Playing in sessions

Playing in sessions

I was recently at a session where i was asked to "play a few tunes". The other participants were full of encouragement which helped me to relax no end ( l’m learning the mandolin for last 18 months or so). However whilst being happy with my own "performance" i am a little puzzled by the whole question of playing in sessions, when should you play in sessions?, am i good enough to play in sessions? etc etc.
The session was covered by a cam corder and i managed to watch the video since then. I was happy with the way i played considering the enormous pressure (self-inflicted) that i was under. I was amazed at the other players there, the ability to ease in and out of tunes, the speed they were playing at, and the way they made it look so easy was facinating. I am left wondering am i setting my standards to high by trying to play with these people who have been playing for thirty years plus in some cases. Is it wise to try to play at these sessions?
It is neccessary to have to tunes off so well that no concentration is needed? I tend to concentrate to much on my own instrument that i find it hard to listen to the others especially while i’m being drowned out by an uilleann piper and bodhran. Also when the others put in ornamentation i lose track of where i am in the tune.I’m fine playing on my own but tend to lose track when another intrument is involved.
Is it the case that eventually everything will fall into place or am i doing my confidence no good by attending these sessions.
Any advice on playing in sessions is welcome and also an idea of the most popular session tunes to know is appreciated.

Re: Playing in sessions

From my experiance if it’s an open session, they’ve invited you to play, don’t worry about it. Most session musicians know that the only way for the tradition to be carried on is to bring in new blood, and the only way you get that is allowing new people in to play.

It takes time to learn to play with other musicians. Playing a tune by yourself means no pressure, no one but you will hear you screw up. Playing with others means everyone hears. Most folks understand that and will overlook a missed note or two, remembering themself what it was like to first get started. (Unless it’s an actuall performance, then it’s not a session)

Having high standards is not bad, it allows you to be a bit cautious to how you are playing, but don’t let high standards keep you from trying. Espeacialy if you’ve been invited to play.

Don’t give up, be patient, and have fun. Over time it’ll probably all fall into place without you even realizing it.

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I have been playing in sessions for over 30 years. I hardly read music at all so everything I play has been learnt by ear, and more than half of the tunes I know were learnt at sessions.
I have a little notebook with the notes of the first few bars of some of my newer or less frequently played tunes. The notes are in simple ABC form and are just to jog my memory and start the tune off.
This notebook is always consulted very discreetly and never brought out openly at a session.
When joining a session, after previously asking one of the players if it

Playing in sessions

Just one point I forgot: You should always have a couple of tunes that you

Re: Playing in sessions

Mike’s got good advice there. We have a LOT of stuff about this in old threads, C1-4, do a search — you’ll find quite a bit of info on this subject.

Mike — it’s not tough at all to play quietly on the fiddle, whoever told you that? You move the bow away from the bridge out over the fingerboard and reduce pressure on the bow to almost nil, and you get, voila, hardly any sound at all — you can even get only a whisper of sound by lifting the bow slightly so it’s barely contacting the string. You can hear what you’re doing by turning and bending your head so your left ear is as close to the bridge as you can get it.

Heh. Sounds like some fiddle player who wants an excuse to play loudly has been pulling your leg! :)

Pipes now…yes, I’d say impossible. Every now and again, Dirk will show up with a new reed, all enthusiasm, and ask excitedly if he’s managed to find or make a reed that’s quieter than usual. We all look at each other, smile politely and say "uh, sure, Dirk, it sounds like it, er, could be quieter…." *snicker*

Zina

Re: Playing in sessions

Hmmm… that

Re: Playing in sessions

Murf, And that’s why I hate getting up at a session, whenever I return, there’s that thick
coating of soap all over my strings.

Re: Playing in sessions

Murf, And that’s why I hate getting up at a session, whenever I return, there’s that thick
coating of soap all over my strings.

Re: Playing in sessions

I think that is terrible Mike. Its awful when there is a fiddle player in a film or whatever, that you can see right away is just pretending. I was once at this not so tiny country music festival and I was drawn from a long way behind this not so tiny (actually huge) stage by this radical fiddle playing. Sounded like a full on band that I’d like to really listen to. When I eventually got round to the front, there were only two people, the singer and a bass guitarist. The rest of the ‘band’ came out of a box.
But Celtic1234, of course you should play - they asked you didn’t they - you’ll get there too as long as you stick at it. One day you’ll be as smooth and you will remember and give newcomers a break when you’ve been playing for 30 years. Its an unfairness to yourself to make comparisons with them yet.
Cheers

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Re: Playing in sessions

I know it’s a pain having beginers at a good session but you have to put up with them and even ecourage them. The old clich

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Re: Playing in sessions

I’m sorry I cannot agree with you Michael. Its not up to the experienced sessioners to sit in judgement. Some of those old tunes are so hackneyed that to play them at all just adds fuel to those sighing egoes (the poor things whose good session is being recked). Its like asking for the snub. Whatever they play, newcomers can’t win unless sessioners are prepared to treat them as human beings and make them feel like the valuable people that they are. The newcomers have done something unbelievably brave by simply having a go. That should be acknowledged.
Cheers

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Re: Playing in sessions

I once caused a session to fold by simply going to it.

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Re: Playing in sessions

I suppose your right, it is difficult to guage who conciders what tune hackneyed, but I think speed is usually the beginners biggest problem. Nobody minds playing tunes slow for a change. Beginners’ party pieces are invariably way too fast for them

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Re: Playing in sessions

Every session is going to be different in how they handle having newcomers and beginners around, because they’ll all be made up of different people. Some sessions are all about a bunch of really good players (no comments on their personalities, of course!) who don’t want to have beginners about at all, whatsoever. Some sessions are all about a bunch of really good players who also encourage beginners to join in when they can and to listen and learn when the speed is too fast for them. Some sessions are mainly beginners who really resent it when a good player shows up and wants to kite off on tunes they can’t keep up on. Etcetera, etcetera, ad nauseum.

It should of course be mentioned that many beginners have no idea how to handle themselves at a session and transgress all over the place — you have to take a beginner’s complaint about how they were treated at any given session with a grain of salt unless you were there to see it.

As for the party pieces — yup, most beginners (and lots of intermediates, and even some advanced) make the mistake of thinking that fast=good. It doesn’t, of course, and I’d much rather hear a slow piece played reasonably well then a fast rendition of bad playing. In a two hour session, it won’t kill anyone to listen to twice through any tune, and anyone complaining about it when I’m around will be sent away with a flea in their ear. Yup, we were all beginners once, and everyone deserves encouragement, and even a "lovely stuff" now and again, even when they slaughtered that poor defenseless tune!

Many sessions don’t make any provision for beginners at all. Personally I’m not adverse to playing a set or two of tunes that the beginner(s) know(s) at a slowish pace so they can feel like the evening was really rounded out for them — gives you a chance to play around with a tune, is the way I look at it. If I know the beginner pretty well, I’ll even ask them to slow down as they begin playing (nervousness often accounts for the tune being started too fast).

But I already run a learning session. When I do get out to a regular session, I do want the opportunity to go at the pace I can actually play at myself! :)

As for hackneyed tunes — well, tunes go in and out of fashion. I basically play tunes that I like to play and that the folks around like to play. Nothing wrong with that — Michael’s right that you can’t guess who is going to think a tune overplayed. If a player is bored with a tune, they’re probably not a great player anyway, of course. :)

Zina

Re: Playing in sessions

A good session is one where everyone gets to play some things that they like and no-one has to sit bored through things that they don’t. We’ve all been at sessions where a couple of players have done party pieces . which is OK if they are worth listening to.. then gone on to treat the session as an audience .. which is out of order.
There is an etiquette tosessions and that includes giving the beginners a chance to set the pace now and then. However, it would be pretty boring if the session ran at the pace ofits slowest member all night and the beginners would not get much of an idea of how tunes should be played if asession wasrun this way.

One important thing to bear in mindis that you don’t have to play all the notes or any of the ornaments. Playing a simpler version of a tune enables you to keepup.Indeed, you’ll find that most experienced players do something like this as they start busking along when learning a tune by ear. Its just that they progress through to the full version much quicker.

The most important things to get right are the harmonic structure and the rhythm ‘cos if you get these wrong, you screw up every body elses playing. You are most likely to get the rhythm wrong by trying to get in an ornament that you can’t handle, so miss it out and keep the flow going.

As for playing, pick something simple you can do as old favourites are old favourites because they are worth playing. Don’t try and play something flash that you stumble over. A simplepieceplayed welllabelsyou asa beginner with potential.A flash pieceplayed badly just labels you as a poor player.

And finally, playing alone is nothing like playing with others. As you have already identified, listening to the rest is very,very important. All you needto become agoodsession playerisexperience and you won’tget that if you don’t play in sessions.
Good Luck.
Noel Jackson
Angels of the North

Re: Playing in sessions

Newcomers are often accused of breaking session etiquette, but some of the old timers are often just as bad.
It

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My back is obviously to the wall on this one. You are all making assumptions that the newcomer is not capable of playing anything but a simple hackneyed auld tune. You are all labeling the newcomer before he/she even plays. Are you all going to sit in judgement of the rendition (the contribution to the tradition) that the newcomer is ‘invited’ to give? Then call it a ‘party piece’ or a ‘no-no tune’, ‘too fast’ not ‘fast enough’, too many, not enough ornaments, not enough lift and pulse, hasn’t paid the dues (or enough of your tuition fees). *groan, groan - particularly when Noel says that the newcomer labels his/herself as a beginner with potential, or just a poor player - yipes - this goes so much against the grain, it hurts! No win!* What else can you think of to belittle the effort. Poor Celtic 1234. Is this supposed to be helpful advice? Sorry gang. But you are being labeling and discriminating. No wonder newcomers are prone to nerves, heading out too fast and to stuffing up. You are pre-determining what the newcomer plays and the speed at which he/she plays, and even still you are going to judge the resulting ‘performance’, making it very very clear at the same time that you have progressed beyond that stage yourself. *sigh* Have you never heard of R I C E - (R)espect - (I)ntegrity - (C)ompassion - (E)quity. A great recipe for open communication between people. Treat people as you would have them treat you (not as they DO treat you). Mike is right about this session etiquette thing. It is a fallacy. What I say still holds - that the newcomer is in the hands of the experienced players and the treatment they dole out is the treatment that the newcomer receives. But I am sure you are all very fair in your dealings with newcomers, yourselves. You are too nice-a people to do anything else!

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Re: Playing in sessions

I’ve seen some real inconsiderate clueless folks sit in on some sessions & I’ve never seen them get yelled at or have the session break up. Not the first time anyway. Even the most notoriously grumpy session leader usually works with the person to steer them in the right direction. One of two things happens, the offender learns or they never show up again thinking that the session is too haughty for their tastes. Either way - it takes care of itself. Sessions are learning experiences, not just for tunes either. If you

Re: Playing in sessions

Thank you Brad. I appreciate the breath of fresh air.

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Re: Playing in sessions

Jill, dear! Your back doesn’t need that wall! I think we’re all just talking at cross purposes here… A newcomer might not be a beginner. A beginner might not be a newcomer. A beginner *is* a beginner because they *aren’t* capable of playing a flash tune yet and will much better impress people as having some discernment about their own abilities if they don’t try. Whereas a newcomer might be very capable of that flash tune and may just be unsure of how to fit in. Knowing your session etiquette (and yes there damn well is such a beast, but keep in mind that etiquette in one session differs from another depending on who’s running the thing and the players who make up the thing determine the etiquette) is different from having playing ability. To me, a beginner is a beginning player, and there’s no particularly bad knock about that and good for them that they’re brave enough to get out there. I support ‘em every way I know how, specially since I’m not that far away from beginner myself and remember all too well that cheek-burning, horribly stomach-churning realization that the tune you thought was a common one isn’t a common one at all in this particular session and you’re playing into a stone silence. ("It was on Will Harmon’s list! Honest it was!" Heh.)

We live by labels and discrimination (and keep in mind that you can have both negative and postive discrimination). It’s part of who we are, and it’s how we naturally keep our worlds organized in a way that doesn’t drive us mad. And no one likes that fact.

Is Celtic1234 a beginner? S/he wasn’t clear about that. Usually at 18 months, yes, someone is considered a beginner, although someone like Dirk is amazingly good for a year and a half and far past "beginner". But C1-4 did make it fairly clear that s/he isn’t familiar with session etiquette where it comes to joining a session, and so I think everyone really is trying to be helpful about it by putting in their two cents with how sessions run in their neck of the woods, even if it’s not nice.

Yeah, you can try to change that judgement thing in people, but what I’ve noticed is that it’s the good players who are most guilty of it and the beginners who are always most upset over it. And when beginners in the fullness of time become good players, they tend to do it themselves. Since I don’t fall in that category of good player yet, I don’t really know what that means or implies, so can’t comment on that. But it works that way whether we like it or not.

I was once around when a bunch of *very* good players (and most of them teachers of some note) were talking about beginning players who often showed up at sessions they all frequented. At one point, one of the best players was joking and laughing fondly about a very good joe who was not a very good player (yet) making mistakes in a tune and who kept yelling out "sorry!" every time a mistake was made. Of a sudden, she stopped, got a considering look on her face, and said, "have you ever noticed that when someone is a really nice person and you like them, it doesn’t irritate you when they make really loud mistakes? And when someone is a jerk, it does irritate you?"

I’ve thought about that comment often and do my best *not* to be a jerk!

Noel, we’re going to have to agree to disagree about at least part of this — I think that if you invite a beginner to play their party piece, then it’s only decent to be encouraging by not being bored — spend the time looking for something nice and encouraging to say. If you don’t want a party piece, then ask them what they know that everyone can play with them…make it clear that you’re not wanting a party piece but want them to start a set of tunes that everyone can play with them. If you ask for a party piece or are not clear that that’s not what you want when you ask them to play, and then claim boredom, then it’s your own fault, yeah? Not theirs? :)

Mike, I’ve seen some rather standoffish Irish sessions, and some very welcoming Stateside sessions, and vice versa. Heh. Always something to prove any point!

Zina

Re: Playing in sessions

Having played my party piece at the above mentioned session i found the reponse to be very good. The one negative person there who barely acknowledged my existence and seemed p***ed off that i took some of the "limelight" away from him was the person that made me most consious of my playing. I think the fact that this person is an a***hole explains the fact rather than my inabilities to match his musical genius. I agree that decency in people at a session is important for newcomers in order to make the newcomer feel welcome and to help him/her to not be so critical of their performance. The other players except Lord Beethovan himself were very nice and said that the were impressed etc etc. I have no doubt the they were telling me what i wanted to hear but if this helps a person to improve it can only be a good thing. The people who appear to be incapable of this bit of decency and surely failling to encourage newcomers to the tradition possibly help to turn us Doubting Thomas’ away from playing music. Is this helping to maintain the tradition they supposedly love? Surely sacrificing a bit of their own ego’s to encourage a newcomer is’nt that difficult.
Also if somebody plays "three blind mice" does it matter? All the talk seems to be of -If the tune is worthy of the other players attention?
Cheers for all the advice

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All the sessions I’ve been too have been in Scotland as where I live thay are a bit thin on the ground.
Played at only one though on a Bodhran,and it took me a while to pluck up courage to do that.This was about 5 years ago.
I started playing fiddle about 2 years ago and would very much like to join in,so i’ve taking it along to various festivals I go to.
Have’nt joined in yet.It’s all a bit fast for me (went to some workshops in May though),I’m not used to playing with other people.
How ever people I’ve met at theses events have said to me it does’nt matter if I’m not good.Theres usually so many people playing it does’nt get noticed,and you’ve got to start somewhere.
So next time,may-be i’ll take the next step and have a go.
Amanda

Re: Playing in sessions

I didn’t realize something until this very post.

Years back, I used to travel a lot with my job. I would take the violin everywhere. I would find a session and join if I wasn’t too "intimidated". At a particular session in Dallas Texas ( I now live near Dallas) I walked in on two violinists. It was my opinion then that one of them played like an angel and the other was doing a decent job of getting by. I joined them and was lost for a while. The tunes started hitting one after another. For a whole hour plus, I sat there and played tune after tune with those ladies. One of them made comments that I dismissed " Hey —- Isn’t cool how these no-brainers just come back to you?’ I was blissfully ignorant. Those tunes were common beginner tunes although they took most of my brain to play. The other violinist kept knocking them out and I joined in on all of them.

There is a part of me that just now realizes that I owe a debt that I can never repay. She brought me into that session without letting me know that I was a beginner. I believe that session was at a crossroads for me. I know that I took the right turn. How could I not know? She pointed the way.

I hope that you get a person like her when you start. I hope that you remember where you came from and start to repay that old debt.

Thanks Linda.


Mark

Re: Playing in sessions

Its taken me a little time to re-read this thread, cool down, and formulate a reply. I am sorry I got so bulshy. It was really undeserved, when you are all so helpful and wonderful. As I said in another thread, I really "Luv yous all".
I have a little certificate that says I am an intermediate grade III in ITM (whatever that means !!???*#!!?) but I’ve rarely found inclusion in a session in Australia. It is my own fault, of course, for giving ITM up as I did to raise family and survive, but then after years of doing the sheetmusic beginners thing, paying for lessons and attending all the fastees that I could (clearly unable to take the hint not to do so, because I love the diddly music so much) I have taken to creative freedom and the aural path.
ITM is the part of me that is me. Even still I have been advised by one well meaning muso "You should be playing the music that the people understand." ( - country, of course!) and another: You shouldn’t learn off CD’s etc, it isn’t how its played (is the tune in Walsh’s?).
As a fourth generation Aussie, I shouldn’t love the diddly music, but I do - and as Eeyore says: "I’m not complaining, but there it is."
If there are no spare Linda’s about (and Mark you were so lucky to come across such a gem, and your post is just so inspirational it nearly had me in tears because you are obviously a seeker who sought and perchance found the elusive holy grail), the ingredient to session inclusion, the way I see it as a ‘pest’istant session observer, is to enlist the support of at least one other player, and take out your quota (if you are lucky enough to rate one) of a few favourite tunes together. If not, you are vulnerable to the stone wall treatment (no matter what few tunes you try to take out: hackneyed auld ones [by their standards], ones you know they all know, ones you know some of them know, the ones they played last session, the ones that take your fancy, your party piece)!
Is this session etiquette? Don’t say it doesn’t happen, because it does. And it happens even when (or perhaps because) you are really nice about it. And there it is, the etiquette myth.
Of course there are other little games as well.
Cheers

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Re: Playing in sessions

Session etiquette is no myth.
Unfortunatly it pervades every nuance of a session players psyque.
Niggling away at your enjoyment, it irritates, annoys and generally spoils the fun.
But it aint going away, and no matter how much it bugs you, it is just another one of those things that has to be learned.

We once had the idea of physically typing the rules up and pinning them to the wall in exactly the same way you have house rules for pool. (Two shots on the black?)

This idea is attractive because it takes away the embarresment of having to tell some one to shut up or play softer or something. You can just piont to the rules and shrug your shoulders. Each house’s rules could be subtly different but chosen by the house.

The problem was, that once we started, It became so complicated that all the sub clauses and only ifs made the thing stretch to 3 or 4 sheets of A4.

I’m willing to have onother go though

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The trouble with etiquette ( and there’s tons of stuff writtten about it) is that all sessions have different people with different agendas/personalities so the etiquette varies.
You can have a closed session in Ireland with trad musicians very closely related since birth and just performing a ‘family’ set (or incestuous). Then there are friendly Irish sessions, sometimes even with superstars in them. You can have sessions abroad from Ireland with second generation musicians, completely genetically non-irish sessions, beginners sessions, beginners sessions that would like not to be, Skilled sessions that accept other skilled musicians, skilled sessions that
freeze out lesser mortals etc. etc.
The trouble is even the basic rules such as never try to play along to someones’ slow air unless previously practised, (unless you are Dennis Cahill and can play a few sparse tasteful chords) don’t seem to be generally obeyed, so it all comes down to getting to know the session first, which is a bit tricky if you are passing through on hols.

Re: Playing in sessions

WHO is the house? Who gives it this power? And does the ‘etiquette’ promote equity, a safe environment to carry on the tradition, or is it used to discourage newbies and to reinforce the dominance of the old guard status quo? Most importantly Michael, if you are making the rules, are they truly fair to other people like Celtic 1234, not only to yourself? And in all honesty, do you obey these rules yourself?????
Cheers

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Re: Playing in sessions

These are all questions that I hve no answers for. yet.
But the rules should help learners / beginners with things like mutual respect etc. If the rules hinder them then they’re bad rules.

I’m not saying this is a good idea, I just think it might be, if done properly

Last night, we were all bugged by a guy who was sat at our table befor we arrived in the pub, despite a sign saying reserved for musicians. He then proceeded to play a jaws harp through our tunes (what is it with an instrument that can only play one note?)

Anyway, I just thought that a rule that says "Ask berfor you sit down" might help

Then, with no introduction, he proceeded to play dismal french waltzes on his very loud piono accordion. And I just thought that a rule that says "Either make your tunes relevent or ask if it’s OK to play something different" might help

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Re: Playing in sessions

Etiquette is an important thing. It’s even more important to be humble, at least as a beginner, but it doesn’t hurt later in your life either. Not like the jaw-harp guy… he probably thought, "heck, i’m a musician, so the table’s for me!". :-) Be humble or risk being humbled in a bad way. I was once paying for studio time with a few friends trying to record a demo, when some well-known gueetar player barges in and starts showing off on our time. I never bought any more of his records… that’ll show him. :-)

Barry Foy’s book is a good place to start. It’s funny, and it should be required reading for anyone who wants to sit in a session.
http://www.rambles.net/foy_session.html

New Rule for Michael: No oingdoing - just plain diddly daddling!

after the case occured you find the right rule ….. so how many A4s you might fill with subrules, ifs and others you are never done with that - it ends in rewriting the rules everytime some newbie - or better: some crazy freak like your mentioned oing doing doing player - tries out to test and wreck the rules) … this happens to every session from time to time wether it has strong or weak rules, written down or not, wether it is lead by a "benevolent dictator" or an arrogant *** as a chief or an oligarchie of strong and cool polite or whatelseever members (or any mix of these and/or any other possible form of sessions) …. the rules are broken and a session has to handle this.

it happened to me two month ago, that I invited someone to meet me at a session where i have been new as well - had been there just one time before. The person I wanted to meet (and which I have not met personally before) brought two others - all three slow players and "sheet music in session users" while the four "residents", lead by an irish fiddler was a fire away "i don

Re: Playing in sessions

Oh dear. The trouble is, you see, that "etiquette" (speaking in the general sense of the word) doesn’t actually mean The Rules As Written Down Or Even Not Written Down. "Etiquette" only means that there are certain expectations, customs and social laws that are considered nice and/or good behavior amongst a group of people. No more than that, and also no less.

You can’t really write them down, because people are too different in their expectations, sometimes even from week to week in the same person. "Respect", to pick an expectation at random, is a very loaded term, and is going to mean too many different things to too many different people to be easily codified.

There’s an etiquette to inviting your friends over for a few beers and pizza. There’s an etiquette to how you behave in a place of worship (yours or someone else’s). There’s etiquette for how you drive along the road and interact with other drivers (which changes radically depending on where you are). There’s an etiquette to everything we do that involves social interaction, and, very very often, the etiquette is different for the same situations for different groups of people. Sometimes including when the same people are involved in the different groups.

For many players (usually the good ones and usually amongst those who are close to the tradition’s roots), sessions are NOT about equity and helping beginners become part of the tradition. At one edge of expectations, usually among the Irish themselves (I add, of course, that many Irish sessions are not even remotely like this), beginners are expected to do their practising at home and their learning with their teachers, and sessions are for when you are up to speed and ready to go. At the other edge of expectations (for instance, at our tune learning session), beginners are more catered to than advanced players — we hold the speeds down unless there are no beginners there, for instance, no matter what hotshots are there, chafing at the bit.

Pick an issue, and you’ll be able to find sessions that are diametrically opposed from each other about it, and they may reverse themselves at any given time. At some sessions, *language* is perfectly acceptable and friendly-like. At others, *language* is verboten and rude to the max. You can sometimes plunk a seven year old girl into an established session of adults and, voila, suddenly everyone’s all avoiding certain subjects that are usually loudly joked about, and you can bet that "language" will be reduced a bit…and so there’s an example of etiquette and expectations of social behavior that changes in a given circumstance.

Are any of these things *wrong*, exactly? Well, that depends on the expectations of the people involved. Barry Foy writes that sessions are not supposed to be little working models of democracy (he says that Americans are usually the guiltiest of this particular expectation), and that you shouldn’t expect them to be. You can take that to any extent you like.

To add to all that, rules change depending on who the stranger is and how their behavior strikes regular session members. If someone walks in and plunks themselves and their instrument down at a session and expects to play, their welcome is going to be dependent on a great many factors — who’s already sitting at the table, how friendly (or overly familiar) the stranger is, whether they manage to hit some general area of expectations of that particular session towards newcomers, whether a regular is in a pissy mood or in the midst of an argument with their husband, whether they know someone that someone else knows, and of course whether they happen to be any good as a player, among many other possible combinations.

I never hear the top-notch players talking about equity and fairness in sessions, really. (At most, they complain about newbies who don’t know how to behave at a session. And it’s amazing how many of them believe there’s no such thing as a session etiquette, even as you can hear someone else talking in another corner about how difficult their session is to get accepted into.)

I personally believe that advanced players should remember that beginners should be encouraged and helped along, sometimes even above your own "boredom" with the necessity of being friendly like — we all have stories of players who encouraged us as beginners, and karma demands that we return the favor in spades. (Because the alternative has repercussions that aren’t acceptable, really.)

And if you’re not an advanced player yet and you find most session etiquette to be stupid and unnecessary or just plain wrong, just keep in mind that as you as a player grow, it’s likely that you may find yourself somehow, in one way or another, in the camp that you once despised as insular and/or elitist, so take it a little easy on the despisement. Things always look a little different on the other side of the fence.

One of my favorite observations of Terry Pratchett’s is that the generation that sings "We Shall Overcome" at the previous generation always becomes the generation that the next generation sings "We Shall Overcome" at.

Zina

Re: Playing in sessions

Perhaps session etiquette, along the lines of morality for Nietzsche, is for the weak (aka beginners), which is to say that it exists in order to legitimize the status of a disenfranchised or subjugated or uncultivated group. True masters have no need for such etiquette, since they are presumably fully self-actualized and are otherwise not compelled to live by the lights of the herd.

Many beginners, it seems, internalize session etiquette to such an extreme that they become stilted by it. On the other hand, there are all too many bad players who, oblivious to session etiquette or even irish music in general, end up haplessly trashing decent sessions. The former need to liberate themselves whereas the latter need to be beaten down like dogs (for their own good and the good of the group).

Perhaps the biggest scourge to the decent session, however, are the false masters, those people who fancy themselves to be great players but are in fact mediocre players who are selfishly using the session to dominate over others. While I can forgive the truly great player at a session who displays (some) bad behavior or flouts session etiquette, I have no patience for the jerk who is trying to play king of the hill. Unfortunately, false masters are the hardest to deal with, although they are easy enough to identify: they are usually the ones most interested in imposing

Re: Playing in sessions

Hey, i like dogs!

OK: Lets start with the easy ones

1. Never ever ever pick up some one elses instrument without their permission.
2. Never ever nick some one’s seat when they’ve nipped out for a smoke

I find false masters relativly easy to deal with. Because they are arrogant, it is easy to tell them straight to their faces where they stand.
Brendan, Try saying to them,
"Your are a jerk, you are selfishly using this session to dominate others. I have no patience with you while you play king of the hill. And by ther way, your playing is mediocre."

This may sound extreem but until you do this (and get back-up off your mates befor you try) you are only proving thet you do have patience.

Patience may be a virtue when dealing with beginers, but know when it should run out

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Re: Playing in sessions

oh dear zina, there is no trouble …. (but I

Re: Playing in sessions

Hi folks

I think the only way to learn "etiquette" is to go to plenty of sessions and just go with the flow. It shouldn’t be the result of a conscious effort. If you think about your behaviour too much you’re never going to enjoy yourself, and you’ll end up missing the point. And anyway, there are probably as many types of etiquette as there are sessions. Don’t waste time trying to tie everything down to a list of rules, just be polite and be yourself.

Conan

Re: Playing in sessions

Conan, in five lines you said it all, up belfast,
slan,
anto

Re: Playing in sessions

yes, those five lines are perfect

If you go to plenty of sessions then you won’t get too hung up about the bad ones

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Re: Playing in sessions

My R I C E recipe (Respect, Integrety, Compassion and Equity) comes from cooperative learning strategies that have been found to transform and promote inclusion in school communities where resentment, bullying and increasing violence had been the order of the day. There is still an ‘etiquette’, teachers are still teachers, students are still students, expectations are still expectations. Its just that the way, the spirit, in which the expectations are realised, is well considered, quiet, and helpful (un-hurtful) to the community.

I believe there should be some flexible session etiquette, really, but it should not be abused by people who are empowered by it. The empowered (like the teachers) should make sure the etiquette is not humiliating to others (like the students) (except of course Michael’s uncouth oingdoinger player). But oingdoing players who play dirgey French waltzes in Irish music sessions in Scotland, for heaven’s sake, are just too much.

I strongly support Zina’s — "we all have stories of players who encouraged us as beginners, and karma demands that we return the favor in spades". And the repercussions of not doing so ARE UNACCEPTABLE, because they do not benefit the tradition, and they lead to victims feeling resentment, and protagonists not being able to live comfortably with themselves. True masters are gracious people, as Brendan says, could that be because they don’t trample on others and can live comfortably with themselves?

RICE is strong on positive reinforcements (praise), but there is also zero tolerance of illconsidered behaviour. When remindary action is necessary it is given quietly and privately, without personal criticism, as in the case of Volka when he inadvertently invited sheetmusic readers to a "no sheet fly away" event.

Anyway, its getting very late ( like 2am) and I’ve got uni in the morning. You are all wonderful.
Cheers

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Re: Playing in sessions

Conan basically said what I was trying to say, only a lot shorter! :) Basically, in order to feel comfortable in a session, you have to find a session that has the same sort of standards, behavior and Robert-sian Rules that you do personally. It all sorts itself out eventually, and eventually you find yourself connecting to a certain session or sessions. It’s good to know that you change and mold a session simply by taking part.

You handle violators of your own particular session etiquette in your own way — in other words, if you don’t usually have the ability (as Michael has, for instance) to get in someone’s face when they’re being a true and utter jerk, it’s useless to tell you to get in someone’s face, because that’s just not how you deal with people. If you personally like to help other people with their own growth, that’s great! If you feel that’s an invasion of their privacy, well, fair play to you as well.

What I was trying to get at is that sessions are just another socially interactive group of people, and you should treat them as such.

*I* personally believe that beginners should be encouraged and helped to grow as players, in both active ways and by example. Not everyone else feels that that’s their mission in life or even in any given day. That’s okay, because that’s just another facet of people dealing with people.

As an aside, we tend to behave in the ways that we were behaved *at* — much like we tend to find ourselves turning into our fathers and mothers (yikes!) — it might be worth knowing that the jerks out there are probably behaving in the only way they know to be ‘proper’, even though they’re not really aware of it. I can pity that instead of being ticked off about it. :)

Zina

Re: Playing in sessions

yes,that’s it,conan! - i once took a bulky camera plus even bulkier tripod etc up a mountain and got so tied up in the bloody exposure/shot framing stuff that the beauty of the scenery nearly passed me by and instead of enjoying a day out my mind got cluttered up with rubbish.
Anyway,the bad session experiences make the good ones stand out more,i suppose!
And sessions are n’t about performing anyway are they?

Re: Playing in sessions

But that is how I feel Zina, Conan, Anthony, Michael, Volka, Bigdave etc etc, I pity the poor jerks out there who are not doing the right thing by themselves because ultimately they have to live with themselves (its their business). It would be best for everybody if sessions were just about playing, playing, playing. However, I don’t think it is harmful to occasionally spring clean and sift through your collection of baggage, retain what is of value to you, and dispose of what is rubbish. Who could ask for anything more? Then go play the music. Fabulous.

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Oh! By the way Eeyore says "Sitting on thistles doesn’t do them any good."

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Re: Playing in sessions

It would be nice to think of sessions as just another group of socially interactive people but unfortunately there not.
They are a strange gathering of people who have nothing more in common than the diddly thing.
There are plenty of people I love having tunes with, people I love to hear play, but, when it comes to socially interacting? Blank
And I bet they’d say the same about me

This is not a bad thing, at least you meet people you wouldn’t ordinarally

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Re: Playing in sessions

Um. Is there such a thing as "just another" group of socially interactive people? Are you saying that people playing music together aren’t interacting socially in one way or another? How can you play music together without reacting in some social way with the people you’re playing with?

If you get together with people you love having tunes with and love to hear play, and don’t want to interact with them, you’re interacting already by refusing to sit and share a bit of crack. "Socially interacting" means *any* kind of interface between people. Even the I-don’t-talk-to-that-person bits.

Lookit you. Socially interacting, you old interacter, you. :)

But really. All I’m saying is that the rules for sessions are going to change as soon as you change the people out. That’s all. So it’s difficult to come up with the fiddly bits. The big rules, sure, you can come up with those, but it’s the exception-clauses that always cause all the trouble.

Zina

Re: Playing in sessions

I’d call an internet chat room antisocial interacting

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Re: Playing in sessions

Arrgh, but a tad addictive even without the Bailey’s and the few good toons.

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Re: Playing in sessions

Really, Michael? Yet (at the very least) here’s three people — me, Michael, and Jill, interacting where there would normally be NO interaction because one’s in the US, one’s in Scotland and the other in Oz. Personally I find that pretty amazing, and at the very least an interaction. Perhaps you might call it anti-social, but I’ve never thought of the friendships made here as such, and I do consider some of the people I’ve "met" here friends. If you remember that there are very real people on the other end of those terminals, then it would be hard to make this an anti-social interaction.

There’s still written and unwritten rules that we follow here at The Session ("Be Civil" being the most formal one). The laws of social groups still hold.

Where you have people in one place, you have some form of social interaction, even if it’s friendly or un-friendly. Sessions are no different in terms of that. Players, of course, have something else to do together besides studiously ignoring those they don’t approve of — play music.

zls

Re: Playing in sessions

I couldn’t agree more, and we all have lives (satisfying or not) away from ITM sessions and computer terminals. The sun is out here in Oz this lecture free morning and I have a friend who plays Shakuhachi flute coming to visit before the couple of Bailey’s and the few good tunes this evening. We are going to make the music room in international house ring with tradition.

I would hope that we are all just ordinary people connected in friendship by the aid of technology here. People who make time to follow an obsession (a culture): ITM, music of the people for the people. Diddly dabbling if you like. I’ll take out a good toon for yous all tonight.
Cheers

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Re: Playing in sessions

And sometimes the sessions are so fabulous you never want them to end. Weeeeeeeeee……………….

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Re: Playing in sessions

And sometimes your just sat at work surfing cause there’s nowt better to do

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Re: Playing in sessions

I didn’t know that was where you were going, Glauber! That’s an excellent website, too, lots of good information.

Zina

Re: Playing in sessions

WOW! There’s a lot here to digest but I’d like to add a comment or two.

When I am at an ‘away’ regular session I wait to be invited to join in. Easily done - just stand around with your instrument case on obvious display and you’ll usually be invited in. If you aren’t invited then it’s probably better that you didn’t sit down since they are probably ignorant arrogant assholes who really don’t want you about the place anyway.

When I am at one of my regular ‘home’ sessions I expect a newcomer to wait to be invited in. This is not because of some elitist nonsense but simply because all the local regular musicians have their favourite seats, who they sit with, etc. This makes a real difference to the dynamic of the session and inevitably to the quality of the music and the amount of fun and enjoyment you’ll have. If you simply sit yourself down without the invite you will almost certainly raise someone’s hackles and spoil both their and your enjoyment of the music.

If I am at a fleadh or festival session then the above rules don’t apply since all the sessions are deemed to be open and there are no resident musicians by definition. HOWEVER, if a session is already established and you aren’t too sure of the repertoire that’s being played it’s prudent to wait for a few minutes to see if it really is your cup of tea.

If you are a bodhr

Re: Playing in sessions

Although this discussion seems to have become stagnant as of 10 years ago, I’ll post some additional information, in case someone is searching for a list of session etiquette. Here are some guidelines that we generally live by.


Only tunes or songs which are old enough to be free of copyright law (90 years or older) will be played.

The musicians with a melody instrument who have been playing here for years are those who will start a set of tunes. Follow them.

The musicians who have been playing the longest might introduce a "new" [90+ years old, of course] tune every now and then. That doesn’t mean that you should do the same, if you’re new to the session.

When the lead musician who started the set of tunes is about to change from one tune to another, they will generally lift one of their feet for a few seconds. This is also the gesture shown right before they end the set, so be prepared for either a transition to another tune, or the end of the set.

Don’t play your instrument louder than the lead musician. If it’s a song, be sure that you play quietly enough so that everyone behind you can hear the words.

Percussion instruments should match the lead musician. Their purpose is to assist the other melody instruments in following the lead musician.

Guitars, mandolins, and other stringed instruments that are playing chords, and not the melody, are considered percussion instruments, and should… match the lead musician.

If it’s a crowded session, with many musicians showing up, give up the middle of the circle for the lead musicians. It’s best that everyone is close enough to hear the melody being played.

Bodhrans which are not being played to the same beat as the lead instrument are forbidden. See the next checklist.

Djembes, congas, tambourines, and other non-Irish percussion instruments which are played too loud (or sometimes being played at all) or aren’t being played to sound like an Irish instrument are also shunned.

End the sets gracefully. It can sound bad when the lead melody instrument is ending slowly or quietly, while the percussion instruments are still going at the same pace… or going at all.

Anticipate the end of a tune in the set after two times around. It might go three times, but two is the norm.

Near the end of the second time around in a tune, keep an eye out on the lead musician for a clue as to whether they’re ending the tune, ending the set, or continuing.


Bodhrán Etiquette

If the tune is not fast enough to warrant playing a bodhrán, put… the tipper… down.

If you can’t play the rhythm yet, practice using my bodhrán practice guide until you’re able to keep pace with every tune that you hear.

If you’re off rhythm, you’ll mess everyone up… including the lead musician.

If you’re too loud, other musicians near you won’t be able to hear the lead musician.

Make sure your bodhrán is loosened up enough, and that it isn’t leaving a metallic, ringing noise after each beat.

If a musician can hear two bodhráns, and they’re played slightly differently, it can be distracting. It’s best to have only one bodhrán being played per tune.

If you’re sitting right by an experienced bodhrán player, are matching their rhythm exactly, and are playing very quietly, then there might be an exception to the previous rule… as it would sound like one bodhrán. But if you can’t anticipate and match the silences being played on the other bodhrán, sit the set out.

The same rules apply as with other musicians at the session. If you don’t already know a tune, don’t join in.


Here are some web pages which are still active (as of 2013) regarding session etiquette:

http://www.irishmusicottawa.ca/theten.htm

http://www.slowplayers.org/SCTLS/etiquette.html

http://www.nigelgatherer.com/sess/ss4.html

http://home.earthlink.net/~birdfiddler/Etiquette.htm

http://grobner.it.nuigalway.ie/sess.html

And one in particular for the bodhran:
http://www.bsutton.com/brenda/music/bodhran/etiquette.htm

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