Your Session’s Tradition

Your Session’s Tradition

Each of our sessions are different by region and tradition, how does your local session tend to gather and create sets of 3 tunes:

1. Key—all 3 in the same key (AAA form all in Gmajor, or Emin for example) or changing key—ABA, or ABC or no attention to key at all?
2. Meter—all 3 in same meter i.e. single jigs, or mix in slip jigs, double jigs, slides etc?

Re: Your Session’s Tradition

To clarify, AAA could mean:
Tune 1 in Gmaj
Tune 2 in Gmaj
Tune 3 in Gmaj

ABA could mean:
Tune 1 in Dmaj
Tune 2 in Gmaj
Tune 3 in Dmaj

ABC could mean:
Tune 1 in Emin
Tune 2 in Amaj
Tune 3 in Gmaj

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My sessions are all on hiatus until further notice, but when they were running we tried to vary the keys or modes between tunes in a set IN GENERAL. That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t play a bunch of tunes in the same key or mode sometimes if there was something compelling about how the tunes played off of each other.

We rarely ventured outside of the all jigs / all reels / all marches / all polkas etc format for tune changes, because A) that is normal for dancing and B) building up and performing arrangements of tunes of differing genres (e.g. jig/hornpipe/reel) sometimes requires a bit of rehearsal to really nail it, and that isn’t always practicable for a group of musicians whose skill levels can vary widely. That kind of thing belongs more in the studio or on stage, not in a session, IMO.

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For the most part, sessions around here tend to switch keys (or at least modes) between tunes. So sometimes that leads to ABA and sometimes to ABC, in your way of notating changes. There are times when two tunes in the same key are played back to back, but I try not to do that, because the ear (of the players, backers, and punters) can tire of tunes that are too much the same, and the latter tunes in the set lose some of their oomph. And generally tunes in a set are all in the same meter. Sometimes, people might mix jigs and slip jigs, or slides and hop jigs. And occasionally, someone will pull out a full rhythm change, like from jigs to reels, or whatever. The most common would be someone playing an air and then going into a dance tune or two afterwards. But it occasionally happens with waltzes into reels, etc. And once in a blue moon, someone might switch from jigs to reels or vice versa, in a creative way.

For myself, I don’t like playing tunes in the same sets all the time. So I generally start a tune, and then let other tunes occur to me while I’m playing. I usually guide that process by trying to think of tunes in different keys. I might start by thinking of the relative minor of the key I’m playing in, or I might try to think of a tune that starts on the same note the current tune ends on, but is in a different key. Other than that, I generally try to play tunes with a similar feel. If I’m playing a more "rhythmic" tune, I generally won’t then go into a flowing "melodic" tune. And if we’re playing a rollicking tune that everybody knows, I generally try to match the energy, instead of going into something that only I know, which will suck all the energy out of the set…

I have been to a couple of sessions around the world where it seems like people try to stay in the same key throughout a set, and I am not a fan of that… But to each his/her own. If that makes you happy, and I’m sitting in your session, I’m happy to play along.

Re: Your Session’s Tradition

In Scotland, we quite often refer to A, B, C etc parts of tunes although we also use numbers.

Sometimes, we might play a tune AB first time and AC second or different combinations.
Not all the time, of course, but certain tunes get this treatment. Sometimes, it makes sense but not always.

For instance, this one can be A, B, C, D or AB, AB, or AB, AC depending where you are

https://thesession.org/tunes/3640

Re: Your Session’s Tradition

The only "tradition"we have is that nothing is predictable, other than maybe metre (reels are generally followed by reels, ijgs by jigs and so on). Nothing else is fixed. Not keys, not the number of tunes in a set, not the number of times per tune.

Re: Your Session’s Tradition

We play all our tunes in alphabetical order, independent of key or tune type.

Alexander’s
Bring us a Drink of Water
Crowley’s
Dunphy’s
Eagle’s Whistle
Farewell to Erin
.
.
.
Yellow Tinker
Zilchy’s Revenge

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Yeah, Michael, that makes it easier to just flip the pages in your tune books, right? 😛

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Michael, I really hope you’re kidding …

Re: Your Session’s Tradition

We usually play sets in one key, because that’s easier than trying to punch a new program into the strummers. When we do have a key change you have to give them three days notice, then kick them under the table when you get to the bit where they have to change.

Re: Your Session’s Tradition

Well if I’m starting a set, I will try to remember to say before starting to play, for example:
this set is in G, D, and A, each tune played twice with repeats of each part………… just to give folk a clue.

Re: Your Session’s Tradition

> When we do have a key change you have to give them three days notice, then kick them under the table when you get to the bit where they have to change.

I’m saying nothing, but we do have one set of jigs where we flip from Dm to Dmaj and it really require a nice bright D major chord to signpost the change. After playing it every week for about four years I reckon we’ve nailed it about twice.

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Re: Your Session’s Tradition

Many of our sets come from recordings someone introduces to our lot. I seem to be the only one who spends time working up sets with tunes that go together. The effort is definitely appreciated, but I don’t know that it is as important to the others as it is to me. My criteria for stringing tunes together varies, but I usually like to end the set more strongly than I started. I’m happy to report my sets are frequently called, so I guess I am earning my keep.

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Re: Your Session’s Tradition

Calum - what Dm song do you play regularly?

Bulgarian Red is what springs to mind - but are there more popular tunes in ‘the saddest key’?

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Take Her In Your Arms by Andy Stewart is in Dmin

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We generally follow the set from Frankie Gavin and Alec Finn: The Peacock´s Feather Dmin to Dmaj.

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> what Dm song do you play regularly?

Jigs! The Sailor’s Wife -> Peter’s Peerie Boat (preceded by a jig in F called Winifred Foley’s)

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Re: Your Session’s Tradition

We play lots of Dm tunes, The Tempest, The Porthole of the Kelp, etc.

Re: Your Session’s Tradition

Maids Of Mitchelstown, Garrett Barry’s Jig.

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Re: Your Session’s Tradition

We have the all-one-key players, the let’s-change-keys players (D-Em-G, G-D-Em, G-D-A,etc). I’m in the second group, but I’ll play an all-one-key if it works. I figure, we do it because we can. Consensus is for sticking to one tune type (all reels, all jigs, etc), but every so often someone wants a jig-to-reel set. The newbs and the totally clueless ones try to mix tune types in awkward ways, usually "trainwreck". Luckily that’s not too often, so I guess they’re figuring it out.

Re: Your Session’s Tradition

"In Scotland, we quite often refer to A, B, C etc parts of tunes although we also use numbers."

That’s how "classical" music does it.

Whereas with Highland pipe music it’s "first part" "second part" etc. Which gives you sentences like "let’s look at the first bar of the first time ending of the first part".

I do have a question- does "measure" mean a part of a tune, or a bar of a tune? I’ve heard Scots use it both ways.

Re: Your Session’s Tradition

About sets in sessions, seems to me that most of the sessions I’ve been to playing tunes individually was the norm. As a tune ends somebody will have an idea of what should come next and they’ll go into it…of course sometimes two people go into two different tunes. Or nobody will go into anything.

You tend to get tunes in the same key or feel because one tune will often bring to mind a similar tune.

It produces some of the coolest-sounding tune changes! Which probably won’t be remembered by anybody.

Many years ago I attended what amounted to an "album session" as the session worked its way through each of the Bothy Band albums.

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We don’t have any traditions like this at our local session. We just follow whomever started the tune and play whatever they want to follow it with. Sometimes they do it spontaneously and sometimes they have something in mind. Sometimes they even tell us what tunes they want to play before they start. Sometimes the tunes are in different keys and sometimes not. It’s all good, but there isn’t any established manner we all have to proceed with. We do have hosts and we tend to follow their lead and play their tunes, but there’s nothing hard and fast about that either. I drink beer… occasionally whiskey.

Re: Your Session’s Tradition

We rarely play sets at all in our little session, as changing tunes smoothly is a skill no one of us has acquired yet ))

But if that happens, the set either taken from some recording or played in order the tunes were introduced into the session repertoire or it’s a set leader’s established set of tunes.

We don’t pay much attention to changing keys, although see it as a desirable feature. All the tunes in a set share the same rhythm with perhaps two exceptions. Start with a slow air then change into something rhythmical. The other option is to combine single jigs with slides.

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Re: Your Session’s Tradition

Dm tunes: a male friend sings Spancil Hill in this key: I would need to do it in Am to suit my voice.
Rosslyn (Roslin) Castle: another friend, fiddle player, does this in Dm. I learned it in Em, but can do it in either key. Very sad, almost mystical, tune, but very beautiful: needs to be played sl….ooo..ww…ly!

"Measure" - have heard it used in 3 different ways:
1. "A Scots Measure: - the sub-title of some older Scottish tunes, where it means the whole tune.
2. Can also be just a phrase or a section of a tune.
3. In my scoring software, it is used to refer to bars, as in "add x measures" meaning bars.
So no straight answer there, Richard!

Re: Your Session’s Tradition

Wow thanks Trish, it appears to be a flexible term!

I generally don’t hear "measure" as a music term here at all, it’s "part" "phrase" "line" "bar" etc.

I can’t recall ever hearing "measure" being used by Pipe Band people here, and many of them were Scots or Northern Irish.

Re: Your Session’s Tradition

> I can’t recall ever hearing "measure" being used by Pipe Band people here

It’s not a term I ever heard used here (well, in Scotland) in pipe band circles, though my understanding is that it is that standard UK theory term for what comes between to barlines (and a bar meant barline…). It’s become more common in recent years as more and more pipers have musical training from outside the piping scene, and to be honest I’ve never seen it cause anything other than confusion!

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Re: Your Session’s Tradition

Some of us will call out the key of the next tune before the end of the current one, sometimes using the Father Ted method, or Father Jack to be precise, where G, D and A are replaced by Girls! Drink! and Arse! (I don’t think there’s anything for E, and minor keys present a problem).
As for A and B parts of tunes, I’ve always liked the Irish terms - the tune and the turn.
Dm tunes? Julia Delaney’s and Paddy Fahey’s, which I used to hear together a lot despite their being in the same key.

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Re: Your Session’s Tradition

You can guess the average age of our session when they words for the keys are gout, diabetes and arthritis.

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cab, further to the Father Ted method for key identification, anything in the key of E would surely be an Ecumenical Matter.

Re: Your Session’s Tradition

To the original post’s question #1, in our sessions there’s definitely a mix of structures. A few of us tend to avoid repeating an exact set, while others play some sets every session. Some of those repeated sets came from recordings (we just played The Yanks’ "Corney is Coming" set yesterday), others organically from local repetition (one player regularly plays Black Rogue/Blarney Pilgrim/Saddle the Pony all the time, and sometimes he’ll tack it on at the end of other people’s sets when there’s a cue).

As for keys — others have stated how that sounds really formulaic! But funny (to me) story, I got into a space where a lot of my sets were starting in G, going to an Em or Am tune, then ending in D or A major. I got called out for the pattern when I did that for three reel sets in a short time. ;)

Switching meters? Not too often. Sometimes a slide-to-polka or jig-to-reel transition works if people know where you’re going. I like playing tunes that have similar melodies in the different meters — Hughie Travers’ Jig and Reel and The Full-Rigged Ship/The New-Rigged Ship come up at sessions now and then. I remember one set including four types of tunes… I believe it was Cutting Bracken (strathspey)/Drummond Castle (jig)/Cutting Bracken (polka)/Brenda Stubbert’s (reel) and then we probably went into some major reel to break the A minor cycle.

Re: Your Session’s Tradition

And for Feck for F

Re: Your Session’s Tradition

Arse
Bishop (see Arse)
Cow (near, or far away?)
Drink
Eejit
Feck
Girls

The jazz way is better in that it’s visual, and worse in that you need a free hand.

That, and that it refers only to the key signature.

Fist: C
One finger up: G
Two fingers up: D
Three fingers up: A
One finger down: F
Two fingers down: B flat
Three fingers down: E flat

Re: Your Session’s Tradition

You can also shout, "GOBSHITE!" for G : )

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I shall try Eejit! Always found it hard to shout Ecumenical Matters quickly between bars when I’m playing flute.
Feck is what people in our session usually shout AFTER someone starts a tune in F.

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Re: Your Session’s Tradition

In playing in sessions over thirty years, my experience has been that 99% of the time musicians change key with each new tune in a set. As is often stated in different threads, the fast tunes we play are mostly dance music. I’ve done lots of Irish set dancing, Scottish country dancing and even some Irish ceili dancing, and played for all three. It seems to be a well established convention in these traditions that when musicians go into a new tune it should be in a different key. The change gives a signal that the dance is moving into a new figure, or that a new top couple should start, and it also gives a bit of a lift to the dancers that they usually welcome.

I realise there are some well established types of sets such as march, strathspey and reel that may stay in the same key, but to play three reels or jigs in one key strikes me as utterly boring.

Re: Your Session’s Tradition

Agreed Borderer. Not only a change of key, but sometimes a change of time sig.
The fingers method, as described by Richard, seems to be better understood by jazzers.
And cab, "it’s that effing key again".