Talented regulars at sessions

Talented regulars at sessions

Sometimes a session can feel a bit exclusive when the best players are so good and so fast that lesser folk cannot keep up with them. Am not saying that newcomers won’t be given a welcome. However, a newcomer like me felt intimidated by the great ones and nasty nerves set in.

An answer is to join a slow session but there aren’t that many of them around.

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Take pleasure in listening. Record and make a note of some tunes they play. Target just one or two at a time. Ask for advice, ask if they could play the tune you’ve been working on. It’s how we all do it, a bit of humility and hard work, enjoy the road more than the destination

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Most musicians will naturally wish to play together with their "musical friends" and they are usually, if not always, of a similar level as regards technical skills, experience, and choice of material.

However, we will all find ourselves in situations where this isn’t possible especially at more rural sessions and so on. This includes even the professional musicians who might be the only good players "in town".
Of course, they could still choose to remain aloof, and some do, but many also enjoy mingling with so called "lesser folk"(not the best term) for a bit of a tune or crack.

There are usually two main ways to approach this. A player can just "join in" as part of the session and blend in without "showing off" for much of the time. No harm is shining occasionally, of course.
The other way is to take the lead and try to "pitch" the overall format and pace of the session according to who else is there. A good sensitive player can usually manage to do this without "dumbing down" but it does mean that most half decent players there will get a chance.

Basically, what I’m saying is that "talented regulars" also have to adapt when they enter a session just as the rest of us do.

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Susan, I see you’re based in Glasgow. Are you looking for a slow session to go to?

If so, we run 2 with the Glasgow Folk-Music Workshop.

Fortnightly, on a Tuesday at Knolls Kitchen (it’s on this coming Tuesday)
https://thesession.org/sessions/5999

Monthly, on a Thursday night at The Botany (Maryhill Road) (next session, 11th April)
https://thesession.org/sessions/6363

Also, I’ve been attending the Babbity Bowster Saturday session for a couple of years now, very nice folks. The Wednesday session tends to be a bit quieter and possibly a wee bit slower.

Both Monday and Thursday sessions at the Islay Inn (Argyle St) are very welcoming. Mondays are very busy (20-30 musicians), Thursdays are very quiet, usually 5-10 musicians, and a little bit slower.

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It’s that way in almost any field of human endeavour, isn’t it? I don’t know why people think playing music should be so much different. If you’re new to driving a forklift, and you don’t have a natural aptitude for it, chances are you will not receive a lot of respect from the other workers in the warehouse - some may even sigh and roll their eyes! If you get into a hockey game, but you can barely stand on skates, no one is going to pass you the puck.

So, yeah - a slow session sounds like a good idea … !

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In most cases, you need to realize that someone playing fast isn’t doing it to exclude you - they’re doing it because that’s how they like the music to be played. (I won’t say that there aren’t cases where someone gets passive aggressive and tries to exclude people by playing beyond their ability… But that’s not generally where it comes from).

The other thing that can help is to realize that even really good players are *usually* really encouraging to others. Partly because they want everybody to be able to play up at a level where the music sounds like they want it to sound, because that’s where it gets really fun for them. So, while feeling intimidated by someone else’s talent is a natural reaction, it’s counter-productive. So my suggestion is twofold. First, try to relax and get out of your own head. Secondly, focus on the music - the lift, the drive, and the lilt. And then as you’re relaxed, you can try to match it. If you’re focused on the beauty of the music, and not on your feelings of inadequacy, you’ll be working toward being able to do it. Relaxation is key for both of those.

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I feel your pain, but I am going to be brutally honest. It is my experience that musicians who don’t have repertoire or can’t play at a moderate tempo seldom put in the work to improve. They maintain the same level year after year. If after a year or so of playing on your own, you cannot play decently on the tunes you know at a session, you are not ready to play at a session. Avoid slow sessions unless the purpose is to learn tunes. You will never get good playing slowly. Slow is only good for learning the tune, not for playing it. One last point: Don’t confuse lack of proficiency on your instrument with inability to play trad at tempo. Learn your instrument before you play it in public.

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@reverend: beautifuly said! Focus on what you enjoy in the music while listening and work towards that beauty happening in your own playing. Patience and not getting distracted by self doubt are key here. Still, that is especially a struggle when you are learning / playing on your own.

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Thing is ,find someone to play with regularily who’s at a similar level then you can both progress and learn together, it’s more fun.
Those talented individuals are probably no more talented than you theyve just been doing it a lot longer and practiced a whole lot more .
See it as a challenge to see how much you can progress by practicing a lot more .
Give up the tv if you have one. That alone will free a few hours a day to dedicate yourself to your art/craft
To avoid overtraining and RSI pick a Second instrument to approach, with different body dynamics , this is just extra not a replacement !! If you play a melody instrument have ago at a chordal instrument and vice versa .
One of the biggest problems I see over and over again is people trying to be what they are not ,so filling the music with ornaments when they can’t even play the bare tune at pace!!!a reel is around 240 bpm to be functional. So you need to be able to play at that speed without any ornaments before you start adding tricks and turns !!!

In competition piping you see the same thing over decades they are slowing down more and more to play intricate heavily ornamented settings . Slower and more pointed . If you listen to the old pipers from 100 yrs ago they played much more like Irish musicians do today , fast and round.

My basic advice is to be able to play a tune three times round at pace with no mistakes ! at first start slowly and if you make a mistake start again . Eventually you will get through the tune without one error. Repeat and get faster over a few months . Basically no ornaments .
If you want to play fast , start slow … but then get faster progressively . Methodically .
practice your ornaments as technical exercises but not within the tunes .
It will all come together given time.
As they say a fox chasing 2rabbits catches none!!
With one eye on the destination you have just one eye for the journey .
Dedicate yourself and some time for your music every day. Enjoy , but practice even if you don’t enjoy it!!!the rewards are worth every minute and hour spent ….

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"filling the music with ornaments when they can’t even play the bare tune at pace!!"

I’ve seen this often - and I blame it on formal lessons. My theory is that music teachers feel they have to teach something new every lesson to keep their student coming, and so you end up with neophyte players trying to jam all kinds of ornaments and fancy stuff in before they’ve got the rhythm down (to me, tempo is not important unless you’re playing for dancers, or in some situation where it IS important - it’s all about the rhythm. And I’ve seen players who can race through a tune unornamented but with dubious rhythm).

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Fair enough meself . For me playing for dancers is one of the best experiences , it makes the whole thing worth while . It means the music is functional and that requires a certain speed and rhythm , to put the notes under the dancers feet . All the rest is superfluous. It becomes art music . I do enjoy art music as well , but it’s dance music that is where I feel at home . Anything that detracts from its dance ability is something to be avoided .
I agree with your other point , a certain amount of commercialization in the teaching of music and the expectations of adults is possibly responsible , it’s the amateurs who keep things reel. Who keep the music pure and uncorrupted by commercial constraints .
Fair play to those players who just do their thing and also make money with it without the bells and whistles professional players need to add to compete in a highly competitive world .

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Here is my issue with beginners playing together: Each person has their own strengths and weaknesses. Combining one person’s lack of rhythm with another’s starting and stopping and another’s inability to tell a reel from a jig and another’s inability to remember the tune, etc., results in compounding rather than curing what it means to be new and inexperienced. Get good enough to play your tunes decently on your own. Then join a session that will challenge and inspire. Don’t give in to intimidation! We’ve all been there. Come as you are, but come!

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Ailin said: "You will never get good playing slowly. Slow is only good for learning the tune, not for playing it."

This is sheer nonsense. Martin Hayes, for one, would say otherwise. Flo Fahey would certainly disagree with you. My pal in Dublin says: "Let’s play slow and wild."

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Martin Hayes plays slowly and "milks the tune" on his albums and live performance because he’s already mastered the art of playing fast in a Ceilidh band. That’s not a good argument. Here’s how Martin Hayes plays in a session, which is what we’re talking about here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EelRwZM-MEw

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Thanks all. I suppose the temptation to show off one tune you think you know really well is hard to resist but at a session it can get in the way, yes. My present way to make music is to busk and I do see a definite improvement over the last weeks. Problem for me is that I learnt music (piano) as a solitary player and that way tended to be mine when learning fiddle in my 60s. The years spent playing by ear on piano has proved a skill I can transmit to my fiddle.

Thanks davidfm for v useful advice.

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@David Levine

[Ailin said: "You will never get good playing slowly. Slow is only good for learning the tune, not for playing it."]

Maybe he meant you will never get good if you can never play up-to-speed - in other words, if your maximum comfortable performance speed is only ever the same as your practice speed?

Ailin?

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Very simply, once you learn a tune, you should strive to bring it up to tempo asap. If this is a struggle, you need to gain mastery on your instrument. The issue is not Irish music, but that you are trying to play music that is beyond your skill. Playing slowly will not increase your skill. It is a crutch.

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>> I suppose the temptation to show off one tune you think you know really well is hard to resist but at a session it can get in the way

I actually try to pull out one tune at every session that I’m pretty sure nobody there knows. Invariably, you get questions about what it was. And then maybe after having pulled that tune out one or more times, other people start to learn it. It’s a great way to introduce new tunes to a session repertoire. But I try to only do it once per session so that it doesn’t seem like I’m showing off or get too annoying.

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I think you should play a tune at any tempo you feel like, or at the tempo the situation requires. It can be refreshing to hear a ‘fast’ tune played slowly, and vice versa.

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I totally agree with "meself." Nothing wrong with slow playing. Every accomplished player I know can make a tune sound beautiful played slowly. In fact, you can’t play fast *unless* you can play slowly. Here are some examples of tunes usually played faster but which are lovely at a relaxed tempo:

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


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IB5FHzn882Q


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HpSNnHy8hK4


Pete, LOL— I actually try to pull out one tune at every session that I’m pretty sure *everybody* there knows. And play it so slowly that *everybody* can play it.

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Nice David, I do that too! ;-)

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I looked on Youtube to see who else played "slow reels." I found these:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sH75rH92NVw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2F5u63gQ0k


If you look up "slow reels" on Youtube you’ll find plenty. Players should be more concerned with playing well, beautifully, rather than fast. If anything, most players (me included) play too fast. It’s important to be comfortable, playing within the tempo, rather than at the edge of your ability.

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David, there’s a big difference between playing a slow reel and playing a reel slowly. There is also a difference between playing slowly by choice or by necessity. Can we get back on topic please?

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To my mind, this IS on topic, FWIW.

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No, it is not and I’ll tell you why. David is talking about the legitimacy of playing a reel slowly and the op is asking about keeping up with more experienced players. I see no link between those two topics. Or, to put it another way, David’s response does not address that concern.

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In light of the full discussion what David Levine writes at the end of his last post I think it is relevant to this discussion. It is a shift in focus from Susan K’s original post. Though I think answering her concern
may be served better with Mr. Levine’s points rather than by completely rejecting them.

Playing with more experienced musicians, being comfortable and blending in with them is a process.
It takes time.

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I’m sure why Ailin is getting a litle tetchy about this particular thread going "off topic". It’s been a daily occurrence here ever since the forum’s inception. :)

Susan’s original post was also slightly vague and she didn’t seem to be asking a direct question. More like "having a ponder".

As I alluded in my first response, it isn’t that unusual for really good players to choose the company of "lesser folk"(Susan’s words, not mine) in a session for a variety of reasons. Certainly, in the great majority of sessions, the latter won’t be rejected as long as they respect their fellow players and follow the general etiquette which is usually expected at these gatherings.

As regards "slow sessions" and/or choosing tunes which are "slower", this is fine but is NOT the only approach. It only works for so long and if a player restricts him/herself to doing this, he or she will be unlikely to progress much further.
It is very important that we "lesser folk" have the opportunity to play with the "big boys(and girls)". Of course, there will always be some exclusive sessions where we might feel nervous and, perhaps, should "sit out". There’s no point in taking part if you feel unwelcome or the level and repertoire is just out of your league.
However, the great majority of sessions aren’t like that and will still work well with a mixture of levels providing all the participants show respect for the music and each other.

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Oops. "I’m NOT sure why…" I meant to say.

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I haven’t met with many discussions on this site that don’t go off topic from time to time. All right, in an academic discussion maybe it’s better to stick to the nitty gritty. But here, a wee bit informal, it can be rather pleasant to wander off on side roads. Pick up a few unexpected jewels, Ailin??

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I think such a departure from the subject results in a redirect of the thread. And then things start to meander. Why not start your own?

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I believe she did.
;)

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Susan did specifically mention speed and difficulty keeping up in her original post; that’s agreed. But there is another meaning (to me, at any rate) of "keeping up" and that is knowing what are the best speeds and mode of playing for certain tunes, and they are not all uniformly fast. Hopefully the "talented regulars" would also know this. Slow reels were cited, and they do sound great if played perhaps with lilt and swing, which is a good technique to learn.That is why I felt the comments on these were not "off topic".

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Well said, Trish.

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Your point is well taken, Trish, but I don’t think it is appropriate to this thread. It’s just my opinion, but rather than broaden the discussion, I feel that it changes the subject. It is not about how to play tunes, but about playing with the facility of a more experienced player. The subjects are mutually exclusive and lead the discussion further and further astray, as you can see.

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Ok, Ailin: we have different opinions. The discussion is interesting anyway.

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Ailin, by introducing your meta-comments you have moved the discussion still farther from the OP’s original question. There are many ways to examine the issue of a beginner feeling inadequate and insecure — and intimidated — at a hot session.

Do you really think that the topics — "playing with the facility of a more experienced player" and "how to play tunes" — are mutually exclusive? In fact, they are closely related. An examination of one will be relevant to both topics. Your categorization is suspect. Most accomplished players would think that both can be collapsed into the other. I.e., "how to play tunes" is the same as "how to play with the facility" of an accomplished player. It is fatuous to think otherwise, unless, as I have said before, you wish to be contrary.

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David, I think Ailin’s point is valid. To recap: the OP was asking about how to deal with talented players at sessions, i.e. what to do when the session is above your current playing level. A suggestion was made to attend a "slow session," followed by comments (paraphrasing here) that slow sessions won’t necessarily help, that you need to put in the work and practice to play faster.

Then, the discussion veered off into how it’s legitimate in this tradition to play slow reels.

Which NOBODY disagrees with! But it has nothing to do with how a beginner might improve, if their problem is not being able to play up to common session tempos. Playing a slow reel with expression and variation is an advanced skill. I’ve never heard it done by anyone who couldn’t also play up to dance tempo. It’s worthy of its own topic as a discussion, but it’s orthogonal to the question of how a beginner can get their speed up.

Sure, it’s normal for threads in any forum to diverge after a while. The danger here, is that by praising the practice of playing slowly (by experienced players), a beginner could get the idea that they never need to play any faster. It’s one case where mixing the topics could easily confuse someone new to this music, because the slow examples aren’t followed by "but don’t try this until you can also play at common session tempos."

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Thank you, CB. You said it beautifully and precisely.

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I’d rather play than discuss playing. In general, and at this point in the thread.

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Susan K, if you go to a session and they are playing above your level then don’t expect them to cater to you. Sessions are whatever the people having them want them to be; they aren’t babysitting events for novice musicians. If you seek to change anything about the session for your own benefit then you are imposing yourself and we shouldn’t want to do anything to interfere with the flow of the music.

Now I realize that might sound harsh, but it’s really the bottom line. Some people who have sessions might make including newer musicians part of what their session is and including inviting people like yourself playing at your tempo and your tune choice, etc., but it’s a mistake to assume you are entitled to that. You have to just observe the session and see what the MO is first before you decide to sit down and join in. There’s no harm in just enjoying what the session is instead of expecting to be part of it if you can’t contribute in the context of what they’re doing. As has already been said, sometimes people start slow tune learning sessions and that’s just as valid. Just don’t expect every session to be that way.

Also, this isn’t really about the merits of playing fast or slow — that’s just personal preference. If the people having the session like playing fast… then play fast… if you can. I’ve been to sessions with very talented players who prefer to play slow too… and I play slow. I personally think it’s all good. The important thing is to not expect the session to change for your benefit or interrupt the flow of the music.

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Ailin : your comments about being mutually exclusive etc. etc. are bit harsh. I tried to say discussions may on occasion go gloriously off the point and thus give readers a bit of pleasure. Isn’t there enough rigidity in this world girl?

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Actually Susan K, I believe you are correct.
I read threads - all of them, even if they are about something that I’m light years away from, like, how to fix your cork or, name of this reel please? etc.
One thing that gets right up my nose is…. NIT PICKING!

The forgotten art of listening.

There is another option when faced with a session that is at a higher standard than your own playing, and that is to leave your instrument at home and attend the session just to listen. Listening to good musicians playing well can be even more enjoyable than playing yourself and worrying that you are ruining everything. You’ll also find you pick up new tunes much faster if you can concentrate completely on the tune, without being distracted by the problems of playing your instrument. And if you take a small recording device, then you can practice playing along at home until you know you know you’ll be able to join in with confidence.

It has become a thing these days that people want to join sessions before they are really ready for it, probably because they don’t have family members or friends to bring them on. If you can resist that urge and just familiarize yourself with the session without trying to join in, doing your practice at home not in the pub, then you’ll find you make much better progress in the long term.

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Susan, I’ve been on this site longer, I believe, than anyone now posting (15 years). My experience is that most go off topic for reasons far removed from grand and glorious, although there are exceptions. Most of the time, it is simply rude. I see nothing rigid about staying on topic. To me, that’s what separates a forum from a chat room.

Btw, Ailin is an alternate spelling of Alan, which was taken when I joined here.

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"I’ve been on this site longer, I believe, than anyone now posting (15 years)."
Is that so?
;-)

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"I’ve been on this site longer, I believe, than anyone now posting (15 years)."

Ceolachan is member 11705 ? Is "14 years ago" the limit for comment age? (I go back that far!)

Anyway, we were talking about Talented Regulars

Re: Talented regulars at thesession (expiry date?)

Johnny Jay # 1066
David Levine #6766
Jim Dorans # 7182
Phantom Button # 9968
Reverend # 11048

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And of course, our much appreciated host, Jeremy himself, #1 !

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I’m not far off. 13255. That probably puts us in more or less the same year.

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"I’ve been on this site longer, I believe, than anyone now posting (15 years)."

Whilst I may not have posted much of consequence on this site, I am still posting.

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I’m member #7182. Out of curiosity, I looked at my first post, and it says "15 years ago".

Doc, why did you tell me you were 27? :)

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Ah well Ailin, "I’ve been on this site longer, I believe, than anyone now posting (15 years)."
I wonder how you know that?

I’m not sure long service is a reliable indicator of wisdom, but I’m a relative newcomer compared to some.

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allan21 - I quickly stalked you, and on the map I see you’re not far from my old home town of Simshill :)

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It is kind of funny… I still think of myself as one of the newer people on the site, because back when I joined the site was dominated by people who had been on it basically since its inception (Will Harmon, Zina, llig leahcim, bb, glauber, dow, etc). There are still a few of the old gang around (as Ben listed 4 others besides myself that have posted on this thread alone!) But alas, a lot of great players (talented regulars at the session.org? ;-)) and interesting people have wandered away from the board for one reason or another over the years…

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It is kind of funny… how a post complaining about discussions going off topic causes a discussion to go off topic.
It’s truly wonderful.

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I didn’t, Donald, but nice try.

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Or, perhaps, "Talented regulars at sessions" has transformed into "Talented regulars at thesession.org".

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Ok, ok, so my memory of the old timers is less than wonderful. So where do the experienced come down on thread digressions?

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Does it matter how long somebody has been posting here? At one point I used a pseudonym — soon after the site became mustard- wasn’t it black and white at some point? — but after Jeremy gave me a few timeouts I came back on with my real name. I guess I had a lower number at one point. But it’s totally irrelevant, isn’t it?
And, just like the importance of sticking to the topic that the OP introduced, not nearly as valuable as saying something worthwhile and interesting.

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David Levine - what the hell do you know about the price of fish? :)

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No, David. When talking about experience, time is certainly a relevant factor.

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Ailin, you’re off topic now. And it’s my supper time. I have things to say to you that were better left unsaid in public. So I am sending yo a message.

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Thank you, David. I got your pm. Hope you have a lovely dinner. Mine will be lasagna.

Cheers.

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"Susan, I’ve been on this site longer, I believe, than anyone now posting (15 years)".
Nae chance - "Kenny" - apparently #726

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Jim—

Cocoa-nut naught, Fish too dear,
None must be bought, For us that are here:

No lobster on earth, That ever I saw,
To me would be worth Sixpence a claw.

So dear madam, wait Till fish can be got
At a reas’nable rate Whether lobster or not;

Till the French and the Dutch Have quitted the seas,
And then send as much And as oft as you please.

William Cowper

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Very good David.

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Ailin is a fierce indomitable person - am OK with that.

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>> So where do the experienced come down on thread digressions?

I don’t mind it… It’s like a real conversation that doesn’t always go the direction that you expect. And there’s nothing that stops anyone from getting back onto the topic at hand… Some of the most interesting discussions on this forum have resulted by straying from the original topic.

And Ailin, I know you had some knee jerk reactions to some of the people that used to post on these forums, and that’s understandable. But there was a lot of knowledge, experience, and musicianship that left with those players (along with some bluntness, and things that were construed as rudeness, even if that wasn’t necessarily the intent). I owe a lot of my gathered knowledge about the music we play to those old discussions, even the uncomfortable ones.

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Fair enough. Otbers?

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End of a pleasant sort of discussion, I say.

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Nearly, Susan.

Just read the entire thread (again) and something jumped out at me.
One person had a sook about people being ‘off topic’.
That same person put up 14 (or so) posts.
Three were ‘on topic’.
One was ‘iffy’.
The balance - TEN - were ‘OFF TOPIC’.
And - talk about ‘argumentative’!
Bit of a laugh really. I’ve got to wonder - have you got nothing else better to do - Ailin?

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#12799 here

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Laugh, laugh Peter - does you good.

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I take ‘em as they come, Peter. And if you read carefully, my off topic and "argumentative" posts are all in response, not digressions of my own. Are you suggesting I should not respond to posts addressed to me by name?

I don’t engage on most threads and start even fewer. I’m probably on this site less than 15 minutes a day.

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SusanK.. Correct… (belly laugh)

Ailin.
"And if you read carefully, my off topic and "argumentative" posts are all in response, not digressions of my own."
You’re kidding… right?
How about… "David, there’s a big difference between playing a slow reel and playing a reel slowly. There is also a difference between playing slowly by choice or by necessity. Can we get back on topic please?"

And then… "I think such a departure from the subject results in a redirect of the thread. And then things start to meander. Why not start your own?"

IT WAS HER THREAD!!!

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And still is - I believe..

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No, no more my thread. Tried to end it……..

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Jeremy usually likes to put threads like this one out of their misery before too long.
:)

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JEREMY END IT NOW PLEASE

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No, no, must digress and say how superb William Cowper’s poem is. William had two hares one called Puss, he himself was mad as a March hare, and so am I having been born on 28th March (later diagnosed bipolar). The stream goes on and on.

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Madness side path on MY topic, it be noted that I was born in a lift - a sad reason for my current mental state. My Mum was livid.

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Happy Birthday for yesterday, Susan!
And all please pardon me heaps for going off topic - again…. (No, I didn’t the first time I’m accused of so doing.)

The quickest way to end this thread is for everyone to stop posting on it. Stop taking the bait.
The "talented regulars" can also resume their competition for who’s been here longest on another thread.

I’ll sound my "Last Post" on this thread and be gone. Bye-ee!

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Yes, Bye-ee, dear Trish.