Chairs

Chairs

I’d like to discuss ‘chairs’.
1. Is it good etiquette to sit and play (as opposed to standing up)?
2. What is the best type of chair?
3. What do you do if there are no chairs left at a session?
4. What do you think about bringing your own folding chair to a session?
5. What do you think of the sometime practice of ‘saving a chair’ for someone coming later (even if they are a regular or ‘Pop Star’!)?

Random personal observations on the subject:
No-one stands up and plays! (I was most surprised to find players at English Trad sessions standing up happily and out of choice!)
At my main local pub session, the new management have changed the chairs from simple ‘dining room’ ones (backs, no arms) to more luxurious and larger chairs with backs and, indeed, arms.
This has also precipitated an inconvenient reduction in the overall number of available chairs.
Everyone sitting down to play the music in Trad Irish appears to be a maxim.
Anyway the new chairs are unsuitable.
One needs loads of elbow room to play properly.
Many a time I’ve been sat at a session but cramped.
I prefer a low stool.
I don’t like sitting on the built in ‘banquet’ type seating. At a busy sesh too many people try to squeeze in.
I have a fold away fishing tripod stool that I take just in case.

Re: Chairs

Where do you fit The Earl’s Chair into a session and who has first dibs on it if the Earl fails to show up?

Re: Chairs

And should bodhran players automatically be relegated to The Stool of Repentance?

Re: Chairs

"1. Is it good etiquette to sit and play (as opposed to standing up)?"

Being seated in a session is obligatory, for etymological reasons. The complementary term for a gathering of musicians playing in a standing position is a *station*.

Re: Chairs

For the last few years I take a portable commode to our local session. It doesn’t take up a lot of space and I don’t have to leave my flute unattended as I can "spend a penny" in the middle of a set without having to leave the session table. I bought this one which is good value, light yet sturdy, and folds away easily:
https://www.military1st.eu/fur004-highlander-portable-toilet.html?gclid=CjwKCAiAu9vwBRAEEiwAzvjq-6WwCe7jrRAf4RsfZh0KC_KuygWKAyJ5cnifXFtNLgWQFkUXneDEsBoC-QEQAvD_BwE

Re: Chairs

"saving a chair" is OK except when the person fails to show…

Re: Chairs

1. Not sure about etiquette, but I suppose it could be annoying if you were sitting down and had a guitarist standing behind you with the sound hole next to your ear. I always try to sit down. I wouldn’t want to be standing for three hours. We occasionally have a fiddle player who stands for one set if she’s been out for a smoke and wants to play when she comes back in but doesn’t want to force her way into the circle.

2. Armless chairs are better than stools (somewhere to put your jacket). Chairs with arms are pants.

3. Stand and listen until one becomes available?

4. Fine by me, as long as it’s not a commode.

5. Chairs shouldn’t be saved - unless it’s mine!

Re: Chairs

Beat me to it, Steamwilkes.

Re: Chairs

It is annoying to walk into a crowded session and find people standing whiles seats are being saved for Mr. "he’ll be here any minute." Well, if you snooze, you lose.
I’ve only stood on the occasion I sat hard on my tailbone coming down stairs and couldn’t sit comfortably for awhile…
1. As Creadur mentioned, session literally means seated. 🙂
2. Personal preference, I suppose, but I prefer a nice, ARMLESS, non-metal chair that doesn’t force you to slouch back into it (you all know what I mean).
3. *Sigh* I suppose you’ve got to stand…
4. Varies regionally I suppose…one group I was with would meet outside and if you wanted to sit, you brought a chair.
5. I think I already expressed my annoyance at that practice.

I hate it when someone sets up chairs and thinks we all need as much room as a pennywhistle player. I mean, guitars have necks they’re slinging around and I do need bow room—scoot over, yer crampin’ me style!

It’s even worse in an orchestra. End of random digression.

Re: Chairs

All good armless fun!

Posted by .

Re: Chairs

Personally I like to stand. It depends on the session, the venue, the type of chairs & the configuration of the room.

Posted by .

Re: Chairs

Depends on the session.

Standing can sometimes be OK.

Personally, I prefer armless chairs with a "highish" back.

I wouldn’t save chairs for others unless they were temporarily at the bar, loo, etc.

I sometimes bring a "shooting stick" type seat or foldable stool to festival sessions and so on. It’s probably "bad patter" to bring something like that to a regular pub session though.

Re: Chairs

No one has yet mentioned the thing that annoys me most - when a musician’s non-playing other half insists on sitting next to him/her in the circle while there are other musicians without seats.

Re: Chairs

I often play standing, if the bar is crowded. It’s easy, even beneficial for a woodwinds player.

What about a long bench not too low, not too high? Yes, it’s cumbersome to get out, if you’re in the middle. Otherwise, the bench provides for excellent flexibility.

Posted by .

Re: Chairs

The best type of chair for a ‘Shakey Egg’ player is very comfy and preferably in another room!

Posted by .

Re: Chairs

Long sessions (2-4 hours) and dances usually require chairs.
When playing autoharp (on my lap), I must sit. This is also true for Irish pipers, and most harpers.
When I am fiddling for an hour or less, I usually prefer to stand, but sessions with mixed player elevations are awkward.

Re: Chairs

2-4 hours is normal. 10 hours is long.
If there are no chairs left in a session, then that session is full. Time to listen.

Posted by .

Re: Chairs

"Chairs with arms are pants."

I just tried one on. Terribly uncomfortable.

Re: Chairs

Game of "Musical Chairs", anyone? I have been to a couple sessions where the "session-meister" (or "mistress") had a designated/reserved chair, but otherwise, I’d say, first come, first served.

Re: Chairs

Whether to sit or stand is an interesting thing. At our local ITM session, everyone sits. At our local general folk/rock/blues/country jam people do both (I mostly sit, but stand to sing or take solos). Bluegrass jams and bands tend toward standing. Flat-pickers mostly sit.

For many years, I played drums in dance bands, so I would be the only person sitting. No one understood why I wanted to stand and/or walk around during breaks. During those same years, I played percussion in orchestras and concert bands, so was the only person (with the other percussionists) standing.

Sitting and standing definitely bring a different energy to the music. Not better, just different.

Re: Chairs

Armless chairs are essential, other than that I’m not too picky about the types of chairs you usually find in pubs and restaurant sessions.

Sometimes at a house session there will be a chair or sofa that’s too deep, too soft, or too low to the ground. The kind that tend to swallow you up. I’m tall and I’m getting old, so that first rise out of a low seat after sitting for a few hours can look pretty comical.

Re: Chairs

Even worse than random non-players taking up chairs are selfish people’s instrument cases or their second or third instrument strewn all over any spare ones!! Does my head in! Just because you’ve arrived early and not all chairs have bums on seats already does NOT mean that they will not be needed later! Stow cases somewhere else, bring stands or "pub props" for your spare instruments, or decide on just one (whistle in pocket excused!) for today. Even worse still is that disgruntled grunt you get from the owners when you ask them to move their stuff.

Re: Chairs

I have no problems with chairs with arms when playing fiddle or banjo. I have a long body, so my arms are normally above the arm level of the chairs. When the arm of the chair has the right hight I rest my left arm on the arm of the chair while playing.

Re: Chairs

Chairs with arms just don’t work with uilleann piping, at least the all the ones I’ve tried to use over the years (at weddings and various other venues).

Which is why it’s good for the piper to bring a folding chair, just in case.

Re: Chairs

Steel chairs are a big negative with me.

Re: Chairs

Do you not get tired standing all the time? Do you take wee breaks?

I think if someone came to a session I was a regular at, and someone had to stand, I’d honestly feel a bit embarrassed.
This depends heavily on shale and size of the venue of course!

Posted by .

Re: Chairs

I think all these tend to vary with the specific session, but …

1. I think the only time I’ve ever seen people consistently standing up is when the pub is packed wall-to-wall, such as often happens at a festival or event, but such situations are atypical. I’d think it’d be weird to have people just sort of… hovering?

2. I like the benches, actually, if it’s not too crowded. (And this is almost entirely based upon the logistics of setting down my drink).

3. At some sessions, people simply commandeer another chair and pull up to *just* outside the established group, and this continues ad infinitum until the session is a series of concentric circles with exponentially increasing sonic entropy. (See #1).

Others will simply have you wait politely and listen until someone leaves. When in doubt I just ask.

4. I’ve seen people do it where it’s beneficial for their instrument to have a predictable, unimpeded sitting surface, i.e. pipers, harpists, dulcimer, the occasional person who’s got the work ethic to haul around a portable piano, etc.

5. My usual session back home saves spots toward the middle for the two or three people who are hosting for the week, which makes sense. But I will echo the sentiment of people who posted above about a seat being left empty for someone who’s an hour late, meanwhile other people want to sit in…

Re: Chairs

I was always taught at school music lessons that sitting down restricted your lung capacity, therefore to sing or play a wind instrument you should be standing. I don’t know if that’s medically proven but I’ve always stood to sing or play the moothie ………..though that doesnt mean I would want to stand for an entire 3 hour session!

Re: Chairs

Mark M: "No one has yet mentioned the thing that annoys me most - when a musician’s non-playing other half insists on sitting next to him/her in the circle while there are other musicians without seats."

I’d take that a step further - perhaps I have a lower annoyance threshold. Even when seats are not in short supply, non-players sitting within the circle can often break the continuity of the group, making it more difficult and less satisfying to play together. But try explaining that to non-musicians… even many musicians would think me excessively petty.

Re: Chairs

Re partners and outer circles.

Sometimes a musician may choose to sit at the edge of a circle so as not to leave a partner or companion feel left out.
Again, it depends on the type of session as to whether this works or not. Also, if the bar is busy, it makes sense for the musicians to be "together" usually in a circle or similar. However, when it’s quiet, players can space themselves out a little more.

Re: Chairs

It’s also quite common to sit on the edge of a session if you are not sure if you are going to be familiar enough with the repertoire and also to give regular players the opportunity to sit there first.
So, even if I’m invited, I’ll not necessarily sit in the middle. Again, it depends on the lay out of things. Obviously, if it’s a very "closed" looking circle, it is arguably a good idea to ask yourself if it’s a good idea to join the session at all.

Re: Chairs

Totally agree about non-musicians but my partner doesn’t come to sessions. I find it much better if I can see and hear the other musicians. It’s hard enough in large sessions when opposite ends of the group are struggling to hear and keep in time without having non-musicians splitting the group.

Re: Chairs

1. Yes. One sits = all sit. And as Creadur said also for etymological reasons 🙂
2. Without armrests. Not wobbly. Preferrably w cushion. At our local Stockholm Monday night session there are two wobbly stools without cushions that late-comers get to use when there are no other stools/chairs left 🙂
3. No chairs left = session full, don’t join in. If allowed by the venue you could however go and fetch a stool or chair from nearby. Within limits (i.e. not taking up too much of floor space) we do this at our sessions.
4. Bring your own folding chair = ok if it’s ok with venue and organiser.
5. saving a chair = ok if it’s for co-host of session or e.g. special foreign guest. But you must know for sure that the musician actually turns up.

Re: Chairs

@hnorbeck: I agree with the above - except that rule 3 may be broken in some circumstances (in which case it is no longer a ‘session’, etymologically speaking). For example, at a festival, where all the pubs are full to the rafters, it may be acceptable to either perch on any available surface (e.g. a windowsill, a table [if nobody is sitting at it], a range [if not lit]) or play standing, provided it is not an inconvenience to those around (i.e. if the instrument does not occupy too much space). Also, unaccompanied singers often sing standing anyway and, if seated, will stand up to sing; standing up to sing with a guitar, however, would appear ostentatious.

Re: Chairs

Doesn’t apply so much to sessions as to other venues that have those chairs that lock together: all put out neatly in advance, but requiring super-human strength to unlock them and separate them, unless you want a guitar neck or bow in your eye! If I’m really cramped, I’ll sit sideways on a chair so that my bellows can move out towards the centre of the circle rather than dig my left-side neighbour in the ribs!

Re: Chairs

An interesting thing happened a couple of weeks ago at the Plough. Usually people tend to form concentric circles when the inner circle is wedged in, or people on the inner circle will back up and let others in, but the width of the circle gets huge when they do that. In this case we had a handful of visitors in town who were very good players and they were at the bar. They pulled their barstools up to the backs of the people on the inner circle and the concentric circle became tiered seating. I had never seen that before… worked great. We could hear them and they seemed closer than they would be if they were seated in chairs behind the inner circle.

Re: Chairs

I tend to practice standing up, as my posture and breath control are better. I guess if I had my preference, I’d actually stand at a session. One person standing kind of sets you aside from the circle.

A circle implies inclusion and shared story-telling or tune-trading as the case may be.

@phantom. I like the idea of having a second ring at a slightly higher altitude. It is better than rings at the same height.

I have given up my seat to an box player when the seats were all taken; he could use it while I could stand.