Things to consider for a session?

Things to consider for a session?

I’m very eager to set up an Irish trad session locally, perhaps next year when I’m a stronger player. (I’m still working on NOT forgetting which repeat of which section I’m on!) My plan is to reach out locally, hold a kitchen session to exchange tunes, get to know where everyone is based, and choose a pub within reach of everyone if possible.

I figure now is a good time to get acquainted with the many pubs in the area and think about which places will or won’t be suitable. What should I consider besides suitable seating and space for the instruments and cases? Also, has anyone here used a café instead, or some other non-conventional session venue, and how did that differ?

Other questions I have - is it better to approach a venue that has regular live music as the customers are used to this? Is it worth trying pubs where there’s rarely any gigs, when the customers aren’t used to music being part of their scene?
What about choice of day/time, are certain days of the week more likely to fail than others? How hard is it to avoid clashing with football matches etc?

Re: Things to consider for a session?

For me, the single most important thing in choosing a venue is to make sure that the owner or manager (and the staff and clientele too) genuinely like the kind of music you play and want to encourage you. If you are there under sufferance, or if the owner or manager sees it as a way to increase business, you won’t enjoy the experience and it won’t be long before tensions arise and you’ll be moving on.

Re: Things to consider for a session?

Go to sessions lots and lots, even before you bring your instrument. You learn a lot by listening, and it is a fun way to spend an evening. Sláinte!

Re: Things to consider for a session?

It’s important to mention to the management at a prospective location that you’re not looking for a performance location per se, like a band might be, that it’s more casual than that. Also, someplace not too noisy is a big consideration. I would scope out some places on different evenings (or afternoons or whenever) that you’re considering and see what it sounds like.

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I think the second most important thing to consider is to find a good session leader. Someone with a good balance of: skill, tune knowledge (knows the basic 300-500 common session tunes, leads sets, knows the other players tunes to some extent), patience and encouragement for less experienced players, understands the needs of the advanced players, generally warm and likable.
If the vibe isn’t happening a lot of people will simply stay home.

Re: Things to consider for a session?

I co-hosted a session for a while, and agree with the advice above about finding a venue owner who is enthusiastic about having a session, and will support it. This might mean intervening if a rowdy patron tries to interfere, making sure the staff knows to turn off the muzak or any nearby TV while the session is in progress, and so on. We had a good arrangement with the owner of the bar where our session took place, and it only died due to attrition and lack of a quorum (too many players moved out of the area).

Scheduling can be important. You may need to work around other events, especially if it’s a "sports bar." In my area, sessions usually run on Sunday afternoons or Tuesday and Wednesday nights, mainly to avoid conflict with sports events.

One last thing, and this can vary due to location, but because you’re taking up space that could be used by other customers, it can be a good idea to make sure your attendees are ordering drinks or food, at least once in a while, to make sure you’re welcome there. It may not be important if the venue owner is thinking of it as "entertainment," and in some situations you may even be offered free drinks. We got a first round free at the session I co-hosted. Still, a bit of consideration for the venue and the space you’re taking up, can help you stay in the good graces of the owner. And if you are ordering drinks or food, tip the wait staff well. They may not like the music you’re playing, but they’ll like the tips.

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I’d say you’re on the good track. The need for a "strong" session leader is less relevant when you already have a lot of common repetoire and know the other players. I fully agree with Stiamh, I’ve praticipated in a session that was mostly seen as extra income and it wasn’t nice.
By far I’ve had the most pleasant experiences in Irish pubs. They’re more likely to offer free drinks/food and he audience knows what to expect in terms of music.

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Re: Things to consider for a session?

You need a pub that understands what they’re getting. As others have said, if the pub thinks they’re going to immediately fill the place and make lots of money, you’re screwed. Eventually the session might draw people in, but it takes a while to build an audience. They need to be on board with how sessions work. I played in one where the bar staff would turn on the PA if you stopped playing for more than two minutes. That session didn’t last long. Played in another where the bar was happy to give us a free round when there were only four or five of us (it was pretty small session), but then one day Kenny and a few other out-of-town friends came to the session, and we were like eight or nine, and the bar staff freaked out and said we coudn’t have that many. That same pub was terrible at communication. You’d talk to the manager on duty at 1pm about moving the session to a different part of the bar, say, due to a football game or whatever, and then when you’d show up at 9, another manager would be in charge, and they’d have no bloody clue. The staff didn’t give a damn about the session or understand it, and you just can’t work with a pub like that in the long term.

You also need a decent number of core musicians, especially if it’s unpaid. Sessions, in my experience, either have a couple musicians paid to show up and anchor it (either in cash or free beer), or a large, committed enough musician contingent that someone will always be there. If there are only four of you, say, and not everyone can commit themselves to playing every week, it will struggle. If there are ten or more, then there’s less pressure on any individual to show up all the time, and the session rolls along far more effortlessly. They are a bit like snowballs. The bigger the ball of snow is, the more it holds together and the more snow it picks up. A tiny lump of snow disintegrates more easily, and it’s harder to get more snow to stick to it.

Re: Things to consider for a session?

If you are holding a kitchen session to exchange tunes, why not just leave it right there? No matter how accommodating a venue, you will always be battling against the noise of the customers talking ( and often yelling), and all the other distractions that go with a pub/restaurant venue. I am prejudiced, as my hearing has become a real issue for me in my dotage but there are very few sessions that I have ever attended that weren’t problematic in some way. I guess it depends on what you’re after. If it is to get together with friends and tune away, the house session can’t be beat. If you are looking to attract musicians from all over, and have an audience, then you have to expect the unexpected. Either way, best of luck to you!

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WRT kitchen sessions, that’s my favorite type of gathering. But it doesn’t have to be either/or. You can do both. I attend a regular session in a bar and also host occasional gatherings at my house, a much smaller group. And I attend other house sessions when invited.

The downside of a regular kitchen session is the impact on someone’s home, if it’s always at the same place and not a rotation. You have to maintain a reasonably orderly space for the group, then clean up afterwards. If there is no rotation, then you’re stuck being pinned down on a certain date and time. I know people who have done this, and it can work for some folks. Personally, I like just inviting people over on an irregular basis, so I’m not pinned down on the day and time.

The beauty of the traditional pub (or cafe, or restaurant) session is that someone else cleans up and washes the dishes. And the session doesn’t fall apart if the regular leader isn’t available, as long as enough others attend who can start tunes.

P.S. @Wireharp: Too much background noise and/or lousy acoustics can make for a bad session, that’s true. There is one local session I rarely attend because it’s in a terrible acoustic space. Too small, low ceiling, too much background noise, and very acoustically reflective.

Re: Things to consider for a session?

Finding venues is difficult, and it’s more difficult with a session that’s slanted towards the novice end of the spectrum. The Scottish session I run in London has bounced around a few venues but it is noticeable that as the core has become stronger players things have become more secure (touch wood). A kitchen session is a good place to get started, though bear in mind some people will prefer to come down incognito to check you out before committing to playing!

The other thing I would point out is that as a session leader, it is you that will have to explain to someone that they can’t come back until they’ve had a shower, sobered up, learnt a fourth and fifth chord, or all of the above.

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Re: Things to consider for a session?

I agree with the posts above about making sure the venue knows what the session is and what it isn’t. Make sure that they understand that there might be as much socializing as there will be playing. And that the music is really for the musicians, and that you’re not performing for the customers as much as enjoying the music. That’s not to say that a really great rapport can’t be developed between the session and the punters, but it’s not necessarily the focus.

Other things to consider about the venue:

1. Does the music make sense at that venue? The obvious place is an Irish Pub, but there are other places where it can make sense, and many so-called Irish Pubs aren’t about anything but Guinness, kitch on the walls, and European sports leagues on the tube. I had a session for a couple years at a brewery, and they were very welcoming to us, but it never made sense for the customers. They would walk in and be surprised to see us playing music, and it never really worked. But I’ve had sessions at restaurants that weren’t Irish Pubs, and developed a following of customers. (I’m lucky to have two of those right now, in fact)

2. Acoustics. It’s really hard to tell what a room is going to be like, acoustically, until you actually play music there. But you can get a feeling for it just by sitting in the venue. If it’s crowded and it’s hard to have a conversation, then a session is going to be at a great disadvantage. High ceilings are generally bad, because they allow all the crowd noise to reverberate around. But as Conical Bore mentioned, low ceilings can be a problem too. One of my sessions is in a large room with fairly high ceilings, but we found a place in the corner, where there are sound baffles as part of the architecture of the ceiling, and it helps contain the sound for the players, and then you can hear us great out in the rest of the room.

3. Audience demographic. I find (in the U.S., at least) that the people who appreciate the music most are either the older generation, or families with children. Your average 30 year old bar hopper isn’t going to care much about the music, and may be turned off by it, which is bad for the establishment. So it helps if your venue already targets a crowd that will appreciate the music.

And finally, I want to talk about being a session leader - or "anchor", as I like to call it. (One of the reasons that I like to call it an "anchor" is that you can have multiple anchors - find another player or two who want to help anchor the session, so that you don’t feel all the weight on your shoulders). The first and foremost quality that helps be a session anchor is consistency. If you are there every week, then you’re halfway there. The main parts of the job are to deal with the venue, greet new players when they come, carefully deal with any issues (like the tambourine player who showed up one night hoping it was an open mic night), and keep things moving during the course of the session. Yes, it helps if you’re a strong enough player to start sets to keep things going. But if you have other decent players, then you shouldn’t necessarily be starting more sets than anyone else. And if there’s one thing that can really strengthen your playing, it’s being a session anchor. So you shouldn’t necessarily shy away from it just because you feel like you’re not ready - after being a session anchor for a few months, you’ll feel much more up to the task!

Re: Things to consider for a session?

In the states we have something called ASCAP which can be an issue. If a pub already features live music, you are ok but if not, then ASCAP can shut you down, even if you are playing traditional music. It shouldn’t be an issue with Trad but they have done it in several places I know of. So someone, ideally the pub, needs an ASCAP license.

Re: Things to consider for a session?

Several things to think about here, as well as those mentioned above:
1. Is the session just to be for the musicians, or are you expecting to have an audience of pub regulars and casual droppers-in? (who, on certain (unpredictable) nights could become the opposition!)
2. If you can, pick a pub that has a separate room or at least part of an area where musicians can get in, and maybe have seats and tables reserved for them after a specified time.
3. If you can, do a wee bit of research beforehand on how full the pub is on certain nights: if it is regularly more than half empty on a Monday night, for example, the landlord may welcome having a body of folk in all buying drinks, even if he/she doesn’t like the music! Avoid any who might charge for the room, pointing out that you are increasing their bar takings manyfold!
4. Avoid pubs with big screens: this will inevitably mean that your session night goes AWOL when there’s a big match on - football, rugby, cricket, golf, all take precedence over music!

Re: Things to consider for a session?

Thanks so much for all your replies, I’m really grateful to everyone.
I think the biggest thing I’m taking from this thread so far is the need to have a clear goal and a venue that will allow us stick with it. So thinking aloud here…

My main reason to have a public session is so that more musicians can join in with us easily. They might want to quietly listen in from a corner a few times before taking the step to join in, but they’ll probably feel under pressure at a private kitchen session. Also, visitors from out of town could join us too.
My secondary reason is to expose this music to more people and hopefully inspire someone to play again after a long hiatus, or indeed to learn it from scratch.
And my third reason is to give something to my local town. The place is struggling, there’s a demand for local activities, and I’d like to make an effort like so many other people do.

So I suppose that means I’m looking for a venue with a strong community spirit. There are pubs all around town that have regular live music, and one springs to mind that makes a point of hiring local musicians as much as possible. They also put on all sorts of daytime events for families and charities. Might be a good place to try!

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Conical bore… There is one big plus side of hosting a house session. You don’t have to go anywhere.

We play in a small town weekly Sunday afternoon session where people drive up to 60 miles through the mountains to play. For the past four years, I’ve hosted a twice monthly "practice" session for the core session members at our house in town. There are five of us who practice with at least two traveling more than 30 miles each way for practice.

Yes, I have to tidy up my music room for the group, and make sure there’s some ice in the cooler, but I don’t have to drive an hour to get here. (Besides, it does me good to once in a while clean up the stacks of books, music and instruments that get spread about.)

Re: Things to consider for a session?

Anchor… I like the idea of session anchors. Our long-term session leader died in February and I was tapped to replace him. He was a retired elementary school music teacher and was an excellent session leader, but he tended to lead too many sets some times.

I’ve chosen to take the role of facilitator in that I don’t want to lead the sets, but want to keep the music flowing and have others starting sets. It allows for a freer inflow of new tunes to our group and keeps everyone participating. Thankfully we have quite a few of us who are anchors who help keep the session going. I do not wish to do that by myself.

Re: Things to consider for a session?

If you do decide to start a session, you may want to consider the following:

1) If you end up being the major support, you’re going to want to be a warm and welcoming person that will make every attempt to be at the session every time. If you can’t make it, that’s fine, but you should try to be there to make sure that the session is held together. And if you aren’t a welcoming person, people won’t want to come back, as they don’t feel like they’re really wanted or uncomfortable.

2) Being a session leader takes great responsibility. It is your responsibility to ensure that word gets out and that the session is advertised, for example on Facebook or Instagram. You also don’t want to be the one starting all the tunes for two reasons; it puts pressure on yourself and others may want to start a tune. Try to call on all members, give everyone a chance to start a tune. If one player doesn’t want to start one, don’t pressurize them. Tell them that if they change their mind, to whisper to you so you can call on them a second time. They also may want to start a set with a relative/friend, and that’s completely fine too.

3) Don’t go to a pub or restaurant that will take you not for the music, but for the money. Even if they don’t personally enjoy the music, some venues will take you on simply because they think they will make profit from it. If the bar owner doesn’t enjoy the music, it isn’t as good a session. Also, If you are ordering food, tip the staff so they feel happier with your presence.

Hope this helped you!

Re: Things to consider for a session?

All of this is good advice. And, DrSpear, it’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who’s gone through the experience of having the barman turn on the house sound whenever he sensed "dead air" in the room.

One thing I’ll mention: try to work with the owner when you set up the session. Managers come and go. You might hit an enthusiastic manager and then, two months later, that manager is replaced by another, less enthusiastic one. We started a nice local session with a great manager. A year later the place was on its fifth manager, and the newer managers would look at us like we were from outer space. Plus they’d turn up the TV volume, etc. So we left.

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Re: Things to consider for a session?

I did go into an Irish pub where, when folk were playing music, the background stuff was turned off and NOT turned on if it got a bit boring. Dates back to 1997, a bar in Baltimore, West Cork.

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Great point about the PA, I need to clarify that that has to stay switched off while we take breathers and get drinks/run to the loo! And to allow for spontaneity by removing pressure on us to constantly make noise.

I’ve found one person interested through asking publicly on Facebook, so I’ve set up a public group and added them. I’ve sent messages to two members of The session.org who live nearby, both of whose profiles say that they’ve tried to find or set up a session locally on recent years… but I don’t think they’re checking their accounts any more, so they’re not going to see my message. So I’m feeling a bit stuck right now. I can’t promote it as a local event with a decided date and time until I know that a couple of people can show up and take part.

On the plus side I’ve had 2 suggestions of venues that might be open to hosting it, so I’ll go check out those places as I’ve not really visited them yet myself.

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Your mileage may vary but in our local experience we go around the circle so everyone gets a chance to call or start a favorite set or show off their best “party piece”, or request another person to start a set they’re trying to learn, or pass to the next person if they’re shy. We make singers and dancers welcome as well. Obviously you need a certain critical mass of musicians to make it work but we’ve seen a lot of beginners become old timers that way. We’ve been in the same pub for 21 years this March and the management takes good care of us since we have a cadre of regular punters.
We’ve also had members start separate monthly Slow learning and intermediate sessions teaching the tunes in low pressure home sessions that have been very well received.

If you’re ever in Colorado Springs come join us at Quinn’s Ale House downtown on Sunday afternoon or Jives coffee and music on Thursday nights.

Doug Huggins

Re: Things to consider for a session?

Thanks for the invite Doug. That sounds like the kind of atmosphere I’d like to create. After all, I wouldn’t feel brave enough to start organising this thing if it wasn’t for the fact that the session I have been going to is full of friendly encouraging players who want to persuade newcomers to lead. I don’t want it to get stuck on a strict routine of circling the room, however I would like to make a point to invite each person to start something if they want to, and sit back enough to give them time to think of a set to lead.

I’ve now found two people who are interested! One of them doesn’t seem to want to do a kitchen session though. Anyway, there are now 3 of us, and and an occasional 4th player when my husband can make it. Just have to keep thinking up ways to find more players.

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Well now I’ve got 13 people in my Facebook group, that’s pretty good going! We’re mostly intermediate players so it’s reassuring to know I’m not out of my depth.

Any advice on approaching venues please? I tried messaging one of them and got no response, and honestly I’d prefer a "no" over silence. If it has to be in person, I’m going to be spending a great deal of time walking around and hoping a manager is present when I show up…

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Ooh boy, now I’ve got 3 pubs competing for it! Didn’t think this would happen… Nice to have a choice I guess, I’ll go hear them all out and see who’s looking at it through money goggles vs who "gets" what a session really is!

Re: Things to consider for a session?

"Any advice on approaching venues please? I tried messaging one of them and got no response, and honestly I’d prefer a "no" over silence. If it has to be in person, I’m going to be spending a great deal of time walking around and hoping a manager is present when I show up…"

1) Yes - showing up in person is the best way.
2) As I said, try for the owner.

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Re: Things to consider for a session?

"Any advice on approaching venues please? "

You need to show up in person to scope out the site and evaluate the acoustics, the crowd, and to establish a rapport with the owner. It can’t be done by email, although that or a phone call should be enough to find out when the venue owner is there. Just tell the staff you have a proposition for the owner for free live music, and that should be enough to establish the contact. Or conversely, weed out a situation that won’t work anyway.

I’ll mention one more thing that may not be obvious: check out the parking situation. One session I usually attend just moved to a different venue, where the parking for cars is MUCH easier than the old location! A free public lot that’s mostly empty, right across the street from the venue. That’s compared to circling around in a tourist area to find an open spot for the last location.

It might sound like a small thing, but together with a 1 hour drive each way to reach this place, it’s part of my decision on "how much do I want to go to this session today."

Re: Things to consider for a session?

Related to to parking. If the parking is not nearby it may be worth considering if it’s a part of town that people who don’t know town (and those who do) would be happy to be in late at night when the streets are quiet.

I have a 15 minute walk to the bus stop through a ‘safe’ town I know well but last week footsteps 10 paces behind and a figure in the shadow of a shop doorway had my attention.

Re: Things to consider for a session?

Make absolutely sure that the pub owner and staff realise that if there is to be live music in the bar, any TVs or background music is switched OFF. I just had an email about a bizarre - if not unique - situation which has occurred locally, where a session has been asked [ told ] to stop because " it is upsetting regular customers who could not get in last time and they are essentially a sports bar". Now if they "could not get in", presumably that is because the bar is full of people appreciating, or participating in, the music. The bar is full - what more could a publican want ?
[ Although it could be argued that the customers there to watch the TV spend more on drink than the musicians.
I suspect that may be the reason].
The pub owner needs to accept that for the duration of the session, it is a "music" bar, not a "sports" bar.
That is my way of thinking, which others might disagree with.

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Re: Things to consider for a session?

A few years back, the management of a certain bar in Portobello requested that the session stopped playing as a couple of "regulars" weren’t able to watch the football in peace.

Apparently, we only came in to "practise" anyway!

Needless to say, the musicians never came back.

Re: Things to consider for a session?

Maybe the regulars who can’t get in on that one night per week or month go somewhere else and become regulars there instead.

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Hmmm, I’ve been avoiding presenting it as free live music in case they confused it with a gig situation and started trying to milk it too much… We’re mainly intermediate musicians, all looking to up our game, but I don’t want anyone to feel under pressure.

Interesting that that session got stopped in spite of it drawing a crowd, that’s really weird! Seems counterintuitive! One of the places that got back to me is mainly sports oriented, but they have karaoke and DJs on and off, and a big St Patrick’s Day event which in the UK is not very common. So it could be that the Irish folks go there?

Parking is a good thing to point out, which I’ve been keeping in mind. There’s a car park near each place, the town centre ones are free after 6pm but the sportsy place is near a smaller, paid one. On the other hand, the one in town might be limited to Thursdays which would mean missing out on my usual session that I’d rather not have to sacrifice…

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It wasn’t an evening session - one Sunday afternoon a month.

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Re: Things to consider for a session?

It’s happening… Tonight… Nobody wanted a kitchen session first, so… We’re going straight to the real deal!

I must be mad. I suppose, worst that can happen is that they know completely different tunes to me, and don’t start any tunes without me leading… in which case it was doomed to fail anyway no matter who organised it! But I doubt it’ll go that badly.

Re: Things to consider for a session?

Please let us know how it goes. Best of luck ! [ Did you receive the CDs I sent you yet ? ]

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Re: Things to consider for a session?

" I suppose, worst that can happen is that they know completely different tunes to me, and don’t start any tunes without me leading… "

That can happen at every session.

Good luck, and have fun!

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That’s awesome progress in just two weeks! Congrats! Let us know how tonight goes!

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I’m trying to reply here for 2 days now, my comments keep vanishing?

Re: Things to consider for a session?

Do let us know how it goes, Heydiddle!
As for "anchors " and "facilitators", I have done both, but always erring towards the latter: as an anchor I would not expect to start any more songs or tunes than anyone else unless it was a particularly reticent session, in which case it would be a situation of trying to keep the session going (a very rare event!))
In a "round the room" session it’s easy to see who should be next but maybe vary it if you know someone has to leave early, and/or mix up the tunes and songs, giving each a fair chance - as happens in our local session (not anchored or facilitated by me!)
In facilitator role, I would hang back as far as possible, do as little as possible, let the session take its course, but mainly make sure that everyone there has a chance to start a tune or song, and not be overwhelmed by others who might want to dominate the session.

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Ok attempting to reply again… Session went well, small number showed up and most of the time 3 of us were playing. A singer joined us and between us we made enough music for about 2 hours. Lovely people, nice tunes, manager was so pleased with us he says he could have listened all night. Couldn’t have asked for much more really!

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Well, I gave it a shot for 3 months, unfortunately the majority of the people who told me they were interested did not show up in that entire time. So I’ve cancelled the whole thing.

There were 3 of us most weeks and my 2 players mostly played fairly quietly, and of course with other commitments couldn’t be there every single week. I was under pressure to learn as many tunes as fast as I could to be ready for whoever might come in. I literally learned 100 tunes this summer, and it’s just not fun to cram like that. I started to dread fiddle practice, and that’s when I realised enough was enough.

I also got radio silence the weeks my 2 regular players couldn’t make it and I was trying to find out if anyone could come in their place that week, or whether I should cancel it or not - half an hour of walking there only to turn around and walk back home, after putting up with drunk men hassling me because I’m there waiting by myself with an expensive-looking violin case… not fun…

It’s left me a bit confused and disappointed. The people who messaged me saying how they were definitely interested and were definitely going to come were the ones who did not show up once, and the ones who came as often as they could never contacted me at all, just showed up and played. I’ve met some amazing players and some really lovely people, and found another session that’s a reasonable distance from home, so I’m going to go to that one instead. So it’s not been entirely in vein. I just don’t understand all the folks who acted so very keen all along, prompting me to organise the thing in the first place, and then never showed up. Oh well.

Re: Things to consider for a session?

Heydiddle,

Yes, people will often express interest and fail to come along. Or, sometimes, they will arrive when you least expect them.
Also, if it’s not quite to their liking or "too quiet" they may not return or make excuses to the effect that "*day is a bad night for me, a school night etc, etc". Sometimes, of course, people will just have other genuine commitments and/or like a bit of variety in life.. e.g. other sessions, concerts, even different types of pursuits. So, they won’t be able to attend every week.

Personally, I think if you have even just 3,4, 5 people there who come along regularly and *enjoy* the experience, then it’s all worth it. The music needn’t be brilliant either although the participants should obviously do their best but, of course, too low a standard might put potential visitors off. Likewise, if the level is too high and you "can’t get a look in". The key word, in my opinion, is *enjoyment*. As long as the musicians are happy being there, that’s the main thing regardless of numbers.

One thing which always puzzles me is when people don’t want to come back to a session because "it’s too quiet". That’s all the more reason to return more often and bring a few musically "handy" friends. :-)

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I find it so strange, I mean some of these folks were in contact with me through the whole process of setting it up, egging me on and all, and as soon as it was set up they were suddenly busy. I get only being able to come sometime, but I mean, with 15+ people expressing a desire to do it I thought maybe half that number would manage most nights.

The three of us were enjoying playing, but we were sometimes feeling a bit like we were repeating ourselves from week to week or "running out" of tunes (more like, struggling to remember what other tunes we knew!!), and that was part of what lead to me hurrying to cram tunes into my brain all the time. Also the venue was starting to put music on at the other end of the bar, which I found very confusing to play over. And of course they had their own lives to lead and couldn’t be there every week, and then I had to try and figure out whether to cancel or not.

Anyway, I’m glad I tried, and it was great to meet the people I did, but it’s just such a pity! I’ll always wonder what it could have been like if all those people came together even just one time. It just feels like such a wasted opportunity!

Re: Things to consider for a session?

Kudos to you for giving it a shot. It does take a certain number of people to give a session some momentum. And learning 100 tunes in a short time is no small feat — this will benefit you in the long run, even if it wasn’t fun. And you never know — you still might have planted seeds that will grow and surprise you some day. It’s great that you found another session that isn’t too distant! So don’t be too disappointed with your first attempt. You probably learned a lot (besides the tunes) that can help you again in the future when the time is right.

Another thing I would point out is that you don’t need to worry too much about repeating yourself every week, other than the fact that the players might tire of it (which can be parlayed into getting people to introduce new tunes each week). But from a crowd/venue perspective, there’s turnover in the crowd every week, and they all just think we’re playing the same tune all night anyway ;-)

Re: Things to consider for a session?

I think you could survive with a limited repertoire if you were certain that the same musicians would turn up every week (and they also knew the same tunes). You could still mix the tunes in a number of ways, or base some sets on your personal focus repertoire during the last week/month. Sometimes we’ve found ourselves to be in say, jig mood, or even key mood.

Imagine there are 50 tunes that all of you knew, and each of you know another 50 tunes which nobody else has. (It’s not that unlikely.) That could result in some interesting repertoire exchanges. Depending on the format of the session, each musician might start an equal number of sets. One classic, one tune from your own repertoire, and finally another classic. Next person…

Re: Things to consider for a session?

@Jeff, Wisdom speaks! With only a few weeks session experience , I have a little over 20 tunes at hand; only a few that everyone else knows. So every week I try to learn some of the tunes everyone else likes to play. It is like craming for a final exam!!. Last week when my last turn came three and a half hours into the SESSION and I had no more to give I began Drowsy Maggie ( I know, I know), and it was the one tune EVERYONE knew but were afraid to start! SESSION went 4 hours , the exchange among player’s was really incredible. And it was a "jig mood" day , some were repeated several times in differing sets to everones delight, fresh as paint if you will. You are absolutely right, you can have a great SESSION with limited repertoire !!!

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