How do you introduce a new tune to a session?

How do you introduce a new tune to a session?

Now, this is something I’ve never done or seen someone else do. Any new tunes that get added to the repertoire of sessions I been to seem to be ones that are already known by a few of the members but just haven’t been played there before; so there’s already a good foundation to build on. But, if you’ve a tune that you know nobody else knows, what steps would you follow to get the others to (a) listen to it (b) learn it (c) start playing it regularly?

Re: How do you introduce a new tune to a session?

I had a jig I just loved but nobody around here knew.

A number of times over the period of a couple years I started it…and finished it by myself. It’s a lonely feeling! And not in the spirit of the session, to play something you reckon the other people don’t know.

Then Lo and Behold! one night I started it, and several people joined in.

Once I started a reel and when nobody joined in I stopped after one time through.

A fiddler admonished me, "keep going!" he said, "I almost have it!"

Re: How do you introduce a new tune to a session?

The session I ran was an explicitly repertoire-building session, so getting new stuff out there was never a problem, but probably the main thing I’d say is you have to know and play the tune well enough to *make* others want to learn to play it!

If you have players who are fast enough to pick a tune up near enough on the fly, you might just try teaching them it in a moment of quiet, and once you have a core of a few people who know it, it will catch on, or not.

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Re: How do you introduce a new tune to a session?

Richard - I think a good strategy there is to play your new tune a suitable number of times but then go on into a set of more familiar tunes. After a time or two (hopefully!) people will know what’s coming and will be waiting to jump in, and that’ll give an incentive to learn the new one.

Re: How do you introduce a new tune to a session?

I do this all the time. I create a set that combines my new tune with a known tune. At first, I’m on my own for the new tune and then everyone joins in on the second tune. Over time, more and more pick up the new tune. At this point, most of the sets I call include tunes no one played before I joined. Once, our guitar player asked me to introduce Helvic Head to the group. I didn’t even know it, but I learned it and paired it with Blarney Pilgrim. It’s now one of our most popular sets.

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Re: How do you introduce a new tune to a session?

Some thoughts that might help:

Know your audience: Some people love learning new tunes. Others are content to play the exact same 10 - 15 sets over and over. Not everyone at an Irish session will want to learn an Old Time, Balkan, Scandinavian, or self-composed tune. So the first step is to have a tune others will want to learn.

Are people there in the mood to learn new tunes? Maybe pushing new tunes is best done outside of the session. Some sessions it’s common to have people introduce new tunes, but taken too far it can turn into a round robin of people playing solo (except maybe for guitar and bodhran who might join in without knowing the tune). If you’re playing at a higher level session with players who can pick stuff up on the fly, this isn’t an issue — but then, if you were at that kind of session you wouldn’t be asking this question.

As many have already said, put the new tune at the beginning of a set, and end with one or two well known tunes so everybody can jump in.

Introduce a new tune at the end of the evening while everyone else is putting instruments back in their cases. It’s more casual, with less pressure for people to feel like they’re supposed to join in.

Be persistent — it will probably take a few hearings for people to recognize it enough to want to learn it. So bring it out every session till people start to pick it up.

Follow up by emailing sheet music, links to YouTube videos, etc. to the session group. An email to multiple recipients with attachments can trigger spam filters, so BCC the group or upload to a Facebook page.

Re: How do you introduce a new tune to a session?

I got some good advice from a top session player in NYC- she called it the “tune sandwich:” a well known tune, followed by the new tune and finished with another well known tune. The players will inevitably ask about the new tune at which point you can direct them to a recording.

Re: How do you introduce a new tune to a session?

This is similar to what we call the s**t sandwich at work.

Eg when giving team feedback, say something complimentary, say the behaviour that’s causing an issue, finish with a compliment!

Re: How do you introduce a new tune to a session?

The ‘tune sandwich’ idea is a good one. I find it is also helpful, if possible, to teach the tune (face-to-face, by sending sheet music or recordings… whatever works) to one or two fellow musicians, so that when you come to introduce the tune to your session, it has a little more credibility: if you play a tune on your own, others might be inclined to think of it as ‘obscure’ and hence superfluous to a working session repertoire; if two or three of you play it, then they are more likely to consider it part of ‘mainstream’ repertoire and hence essential to being a well-rounded session player. Of course, it depends on the privilege of having a few co-sessionists that are also friends outside the session scene, which not everyone has…

Re: How do you introduce a new tune to a session?

A new tune? To me it’s unusual that everyone present knows all the tunes. Often, someone starts something I haven’t heard, sometimes without a word, sometimes with some kind of introduction "This is smth I picked up during my last trip to Ballyrakesh - do you know it? [and then plays the tune]".

If it’s me, and I’m sure that nobody else knows it:
Teach it to someone else before introducing it - then we’re at least two.
Sandwich set - any pattern works (new/known/known, known/new/known, known/known/new)
Just throw it in anyway - with or without the introductory words.

Re: How do you introduce a new tune to a session?

Joe fiddlekid why would you want to play Old time Balkan or Scandinavian music at an Irish sessiún. Surely the fact that it’s an Irish Sessiún says it all!

Re: How do you introduce a new tune to a session?

To be fair, I don’t think joe fidkid said that he would, gooseinthenettles. But I’ve been to Irish sessiúns where not everything was Irish - probably due to the fact that Ireland doesn’t have a monopoly on good tunes.

Re: How do you introduce a new tune to a session?

I remember sitting in an Irish session where someone, recently returned from a workshop, enthusiastically insisted we all learn a Cape Breton setting of The Laddie with the Pladdie. That met with some passive resistance.

Re: How do you introduce a new tune to a session?

Your forgiveness here for being such a pessimist . ( I used to be an optimist until I got some experience). Theres an old song that sums up the problem pretty well in my neck of the woods …

"You don’t tug on Superman’s cape, You don’t spit into the wind.
You don’t pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger, and … YA DON’T TRY AND PLAY A NEW TUNE!"

To be fair, it has happened that someone from another part of the world has joined us, and stuck around, and a couple of tunes from their previous sessions have been learned, but that’s been only a handful over the years. That’s the reason many wonderful tunes I’ve learned just don’t stick. They never get played in sessions so they never find a home.

Re: How do you introduce a new tune to a session?

I think it’s important to remember that your fellow musicians are on their own creative arc, coming from different places on their way to different ends. Many or most of them have their own to-learn list, so sometimes there’s resistance to taking on yet another tune that hasn’t caught their ear. So persistence and patience is the best bet, moderated by sensitivity to not overly push the playlist proselytising. Be chill.

Re: How do you introduce a new tune to a session?

Being that my local session is fairly insular perhaps there is a toleration of unfamiliar tunes being introduced. A "new" tune will become a keeper if someone other than the initiator takes a fancy to it. Otherwise it will be quietly forgotten.

Re: How do you introduce a new tune to a session?

Another thing is to play newly introduced tunes throttled back a bit, so that it’s easier for someone to get their ears around it, and if someone else has already spent some time with it they can more easily join in. You want to share the tune, not show it off.

Re: How do you introduce a new tune to a session?

In our area, quite a proportion of people who attend sessions also go to the local trad music classes where they learn tunes that are new to them: these then filter out into the sessions, so with any luck, there will be not just one person who knows this “new tune” but several. And hopefully those who don’t subscribe to the classes will be happy enough to pick up these tunes.
There is also the scenario where someone says “I’ve found a new tune/song that I’d like to play/sing”, then discovers that everyone else present knows it already! Seen this happen a few times!

Re: How do you introduce a new tune to a session?

I sometimes just say "Does anyone know [this] tune?" If they don’t, I say "well I’ll kick off with it, then play [tune2] and [tune3], which you all do know. Is that OK?

Seems to work OK most of the time.

Re: How do you introduce a new tune to a session?

It helps if you have an accomplice. I’ve managed it for a couple of tunes in a mixed Scottish/Irish trad session by getting one of the session leaders interested in some Gordon Duncan tunes he didn’t know, via offline email conversation. He’s a piper so it was easy to get him hooked. We both practiced at home until we were ready, and just started playing them at the session. Leaning on one of the session leaders to help is a bit like cheating, but it worked in this case.

These two tunes still haven’t fully percolated through the group because they are a bit difficult, and the players at this session are widely spread between relative beginners and more experienced players. But it’s become part of the session repertoire, played frequently. Working with the session leader, or at least one or two accomplices who can assist you in introducing a tune, is easier than doing it solo in my experience.

Re: How do you introduce a new tune to a session?

I’ll generally send out a YouTube link and a transcription of the tune(s) to my local players in advance saying "Here’s something I’m working on…" and see if I get any takers. If one or two others are inspired to learn it, maybe a couple of weeks later when we have it down, we’ll try it at the session and see if we can get any more players to take it on.

Re: How do you introduce a new tune to a session?

Play it impeccably, not more than 3x, and follow it with a tune everybody knows.

Re: How do you introduce a new tune to a session?

"There is also the scenario where someone says “I’ve found a new tune/song that I’d like to play/sing”, then discovers that everyone else present knows it already! Seen this happen a few times!"

Slightly similar to this one:
- Hey, do you know ‘The Wind that Shakes the Barley’?
- Yeah, we just played it.
- [facepalm]

(True story, a friend was the one who suggested the tune…)

Re: How do you introduce a new tune to a session?

If a player on any instrument can deliver a tune, if people are paying attention, then it ought to catch on.
Someone took the time to either learn or create a tune that no one else in the group knows. In an ongoing session it is courteous to try to learn these tunes that will add new life to any session. Also having good accompaniment for a new tune can help get it off the ground and capture people’s attention.

Re: How do you introduce a new tune to a session?

Halfway, I really admire (really) the dreamers in the world.

Re: How do you introduce a new tune to a session?

Play the tune. If people ask what the tune is, where it came from etc, tell them. Play the tune again in the following weeks. If people pick up and/or learn the tune it’s become part of the session. If not, oh well there are plenty more tunes out there.

Re: How do you introduce a new tune to a session?

My usual answer "It all depends on the type of session" 😉

However, if it’s the sort of set up where you get the opportunity to start a set or are asked to do so, the best way to introduce a new tune is to attach it to a set with more familiar tunes as has been suggested. Eventually, people will "pick up" on it if it’s a good enough tune. Some may never bother but "sitting out" one tune will not upset them too much.

Re: How do you introduce a new tune to a session?

Maybe slightly off topic, but since some of us are still functioning mainly in the Zoom/Skype online world, in our set-up you can send your "new" tune to the session co-ordinator, who then relays it on to those in your online group, and adds it to a folder in Google Drive. Usually the person who introduced it gets to play it first, while the others are muted, but if they all like it, it gets added to the session repertoire.
Over the 15 months that we’ve been doing Zoom sessions, participants have all been encouraged to send in tunes they would like us all to play, and, on the whole, they have all been readily accepted as play-worthy tunes, with some becoming special favourites - even quite competitive as to who gets XYZ tune in first!

Re: How do you introduce a new tune to a session?

When is it a problem to introduce a (supposedly) new tune to a session?

Is it a session with a playlist that is set in stone?

Is it a session where it’s important that everyone must be able to play along?

Assuming everybody agrees on that it’s an Irish session, you won’t risk getting a lot of circus tunes, Klezmer, Galician, Scandinavian, but there’s always the chance that somebody knows an Irish tune that nobody else has heard.

Re: How do you introduce a new tune to a session?

"Some people love learning new tunes… Not everyone at an Irish session will want to learn an Old Time, Balkan, Scandinavian, or self-composed tune…"

Quite possibly not the intention, but this could be read to imply that new tunes introduced to a session are of necessity non-ITM tunes.

"…there’s always the chance that somebody knows an Irish tune that nobody else has heard."

Exactly. The jig I worked at introducing was heard at a couple sessions, is an old Irish tune, is here on The Session, and might be in O’Neil’s. It’s just that the people here didn’t know it.

I have encountered an odd tune-snobbery from time to time that goes something like this:

1) any tune I know, but that players beneath me also know, isn’t worthy to play.

2) any tune somebody else knows, but I don’t know, isn’t worthy to play.

I suppose #1 comes from a tune being tainted by the lowly masses having learnt it.

#2 is the strange one. Perhaps it comes from "I’m the Fount Of All Knowledge. Anything I don’t know must be dismissed."