How to tell someone not to noodle?

How to tell someone not to noodle?

Every session has its unique context - and it’s different on every night etc

But if you’ve someone who persistently noodles over tunes - audibly - distractingly - consistently -

Is there a kind and wise way to tell them that they’d be better listening - and learning the tune better - before joining in?


Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

If you get an opportunity, one approach might be to offer help? Chat to them about whether they’re getting a sense of which tunes often get played at your session, where to source notation, that sort of thing. At least it might help you work out whether they’re doing it because they haven’t really sussed this out (in which case it might help them feel included), or whether they just think it’s okay.

If they do think it’s okay and most of the other players don’t, there’s really no other way than to broach it head on, kindly but firmly. Easier said than done, I know. 😬

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

Tough one. You can only control how you deliver the message not how it will be received.

Is this player generally “up to standard” for that session on other repertoire and only problematic when it’s tunes they don’t know well?

Do you think they recognise that they are having an impact by playing along badly?

Some people would take the feedback constructively and appreciate the heads up. And use it as a learning experience. Others might question your authority to judge their playing.

To be honest if the group share the view that noodling should be stopped - it’s best to just plain say it one on one as nicely as possible. What happens next is then down to the other party’s intelligence in learning from the feedback.

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

Are you the session host?

If yes, might you be in a situation where they simply don’t know what’s acceptable behavior in a session and just need to be told.

In the sessions I host, the basic rule is “Play the tunes you know, don’t play the tunes you don’t know.” Maybe he/she/they/zhe just needs to have this spelled out.

I’ve had to deal with your situation on several occasions, and sometimes they stop noodling, but sometimes they don’t. Then we have to have another conversation, and that doesn’t generally end with smiles all around.

If you’re not the session host, I’d talk to the session host about your concerns and issues with the constant noodling and let them deal with it, assuming they are willing to.

No session host? Good luck, with nobody “in charge” these situations seldom end well. You can try to talk to them yourself, but be prepared for them to respond less than positively to your feedback. You may have to accept that it will be worth a few minutes of extreme unpleasantness to accomplish the ultimate goal of having them stop noodling or maybe storming out of the session because in their mind, you’re the bad guy.

I hope your situation is one of those rare times when someone is actually willing to accept and act on well-intentioned coaching.

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

As the session host, I have done it a few times with just a hand gesture. I have caught the person’s eye, and gently raised my palm, like the classic policeman’s signal to stop, accompanied by a nod to let them know I’m not mad at them or anything. I have also done it similarly with a flat palm and a downward motion, meaning “keep it down a bit”. But these is generally with people that I know pretty well, and didn’t ruffle any feathers (that I know of… the people keep coming to the session).

It’s a tough thing, because I don’t hate it when people work on learning tunes on the fly, as long as they’re not annoying anyone. Sometimes, all it takes is a little reminder that it’s annoying, and they’ll just stop being annoying with it. There’s an art to doing it, where you only play notes that you’re pretty sure of (quietly, of course), and then add more notes that you’re pretty sure of when it comes around again. But some people seem to just noodle along when they don’t know any of the notes, and that’s easy to spot.

There’s also some etiquette to it. If there are just one or two people playing the tune, then anyone noodling will stand out, but if the whole tune is being played with some volume, quiet noodling can be OK.

Anyway, touchy subject, and should only really be done in sessions that accept it. And should be done in a way that isn’t noticeable to the other players as much as possible.

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

It’s better to recruit a person who is doing something annoying than to chastise, however gently. I love the remark, “You can control what you say, but not how it is received.”

My approach would be, “I can tell you’re working on getting this tune, but be aware that the rest of us can hear you, so maybe it’s too early to play along unless you can tone it down.”

We record our session so we can learn each other’s tunes/sets. There is also Tunepal and other sources you can recommend. The point is to recruit the person to work toward the common good instead of turning them into an outsider.

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

I’ve always wondered how noodling is defined. What would you call it when you wait out one repetition of a tune, but the tune is relatively simple or closely related to a handful of tunes you already know, and you may have heard it played on a recording or a previous session so you give it a go and you get 80-95% of it? Perhaps playing a simplified version that doesn’t clash with the more ‘real’ version. Is that still considered noodling? Bonus points if you can play it quieter/on a quieter instrument.

Obviously it’s different if the noodler in question is playing something completely out of wack and unlike the tune being played. If that’s the case, try and politely bring them aside and let them know that in an Irish session you shouldn’t be really anything be playing aside from the tune, unless invited to play some form of accompaniment like guitar, bouzouki, or bodhran. At one session I frequent, the host might finish up the set and show you the tricky bits in the few minutes between sets. You could also inform the noodler of the name of the tune, where you heard it, and also let them know of the existence of this website! I would also point them towards a teacher or a slow session as I find that in my experience noodlers are usually more beginner musicians (not always, I’m sure).

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

I’m also curious to understand how people define and view noodling, in general.

I get that etiquette is going to be different in different sessions, and as a guest it’s always best to err on the side of increased sensitivity.

That said, based on how many “no noodling” threads I read I assume it was always a huge no no.

But then a friend in Ireland was talking to me and basically recommended trying to piece the tune out quietly on a fiddle. When I mentioned I thought it was not cool to do that, his response was “how do you think all these other people learned the tunes?”

I was at a session though where I saw someone accurately learn a tune on the fly. They first just hit the root notes and some of the key other notes, then by the third time around was playing full speed with ornamentation. I’ve heard that person described as having an exceptionally good ear though, well beyond any ability I’d ever have.

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

Vechey, my take on whether or not “noodling” is a a definite *no* in Irish sessions generally I’d say (or defer to) definitely avoid it during tune playing. On this site it almost always is considered disruptive to (Irish) sessions.

On this thread it appears the OP is specifically referring to someone who consistently plays tunes which are not known by the ‘noodler’. Not just that but the session member in question is distinctly “aubible” & “distracting”.
With the specifics in the OP it’s not to difficult to sort which noodling (type & situation) makes this unacceptable vs. another (individual learning, a session with only 2-3 players who know each other very well, etc.)

Posted by .

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

Vechey, the only way to gain that skill is by doing. Sure, you might want to start out playing along to recordings at home rather than pestering a session. But don’t be surprised if in 5 or 10 years you’re learning tunes on the fly at sessions.

It’s relatively easy to bow quietly on a fiddle, or you can hold it like a mandolin and pluck along until you get all the notes fingered.

Most of the sessions I go to encourage people to learn tunes on the fly, but then most of the players are high caliber and pretty adept at it. Most of us are older than dirt and have been playing the music forever, so it’s rare to hear a tune that’s not already in our memory banks. It’s far easier to learn a tune when you’ve heard it a million times already. Also, we’ve all taught classes and workshops, so whoever’s leading the set can keep a tune going no matter how many people are hammering away at the wrong notes. 🙂

To me, “noodling” is just faffing about making noise. It’s what happens when people who don’t know the music try to play “melodic accompaniment” or harmony and fail. Or when some eternal beginners honestly believe they’re playing the tunes despite not having a clue. That’s not “learning tunes on the fly.” In fact, if you keep doing it week after week, it’s the antithesis of learning anything at all.

My own approach for learning on the fly goes like this:
- Don’t try to learn every unfamiliar tune at a given session. Wait for one that really grabs you. And even if you’re really adept, limit yourself to one or two new tunes for the night.
- Listen at least one time through before jumping in. You want to get the basic contours in your head, and maybe also sort out what the key/mode is, or at least the tonal centre.
- Lilt along quietly (or in your head) before shouldering your instrument.
- Play quietly (easier on some instruments than others).
- It’s usually okay to ask for another round or two through the tune, but do it early enough that the leader won’t feel ambushed.
- If you’re mangling things, quit sooner than later.
- When the set ends, ask for the name and source of the tune.
- Thank the player. The gift of a tune is a true act of generosity and kindness.

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

There’s noodling during sets, and noodling between sets. During, I think the only sensible rule is “only if inaudible to others”. Between sets is hazier. There are people who end sets and immediately go into noodling mode, which is about as fun as a corkscrew in the eyeball. But it’s also a perfectly respectable way of indicating you are about to start leading a set. In between there’s the checking-tuning-noodle.

One approach is to have a tacit agreement that everyone falls silent and focuses on the noodler; but this assumes they have a modicum of awareness.

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

In a host-less sess, at some point a discussion about group etiquette needs to happen. If it doesn’t, you are 100% guaranteed to eventually have Djembe Dan or Screeching Steve show up and f*ck the sound up completely.

You also need to think about the purpose of the session. If you want your session to be “inclusive,” you will have to accept ppl who noodle over tunes, or are poor musicians. If musical quality is your goal, best to put rhat front and center.

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

Choons, I just want to say I appreciate your original post & maybe soon we’ll get back to it. Until then I’m going to sit out.

Posted by .

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

“ But then a friend in Ireland was talking to me and basically recommended trying to piece the tune out quietly on a fiddle. When I mentioned I thought it was not cool to do that, his response was “how do you think all these other people learned the tunes?” “

This, basically.

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

That’s not what I think we’re talking about here… I see no problem with players quietly working out tunes. It’s the noodling poser who just wants to be part of a scene, noodling along with every tune, and couldn’t play an actual tune to save their mother I think is the issue.

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

Dead easy!
Here are a couple of examples I have heard.

Hey! Do you know this tune or what?
**** off and go and learn it!

Well, I witnessed that more than once in Liverpool, England.
Another was

Will you please play with me and not **** up a nice bit of music!

Believe it or not, sometimes these simple beggings go unheeded!

Happy tunes to all of you, steer clear of noodles.

Keep safe and well
All the best
Brian x

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

Not exactly a new subject : [ 193 replies ] [ 119 replies ] [ 116 replies ]

.. and there are a few more.
It’s always difficult, with as many solutions as there are “noodlers”.
By the way, am I the only one who utterly despises that stupid term ? In Ireland , it’s more commonly referred to as “f**king up the session”, seen as disrespectful to both the musicians and the music itself, rarely tolerated, and robustly dealt with when it does occur.
Hope you get things sorted amicably, “Choons”, but be prepared for some unpleasantness if you are resolute in wanting to put an end to it. Good luck.

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

Your description is much better, Kenny, and covers a multitude of sins.

Besides, these threads have not really defined what “noodling” is. Nor whether it involves playing a few notes or phrases in between tunes or just attempting to play along with something you don’t know.

Presumably, it’s different from playing “badly” or just making the odd mistake too. After all, you aren’t always sure how well things will go until you start playing even if you are very familiar with a tune… e.g other players may adopt an unusual tempo or setting and you can get caught out.

I think we all occasionally try to learn a tune on the fly and admittedly it’s easier on some instrument. It can often be done silently by just trying out a few finger positions.
I’ve also been guilty of quietly running through a phrase in between tunes. i.e . Either from a tune I’ve just played or one I just intend to play.

The important thing is that any behaviour in a session, “noodling” or otherwise shouldn’t be disruptive or distracting.

Of course, the debate here seems to be whether any deviant behaviour should be “nipped in the bud” at the outset when it is hardly noticeable or dealt with “robustly” when they “f--- up the session,”.

We do need subtle unwritten rules but it’s still a social gathering after all and imposing the discipline of a parade square would be a little extreme too… 😉

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

A few weeks back, we had a person show up at the session, was his 2nd time there. One of those people who tries to figure out the tune as it is played, noodling along. It was OK when the entire session is all playing since you can’t really hear him, but he continued doing it, even when only a single person (me) was playing a tune. It was really screwing me up, he was right next to me and it was very audible. So I stopped, and asked him to please stop and that it was very distracting. I was firm about it but not unkind. Just honest.

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

“teagan” - how did he then react to your firm but polite request ? Please finish the story.

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

I love noodles…I confess to noodling in parties and such where my friends are (hopefully) accepting. But my noodling is because someone is playing an energetic take on a tune that is from way back in the cannon…and I know that somewhere in the crossed wiring of my brain that I once learnt and brought that tune to justice. At first noodling quietly, major notes, catch the turn, emphasis on the jump, and the embellishment or two to bring it all back. By the second turn I have it, and I can play along the gutters until I have it back in my mind and through my fingers to roll alongside them and power through the third time through and laugh and call “Again!”. I don’t try and play tunes I never knew or think I knew them because they must be easy in such and such a key it must be a doddle. So, I noodle, but never doodle.

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

Kenny, he stopped playing. I restarted the tune. Afterwards I said to him aside that it was fine when the whole group was playing but not so much when just a single person is. He nodded. Haven’t seem him at the session since, which is unfortunate. I hope that wasn’t the reason, but I don’t really know what I would have done differently, though.

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

I thought noodling was when there’s a break between tunes and someone starts playing random licks and things to fill the silence. This bugs me because I might be trying to remember how something starts and I can’t think when they’re playing.

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

We had a young woman appear at our recently born session night who thought it appropriate to plonk herself down with next to no introduction or ceremony and start to try and play along with a rather battered and mostly untuned guitar. She then decided to sing , for some reason the old chestnut about the Irish builder and the barrow of bricks, it was painful, dreary and quite possibly the worst rendition of this I’ve ever heard. The nominal lead of the session though, in the name of inclusivity, made positive remarks and this young ( 20’s) person started to appear regularly.
A couple of weeks ago I had the misfortune of her appear on a night I was there again, unfortunately work prevents 100% attendance for me, she it would appear has no such hinderance and had been attending regularly. I had gone to the bar and returned to find her sitting in my chair, easilly spotted by the ruddy set of smallpipes and other paraphanelia on the table directly in front of it. I pointed this out and she moved. Directly next to me where she pulled her chair so close that I could not hold the pipes without shoving a drone up her nose.
We started playing and behold she rustles in her bag and pulls out a package of foul smelling kebab and starts to stuff that absolutely regardless of the mess she was creating on the table and the stench. Finishing round 1 of her meal she then picks up her guitar and starts strumming and plucking along, not even close to what was being played.
I decided to start a set I had been working on with a couple of the players there, this is a new session , we are still pulling common repertoire together, especially me as I really play a different tradition of music. Anyways I became aware of something distracting me and as my focus came and went I realised this person was now moaning and groaning over the music in a kind of out of tune approximation I can only think she thought Enyaesque. I lost the thread and the music staggered to a halt.
Sitting there a little dazed I then watched her pick out another wrapper of some equally indescribable takeaway and munch away on that without a care in the world. While she was distracted we started another set only for the caterwaulling to start again, the kebab packet rapidly shoved back into a grubby backpack and replaced with a page of “lyrics” that she seemed to be intent on reciting regardless of what we were playing.
I had enough. I explained to her that the music is traditional, not improvised, rather it is learnt. She said she had never had any issues here before, at which point I am not sure how I kept my temper, I am not known for the length of my fuse. I did though and I explained that mostly we play tunes, these are old tunes and where they have words it is these words that are appropriate accompanyment not improvised poetry. I said on some rare occassions someone with obvious skill, links to a tradition or similar might indeed recite the odd verse but in reality this was unlikely to happen due to the lack of 3rd or 4th generation traditional wordsmiths in the locale.
I got up and moved away before I said something else I might have had cause to regret. Noticing as I did a thumbs up and a positive nod from 2 of the regulars.
A lady player with a little more tact than me apparently spent a little while longer explaining to a now protesting woman that she really needed to learn the tunes if she wanted to play along. At which point this woman stopped and sat there in a moody siilence for a while before moving away. I got it in the neck from the more patient lady player also from the nominal session leader when he heard about it a couple of weeks later but that woman has never been back. If she learns a few tunes and can manange to play them in something close to tune she’s welcome until then we can all enjoy the fact she’s not there and we all do. Regardless of the slightly 2 faced “acceptance” some people would rather show than risk any kind of conflict. Acceptance and welcoming is different to suffering and putting up with. There is only so much encouragement it is appropriate to give sometimes.

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

I think you did the best you could, teagan. If he doesn’t come back. that’s his decision, but you did the right thing, for the good of your session, overall.

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

teagan, as I like to say in these cases:

“Mission accomplished”

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

A session that caters to the lowest common denominator will lose its best players. This never ends well.

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

Michael Eskin and Briantheflute have the right of it.

I am struck that you always hear of sessions where musicians put their foot down when some messer comes and is ruining it for everybody. In practice, i’ve rarely seen it happen. I’ve done it - exactly once - and the fallout was so toxic i am loath to be the guy who says something next time. Of course, two weeks later, everyone agreed i did the right thing, but at the time, i thought there’s a chance i’d be asked not to come back.

@Steve T: That is the stuff of nightmares.

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

Now I’m paranoid that Choons isn’t impressed with my attempts at joining in with his Gordon Duncan tunes! 🤪

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

@SteveT, why on earth did the the nominal session leader give you sh#t? Sounds like you did everyone a favour. As just a random musician in a session, not a session leader, I probably would not have had the chutzpah to say anything, but would have passive-aggressively packed up my pipes and stalked out of the pub. I don’t think I could play at all with something doing that. Gimpy is right -- if the session leaders want to be accepting of *everything,* the good musicians will gradually dwindle away.

At Willie Week many years ago, my then-partner and I found ourselves in a session filled with older East Galway players, playing tons of obscure East Galway tunes. We knew maybe like one in ten, if that, but that was fine because they were lovely to listen to. Until a young chap -- maybe 20s -- with a Generation whistle sat himself next to us and played random notes during every. single. tune. The notes coming out of that whistle had nothing to do with the notes everyone else was playing. None of the old guys said a word. We contemplated it, but we were listening more than participating, so it wasn’t really our session.

Finally, Mr. Spear and I decided that it was time to leave, to find food, another session, or whatever festival perambulations were required. As we put away our instruments, Mr. Spear, who never shirked from confrontation if he thought it right and necessary, took whistle man to the side and explained that you should only play the tunes you know, not the ones you don’t.

“But I’m getting most of them right, aren’t I?” the chap asked.

“No,” said Mr. Spear.

“70%?” he said.





“Not that either.”

“How is that possible?” the young man exclaimed. “They’ve been playing the same ten tunes over and over, right?”

Upon being corrected on this point, I think he returned his whistle to his pocket, but we’d slipped off.

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

“@SteveT, why on earth did the the nominal session leader give you sh#t?”
I was curious about that too. SteveT ???

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

The last few posts have reminded me of an incident at a session “down the road” a bit from where I live. This was a quite a few weeks ago now.

I’ve resisted mentioning it here before and will be deliberately vague about the location and regular musicians even now. I don’t want to upset anyone nor deter anyone from visiting as it is usually a lovely friendly wee session.

We were all having a nice tune when three singer/guitarists turned up. I think one had a drum as well(I can’t quite remember).
One asked “Is it OK if we just ”set up“ for a couple songs. The ”nominal/notional“ leader gave a nod of agreement… I thought them a little pushy but didn’t say anything as I was only a visitor myself and they appeared to be ”known".
Anyway, they didn’t just do two songs but six in a row. None of them were particularly traditional or even “folky” and, while some of us did try to “join in” at the start, the novelty soon wore off.

After they had finished, one of our company politely commented that he quite enjoyed the singing but couldn’t hear all the lyrics because of the combination of instruments (2 or 2+ guitars, drum etc). The leader of the “band” quite seriously(and without shame) stated that they owned a small amp which they could bring along next time to balance things out.
This was too much for one of the other session members who advised them that “one or two songs was OK but don’t go on and on” also that an amplifier was the last thing that was needed. 🙂
The three of them then stormed out saying “We’ll not be back” while the rest of us just gazed at and admired the froth on our beers. Normal service resumed shortly thereafter.

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

Shamelessness and lack of respect, that.
Where is Seamus Tansey when you need him? :P

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

Years ago, my session mates asked me to talk with “Eddie,” a regular at our session. For far too long, the group had been quietly tolerating Eddie’s sins—playing as loudly as he could (on an instrument well capable of deafening the rest of us), noodling (loudly) on tunes he didn’t know (which was most of them), and speeding up tunes others had started.

I met with Eddie privately and explained that everyone at our session adhered to basic etiquette, including the three codes of which he was afoul. He turned beet red (not in a mortified way) and roared that he knew “all” the tunes, and how dare I speak to him this way, he’d played at sessions up and down the country and no one had ever complained to him before.

And I instantly realized that this was the nut of the problem—Eddie was a session bully and no one had ever stood up to him. Which made it much easier to say, “Look, we all follow the same etiquette. I’d ask the same of anyone in the circle. If you can’t abide by that, your playing isn’t going to work.”

Eddie never sat in with us again. I did run into him years later and he acted happy to see me, shook my hand, said that was all water under the bridge, and boasted about all the music he was playing.

The upshot is that our session blossomed after Eddie left, musically and socially. A few minutes of unpleasantness for me led to years of weekly sessions for all of us, sans Eddie. It’s well worth it.

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

@DrSilverspear & Kenny in fairness to the man he was probably more worried about bums on seats than anything else. He’s out to keep the publican happy. I did point out that the loss in sales a couple of pints of blackcurrant and soda would make, especially compared to the likely nightly total of my bar bill, was hardly likely to be in the reckoning.

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

LOL, I wish his playing had been that tasteful. 🙂

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

Singer Noodlers, or would that be Drunken Noodle Singers.

We had a chorale group show up who wanted to sing one of the pub-chestnuts. Of course they didn’t know the words so they had to look them up on their iPhones, and of course they didn’t know what key to sing in, which led to several false starts.

Okay, fine, and they went to have quite a few more drinks, only to come back a little later with some more comrades wanting to sing the same one again.

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

You did well, SteveT. Gimpy too. Just shows you that it can be done.

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

I think the key is to have that difficult conversation not out of anger but of concern for the health of the session, the good of the whole.

Don’t expect a defensive, angry response from the other person, but don’t be surprised if it happens. Don’t take it personally. If you start from a place of respect for the music and cooperative problem solving, their response (whether contrition or self-righteous anger) will speak to their character, not yours. I’ve talked with several people who immediately apologized and changed their behavior. They’re welcome at our sessions anytime.

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

“Where is Seamus Tansey when you need him?”

For a second, I thought that was a tune name. 😀

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

I was leading a set and had difficulty concentrating due to three guitars playing, with one guitar player not knowing what to do and noodling to find chords.

I stopped playing, said please don’t noodle as it makes it impossible to focus, and then I continued where I left off.

I had a 1 on 1 with said fellow afterwards. Good guy, just not aware of the session etiquette. Asked him to learn the tunes and only play along if you know the tune. He’s been a regular since.

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

The brass neck of some people. Guess who showed up tonight.
“I want to join in.”
“Have you learnt any tunes then?”
“Then no.”
Complaints to the bar staff
“This person want’s to join in.”
“Has she learnt any tunes?”
Apparently not
“Then you are not welcome!”
I’d like to say it stopped there, it didn’t. But when asked why by the bar staff it was made plain that learning some tunes was all it would take. Said person retired to another end of the bar and when a gap in the music appeared, well off she went. I honestly have no idea what it was she was singing or strumming, perhaps others might recognise it perhaps it was just some bedroom angst in performance mode. I really don’t know.
The session was very low on numbers tonight. 2 of the regulars have pressing commitments taking them away and a few no shows. I feel pretty blargh about being the one making the stand again. Having done so I looked to the others to be told that much more of her and they would be gone too. Hey ho, another day on the planet of noise.

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

“Complaints to the bar staff”

The hell?

Okay, for starters you need to take down the “EVERYBODY WELCOME TO JOIN IN!” signs that are apparently plastered all over your current venue.

And then find another pub to play in.

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

This is exactly why in my suggestions for session hosts to always get “delegated authority” from the venue management to deal with this kind of nonsense.

I’ve had this sort of thing happen at our session, where the aggrieved party goes to the pub owner thinking they can somehow compel the session to bend to their will, and he’ll always back us up because that’s the relationship and agreement we have with him.

“Oh, they asked you not to play? Sorry to hear that, but that’s up to them, not me.”

I’m not big on passive-aggressive responses to this sort of nonsense. Give up all need to be liked and do what’s necessary to protect your session.

Like me, over time you’ll most likely end up with some number of people who don’t like you, tell their like-minded musician friends (probably players you also don’t want at your session) that you’re an arrogant pr*ck and won’t come to your session, which is, as I mentioned previously, “Mission Accomplished”.

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

Yep Michael if there is one thing that is guaranteed to make me “agressive” it is passive agression.

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

Agreed, it’s part of the session anchor’s job to have a clear agreement with the publican and to talk regularly to make sure you’re both still on the same page.

In the OP’s case, if you’re not the session anchor, you might first politely ask the noodler to stop, one on one. If they persist, and you’re not the anchor, ask the anchor to sort it out. If the anchor won’t do anything about it, you’re stuck—stage a coup or find (or start) another session.

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

These are some hilarious stories!

Though I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with your kebab filled compatriot again Steve - as funny as reading the word “Enyaesque” is.

@Bagpie - you’re barred! 😛

I thought the advice to ‘recruit to the good’ was great -
I think there’s just the worry that it will be interpreted wrongly - but then I think if a player gave me some useful advice when I was learning - and I chose to ignore and just feel insulted - that’s probably arrogance… even if I did worry I had embarrassed myself etc…

I don’t like using the term noodle either - it’s a jazz term for something different too.

Thanks all!

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

“Oh, they asked you not to play? Sorry to hear that…"

That really struck my funny bone!

Imagining the facial expressions of both parties is a big part of it.

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

If you’re not the session host/anchor/leader and the person who is seems willing to tolerate noodley behaviour, out-of-time djembes, wrong chords, drunken caterwauling, etc., then you’re SOL. It depends on how the host/anchor and the venue see the session. Do they want Irish/Scottish tunes of a certain quality, or do they want to welcoming everyone who walks in off the street?

If Choons’ session-in-question is the one I’m thinking of, it’s a very inclusive, anything-goes session. Or it was. I have not been in many years, but I remember some sets feeling like hard work because there could be some interesting accompaniment in the background. I got the sense that it’s what they like, and it suits the community, which is fair. So not sure there is anything he can do about it.

Sessions can go pretty far the other way too. I had a job for a little while reviewing pubs (that was fun), and I went to a well-known session venue with non-playing OH to have a couple pints. I didn’t bring the pipes, as I wanted to be in the mindset of your average pub patron and not a musician. The session that night had an uilleann piper along with a few other people, and they played a lot of tunes I knew. I approached them and said their music was lovely, and perhaps I could bring my pipes along some day and sit down for a couple tunes.

One of the players said, “You won’t know any of the tunes.”

I pointed out that I knew most of the ones they’d played.

He said, “Oh, well, I guess you could sit in the outer circle, but there’s a beginner session in the [pub across the road] that would be better.”

Oh, well, f*ck you very much, I thought. That was the last time I was in that particular bar (there are better ones if all you want is a pint). So I guess he achieved what he wanted -- keeping all the riffraff out of the session.

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

That’s a pretty grim attitude from the guy in that session. He also showed his ignorance by making assumptions too.

Actually I tend to prefer sitting in the so called “outer circle” or on the edge if I’m visiting a session or not too sure about the tunes but, more often than not, most decent players will invite you to come closer or point to a vacant chair. At least they do in the more welcoming sessions.
Usually, they won’t worry if a visitor knows that many of the tunes either as long as he/she isn’t disrupting the proceedings.

I hate all this labelling too. “Beginners’ Sessions”, “Intermediate Sessions” and so on.
Within reason, there shouldn’t be any demarcation. If there’s enough space, everybody should be welcome to play the tunes if and when they know them. …without “noodling”, of course. 😉

Actually, I’d prefer it if we described(if we have to) sessions along the lines of “Easy going”, “Steady pace”, “Good going” etc rather than on terms of ability. There are lots of wonderful musicians who just enjoy playing at a steady pace or even slowly at times while many others who are not particularly experienced or good insist on playing everything at a fast and furious pace.
Of course, a lot of the above is a generalisation but I hope you all know what I mean.

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

I can only think that the real reason this has all got so nuanced and stressfull is because so few of us are in anyway part of a tradition or common social group anymore. There is another thread running consecutive with this that raises the point that so many people feel that music is realy just a consumer experience, . I have been to more festivals than the average student dorm combined and performed at a few along the way, I have argued in earlier threads, much earlier, that I feel festival is dead and what remains is merely a consumer experience.
The extent of these observations as truths, can and probably will be argued over by much better educated people than me, how much what we think of as tradition is or was anything of the kind is another question that can be fairly raised.
What we have though is a group of people not particularly affiliated in any way except by an interest in a certain kind of music and the enjoyment of playing that music. There aren’t many of us in truth although community is there in session and places like this. People outside of the ersatz tradition we create see something in that they in turn respond to. They are not “one of us”. They appear, break all our “rules” and often leave a trail of destruction in their wake as people stop going to sessions, get into arguements about how to deal with the “intruder” and all the rest.
There is a little bit of honesty we need to have within ourselves here. We are creating a facimile of a tradition that as we experience it, play it and live it for most of us doesn’t really exist, and probably never really did. When someone bursts into our “Irish Session”, in an English pub, where most people are more intersted in the football and the bar staff just want the DSS off their backs, with a load of guitar based, bedroom angst, in the key of ??#minor . Yep they are a fish out of water.
Most of us are.

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

They can still do one though!

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

Interesting point, Steve. Is culture and community portable? If you remove it from its original home, is it the same?

In my experience, the sense of community is most natural in small towns and rural communities in Ireland, but that’s not to say it doesn’t exist elsewhere.

Yet there are sessions in Ireland that suffer a similar disconnect from the community (notably the alleged sessions that run only during tourist season). And also many sessions far from Ireland that are nonetheless deeply tied to the tradition and culture. The diaspora created nodes of Irish culture in many places around the world, and they continue to support the music and craic today. They may be oases of Irishness in a desert of mainstream culture, but that’s true of most any *traditional* activities in most developed countries today. And many ex-pat players are deeply rooted to the tradition—think of James Kelly in Miami, Florida, or Seamus Connolly in New England, USA.

I’ve sat in regular (not festival) sessions in Ireland where, among the regular participants, musicians from other countries outnumbered the Irish born, and I’ve played in sessions in the UK and the States where Irish ex-pats musicians outnumbered the locals.

Remember too that (according to Hammy Hamilton’s research) pub sessions largely originated mid-20th century among Irish workers in the UK and US and were then imported to Ireland. How “Irish” is session culture?

Any session worth its salt is a reflection of the community it lives in. Some of that is influenced by place, by geographic location. But more perhaps is influenced by the people. In places where people value and support Irish music and dance, it’s easy to lose yourself in a night of tunes and forget that you’re not in Galway or Clare or Cork.

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

We have a “no noodling” rule in one of the sessions I go to: it is a hosted session, so our host spells this out in emails sent out in advance of each session, and further reiterates it at the start of each session. It was deemed necessary because of the noodling habits of one or two members, and has largely quashed the habit, thank goodness!

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

Here’s how anti-noodling efforts went with two people. Person #1 has a repertoire of perhaps ten tunes but plays on well over 100, thinking loud noodling is harmony. He’s overconfident enough to attend lots of different sessions, unaware that many people never want to sit near him, and that they complain about him in private. But nobody wanted to publicly correct him.

One day a person new to our session was teaching us a lovely tune by ear. The offender immediately began playing “harmony” loudly enough to drown the melody. That gave me a chance to say “Please don’t play. We can’t hear the melody.” He stopped, the session continued, he left early and has never returned. Some have said “mission accomplished.”

Person #2 is somewhat new to her instrument and very new to Irish Trad. At her first session she sat next to me and noodled fairly quietly on most tunes. Afterward I emailed her a list of our most common tunes, and included a gentle “no noodling” tip. I later followed up with a pleasant phone call. It turns out no feathers were ruffled, and she’s enjoying sessions and learning.

Perhaps the lessons are: Don’t wait too long, and Be gentle and kind?

Re: How to tell someone not to noodle?

Thanks for sharing your story, frkrygow!