunes in a circle? Do we like playing really fast, or at a more sedate pace? Once a session is established and healthy, a newcomer walking in the door can decide if it’s their thing or not.

There are a few things that are difficult to control once you start though. Amplification is one. If you allow one or two members to bring instruments with pickups and amps, it’s not easy to tell the third person showing up with an amp in hand, "No thanks, we have enough amplified instruments." It’s something session members should think long and hard about, before going down that road.

Obviously I’m making a point about sheet music readers here with that example. How do you tell the second or third person showing up with a music stand that no, we already have enough readers? It’s not quite the same as trying to limit the number of guitar or bodhran players. It’s more of an all-or-nothing choice of format for the gathering. Very difficult to reverse the trend once it’s started (see dickt2’s example of the folk music scene above, for another cautionary tale).

I think this explains what may seem like a hostile reaction to the idea here, but it’s just being practical about preserving the format that players-by-ear enjoy in a session. Meanwhile, let the sheet music readers have their fun in a very different type of gathering.

Re: “…what comes out is more important than how it goes in.”

You are always welcome, Reverend. Thank you!

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Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

I agree with Reverend, a set of tunes needs to evolve as it is being played. And here is one of the keys to a seisiún: tunes are played in sets, and like Reverend said, a musician often doesn’t know which tune they are going into, it’s very organic. If tunes are often played three-four times through before going into another tune, there is zero time to find out which page in which book in which series of books the possibly multi-named tune can be found, even it it is searched on an Ipad. In the seisiún I host, if I have just played a tune that is new to most of the musicians there, I will later that evening email the link (from thesession.org of course !) to any or all who expressed interest. Oftentimes they will play it later, at the next seisiún because they will have learned it in their own homes, off of sheet music, at their kitchen table! Hence, I’m introducing new tunes, sending music, but they are learning at home, and memorizing. The best of all worlds! Also another person above mentioned that it is not all about playing all of the tunes all of the time. So much of a seisiún that is so very important is holding your instrument in your lap and just listening and watching. That always makes a great seisiún musician, the ability to not play all the time!

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Yes Rev’s got it.

The harm is not playing or using sheet music in itself.

-Not even the apprent laziness of not committing tunes to memory if you’ve played them for years is intrinsically a problem (memorising is not an extraordinary feat - and something that happens after time even if we don’t think it does)…
Nobody is obliged to improve their playing to any standard.

The harm is in acting as if sheet music sessions aren’t holding people back - if it is put forward as a norm.

Putting forward the use of sheet music as normal — after years of playing a tune or years of playing this music - is dishonest and gives dishonesty low standards of musicianship to learners. It hides the natural ability we have to (fairly easily) remember melodies.

As the Rev says, some gladly take on the task of nurturing the learning of those in the ITM scene to preserve its strengths.

For this reason sheet music sessions can be great if used for learning - but we shouldn’t shy away from the fact that they hold people back if it isn’t clear that memorising tunes is a naturally easy thing (despite people’s fears).

I think seeing “groups” of players using sheet music is unsettling because there is the fear that commitment to this low standard becomes a needless norm (memorising tunes happens without even trying if people play them lots). There are those who foist this needless lower standard on to people, as shown before.

As long as we don’t hold hide learners from the needlessness of sheet music (other than as a psychosomatic habituation or as a temporary learning tool) then we are fine.

It’s the pretence that it is normal or not substandard that people are against - not so much using it temporarily to learn - I am sure.

Ben - your great Banjo playing friend is no doubt amazing - but will clearly know it’s “strange” to have music in front of her especially if not using it for playing. Some people aren’t so honest and act as if learning tunes to memory is not a normal level of proficiency - thus holding people back from the joy of fully knowing tunes.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Choons, you have not heard her play. She may look strange to you but if you close your eyes I don’t think you could honestly say her music is strange. Maybe you would, Choons. I don’t know.

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Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Can I play Devil’s advocate for one moment then and ask why tunes on this site are presented as ABC. Surely if we should all be learning by ear, then the only acceptable way of submitting tunes is via audio recordings to learn from?
Of course there are other ways of presenting music, such as the various tab formats for string players, whistle diagrams of which holes to cover or leave open, as well as ABC and standard notation. All of the above get used in some sessions, and could be classed as "sheet music". OK, before anyone gets on their high horse, just a bit of tongue in cheek (or just cheek!) in this submission!

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Trish, there are two major problems with hosting audio here (and yeah, I know this is partly tongue-in cheek but it’s worth exploring).

First, there is a massive difference in web hosting costs for digitized audio vs. anything in text, which is what ABC is. The reason this page you’re looking at loads so fast, is because it’s ASCII text that can be highly compressed and sent over the Intertubes very efficiently.

The other reason is copyright. The way copyright applies to "settings" of tunes is very vague, which is why all these tunes can be hosted here in ABC format. It’s different with recordings and videos, which is a topic too huge to get into with much depth here. But it’s why the Mustard Board is a lean, mean, tune machine that serves the community in its current format. Every one of us can post a YouTube clip here if we need an audio/video example of a tune, and let YouTube worry about the copyright.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Trish, Trish, Trish … sigh … no one is saying you shouldn’t learn tunes from sheet music. We’re talking about using sheet music at sessions. In other words, as I said way up the thread somewhere, we’re talking about people NOT learning tunes.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

And here I am thinking that this thread had run out of steam. :)

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Don’t be silly, Peter. This thread is not powered by steam - it’s powered by disagreement! ;-)

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

What is the disagreement, Reverend? Personally I think at this point it’s driven by frustration & low hanging fruit.

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Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Maybe the thread title should be clarified :

"How to influence people to give up using sheet music at a session?"

People new to the thread see the original title, which is a little misleading. It looks like it going to be one of those "dots vs ears" topics, when it’s clearly not.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Just my 2 cents… I read sheet music, ergo I am on the session LOL. I was trained as a classical musician in school, however as a solo performer I had to memorize concertos etc… I personally do not like to read sheet music during a session, I rarely pull it out for reference, but never use it to play. For me sheet music is for practicing/rehearsals. Sessions are neither practices nor rehearsals, they are for keeping a tradition going.

There is a guy who does a mass email for players in our area & explains that sheet music is discouraged at sessions that he hosts and others have done the same.

Here is his abbr email
The sessions will follow the tentative format:

* These will not be slow sessions. However, let’s try to keep the tempo such that it’s comfortable for everyone.

* No sheet music stands. (Printed music can be used for help in remembering how to start a set, but not during the tune.) This is, after all, an aural tradition.

* Sets will be called by the next person in line. Please come prepared to call a set when it’s your turn. Sets can be called by anyone. Whoever calls the set starts the first tune (or designates someone else to do it) and is responsible for tune changes and set ending. There will be no set number of repeats of each tune.

* It’s OK to not know every tune. Noone will know them all. If you don’t know a tune, just sit back and listen. Audio recorders are welcome.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Meself, meself, meself, I know, I know, I know…………
I said further up the thread that I was doing my best to do without.
Think you missed the Devil’s advocate with tongue firmly in cheek!

Good post from nattierose!

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Thanks for reminding me of that Jeff! And only 4 months ago.
As I said then: "deja vu, deja dit, deja discute!"
Adieu, mes camarades!

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

@Reverend…
Clever… I got a chuckle out of that!

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

AB - it’s strange to have music in front of you when you know (memorised) the tune - it’s strange to see a competent player doing this.

Strange as in not common.

I’m sure she’s aware of this.

I don’t think it’s the done thing but it’s about enjoyment after all!

- I think misunderstandings power the convo on too!

Re: How to influence people to … ?

It was not strange, Choons. When I mentioned it earlier in this thread I was paraphrasing. It was simply a piece of paper sitting beside her as she played, most likely w/her eyes closed. My point was that someone who had never heard her play, who was not at the session, had not played one tune w/her & who has led sessions insisted it was not merely strange but that the sheet music should never have been in the session, ours’ was not a real ITM session…etc.

In retrospect Kenny is correct to say it was stupid . At the time I felt discouraged from the personal message, even oppressed. It bummed me out that someone who had been so helpful with many posts and personal messages previously was now saying such things about the session I was playing in.

Take care,
Ben

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Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

You have misunderstood what I was saying Ben, and I apologise for not being clearer. I was saying that the statement made, that yours was "not a traditional session" because of the presence of sheet music, was stupid. I made no comment, and certainly no criticism of your session and the people in it, in fact I stated categorically above in my final sentence, which you seem to have ignored :
"Although I personally don’t like to see sheet music in a session, if it’s acceptable to the people who regularly play in that session, that’s fine by me".
That still stands as my position. Hope that clears things up.
Kenny

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Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Good one, @David50! That pretty much sums it up right there - sheet music enabling perpetual beginners. Linus is too old to carry a blanket around! ;-)

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Kenny, that is exactly how I took your reply. I did not ignore the sentence you mentioned. I understand you & agree with you. I was referring to the previous correspondence with the member who said mine was not a real session. Up until that time *he* had been one of the most helpful people I’ve heard from in the community.

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Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

My friend is insecure. Whenever she lacks confidence she simply does not play her instrument. I too assumed sheet music was too much of a security blanket & perhaps she was a **perpetual beginner* as some on the board are saying. But then I listened to her more closely which is not always easy since she does not play very loud. I found her music to be some of my favourite trad music I have heard in sessions. I realised she is always using her ears. I know she gets tunes in her head when she hears one she likes. When we first began playing with her in session I assumed she had been playing Irish music all her life because she was always coming up with tunes which were in her head though she could not recall their names. After playing sessions with her for a few years I only then found out she had not been playing any music since the late 80s. Yet she was coming up with all these tunes out of her head. It is reasonable to assume she is using sheet music as a crutch. Whether it is or not she never shuffles through papers *searching* for a tune, she always uses her ears when playing. She hears every nuance. She made me realise that while many players ‘play by ear’ & she never makes this claim for herself she in fact has some of the most keen ears of anyone I have played sessions with on a regular basis. I learned Irish music from ear players. I learned Irish music using my ears. I learn tunes even more when I play with my friend, just the two of us, & she plays beautiful trad. When we play and I can hear her playing I am not listening to a perpetual beginner. That’s simply not true. That is silly.
;)

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Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

It seems strange to me that people would want to keep playing from sheet music. Anyone good at sight-reading wouldn’t find Irish music much of challenge, and you’d think it would be a boring exercise in short order. On the other hand, if you like adding variations and such, looking at the dots won’t help you much, and you’re practically going by ear anyway.
I’ve always looked at Irish music as a hobby a bit like stamp collecting, only instead of acquiring stamps, you acquire tunes. "Acquiring" doesn’t mean hitting "print" on the computer and snapping the result into your ring-binder. In that instance, the ring-binder has the tune, you don’t, and if you need to see it, the ring-binder kindly lets you share it for bit. But "having" the tune is kind of the hobby, and you’re missing it that way.
Full disclosure: I admit, I am overly, overly reliant on learning tunes off the dots, and it shows in my playing. My intention always is to kind of get the tune in my head and my fingers and then go back and listen to a bunch of recordings (unlike meself, I don’t have the luxury of having farmers, trappers, etc., around that can teach me the tunes) to give me some ideas of how to bring it to life, but somehow, I don’t get around to it, and so I never really "have" the tunes as I’d like to.
Learning exclusively by ear can have its limitations, too, if you go about it in a limited way. I session sometimes with a fluter who learns his tunes almost exclusively from one particular recording artist, wherein it’s like he’s channeling the guy, with every ornament, variation, breath, and tune choice preprogrammed —- every bit as much like painting by number as playing off the dots, even though it may sound better, isn’t it?

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

AB, I understand what you’re saying about your friend using the sheet music as, well, a security blanket even if she doesn’t actually need it. I’m not going to say this means it isn’t an ITM session, especially if everyone else is playing from memory.

From a wider perspective however, what happens if a newcomer shows up with a music stand and sheet music, and wants to join your session? How do you say no, when one person is already relying on it, in whatever fashion? Sometimes things are "grandfathered in" for session regulars, but it can be tricky to handle the flow of newcomers in a growing session, or one with high turn-over, if the rules are different for some than for others.

I think at least part of the informal or formal "no dots" rule in most sessions is to avoid that slippery slope, which can eventually change the entire nature of the session.

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

"Sometimes things are "grandfathered in" for session regulars"

Yes, this is often true.
However, it’s a mistake for a visitor or "drop in" musician to assume that he or she can also get away with what one or two of the more eccentric regulars get up to from time time. I’m not just talking about sheet music here either.
:-)

Re: How to influence people to give up sheet music?

Conical bore, she plays at sessions which allow sheet music and in sessions where there is no sheet music. In the first she may or may not have sheet music. In the latter she does not have sheet music out. But unless I’m missing something newcomers are not getting mixed messages. Different sessions ~ different rules. Also, I’ve never known her to use a music stand or stare endlessly into a sheet of music while playing.

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