Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

TL:DR: I played the spoons like an idiot after misjudging the local session ettiquette. I’ve apologised, but feel like I shouldn’t go back now. Any tips?

So, after having been a lurker here for a while, I’ve made an account to ask for advice.
I’ve recently moved to Barcelona (Just over a week ago), and will be working here for at least 1.5 years.
I mainly have a background in english folk singing and singarounds (and have been active for 3-4 years in local pubs and at festivals. I’ve been singing all my life and would consider my skill acceptable to sing in most places.
Now, I don’t say the following to absolve myself of guilt, but merely to add context.
I was incredibly lonely on my second night and had previously searched for sessions, finding Michael Collins irish pub. So I attended, listened in for a few hours, and after 2 people sang songs, I politely inquired in english wether or not it was an open session. A little later I sang a song, and it was well received (got applause and was asked to come back at the end of the session, even exchanged numbers with someone).

Now this week I came back, overconfident with what little I had in the way of trad sessions (I attended a student/beginner session for a few months where someone taught me the spoons, and I practised the whistle for a while, in an attempt to slowly gain skill in a tune instrument), and due to the language barrier, didn’t ask many questions and just joined in (having interpreted it as a beginner friendly session from last week). I don’t think my spoon playing was very good, and I think I caught an odd look from the Bodhran player, and stopped after a couple of sets (not consecutive ones, I know not to always play).
But after that, while I stayed and listened for the rest of the night, no one would catch my eye anymore and whilst I wrote out an apology into google translate and passed it to the person that had welcomed me last week, I still feel horribly inadequate and don’t really want to go back. But I couldn’t find any singarounds or beginner sessions in the area, so I am unsure how to proceed.
I had also hoped to make some friends, since I know no-one here, but I guess that is a dream of the past now. I fear I’ll have to go back to practising the whistle at home when work lets up, and come back in a year or so to maybe play along the odd tune when I’m better.
Any tips? And sorry for the wall of text!

Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

Welcome to ‘The Session Nelly’. I think most of us on here would agree that while there are occasions when spoon playing, when done well can be good, you should definitely not play the spoons to every tune, in fact it should be quite rare (in my opinion). My usual advice to new spoon players is to just practice with one spoon till you get good at it, but that, of course, is just a naughty joke. What I would seriously advise you to do is invest your time with your whistle. If you keep following this site, especially the tunes section, and if you ask questions as you go along, it probably won’t take you a year before you have a few tunes under your belt.

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Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

Best to leave the spoons in the kitchen drawer.

Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

Overcoming embarrassment is tough! So is being in a place where you don’t speak the language. Why not give yourself as long as you need to recover your dignity, then show up to a few sessions expecting to just listen? That might be a nice way to start off fresh, with no self-flagellation needed.

I understand the urge to be an active participant, but I’ve always been shown that listening is a valid, valuable, and respectful way to engage with the music and with the people making it.

And yes, leave the spoons for eating soup. If you listen at the session for a while you’ll get a feel for which tunes get played a lot there, and once they’ve lodged in your head you could start picking them up on your whistle.

Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

I’ve known my peers to be very gracious and forgiving if I acknowledge that I made a mistake and don’t make the same mistake again. I 2nd the advice above to get more aquainted with your whistle.

Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

Welcome to The Session.
Read Barry Foy’s Field Guide to the Irish Music Session for a light hearted look into session dynamics. Someone here suggested I do the same when I asked for advice before I attended my first session. I found it very helpful.
I agree with the advise to attend as a listener while you become familiar with the tunes played most often.
If you don’t already, learn to speak Catalan. My guess is that will help to undo any bad impression you may have made. IMHO

Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

I wouldn’t hesitate to go back. If spoons are not welcome or you’re just not up to par, don’t bring them. Problem solved. I quite enjoy spoons. No instrument not up to session standards is welcome imo. So, consider it a lesson learned, come back with your head high and do what you can do well, then spend the rest of the time listening and learning.

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Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

You seem to be a sensitive and empathetic person, and this should come across to the musicians when you have further interactions with them. The suggestion that you get a whistle and learn some tunes is a good one. You can still continue refine your singing by becoming familiar with some of the many beautiful Irish traditional songs. I hope you find great enjoyment in the pursuit of playing and singing traditional music.

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Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

Hi Nelly, I think you should show up again at that session asap. Even if you get some unpleasant glances, by the end of the night everyone will have noticed that you didn’t play your spoons. I think learning a few tunes on the whistle is a great idea. You might ask what polkas get played at that session. Polkas are good to start with and the whistle is a great instrument. Just don’t learn the most common polkas on this site though, unless the people at your session mention them, because many players will look down their noses at them.

Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

Where there any other whistle players in the group? You could ask if they or know anyone who does lessons, or ask in general on the facebook page. It’s another option. When I lived abroad my ‘in’ to socializing was via language lessons, perhaps via instrument lessons could work!

Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

2nd, 3rd, 4th etc. most of the advice above. Go back, listen. Avoid the temptation to try castanets instead 🙂

Beginner friendly generally doesn’t encompass the session being a learning zone. The general expectation is that participants have "performance ready" tunes or sets - even if these are at a beginner level or slower than full pace.

Best wishes and I hope it all works out for you.

Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

Turn up with a lambeg and trumpet or vuvuzela and vibraslap or similar combination and ‘join in’. And you will be politely asked to bring your cutlery next time.

Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

Uri Geller was the man with the best idea how to deal with spoons.

Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

‘Someone at The Session’ is famous for his love of the percussive cutlery!

Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

Nelly,

If it was only the bodhran player who was annoyed, I wouldn’t worry too much.
🙂
Seriously though, I don’t mind the spoons but only now and again. Preferably on lively "joiny in" sets which might just happen now and again, often near the end of the session. Sets which are really "joiny in" are fewer and further between than you might realise. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t play your whistle if you know the tunes and feel confident enough , of course.

It’s quite probable that there was nothing personal in the fact that the others weren’t acknowledging you to the same extent this time around and the spoons may not actually have been as much of an issue as you thought.
As they welcomed you on your first visit, it’s quite likely that there would be less of a fuss this time. Many musicians prefer not to be "exchanging pleasantries" and just to get on with the business of playing the music.

However, the general advice is good. It’s always better to err on the side of caution until you get to know the people there and all their little whims. Every session is slightly different and some have more "come and go" than others.

Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

Here is an idea:

Twist up a couple of spoons, and mount them in a wooden block. Bring that "sculpture" to the session, and confidently place it in the middle of the drink table.

Maybe there is a famous Catalan epitaph or poem about death and suffering you could memorize and recite.

(I’m in the never-ever spoons category. They are extremely piercing, especially to certain kinds of hearing loss, such as aging brings on. I really dislike like bones also, however I admit to knowing a couple of bones players who are better than tolerable - really quite good.)

Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

A firm no to spoons in sessions. A party piece fair enough, but not for sessions.

Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

The best advice given so far is to learn some Catalan, and I would heartily endorse this. Most foreigners who go to live in Spain only know some Castilian (if anything), but Catalan is definitely the local language in Barcelona. If you try some Catalan people will recognise that you are a foreigner, but will give you credit for trying to learn the language. You could even try and figure out a few sentences so that you can ask how the session works.

And keep playing the whistle. Forget the spoons.

Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

The Spoons are not a musical instrument.
They can be loud and piercing on the ear. And drown out other quieter "real" musical instruments, such as the fiddle, flute or mandolin.
Most session players absolutely abhor their sound, but many people are too polite to say anything, or keep quiet about them as the neandertals who bash them together are quite often violent low-IQ low-lifes.
Only idiots bring them along to a traditional music session. So please take your time and put in some effort to learn even a basic instrument such as the penny whistle.
You will gain much more respect that way.
Ditch the spoons.

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Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

Spoons are the kind of thing that are *really* annoying unless you’re brilliant on them. This fella for example has enough feel and nuance to add something and would be welcome to play along with *some* sets of tunes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYpzOBpLc1s But because spoons are so loud and ‘in yer face’, a mediocre player can ruin the whole night for everyone, let alone a bad one.

And even my good example would really be getting told to shut up if he tried to play along with this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K32f9gdnMng because it doesn’t need it.

Look, you love the music. That’s the main thing. Get yourself a tin whistle (e.g. generations are ~£5) and learn to play. Even if you can’t get a teacher, there’s enough material online on eg Youtube to teach yourself. I’m mostly self taught. If you need a hand finding some material drop me a PM and I’ll see what i can do.

Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

"The Spoons are not a musical instrument"….. I’ve seen them played in a professional orchestra. I’m not arguing for their use but in the hands of the right musician and in the right context they can be adapted as a musical instrument. Percussion is done with many strange objects.

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Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

Even if you can "play" them like Johnny Bongos, once a night is enough :
https://youtu.be/EY3q6-tebnM

"Dump the spoons and learn the whistle" - as many have said above - may be the best musical advice you’ll ever get.

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Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

Thank you so much for all your feedback! So, Next time I’ll bring a drumkit, vuvuzela, airhorn and shaky eggs, right? Or maybe pick up a Bodhran of my own, I heard that I can master them on the first try? Just hit them really loudly :p
But in all seriousness, thanks all!!
To those saying I should learn a real instrument, I did mention that I’ve been trying hard to learn the whistle in my own time, but am not good yet. I love the idea of taking Lessons as a way to socialise Jamesa, thats such a wonderful idea. I’ve also signed up for Catalan classes already, and I’m more interested in that than Spanish, I just moved here with little notice and haven’t had much free time in the first week and a bit! I’m happy to be on the right track with that!
Thanks to anyone who took the time to respond! I really appreciate the advice. and while I would totally kill my spoons and sing a dirge at the next session, I do still need them for soup! (That’s where they’ll stay for the forseeable too. I do love percussion, so I might get myself some wooden bones, but they won’t go near a session for many years yet, unless specifically asked for :p
I think I was too worried about not being accepted and (ironically), launched into it way too quickly, in an attempt to get past the awkward start… Ah well. I’ll go and just listen for as long as it takes!

Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

Gee Nelly. Ya messed up … for the first time EVER! Maybe the best thing to do is to laugh with the rest of the group and move on with a grin. If I had a dollar for every time I made a fool of myself I’d have a real bass fishing boat instead of a leaky canoe. My friends, new and old, always forgave me and those who didn’t weren’t my friends. Sing another song or two and I’ll bet all will be forgiven. Old and best advice … In the end it’ll be OK, If it’s not OK it’s not the end.

Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

Wow, that is a giant size session. You’re gonna need some instrument that’ll cut through all those boxes & fiddles & etc. if you want anybody to know you’re even there.

Something like spoons, maybe …

Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

I just read Tom’s idea of making a spoons sculpture. Humor solves a lot of problem’s! You might try glueing spoons to a teddy bear with a sign that says "Sorry I messed up. I’m new to this. Bear with me!" (in the appropriate language of course.)

Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

You realised something was wrong and stopped after a couple of sets and they still avoided eye-contact? They sound like a right bunch of…
You stopped playing and gave a written apology? You can’t possibly do any more, don’t feel you have to grovel to these people. Go back without your spoons but with your head held high, and just don’t mention it, would be my advice. If they don’t welcome you with smiles, I’d look for somewhere else to spend your time!

Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

IMHO (of course) Happy Camper’s good example is just that - a good example. As for Johnny Horgan - a prime example of too many notes, as if 1) an awful lot of notes = 2) virtuosity = 3) something you want to listen to.

Unless it’s meant as a once-in-a-few-months novelty trick.

IMHO again.

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Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

2 doesn’t follow on from 1. 3 has nothing to do with either. IMHO [ of course ].

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Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

I’m going to go out on a limb slightly, at the risk of being permanently banned from the Universe. Whilst I would wholeheartedly second the advice to put your energies into developing your whistle playing (or any melody instrument that fits the genre) and building repertoire, if you enjoy playing the spoons, don’t abandon them.

1. Keep practising at home, playing along to recordings – or to a friend, if they don’t mind;
2. Let your spoons playing be informed by what you have learned on your melody instrument;
3. Shop around for a pair of spoons that produce a nice ring, not a harsh ‘clack’;
4. Work on your tone and rhythm until you are as good as Johnny Bongos, and then work on them some more;
5. Keep in mind that, even when you are as good as Johnny Bongos, your playing will probably only be appreciated in very small doses.
6. Maintain a good standard on your melody instrument, so that you always have something to contribute to a session.

The unequivocal piece of negative advice is, DO NOT look upon the spoons as an easy entry into session playing. The *simplest* instruments are often the most difficult to play well.

Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

The best percussionists in Irish music are basically inaudible. Your job is to add a quiet thrum behind the music. Generally, if you can hear the percussion, it’s too loud. Spoons IMO are an awful session instrument: loud, clackety and basically unnecessary. I would learn bodhran, or better yet more whistle.

Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

Oh heck, definitely go back! You will meet some friends, make some enemies (perhaps), and life goes on…falalala…you already seem to realize that your mistake was an accident, not intentional, and more than likely someone won’t have to remind you. I hope you break through the language barrier, and find some welcoming smiles.

Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

Creadur - banned from the universe? You’ll get thrown down a black hole for that post! 🙂
All I can add is that, if Nelly *really* wants to insist on losing session friends by clattering the cutlery, maybe try those wooden ones. But I agree, deffo do loads of practice….but mostly on the whistle!

Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

Bearing in mind that it may take a while to get one’s whistle playing up to session level.
Audiences tend to appreciate a (well-performed!) song or two over the course of an evening. Perhaps focus on that for the time being.

Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

Don’t beat yourself up about it. I was chatting with one of the most well-known and well-respected players in this music recently, and he told me a story of taking the ferry from England to Ireland to go the the fleadh when he was a teenager — with nothing but a set of wooden spoons in his pocket! He was so blown away and inspired by the music that he heard, he chucked the spoons into the Irish Sea on the way home and never looked back.

What’s important is that you’re both inspired by the music, and socially aware enough to know that you misjudged…

Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

Yes, Nelly, keep the songs coming too while also building up your whistle skills and repertoire.
At our local folk festival we once did hold a spoons workshop: the tutor was excellent, and took great pains to explain spoons etiquette - much of which has been said above - i.e. only one spoons player at a time, and no need to play on every tune, maybe even wait until invited to join in.
Well you can guess what happened? About 12-15 novice spoons “experts” head for the nearest pub session, and ALL play on ALL tunes, with NO sense of rhythm at all. Total nightmare!
But if you stay in Spain and head over to the Atlantic provinces, get yourself a good pair of scallop shells for percussion! Very effective and the symbol of the Pilgrim’s Way across the North of Spain to Santiago de Compostela.

Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

Was the local session in Weatherspoon’s?
🙂

Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

You’ve hit on the key point of the thread, Johnny Jay. Whether spoons? Or not?

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Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

🙂
Indeed.
My comment could be taken in a few different ways but there was also something subtle in there too which (probably) only Trish and I will understand.

Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

Yes. got it, Johnny Jay! But no, the session was in the usual place. And said lady wasn’t there!

Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

Whatever about how you approach your next year or so in Barcelona, I would earnestly follow the great advice above and put yourself on the beautiful journey of learning a different melody instrument for the next few years; you will lose nothing and probably gain the world. If that sounds like hyperbole then so be it, but I stand by it. And please remember that the people in the session (or any future session) would like nothing more than to have you by their side, playing whatever instrument you take to. It will change your life, and contribute to theirs too.
And keep singing!

Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

Just to ´top up´ your comments, JJ, Tim Martin and George Orwell also had something to say about ´music´ in ´Spoons!

Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

Yes, Orwell’s vision of an ideal pub was fair enough but I don’t think he envisaged or desired a "chain monopoly" such as Wetherspoons(I’ll use the real spelling this time 🙂 )

I’m not that keen on background music myself as a rule but a session kind of falls in between background music and/or the main focus/reason for attending the pub. This varies, of course, between establishments and sometimes the time of day.

As for TVs with no sound, I think this is daft. They are still a distraction and it would be better not to have them at all. Otherwise, allow the volume and people can choose whether or not to visit a particular bar or "vote with their feet" if they don’t like it.

Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

I would say a session counts as "entertainment" in 95% of pubs which hold them, even if the players don’t necessarily see it that way. That might well not apply to Ireland!
Pubs have to try and cater for as many people as possible, and I’ve certainly played gigs where half the punters are watching the TV showing sport with no sound. Ultimately it’s the regulars who will let the landlord know what they want/ don’t want/ are indifferent to.

Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

Reminds me of a place we played for a while. The first manager brought us in, told us we could set up anywhere we wanted, could have the TVs off, etc. Very accommodating. Four managers later, one time when we started chatting between sets suddenly the house sound came up, loud. I went to the bartender and he said "We don’t like dead air."

I explained about how a session goes and he shut it off. Next week, same thing. We left.

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Re: Undo a bad impression? feat. Spoons (I know, eww)

Well, you’ve already got a good melodic instrument, your voice. If you really have to sing in a group like right now, today, then there’s got to be music schools where you can advertise to find musicians. And also it’s a sad fact but if you’re pretty, a man, woman, or whatever, then you just have to sing for an hour in the street and you’ll have a whole following of ‘musicians’.

For the longer term, assuming you’ve decided that in 1.5 years time you will definitely be playing in many sessions then you could: take a whistle lesson once or twice a week along with a 2 hour a week language lesson. At the language school you’ll meet loads of interesting people who may want to work on lots of different music projects.
Then about the session you went to, remember that most musicians have invested a huge amount of time and really hard work, and the session is where they can express themselves using their chosen instrument. It’s almost certainly not personal.

But anyway, you definitely have to go back to the same session again, it often takes time for people to warm to you. You could just carry an empty fiddle case, or the whistle you’re going to learn and smile, a lot of musicians are busy concentrating on playing, they wont even remember the spoons incident.

(Also I’m assuming that because it’s Barcelona then there was a reasonable gender balance, and if the reaction was personal then you definitely have to go back there! 🙂 ).