Session drama - only the pig likes it.

Session drama - only the pig likes it.

So, i was at my local tonight.
There’s a bodhran ‘player’ - you know what i mean. The kind that ruin a session for everyone. With no rhythm. As LOUD and as insensitive as poss. Also you end up playing at his speed, and with all the space in the tune squeezed out. He’s dreaded for his appearances. Anyway, i was stuck next to him all night.

A friend looked over and commiserated with a look - you know? I shrugged and raised my eyes heavenwards. Anyway Mr No Sensitivity caught this and rather abruptly asked me what was my problem. So i said ‘you’re playing way too loud, and you’re speeding up.’ Bear in mind, this was in the middle of a set of tunes. Not really the place for a nuanced debate.

So, i felt like i’d said enough or maybe too much, you know? But i thought, never mind, its a session where people are forever telling other musicians or punters to shut up if there’s a song or someone had first dibs on starting a set. In his position i’d have felt bad or irked for 30 seconds and got on with my life

Half an hour later, i glance his way, and he’s eyeballing me aggressively, i look away, he’s continuing, after 5 minutes or so i ask HIM what his problem is. Ofc, its all my fault, i’m imagining things, he says. He tells me aggressively to keep MY eyes to myself and not speak to him again. Or else. Yes really. Or else.

So i had to ask or else what? He said whatever you like. Told him to F away off and while he was at it to learn his instrument. I come there to play tunes that’s it.

Feeling slightly irked i continued playing and ignored. I was in danger of actually enjoying my night, obviously that couldn’t be allowed to stand. At the end he’s giving me more dumb insolence, in my face, and I lost my cool, unfortunately i feel like i came off looking like the aggressor even when he took digs at my mental health & that i sometimes busk. He played the put upon innocent well, and i wasn’t particularly good at conveying how aggressive he’d been being. It helped him that he hadn’t said all that much - mostly fairly unambiguous non-verbal aggression.

Handbags at 5 paces really, but i feel like i came off worst socially, and that i have more to lose. Typical that nasty pieces of work with a line in psychological jiu-jitsu get to ‘win’. I guess that old adage about not wrestling with a pig - you both get dirty but only the pig likes it.

Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

“Bear in mind, this was in the middle of a set of tunes. Not really the place for a nuanced debate.”
Absolutely true, Happy Camper.

Posted by .

Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

He should have just took it constructively. Honestly he ruins 30 peoples’ nights at a time.

A particular highlight tonight was we have a singer - he’s rightly somewhat famous but i’m not naming names - he sang something that wasn’t quite a sean-nos song, bodhran player felt it was the right time for some random lumpitty tapping. Which really added something i kid you not - an urge to lob the bodhran and its botherer out the door.

Everyone waxes lyrical about how they’ll tell such an individual in no uncertain terms. In practice, this is why nobody actually does it.

Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

Well, children throw tantrums. Sometimes ´adult´ children throw tantrums. Sometimes you just have to weather them.

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I hope this is helpful, but reading between the lines it sounds like you know you reacted/behaved in a way you wish you hadn’t (despite being provoked) and feel bad/worried about it.

Whenever this happens to me I think it’s really important not to beat yourself up about it, we’re only human/not perfect, but try to think about the interaction and how I’d have handled it differently in the future as a learning experience.

Re. social stuff at your local session, you could always have a quick chat with the Bodhran player before you all start, apologising for the heated situation/that things got out of hand.

Feels painful to do, but hopefully, following the olive branch, he’ll do the same and the atmosphere will be much smoother again between you going forward?

Off subject, I find Bodhrans such a tricky problem…

If played badly they’re the worst instrument for ruining a session by quite a way, but conversely our culture, I think, treats their players quite badly relative to others:
- butt of every joke
- anything other than perfect playing is bad
- unlike with other instruments, newish players aren’t seen as beginners you help to improve, but demons to excise/pressure out etc

I think this makes things quite “odd”/uncertain/disconcerting for Bodhran players re. understanding their place/welcomeness in, what should be, a fun social session.

Personally I think it’s good to alternate “regular” sessions with “no percussion” sessions as a way of addressing this?

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@belayatron: you aren’t wrong, i do feel uncomfortable with how it played out but mostly that it put me in an awkward place with the other musicians.

The bodhran player? No, he was genuinely a nasty piece of work, and worse than his aggression was the insincerity, the lies and the poor-me-put-upon routine he pulled at the end whilst at the same time saying a lot of things that quite honestly hit below the belt. I think i’d rather have been punched than misrepresented in front of my fellow musicians. A punch i’d forgive - have done in the past. Buy them a pint and say ‘that’s a nasty left hook you have you daft b***er.’ People quarrel. Fly off the handle. That’s one thing. This was calculating.

Bodhran players getting a hard time for being bodhran players? Yes, they do get some fierce stick on aggregate, we’ve all heard the jokes. I don’t however think anyone in that session ever said anything to him at all until i did.

I’ve nothing against bodhran players. Its a difficult thing to do well. You have one task, but people around you will notice if it doesn’t go well whereas i can get away with murder on the whistle because tbh they’re not listening to me, they’re listening to the beat. I’d never dare play bodhran. Even if I could. Too much pressure!

We have a couple of other regulars who play bodhran from time to time. There was even one other bodhran this night, the difference is it was being played in a sensible manner and not like a Neanderthal angrily trying to bludgeon a wooly mammoth to death. So i had a comparison - the sensible player was about as loud as any other musician, the idiot was louder then the rest of the session combined. He acts with the entitlement that even a world-class player like Jonjo Kelly wouldn’t dare to - moves right up into the thick of it and plays as loud as humanly possible, and when that’s not enough, clacking on the rim at 120 DB.

Good players getting disrespected left and right by a guy who can’t play his instrument. Great box player, lifelong musician, lovely feel starts a nice set of reels steady away. Bodhran player jumps straight in after about 2 bars and drags it up by about 20 bpm immediately, and thereafter by increments. If he finally STAYED at some rhythm, i’d have continued playing, but it was so utterly unenjoyable i stopped put my whistle down & raised my eyes to heaven. That’s when HE asked ME what was up. Massive, massive ego, he needed telling. I told him. ‘you are playing way too loud and dragging the speed up.’ In my understanding, during a set its the kind of comment that might save a set from falling apart. Not a declaration of mortal emnity. Didn’t insult his playing (at least not until later in the evening when he was being aggressive to me.)

At the time he said ‘it needed to be faster, so i speeded it up.’ I realised i was talking to a moron, so i just gave up even trying to reason with him. The fact that box player might have some dibs on the speed he wanted the set he started to go at didn’t occur to this individual. Its selfishness to the point of solipsism - what infuriated me was that after it all blew up, i think people thought i was being elitist NO, there have been other bodhran players that arent particularly great in my experience, i have days when i’m crap myself on the whistle, it wasn’t the ABILITY it was the VOLUME and the ENTITLEMENT: Play for god’s sake if you want to play, this music’s for everyone, don’t drown everything out.

First time i’ve ever had a row with anyone at a session. And i’ve been three sheets to the wind in many. Not this night, i was stone cold sober.

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In my experience there are two sorts of percussionists. The first sort really want to play percussion, and study it just as they would any other instrument. The second sort just want a way to join in with sessions, and believe (mistakenly, obviously) that thumping a bodhran, bones, djembe, cajon or anything else they can lay their hands on is easy and doesn’t require the same investment in time and effort needed to learn a “proper” instrument.

However the dickery you describe isn’t confined to bodhran players. Melody players can be just as inclined to drive up the speed, or join in inappropriately, and some show little inclination to develop their playing. The difficulty is what to do about it. Sessions are social events as well as musical ones, and most people want to get along and be inclusive to everyone, but they also want to make good music. It can be difficult to make suggestions about someone’s playing that won’t be misinterpreted as a personal attack, and even more difficult if they respond aggressively. So well done for speaking out, even if you feel you might have handled it better.

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Maybe next time, arrive early and choose a different seat.
It’s probably best to ignore him altogether and I’m sure the others won’t hold anything against you even *if* some of of them may have thought you handled things wrongly at the time.

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“Honestly he ruins 30 peoples’ nights at a time”. What do the other 28 think of him ? If he ruins everybody’s night, why do they put up with it ?
On a happier note, does this mean you are back able to play again, HC ?

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Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

thanks kenny. I can kinda-sorta play. i had little patches last night where my hands were ok and patches where i was struggling to cover the holes. It’s an ongoing problem i think it was worse a week ago because i’d been playing over a whole weekend and my hands just couldn’t take it. And at least some is anxiety/ tension related, its stupid to get uptight about playing but i do even at home. I managed to play some tricky hornpipes nicely and without pain, and some Tommy peoples jigs i was fighting my hands a bit but they came out alright so i’d have been chuffed with that were it not for the drama.

I think the other 28 vent about bodhran guy - a lot have, to me, its not particularly nastily put, just venting ‘god its frustrating’ and i’ve just been like ‘what can you do?’ - but like me, feels too much like the cardinal sin is to do anything that seems like a criticism of somebody’s playing, or putting somebody down. I would probably have not - ever - said anything, for much the same reasons and it would have gone on indefinitely had he not asked me. And to quote John Prine, ‘he was politely told.’
They put up with & grind their teeth, because they feel like its a failure of hospitality & elitism not to do so. They are good people. I’m an embryonic curmudgeon on the other hand. grr get off my lawn.

@Johnny Jay: Yea, and that’s the plan. TBH even before this, i strategically situated myself as far away as possible. I’m trying to improve my rhythm and struggling with pain in my hands atm so if i’m sat next to him inevitably end up playing badly otherwise and getting despondent about my playing. Now i know that he’s unpleasant, i’ve no wish to engage with him on any level, social or musical.
If i’m left alone, that is fine. If he decides to continue being aggressive, I’m done talking.

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“What do the other 28 think of him ? If he ruins everybody’s night, why do they put up with it ? ”

Because people are really, really, really non-confrontational.

Good for you, HC. It drives me crazy when percussionists speed up a set (I know a few repeat offenders but everyone just lives with it). Shame the guy was such a tool that he said, “The set needed speeding up.” Given that’s his attitude towards the music, he was probably going to be a jerk no matter how tactful you tried to be.

It’s a problem with any “open” session anywhere in the world. The best way to deal with it, in my experience, is to have someone who is nominally in charge of the session have a quiet word with the offender. If the session leaders don’t care, then you’re suffed. You just have to put up with it.

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<Shame the guy was such a tool that he said, “The set needed speeding up.”>
Yep that’s when you know you’re dealing with a cretin of the first water - wish i’d remembered to mention that little nugget when things got heated & everyone wanted to know what the problem was.
My main take-home point is not to swear, no matter how late in the argument or how many rubicons have been crossed by that point - it’s lazy and weakens your argument and to a certain mind it strongly implies you’re bang out of order or are not in control of yourself. And to consider that it’s not about the idiot i’m arguing with, but the roomful of people. Ideally, in a situation like that in the future, respond to belligerence with questions not statements, give them enough rope to hang themselves that way they show their true colours. e.g. ‘what will you do then?’ ‘is that a threat?’
Either they come across as showing aggression to someone who is acting neutrally (and thereby commit social seppuku), or they resort to the implied violence. In which case i’m obliged to defend myself, what a shame it had to come to this. Or ideally they go away.

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Discussions such as this remind me of a lone bodhran player at Girvan a few years back who was “banging away” by himself and getting extremely upset that nobody was joining in.
“Don’t you know the tunes?” he was shouting.

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@Johnny Jay: He probably thinks there are only the following tunes in existence - Jig, Reel, and the Lonesome Boatman.
With my bodhran player, when he finally put the thing down i should have paraphrased Daire Bracken of Slide (they have a set called the Dead Reels because their bouzouki player has a rest and gets himself a pint) ‘let’s give a big hand to mick broderick - its not what you play, it’s what you don’t play.’ :P

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My sympathies. Agree with other contributor’s comments.
A couple of points:
I’ve recently bought a nice bodhrán myself, and yes, I have discovered, as I was previously unaware, that it does require a lot of skill - and a quite different mindset from melody players - to get to the stage of competency where you can take it out and play it in a public place. I haven’t done that yet, you’ll be pleased to hear. It also requires a level of fitness, which I thought I naturally possessed but not so sure now.
Next - and don’t get me wrong, I’m not taking yer man’s side - it can be quite a blow to a fragile ego to be told exactly what your problem is. That’s probably why he adopted the “put-upon” personna. I recently suffered similar, but I won’t go into too many details lest I start sounding like Neil from The Young Ones: “You think that’s bad? Wait till I tell you what happened to me….” droned the self-pitying hippy. But I was told I start up too many tunes/sets that other players don’t know. By someone who plays almost exclusively Paddy Fahey/Ed Reavey sets (both of whose compositions I dearly love, I hasten to add, but it’s nice to get some regular session tunes in as well.) And I was mansplained to that “a session is a conversation…blah blah….” Yeah right.
Anyway, suffice it to say I felt a certain amount of indignation as I think the issue could have been approached with more delicacy. I’m not saying that’s what you “should” have done (I’m averse to shoulding people these days) having read your description of the scenario…but maybe next time?
Anyway, with any luck he won’t come back, maybe?

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“Discussions such as this remind me of a lone bodhran player at Girvan a few years back who was “banging away” by himself and getting extremely upset that nobody was joining in.”

I feel like I’ve met that guy.

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@Someone at The Session: There was so much heresy in your comment the Trad Police will be around directly. A nice bodhran? There being other tunes than Paddy Fahy/ Ed Reavy tunes :P
One of my friends also got a new ‘precious’ not too long ago. I mean a bodhran is ring-shaped kinda? and she hasn’t played long, (more often found with another instrument), but is good to play with (if i can say that in a non-condescending fashion?) more so i daresay than many whove been playing longer because she properly listens. So give yourself a chance when you feel ready.
A level of fitness for playing bodhran? Yeaaa i never considered the physical aspect, i play whistle so i just sit there like (in the immortal words of Nick Kyrgios) ‘a potato with legs and arms’
About whether i broached the subject badly - I dunno, i second-guess myself a lot, perhaps saying so bluntly was a mistake. I was asked directly though and I didn’t feel like lying or being politely evasive at the time. If i end up in a similar situation in the future, i’ll probably let someone else deal with it. I’m not remotely in charge of anything nor do i want to be. ‘Not my circus, not my monkeys.’

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Bad percussion will always be problematic. It’s a wrecker. Even in a beginner friendly session… strong percussion lays tracks and if they are wrong it’s all off. Applies to guitar too if played “that” way.

Bodhran is as tough (tougher?) to learn from scratch as any other instrument. Somehow muggles seem to think; I could never learn fiddle/banjo/flute… but bodhran - that’s easy. NOPE. Damn tricky.

I think there’s more scope for certain melody instruments to practice/play “below” the session unobtrusively. Harder to do that with bodhran.

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<Bodhran is as tough (tougher?) to learn from scratch as any other instrument. Somehow muggles seem to think; I could never learn fiddle/banjo/flute… but bodhran - that’s easy. >
That’s it in a nutshell. And some of the stuff that guy said indicates he has a non-musician mentality (eg busking = begging), there’s been no learning of his craft, he’s on the peak of Mount Dunning-Kruger, so there’s no respect for the music or the musicians. Music’s simple obviously, obviously he’s great because in 5 minutes he knows everything there is to know and can bash out a rhythm. On the other hand, I been playing nearly 30 years - long enough to wear the brass on my low whistle down to craters around the fingerholes so I know, with exacting accuracy, how lacking I am as a musician! (the Dunning-Kruger ‘valley of despair’)
On top of which there’s his belligerent @$$holery which is just needless.

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I think you acted courageously, HC. This bodhran basher is obviously a tricky character and, whilst there might, perhaps, have been better ways to handle the situation, it seems unlikely that anything you could have said or done would have elicited a truly favourable response. Evoking such an explicitly aggressive reaction exposed him for the kind of character he is (of which others might already have had an inkling, hence their reluctance to confront him). If the other session participants are unanimous in viewing him as a problem, then why would they consider you ‘elitist’, whatever slurs he may have thrown at you?

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If he doesn’t come back as a result of your interaction, then, as I like to say in these kind of situations:

“Mission Accomplished”

You’ll eventually feel OK. Been there, done that several times over the past 25 years hosting/playing in sessions. I feel horrible for weeks afterwards saying anything to anyone, but sometimes, something needs to be said.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xa6c3OTr6yA

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@Creadur possibly they only caught a stray F-bomb from me (which followed him effectively offering me outside) plus the very tail end of it where i did advise him to go away & learn his instrument and come back at such point as he was capable of not ruining the night for everyone else. That was after he’d brought up my mental health issues and tried to use that to wipe off my entire problem with him as loony hysterics.
Its funny as hell - you get hit with both ends of the stick when it comes to mental health. If you’re unfit to work, you’re a parasite sponging off the state whilst simultaneously being a dangerous loony and default in the wrong in any and all arguments.
Of course, perhaps its not the greatest idea to prod a ‘paranoid’ and ‘delusional’ ‘nutter’. But play stupid games win stupid prizes.

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@Michael Eskin: I daresay he’ll be back unfortunately - too thick skinned not to. But if memory serves he’s only there about half the time. My main concern is that i’ll be barred, it wasn’t a good scene. (The publican is not a fan of me (i dunno why), and has manufactured nonexistent problems in the past e.g: In a pub where drunk regulars have been known to sing a few bars of ‘up the RA’, with no consequence, i got bollicked for singing the Boys of Barr na Sraide. I think he’s been dying for a proper excuse to bar me.) There are other sessions hereabouts, but monthly not weekly & much further afield.
Not much i can do about that, so no point in worrying about it.
On a more cheerful note thanks guys, i think it helped to vent a bit. I got some choons to go to on the weekend with different people, some great players as well, even if my hands are too sore to play i’d be happy to sit and listen to them anyway. A change is as good as a rest. ..

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Honestly HC your description of this guy’s behavior sounds straight out of the narcissist/abuser playbook -- defensive and overreacting in response to criticism, going on the offensive, making it about you in highly personal ways (going right for the jugular bringing up mental health), to the extent you felt threatened, and as you said, doing it all in a calculating way to frame you as the bad guy.

As others have mentioned, hearing criticism is not easy, but I feel like a good-faith person not taking criticism well would look different -- either being a little snappy and defensive in the moment, but sorta chagrined the rest of the night, or just shutting down and withdrawing.

This combined with the fact that he’s is not just an honest beginner with a lot to learn, but someone clearly with no intention to learn and to respect session etiquette… it seems to me like a time to get the session leader involved if there is one.

Ask them to have a quiet word with him about how Irish music is a melody driven genre and that etiquette is to follow the pace set by the person who starts the set, and to try to play in such a way that doesn’t detract from others. If he doesn’t hear this or doesn’t show any evidence of changing his behavior the session leader may need to ask him to leave…in that case I would organize with the other regulars to make sure they will back the leader up.

I’ve dealt with a person like this who was a church organist, and if the group doesn’t work together to set boundaries on the bullying behavior, this person or the fear/avoidance of him can quickly come to dominate the ethos of the group and drag it down pretty quickly. Conversely, if only one person tries to confront the bully without planning or support they can become the target as you experienced.

I sincerely hope for your sake he will just stop coming back, but barring that that it can get worked out such that the situation doesn’t ruin your enjoyment of the session.

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You did nothing wrong, HC. If anything, you showed more restraint than I would have. I hold your session mates to account for leaving you twisting in the wind. A poor musician (on ANY instrument) who’s willing to take criticism is one thing. A belligerent, thin-skinned ass will always be one, and you shouldn’t have to apologize for calling him out. If he leaves and takes a couple of his supporters/enablers with him, all to the good.

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Did he really say “or else”? Honestly?? I would have snorted into my pint, but then perhaps I have an overkeen sense for the ridiculous. Has got me in trouble before, here and elsewhere.

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yep -
‘..or else’
‘or else what?’
‘whatever you like.’ Felt that was a cop out on his part really.

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Bodhran players are NOT traditional musicians…Sorry..Not Not and Not again.

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“… you get hit with both ends of the stick when it comes to mental health. If you’re unfit to work, you’re a parasite sponging off the state whilst simultaneously being a dangerous loony and default in the wrong in any and all arguments.”

Yes, that is (please pardon the word choice, but I couldn’t think of a better one) maddening. I doubt it does anything to help your mental wellbeing either. I sincerely hope that the your other session companions appreciate your contribution to the session (which, having heard your playing, I imagine is a valuable one) and, had they heard Mr. B’s attack on you, would have been quick to come to your defence.

Carnlough Bodhran Murderer

I played in Carnlough, Co Antrim with an obnoxious bodhran player years ago, he still lives there. He classed himself a professional musician, even put himself on the internet as one… Better still he would attempt to call out tunes to be played, tell the players they were to fast, to slow and try and control the session. He could neither play a tune or sing a song but would tell you were to sit… This was bad enough, until his wife joined him with her terrible whistle playing. It sounded like a basketball player bouncing a ball on a squealing cat. Their defensive mechanism was arrogance and ignorance… People like that, best just left alone for the world to laugh at…Just don’t tell them where the next session is.

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“a basketball player bouncing a ball on a squealing cat” 😂 I’m going to have to borrow that.

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Ah, yes Tommy… the dreaded session organisers, wanna-be comperes. I’ve encountered a few over the years. God help us. Luckily the ones I came across usually opted for trying to control the session because they don’t play. The ones you describe sound like an unholy combination of the two worst traits at once.

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@HappyCamper… I’ve just gone through your posting history… Hangon, are you the whistle player from Choonz?…

If so you’re fantastic!! I’ve had one of your YouTube videos saved as inspiration since I started playing ! 😮

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‘Bodhran players are NOT traditional musicians’ …………. please tell that to Kevin Conneff, John Joe Kelly, Ringo McDonagh, Cathy Jordan, Donnchadh Gough - I won’t go on any more, I’m sure you get the picture. Yes bad bodhran players are a pain, but so are squeaky whistle players, scratchy fiddle players, 3 chord guitarists - I wonder why it’s always open season on bodhran players? No I don’t have any particular flag to fly, I used to play the goatskin a bit, hopefully in a non disruptive way, but hardly touched it for years………….

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I wouldn’t say bodhran players are not musicians…..but it’s true that a *fair number* of them aren’t. I know one young man who is a percussion teacher…oh and a very handy bodhranista. So….it depends. Also, (personal observation time: ) those melody-player-musicians who also thump goatskins tend to be fairly handy at it - cos they *know the tunes.*
It seems that quite often there is an inverse proportionality to musical skill vis á vis level of aggression. Seems to be the case in THC’s story anyway.
BTW, THC, there other great composers apart from Fahey and Reavy. And who’ve composed session standards. Josie McDermott. Junior Crehan. Josephine Keegan.
Just sayin’…..

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“He’s on the peak of Mount Dunning-Kruger…”

Brilliant. I’d like to go there. What’s the final pitch? VS 4c?

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<He’s on the peak of Mount Dunning-Kruger…>
Sadly, i didn’t coin this - also called Mount Stupid.
<What’s the final pitch? VS 4c>
Sorry, i don’t get it. Having a slow day.

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect

‘The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias whereby people with low ability, expertise, or experience regarding a certain type of task or area of knowledge tend to overestimate their ability or knowledge.’

Well, you know, I’m not one to brag, but I can play twice as fast as Frankie Gavin.

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VS 4c was about my limit when it came to leading, back in the day. I never did quite manage to climb to the top of Mount Stupid.

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<Well, you know, I’m not one to brag, but I can play twice as fast as Frankie Gavin.>
Pff lol no. Noone can. Not even if you take all the ornaments out. And have no care for accuracy or phrasing
(I did get that this was a joke/ example! And that speed isn’t everything. But even so!)
Reminds me of this - twosetviolin eviscerating the guy who played flight of the bumblebee for a guinness world record. With his line of solid gold violins. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BvsvaCU6i1M

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I’ll second what Christy and Someone have said about good bodhranistas (and bad ones!) Add Martin O’Neill to the list. I also used to play bodhran a bit, but have done it less since I learned a session-friendly melody instrument and also couldn’t be bothered taking more than one instrument to a session. I was a musician (piano, guitar, orchestral percussion) before I ever took up bodhran, and yes, I knew the tunes, and the difference between 4/4, 5/4, 3/2, and 6/8 and 9/8 and Balkan rhythms. And when NOT to play: slow airs definitely out, and for certain people who hated bodhran full stop, I would respect their wishes not to play when they were leading a song or tune. Here endeth the case for the defence. (At least for this time!)
What to do about that difficult fellow: what Nienna said? Hope you can keep on playing Happy Camper, and get back to enjoying your sessions again.
And another brief anecdote somewhat like Johnny Jay’s: bodhran player complaining of a sore wrist at the final session of a weekend-long festival: felt like saying to him “Well if you hadn’t insisted on playing along with every single tune and song all weekend, you might not feel so sore “!

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I could imagine less polite comments for a bodhran player complaining of a sore wrist but this is a family site.
😛

Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

Bodhran is such a weird instrument to choose for playing this music. Not that it’s inherently bad; I enjoy a tasteful low-level pulse in a session. But it’s weird in being the one instrument where it’s immediately a problem in most cases, if more than one bodhran player shows up. The melody players don’t have that problem. The more the merrier.

Well, okay, this can be an issue for guitar players too. But two guitar players might find a way to avoid stepping on each other’s backing more easily than two bodhrans going at the same time. I can’t imagine being a bodhran player walking into a new session and just hoping there isn’t another bodhranista there.

Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

Here’s the thing about Mount Dunning-Kruger—the people climbing it are absolutely self-assured that they are ascending to a great summit, but anyone else can clearly see that they’re actually rappelling into a bottomless abyss.

Only the willfully incompetent are always at their best. 🙂

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Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

@Johnny Jay: W- cramp. That was literally the first thing i thought of too.

@Conical bore: We’ve had 3 or i think even 4 bodhrans turn up in the same session that i was talking of on a different night (i’m the OP), there were probably about 20 musicians tops that night. None of them were brilliant players, and yet we all had a good night, everyone enjoyed themselves and really that’s all that matters. Because none of them played like somebody trying to settle their mortal feud with a goat.

They all played, occupying the normal volume that a musician can appropriate for him/her/theirself, or slightly less . That’s appropriate.

And i think if any of them had been asked to tone it down, they’d have done so. It wasn’t necessary because they played sympathetically.

Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

brilliant. i have heard it, but not for awhile.

Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

Speaking of idiots trying to take over sessions, there’s also this song: https://thesession.org/discussions/15350#comment317123 (verse 2, is particularly appropriate)

I can’t really find it anywhere online (other than a mudcat link that doesn’t work), and the gentleman who used to sing it occasionally in our sessions has passed away. But at least Ian posted it (and I believe it’s his bio in his profile too).

Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

“Reminds me of this - twosetviolin eviscerating the guy who played flight of the bumblebee for a guinness world record.”

@ TheHappyCamper - I remember that one! Just to say a few things about that tune. If you’re comfortable with chromatic scales, which most classical players are, this tune is actually really easy to play at a rapid tempo, as the majority of notes are only a semitone apart, and there is minimal shifting involved. I play it too, although not at normal performance tempo.

That said, the guy playing it (Ben Lee) took atrocious liberties, and actually glissed over 3-4 notes in one go. If you listen to the tune slowed down, about 20% - 30% of the notes are missed out, and glissed over to keep the timing right.

He is an excellent player in his own right, but that one was a prime example of how to pull the wool over people’s eyes 🙂

Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

Re GW’s comment on the Dunning-Kruger effect:
The next sentence (after the one he quoted) is:

“Some researchers also include in their definition the opposite effect for high performers: their tendency to underestimate their skills.”

- Ah yes, that’s me!

(joking…)

Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

“a prime example of how to pull the wool over people’s eyes 🙂” … so … it’s the opposite of Shaw’s judgement of Wagner’s music: it’s not as good as it sounds?

Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

Dealing directly with a really bad musician:

Short-term pain = argument
Long-term gain = they might think about what they are doing.

Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

Bejaysus, I don’t post here much any more (I’m going deaf and can’t play with other musicians) so I’m taking a rather distanced and (hopefully) more objective view these days, looking back as I do over all those pub sessions I loved to be a part of for over 20 years…

Yeah, you can list all those famous bodhran players who we all know and love. All wonderful, all adding something. But, by and large, you are talking about bands who made records and who played mighty gigs and who embraced their bodhran players and incorporated them into their band sound. Into their agreed arrangements. I didn’t like a lot of their drum input personally, but that’s just me and I cheerfully acknowledge that it was legit.

But we are not really talking about that. It’s the bodhran intruders in pub sessions that grate, and in my decades of sessioneering I didn’t encounter a single bodhran player who I wouldn’t have cheerfully strangled had I not been such a mild bloke. In the early 1990s I bought a bodhran and found that I could “get quite good” on it in a matter of a few weeks. After a couple of years of inflicting my immature bodhran-wielding self on the world, I saw the light and put the bloody thing on top of the spare room wardrobe, where it has resided, gathering dust and doubtless going brittle beyond salvation, ever since. Best place for it.

My view in those halcyon days was that even a decent bodhran player couldn’t add anything useful to a pub session. Many of them could actually detract an awful lot. So I’m in full sympathy with the original poster.

Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

Shaw was probably being catty about Wagner rather than trying to be profound, but i’m wondering whether he was onto something.
Is there some music that ‘sounds better than it is’? Or music that ‘isn’t as good as it sounds?’ And if so to whom?
Its clear to me that people prefer different things, and that people who aren’t exposed to much music prefer different things than high-level musicians. Your average yoof will 100% prefer some heavy beats over say oisin mac diarmada, and still will if you find some way of correcting for peer pressure and coolness, despite the fact that all that stuff is absolutely meritless as music. (Quite honestly i have no respect for it, any more than some caveman banging 2 rocks together. At least the caveman had the excuse that he was *inventing* music!) They’ll go mad for it nevertheless.
Even as a musician of sorts, i definitely preferred modern trad-adjacent stuff up into my mid-20’s over proper trad. I was playing a lot and had volumes of trad on my mp3 player. I had enough about me to appreciate that top trad players were really, really good, but - unless it caught me in the right head space it left me cold - generally i wanted stuff that set my heart racing & was exhilerating.
Nowadays its mostly proper trad that i’m after. I also really like JS Bach for some reason, but i’m not fussed about most classical music. And i’m getting into Breton in a big way.
So i can’t help but wonder: Do we prefer this music because we know just enough about music for this to be a good fit, but we’re not hardcore enough for classical & jazz? What would we be into if we became world-class musicians?
I do think this music is profound and worthy, i don’t have enough theory to actually back that up in any concrete way. And i also know that its more than the notes with ITM.

Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

Please note that I am not the Shaw referred to in the above posts, though I share his sentiments!

Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

@Steve Shaw: Welcome to the party.
Its like being a referee i suppose, as a bodhran player - if you’re becoming the centre of attention you’re probably doing it wrong.
I hear your point - its harder to kid yourself when you are trying to play a melody instrument. There’s a tension here - the music is for everyone, but should a person with a whopping 2 hours of practice behind them and no feel for the music get to impose on 10 people with 30 years playing each?

There’s a law of inverses at play at times: I’m scared of the people who think they are great. And i hate with a passion the ones with no consideration for anyone but themselves.

Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

“despite the fact that all that stuff is absolutely meritless as music. (Quite honestly i have no respect for it, any more than some caveman banging 2 rocks together.”

Many have said and do say the same about trad. I’d like to think one can enjoy a music without putting another down.

“Do we prefer this music because we know just enough about music for this to be a good fit, but we’re not hardcore enough for classical & jazz?”

I don’t think it’s a “hardcore” issue, and I’m speaking as someone who makes a living in the classical and jazz worlds. It’s just what you prefer, a combination of a bunch of factors that come together to form personal preference. I wouldn’t try to theorize too greatly about the music itself; music is just a means to an end. If you had been born a Mongolian yak herder, you’d likely have a very different sense of what is and isn’t “good music.” And hopefully very little sense of smell, since yaks are quite pungent.

Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

“Your average yoof will 100% prefer some heavy beats over say oisin mac diarmada, and still will if you find some way of correcting for peer pressure and coolness, despite the fact that all that stuff is absolutely meritless as music. (Quite honestly i have no respect for it, any more than some caveman banging 2 rocks together.”
I think there are quite a lot of people who like both trad and some variety of electronic dance music. At least three of the people I play with regularly also DJ professionally, for example. It’s all dance music, after all…

Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

Actually I know five people who play trad and DJ now I think about it…

Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

@JoeEvans. Mebbe you’re right. I’ve just passed the big 40 a couple of months back and am already showing embryonic signs of the cranky old man i will no doubt become. Grr. Get off my lawn. :P

Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

“ Bodhran players are NOT traditional musicians…Sorry..Not Not and Not again. ”
If Seamus Tansey was still alive he’d kick your arse.

Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

‘If Seamus Tansey was still alive he’d kick your arse.’

Yeah, but one of ST’s biggest problems was that he regularly confused arses and elbows (even his own).

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Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

Seamus Tansey is Irish Music’s answer to Chuck Norris.
‘Yeah, but one of ST’s biggest problems was that he regularly confused arses and elbows (even his own).’
Maybe, maybe not, but this made me laugh.

Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

I don’t know why I keep seeing people or an individual perhaps constantly slagging Tansey on this website.

As a flute player I must say that you’re out of you’re effing mind if you don’t recognize Tansey as one of the greatest if not the greatest flute player of all time.

I feel as if someone is driven by jealousy knowing that they will never measure up to Tansey and so feel that taking shots at the man’s legend is their only option.

I’m not directing this comment at anyone in particular. I’ve not even read this thread or paid close attention. It’s just that within the last several weeks I’ve seen a lot of insane disparaging remarks about one of the greatest if not the greatest flute players of all time.

Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

I do, I do, Wodanaz, but he could be a right bollix when the mood took him.

Someone should write his autobiography, with particular reference to the Lancashire and Portadown years.

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Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

Can you provide links? I’d love to know more. I know he was a straight talker which offended some people. He was passionate which made him such a great player and improviser. There are certain people like Cathal Hayden on fiddle or Tansey on flute who just have such supreme mastery over tunes and their instrument that the instrument just does whatever they want it to do in the moment and the tune is just a launching pad for their virtuosity.

I’ve heard clips of him sounding out of tune with a fiddle player but that’s endemic amongst fiddle players. With no frets to guide them they often play for decades with perfect precision and regularity and wonderously out of tune. If they start a tune with their finger on the wrong spot they play perfectly out of tune. It’s tragic really. How do you tell someone whose been playing for decades and know every tune flawlessly that has ever been written that they need to practice playing in tune? Lol.

I often will avoid playing with fiddle players other than in sessions because as Tansey himself has said in the past, you can only pull your tuning slide out so far.

Anyhow at the time when Seamus was recording with no punch ins and punch outs and of course perfectly in tune with the piano and just demolishing tunes with virtuosity and precision just blows me away. A real master he was.

Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

That was a great interview. I watched it a few days ago. He’s an old man here. He’d lost his teeth and his wind. This is like watching a Bob Hope comedy special before he died. Listen to his early recordings.

Here you go. Only one take. Live. Nowhere to hide. No other instruments to hide your flaws. Nervous because you’re on television. The entire country is watching:

https://youtu.be/OTo5Ae7Vz3c

Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

No, Johnny, you’ve missed the point.

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Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

He was passionate to be sure. It reminds me of a session a year or two ago when a young lady told me I was holding my flute incorrectly. You know, the incorrect way that Seamus Tansey Michael McGoldrick Brian Finnegan etc hold their flutes? Yeah, that way!

https://youtu.be/e7lluA2WLPY

Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

Seamus wrote quite a few letters actually, one to Irish Music Magazine, complaining about traditional music being “butchered” by various players.

He also wrote a 6-page rant on here (in 2016), all in block capitals, complaining about people on here complaining about him 🙂 It has since been deleted.

I guess it’s important to separate the musician from the man.

Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

‘I guess it’s important to separate the musician from the man.’
I’m always a bit leery of either extreme with this one. People are complex, and we tend to want to categorize them as simply good or bad. Should they get more grace on a personal level if they have a God-given talent - all their sins written off? I’ve seen people subscribe to that before. Likewise especially nowadays we have the cancel culture and that’s equally wrong-headed.

Are we God Almighty? We learn one thing about a person, (be it ever so bad) and we have a right to judge them?

If we live long enough we all make some horrible mistakes. Do things we regret. If writing a cruel letter to someone and being opinionated about a music he did much to keep alive is the worst thing ST did, then he couldn’t have been that bad a human being.

And he was a class player whatever level of curmudgeon.

Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

I wish someone had saved that 6 page rant. That would’ve been magical to read! Lol.

In addition to the laughs we’d probably have learned some great music history.

Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

“Someone should write his autobiography” - that might be wee bit difficult, given that he’s dead ….

Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

Wodanaz I mentioned Seamus Tansey, as he is one the the bhest and he also defended the bodhran as well as a good player of the drum too.

Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

Very nice. I’m a defender of the Bodhran myself. There was a time when there was a thundering army of bodhrans at sessions and sometimes it was a bit much. Now they seem to have all been driven away. I rarely see or hear one. I miss them, especially good players. Its relative ease does seem to attract dillitantes or on the other hand even good musicians don’t take the time to get good at the bodhran because they don’t take it seriously enough. They played simply back then. I believe the bodhran comes from the tambourine. There’s a German chap on YouTube a great Irish accordion player who has a few videos being accompanied by a tambourine and stick; well worth watching.

Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

We think we have it bad today. Imagine what our ancient ancestors had to go through having an army of ill trained tambourine players sitting next to them as they tried to play a reel.

Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

I think your best ( adult ) approach is to approach this person, and ask them to discuss the problem as two adults.

Right now the relationship has gone below the line, and they are dealing in abusive psychological violence.
You are both entitled to enjoy a public session safely.

If he or she is not open to reasonable feedback and/or requests to play at the lead/melody players’ tempo and reduced ( not the loudest ) volume, you will at least have asserted your own personal power, and leadership.
You’ll have reclaimed your own place ( at the very least in your own mind. )
( you’ll likely get some approval from members …. )

You can’t however change them.

It’s likely they can’t or won’t change or perhaps even engage in listening. At that point you could consider bringing this out into the open, and asking publically ie immediately/just after it happens again, that they play softer and not faster.

Then you are guiding the narrative, instead of their controlling the situation.

I have said to people ( bodhran players, and guitarists ) politely, “would you please play quieter, and on the beat ?” It’s scarey, but it’s a reasonable request, if done respectfully.

Good luck
Pat

Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

What’s next! Playing in tune??? 😉

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Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

Sorry, I forgot my screwdriver!

Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

Bit of a diversion, but - Seamus at his best :
https://thesession.org/recordings/943
Relevant I suppose, because he plays bodhran on some of these tracks, although the drum he plays, by hand, has “jingles” on it, and is described on the LP record sleeve as “tambourine”. as I recall.

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Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

Thanks Kenny! Very relevant! I also have a special interest in the early tambourine/bodhran players. Great history! Here’s another old recording with a tambourine/bodhran from the 1920s:

https://youtu.be/PqfA6G_wsjg

Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

I love a bodhran when it’s well-played. LiamOg was said to have said that his rules for a session included, “Only one guitar, only one bouzouki, only one bodhran, and only one spoon.” It sounds like this session may have benefited from zero bodhrans, or perhaps a mediator. Any retired UN peace negotiators who play ITM who’d to travel around to sessions at risk of boiling over into open conflict? I know a SWAT team negotiator, calmest guy I ever met. His wife is a kindergarten teacher, also very calm. He says she has the better mediation skills.

Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

In French tambourine means little drum. It is also said that the early bodhran players used only their hands with no stick. One can make out the progression.

Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

We lost sight of the real problem. The issue is the threat of violence. At this point in the evening, all musicians should have condemned the threats, rather than the volume and tempo. Violence against people is worse than violence against a goatskin.

Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

I agree with Robert. I left all the sessions in an entire town just because I know my own temper and there was a bully who was pushing up against me constantly. I felt I was about to land myself in prison. So I walked away and became a much better solo performer. Now I play in other towns. Depending on your temperament and background it’s not worth your life or freedom.

Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

I have seen John Prine exactly once. He came out during a concert by Maura O’Connell (2002).

RE: Politely told…
"Pretty good, not bad, I can’t complain
’Cause actually, everything is just about the same."

Good discussion, THC.

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Re: Session drama - only the pig likes it.

@AB, Yea. My dad’s a big john prine fan. this song caught me right. quite a lot of subtext about when stuff is generally terrible, there’s little point trying to explain it to people. At least, i think that’s the gist lol