Slow Sessions

Slow Sessions

I’m on my way out to our local, twice monthly ,slow/learning session. I’m curious to find out how many here participate in or lead slow sessions in your areas. Do you find them helpful? How do you (the leaders) address the question of newbies wanting to play from the dots? Which tunes are played at your slow sessions?

Inquiring minds want to know. Thanks.

Re: Slow Sessions

I’m really anti "slow sessions". It’s just missing the point.

I like to make an effort to accommodate different levels of players at some time through an evening, but I think it’s very important for even the newest of beginners to have as much exposure as they can to this music played as it should be. And that means, quite often, quite fast.

OK so you can’t play fast yet. That’s fine, you’ll learn. But why spend time learning more and more tunes when you really can’t play any of them properly, yet.

Don’t worry about learning more tunes. Learn to play the ones you know.

Slow sessions are about feeling safe in the company of likewise. But you should always strive to play with your betters. It’s not about feeling safe. It’s about taking risks. Can you imagine what goes through the head of the slow session leader? They are usually a mediocre player in the proper session and once a week they get to bet the best in the room. Pathetic

Take risks and you’ll improve.
Go to slow sessions and you’ll never haul yourself out of the quagmire of mediocrity

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Re: Slow Sessions

Crikey!
Chill out - we all had to learn somewhere. And if there is a slower session, where people who can play with the best of ‘em are willing to give a bit of their valuable time to nurture the willing, but not so skilled, players it can only be good for the future of the music. Put these learners off, and where will the sessions of the future be? They won’t be, because all the players of the next generation will have been frightened off by the attitude of the current generation.
It’s a give and take thing - the more you put in, the more you get back. I know, I’ve been there. On both sides. And I’m more than prepared to spend half my evening helping people to better themselves in the music.
I’ve just spent an hour (after a mighty session) teaching a complete novice who has never played before, and now he can play "the breeches full of stitches" at a reasonable pace. I look forward to him coming again, and appreciating the magic of an evening playing, joining in, interacting.
The best slow session leader I ever came across was also one of the best fast players, unfortunately she moved away - the session carried on for about a year, but eventually died off. Now that’s one potential source of session players that’s not there anymore. Hopefully the other accessible learning resource in the area won’t go the same way. I give my time to teach and bring others on, I hope it means we’ll all have session musicians to play with in the future.

Give and take - but mostly give. Our future depends on it. The sessions in my area have been declining steadily for quite a while, but now they’re on the increase again.
Here’s to the day when anybody in Bristol can find a session any day of the week again. It’s about five years since that was last the case, but it’s not far off now.

Re: Slow Sessions

Well said Wurzel. I’m a pretty mediocre player myself but I love playing slower sessions, especially for kids, to encourage them but I also love seeking out the best musicians in the area & trying to better myself.

I know what it feels like for me, when far better players than I could ever hope to be, don’t object to me scratching along beside them, so what goes around, comes around & because I give of my time to encourage others, so I feel I have ‘earned’ my place, every now & then, at the big boys table.

I’m afraid I don’t have a whole lot of respect for those who just take, take, take all the time! The Ego Nobs usually end up flocking together & forming little cleeks of closed unwelcoming sessions, which give of a rather putrid odour.

When I’m playing with kids I don’t show off, or get a smug feeling of, wow look at me, I’m the best player in the room, I just have a different sort of fun. I don’t feel I have to be constantly striving to be a ‘great’ player. I think you can try ‘too hard’ sometimes & miss the point!

Re: Slow Sessions

I’ve led slow sessions for 10 years but take Michael’s points—though not his conclusions.

Caveat: when I say "slow session", it’s really a misnomer: my teaching sessions (my preferred nomenclature) are overwhelmingly (like, 90% of meeting time) toward teaching repertoire: phrase-by-phrase, learning by ear, memorizing tunes, demonstration-imitation, etc. It is very similar to the way that a great deal of tutoring is handled at the summer schools: much technique, aural skill, melodic retention, etc is taught in the overarching context of learning tunes.

Many people in the USA grow up outside the epicenters of the music and in their attempts to learn the music without the right sources often get the music wrong: trying to learn from notation, trying to learn the "arrangements" of their favorite bands, not listening enough, having no contact with master teachers who can teach in the body, etc.

I don’t think that slow sessions (as I’ve described above) miss the point. I think they represent a different phenomenon than a proper session.

No argument that all players at all levels ought "to have as much exposure as they can to this music played as it should be." But that is a separate issue from providing the tools for an entering player to begin to learn to teach her/himself.

My observation is that most entering players from outside the Irish context have a lot of work to do on learning-and-playing by ear, on melodic retention, on being patient, etc. Teaching sessions can accomplish this.

I agree absolutely with Michael that it is a mistake to "spend time learning more and more tunes when you really can’t play any of them properly, yet," and that one ought not "worry about learning more tunes. Learn to play the ones you know."

However, I don’t feel that the above is displaced or distorted by learning in a slow session setting.

"Slow sessions are about feeling safe in the company of likewise."

Disagree. I would argue that teaching sessions as I’ve described above are about *acquiring skills and tools*: technique, repertoire, phrasing, interpretation, memorization, ears.

Absolutely agree that "you should always strive to play with your betters" and that "it’s about taking risks." But, as I do not believe that the "slow session is about "feeling comfortable," I do not believe that the teaching session works against learning to take and trust risks.

"Can you imagine what goes through the head of the slow session leader? They are usually a mediocre player in the proper session and once a week they get to bet the best in the room. Pathetic."

OK, Michael. Leaving the issue of my own "pathetic" skills out of the equation, I’ll be sure to pass on your observations to the players I know who lead teaching sessions as I’ve described—they’ll get a grin out of it anyway. ;-)

Mind you, I’d absolutely agree with what I perceive to be one of Michael’s underlying points—that the music can sustain, withstand, and even demand that players make real efforts to get better. The music deserves and rewards such effort.

chris smith
http://www.coyotebanjo.com

Re: Slow Sessions

In reply to FiddleMe This’s original question….
What I do is teach one tune every lesson. I teach the tune the way I was taught flute- play the tune through, no ornamentations. Play it at session speed, then play it slowly. Several times, so the learners get it on their recording devices.
Then take the tune apart, phrase by phrase. If a piece of the tune is too long or complicated, make it smaller. But keep all the bits the same size so it’s easy to put together again at the other end of the lesson.
If I know the name of the tune (anyone who knows me will know every tune I play is called "Gan Aimn"!) I’ll print a sheet out with the dots, the ABC, and "wobbly numbers" (our own version of Tab).
Once the tune is being played, all the way through, it gets repeated ad nauseum, increasing in pace, until everyone present is playing the tune confidently and competently at medium session speed.
While this is going on, I’ll stop playing - although I’ll still make the finger movements on the flute so those that are following it can carry on doing so- and listen to each learner as they’re playing, and note any fudgy bits. Those will be dealt with on an individual basis, then it’s back to all playing together ‘till it’s right.

As for a tune list, I make that up as I go along.

Re: Slow Sessions

I’m glad that there are people out there who will take the time to spread the music. I’ve notived that the overwhelming opinion here is that if you can’t play it at speed with the rest of the session then you shouldn’t play. Ditto for if you can’t play it cleanly or add something or ornament the hell out of it, well you get my point. I do think that slow sessions are safe places. They are places where people can make mistakes and figure tunes out without getting harangued by snobby musicos.

If there was a slow session in my area I would go so that I could learn the tunes ‘live’ rather than from recordings and dots. I prefer to learn by ear so that would help me. I probably wouldn’t go to michael’s session if it was near me. I don’t need people being rude and snobby about other people’s learning methods.

Kudos to everyone who helps further the musical cause by taking in slower, beginner musicians.

Re: Slow Sessions

Ah, well that explains everything.

Re: Slow Sessions

I teach the music and I differ from Michael in ways I’ve enumerated above, but I would also wish to clarify my disagreement with several of musicfan’s comments:

"I’ve notived that the overwhelming opinion here is that if you can’t play it at speed with the rest of the session then you shouldn’t play."

No, I don’t think so. The overwhelming opinion—at least, that part that I agree with—is that, if you can’t play at speed, you should listen, learn, and be grateful for the chance to hear strong playering—and should work on your own at home.

"Ditto for if you can’t play it cleanly or add something or ornament the hell out of it, well you get my point."

Don’t get it or agree with it. Practice at home. Listen at the session, until such time as you can play the music effectively within the style.

"without getting harangued by snobby musicos."

It’s not snobbery (well, not in most cases). It’s people who have spent years and years learning to play the music right, often without hardly any encouragement, who expect those entering the music to play it right, and to respect those situations in which the best contribution an entering player can make is to not play.

"I don’t need people being rude and snobby about other people’s learning methods."

Again, it’s not snobbery. Some learning methods are appropriate and productive for this music—others are not. Snobbery doesn’t enter into the equation (though that is a very common accusation made by people who don’t understand the essential role the traditional learning methods play).

chris smith

Re: Slow Sessions

I’ve never been to a "slow session" but sometimes we play tunes slowly at ours. We usually let the person starting the tune establish the tempo at whatever speed they like. We’ll play with them at their speed, and they’ll play at ours for tunes we start. If we play too fast for them they can listen. Sometimes they play too slow for me and I’ll listen, and sometimes people will show up that play too fast for me too — and I listen.

I’d rather see everyone enjoying themselves and sharing the music rather than separating out into tempo-specific sessions. The only time I think you really need to remove yourself as a group and reconvene somewhere else is if you want a tune learning session. Otherwise it’s nice to hear the music at a lot of different tempos during the night.

Re: Slow Sessions

I’ve been teaching music to kids for 28 years and to me the ideal learning environment is one in which you can be surrounded by a high level of achievement, followed by the chance to slow the pace, break down the information, digest it, review it, and put it back together without ever losing sight of the ideal (what it’s supposed to sound like).

I guess I’m very lucky- our beginner session immediately precedes the regular session, and many beginners stay to listen and learn (and occasionally join in.)

Re: Slow Sessions

Folks can play at any pace they want; as long as I don’t have to listen to the sloppier bits. If there is a " slow session " at my local,( sometimes there is ) I leave. " Slow sessions" probably should be in private. Like rehearsals for plays.

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Re: Slow Sessions

coyotebanjo, wurzel, and Greg the Pianotuner are talking about directed education, more like "tunes class" with an objective in view. That’s kind of inspiring…..

I’m afraid my experience has been more in line with what MG and Farr are talking about. Same couple of dozen tunes, over and over and over, just played slow. I guess that’s OK, I’d rather "soar". But I’m also with PB as well, why should any session be all one thing.? More fun to mix them up.

Re: Slow Sessions

In an ideal world, Michael would be right.

However, there’s not that many "openings" for beginners and improvers to enter some of the "big boys" sessions. For instance, I’m not suggesting Sandy Bells is unfriendly(some might but I’ve always been welcome) but it is small and, most of the time, there’s only room for those who can make a significant contribution. I’ve joined some of the sessions there many times over the years but, even although I’ve been playing for a few years now, I’ll either take a back seat or opt out if I don’t know much of the repertoire and it’s very busy.

Having said that, Michael’s generally correct. I think slow sessions do have a place but players should try to break out of them. If they can find a regular session with a bit of space and go in with the right attitude, it gives them a chance to hear how music should be played and which tunes are current. It doesn’t really matter if they can play more than one or two and it’s probably better than playing the same old tunes at a slow session for years on end.

However, there are some good slow sessions in Edinburgh and one of our members here runs a particularly good one. Although it’s really intended for beginners, you’ll often get more experienced players "looking in". I’ve done so two or three times and could see certain benefits, e.g tunes were played more slowly so weaknessnes in technique such as tone, intonation etc are more apparent and can be rectified, ornaments and other effects can be polished to perfection, it was a good source for new and particularly Scottish tunes, it provides a good opportunity to play a new or different instrument which you might be reluctant to take into a regular session, and so on.

I’d also argue that slow sessions benefit from supervision as opposed to those general sessions which attract beginners. Often, there’s no discipline there at all and the tunes speed up or slow down in an erratic fashion and the repertoire tends to get rather stale. At least in an organised slow session, the leader will introduce new tunes on a regular basis and ensure that the timing is correct, albeit slower than normal.
Also, "slow" is a misleading term. You’ll usually find that in most of these scenarios, the participants will be encouraged to "play up to speed" (and they do) as soon as they are able.

Re: Slow Sessions

I think the term ‘slow session’ is a misnomer. Surely they are another sort of workshop(?) Or a communal practice. The idea of calling them Slow sessions is a slightly dangerous one, i think, because it gives the idea that these are ‘safe’, friendly and cuddly sesions, whereas ‘fast’ (real?) sessions are scary things that you should only attend once you’ve graduated from your slow session.
Which is a pretty duff idea IMHO.

Re: Slow Sessions

Well I guess I’ll defend my opinions.

"No, I don’t think so. The overwhelming opinion—at least, that part that I agree with—is that, if you can’t play at speed, you should listen, learn, and be grateful for the chance to hear strong playering—and should work on your own at home."

Therefore you should listen and not play. Sometimes playing is the only real way to figure out if you actually have a tune.


"Don’t get it or agree with it. Practice at home. Listen at the session, until such time as you can play the music effectively within the style."

My point simply is that it seems to be from the opinions typically expressed here that if someone isn’t perfect they should be at home practicing and just listening at the sessions.


"It’s not snobbery (well, not in most cases). It’s people who have spent years and years learning to play the music right, often without hardly any encouragement, who expect those entering the music to play it right, and to respect those situations in which the best contribution an entering player can make is to not play."

It seems to me that often people are expecting beginners to play the music in the correct manner from the beginning. Forgetting that they too had to go through a long and ardous learning period to pick up the music. What you’ve described is a form of snobbery. But my comment about snobbery was aimed at being degrading towards those who choose to help beginners by hosting slow or learning sessions.


"Again, it’s not snobbery. Some learning methods are appropriate and productive for this music—others are not. Snobbery doesn’t enter into the equation (though that is a very common accusation made by people who don’t understand the essential role the traditional learning methods play)."

I wasn’t suggesting that we go out and encourage every person to learn the music from dots. I was defending the style of teaching you yourself use. I was disagreeing with the idea that the slow/learning session was a bad idea and that people should just tape regular sessions and practice by themselves at home. I have studied traditional music with teachers and on my own. I understand that the best way to learn is from the best by listening and playing along. Luckily the people I know are all really great about letting someone pick up a tune during their jams.

That said, I don’t attend slow jams here in the states. I like playing fast, but I love slowing down to let beginners play, why? Because I love seeing the music spread. I still remember being six and being welcomed into a circle of musicians with an instrument I could barely play and having them play stuff that I could play along with. I love taking beginners aside and teaching them tunes or playing with them under tempo so that they can learn, it’s all for the same reasons. I’m just grateful that the musicians that I have always been surrounded have been open and welcoming over playing slower and easier songs throughout the night.

Re: Slow Sessions

I don’t think anyone is saying there is anything wrong with learning a a workshop, or group lesson, or that anyone should be deterred from getting together with a group of like minded individuals and play whatever sort of music at whatever sort of speed they like. I just think that the term ‘slow session’ sticks in the craw a bit, and seems tied up with the idea of ‘learning music FOR the session’, rather than purely ‘learning the music’. It seems like a sort of molly-coddling. Why not learn some tunes, have some lessons, maybe, and then go sit in a session. If the session is a good one, it will exist as a social as well as a musical entity. Having been invited to join it (important), I feel that they should include you to the extent of asking you to play at least one set of tunes, which ideally would first be listened to (preferably with a few audible displays of appreciation/encouragement) and then maybe gradually joined in with. If you are invited to join and then ignored, that is rude. If you are not invited to join, it probably wasn’t the best place for you to play.

Re: Slow Sessions

I agree. But I think that if they choose to call it a slow session they shouldn’t be ridiculed or put down for their choice of nomenclature. There isn’t anyone around here for me to take lessons with, there aren’t any regular sessions close by either so I would jump at a chance to go to a slow session and learn some tunes. I wouldn’t be going to learn to play in a session, I would be going to learn the tunes. I don’t think that we can judge how each particular person feels about whether they are learning to play for a session or just learning the tunes. It probably varies from person to person.

If you can afford lessons, and there are teachers around then I would suggest taking lessons. I’d also suggest sitting in on sessions just to listen to get a feel for the music. But if that isn’t available, the lesson part, then going to a slow or learner session to learn tunes is also good. At least then they aren’t just learning from midi’s or cd’s or dots.

It’s kind of funny that we are arguing semantics. I think we all mean the same things probably feel similiarly about the same ideas we’re just using different words to express our feelings.

Re: Slow Sessions

Yes, of course - semantics… I think it was the choice of the expression ‘Slow session’ that triggered Michael’s explosion of bile(!)
Personally I just find the expression mildly irritating for the following reasons:
1) I feel that that a group lesson which apes the style of a session is probably encouraging ‘session-wanabees’ rather than those who love the music as music, and are happy to play it in any context.
2) It also seems part of a creeping nanny-state mentality that seems to infect every human activity these days. No-one is ever encouraged to jump in at the deep end any more. For example, Kids don’t leave school and get a job any more, they go on a succession of schemes and courses to ensure that the work experience doesn’t come as too much of a shock to their little systems. The concept of graduating through a formally named ‘slow session’ feels like that to me.
However, as you rightly point out, the term is just a term and we are largely talking semantics, because I think the idea of group lessons and people of a similar level seeking each other out and playing together is a great one.

Re: Slow Sessions

This certainly has become a lively discussion. I appreciate everyone’s opinion. Even your eloquence Michael ;)

Semantics aside, let me describe our learning session in a bit more detail. It began as an outgrowth of one of our regular sessions for the specific purpose of teaching the music to newbies. The goal is to not teach tunes but to rather all aspects of the traditions. We work most heavily on listening to the other players and rhythm.

In the year and a half or so we’ve only taught about 25-30 tunes so the emphasis is not on building a big list but rather have a few core tunes to work on the details with.

Our regular session always encourages all players to join in and play what you are able to proficiently and listen to and record everything. ~Ken

Re: Slow Sessions

Ken - that seems to be exactly what everyone is idealizing in their posts. It really is funny how people can argue something with the only dividing line being semantics.
Mark - I understand and agree I’m tired of a world where no-one is allowed to fail. No-one loses games or anything. You’re right in that people tend to safe-guard their kids from risks.
It does seem like Ken’s ‘slow session’ is the teaching/learning session that we all like. I really like that they focus on listening and rhythm and such.

Re: Slow Sessions

My name is Deb. I am a “Slow-Session” Participant.. It has been exactly 3 weeks and 3 days since my last slow session.

I’m still on the “donkey tunes” as have been labeled here. I am still working through speed, rhythm, ornaments, etc. I am not ready for “prime time”. Having the opportunity to play in a group setting with various other instruments is great.

There is no guarantee that after lessons, practice and this "group learning activity"(slow session), that success is a given. There are no short cuts with learning & playing music. The slow session is simply another tool to aid in learning, as well as a really nice way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Re: Slow Sessions

When people who are learning the music ask me what I think about "slow sessions" I usually advise them against it. The reason being that of influence and inspiration. There were no "slow sessions" when I was learning and I was influenced and inspired by people who were playing the music in real time. I think there might be a danger in being influenced by the music in an artificial slow state. Often the slow sessions are inhabited with beginners, (but I’m not sure about this because I’ve never gone to any.) I’ve heard reports that this is the case though. So my advise to people who ask me is to try to attend regular sessions and get their influence and inspiration there. At some point they’ll be able to join in, but until then they can still benefit by being there.

When people come to our session who are learning the music I try to be very supportive. The ones I respect the most are the ones who can actually resist noodling on everything and listen. I try to include them in conversation and I encourage them as much as possible. Some of them now have become contributing players and are learning tunes at an impressive pace. Sometimes their tempo is a little slower, and that’s fine, but I’m also impressed with how quickly they get into the groove — I think it might have something to do with how they were influenced. Some of them are getting quite good now and we try to include their tunes as much as possible – and I’m very glad they are there.

Re: Slow Sessions

"How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" eh, Phantom? It seems to me that most people go to these beginner sesh’s because they’re intimidated by the normal ones or they want a nice, safe environment to not play well. I never went to a slow session when I was starting out and I don’t understand the problem people have with practicing until they feel ready to play in front of people.

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Re: Slow Sessions

Although this only one of two learning sessions I’ve had any experience with, but at 50 I am one of the younger people there. I wonder if that has any bearing on their wanting to start in a slow session and play with their peers. Starting this music later in life seems to be an entirely different ball game from what I’ve seen than for those starting in their 20’s or earlier.

Different people learn in different ways. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. The trick is not to pick up any bad habit along the way and to keep perspective on your goals. It is important to keep in mind is that a slow session is a learning session. It is a means to and end, not an end in and of itself. If you are working toward a goal of gaining the skills and confidence to play at a regular session I think you are on the right track.

Re: Slow Sessions

I have been taking lessons for a year and a half. I consider myself lucky that 4 seasoned veterans of sessions are willing to give a couple of hours up to get the beginners going.

As far as inspiration, the session has 4 veteran musicians and 5 beginners aged 12 & 13 and me, 51. Just hearing these kids was inspiring, not to mention seeing the joy in their faces because of playing in a group. That as the saying goes is priceless. I know that sounds corny, sloppy whatever, but it really was great.

Re: Slow Sessions

I know what you mean Deb. One regular session in Cincinnati has players from 6 to 60 playing at all levels of development. It’s a joy to see the smiles on the young and the old. But that’s what this music is all about to me, generating smiles :)

Re: Slow Sessions

Jack makes a good point that illustrates one of the possible pitfalls of hanging out at ‘Slow Sessions’. :

‘Some of them now have become contributing players and are learning tunes at an impressive pace. Sometimes their tempo is a little slower, and that’s fine, but I’m also impressed with how quickly they get into the groove’

The reason they get into the groove quickly is because they have to. If you want to play high quality music as quickly as possible, unfortunately, it might not be a comfortable ride, but it should be an exhilarating one. I worry that Slow Sessions might erode that edge - because if you get to be good, that nervous excitement might be part of what makes you sound exciting. I’m no great shakes as a flute player, and sometimes I find myself playing with or in front of people where I realise I’m really a bit out of my depth. But nothing beats the rush of giving it your best shot, sweat beading on your brow, and your embouchure on the verge of falling apart, but just pulling it off and the old guy who knows just how close to the edge you came smiling at you and tipping you the wink. I just can’t see how you can get the necessary adrenalin to play with sufficient ‘edge’ at a slow session….

Re: Slow Sessions

In Ireland I saw a session once that was a 6 to 60 sort of affair. It was a Comhaltas session in Ennis where Sonny Murray and a couple of other fellas were leading the tunes and providing a great example at a learning session. The difference there being that most of the participants were under 15. I think if you learn to play ITM in Ireland it’s more likely that you’d have taken it up as a child. Here in the US many of us didn’t hear it at all until we were adults so we might find ourselves side by side with kids learning together.

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I can appreciate what you are saying Ottery, but after a mere year and a half, I wouldn’t play in a reg. session, no way on God’s green earth. I also think that when the time comes to run with the big dogs, I will be as nervous and probably dribble on myself before I am able to confidently lift my leg. :)

Re: Slow Sessions

I think that the adrenaline is part of it. And I believe that people should get out there and listen to better musicians so that they can catch the adrenaline. I also see nothing wrong with starting in a learning session so that they can learn a piece well enough to be capable of even reaching an edge. It’s bad when just sqawking the tune out is the adrenaline rush edge. So, go learn some tunes, practice at home, go play with others and learn more tunes in a learning session and then go to a ‘real’ session and become an adrenaline junkie!

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Debwah,
I would lay money on the fact that I’ve played in ‘proper’ sessions where people less experienced than you have made a positive contribution(!) The longer you leave it, the harder it is. (ooh ‘er missus!)
But having said that, it’s not my place to force anyone to do anything they don’t want to do

Re: Slow Sessions

I think another difference between the kids and the adults when it comes to sessions is that adults are in more of a hurry to jump right into the scene. Kids are happy to just be learning, and if they stick with it they’ll enter the session scene quite comfortably when they’re old enough. Adults are already old enough and have witnessed people having fun in sessions — and they want to be part of it — and they want it now. At least that’s what it was like for me. I entered the whole thing prematurely, I only wish I had more insight at the time and could have been a little more patient.

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Ah geez Ottery, now I am going to have to do it. My teacher says the same thing as you! Drat, I thought I sounded good being polite, patient etc. Saw right through me!

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Hmm, I think that another difference between kids and adults is that adults are more self-concious and more likely to hang back or go to a slow/learner session so that they don’t feel stupid while kids are more likely to jump right in because they aren’t afraid of making mistakes. Plus people tend to go easier on kids who obviously can’t have been playing for very long then beginning adults since they can’t judge how long the adult has been playing.

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Take the plunge, Deb. Adrenaline: good. Listening: good. Staying home: bad. Gonna be dead some day!

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Um. That was a little weird. Not a threat, just a comment on the ephemeral nature of existence, and the need to live life, seize the day, etc., etc.

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Sounded like a threat to me
;-)

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I agree music fan, as an old codger, I am very aware of my mistakes. My teacher had me run through Harvest Home at last lesson. She indicated I could play it at a regular session. But it still will be as painful as having my teeth pulled!

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So Semer Fi Batlady? Don’t the Marines throw you in a large pool with excess clothing, to sink or swim? I’ll be the 1 in 5 at the bottom of that pool, glugging Harvest Home……:)

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Don’t stay at home… no need. There’s this gal been coming in for the last year who played violin but didn’t know tune one. She would come in week after week and sit with her fiddle on her lap and her recording thingy on the table. She’s lovely and nice to have around — and didn’t seem to be bothered that she couldn’t join in with the tunes. Occasionally others would try to get her to play and make fiddling gestures towards her while lifting their eyebrows, (this would annoy her) but she was content to just listen. Her first tune was the ‘Kid on the Mountain’ and we would try to play it each week. Slowly she would have a new tune here and there when we asked her, but would sit and listen the rest of the time. I have to say, I’ve never seen her noodle once, and I admire that. Now she has a good 20 or 30 or so tunes and she’ll put 2 or 3 into medleys. She’s very strong and plays with confidence when she does play, and her styling sounds very astute. I think the tunes will come pouring out of her someday and she’ll be one of the best players around. She’s my poster-child for how to do it right.

Re: Slow Sessions

That’s the ideal, Jack. And besides, a session is a social thing. The fiddle (Or whatever you drag in there) is merely a tool.

Oh, Deb, we’ve all been thrashing around in that pool. I have days where I come home soaked…..

(Warning: pointless digression alert.) I’ve been sort of in a fiddle funk for the past month or so; just not interested in working on the tunes. My regular session took a break over the summer, but we got together last weekend. Suddenly, it all has a point again (cue soaring music). I was reminded of how much of a charge I get from sitting down with a group of folks who play music. Duh, as my daughter would say….

Re: Slow Sessions

I like the way this has turned into a positive affirmation for going to the regular session and learning music. Many of us learned a good deal of music in regular sessions and do not see that slow sessions are essential or mandatory.

This is not to say that one should avoid group lessons or tune-learning workshops, especially when given by a master musician.

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Re: Slow Sessions

I’m somewhat of a beginner, but I’d agree that the slow session is of limited use if your goal is learning the music (rather than acquiring tunes) and playing in sessions.

The slow session I play in is not any kind of a lesson by an experienced player, but is more of a regular session format attended by players whose skill levels vary a great deal, and who accommodate eachother as far as speed and repetoire go. I’ve connected with people there that have really added to my knowledge and enjoyment of the music. And often, by accident I think, experienced players show up and stir things up, which is always greatly enjoyed by all.

But at the same time, since beginning, I’ve always gone to regular sessions at the same pub. And though I’ve spent many long evenings with my instrument firmly planted on my lap (less firmly as time goes on), I’ve also enjoyed some of the best ITM I’ve ever heard. It’s a great inspiration to be near this level of playing, the discussion and lore about the tunes, and the sharing and teaching that goes on among the best players; its really what motivates me (aside from the music alone) to keep learning, and keep putting myself out there.

Re: Slow Sessions

It seems most of the slow sessions out there are filled with young people. At the slow session here in Melbourne, which is just a slow session rather than a learning session, most of the participants are retirees.

Re: Slow Sessions

As I see it, slow sessions can usefully be used for
1) improving technique by playing well known tunes slowly and concentrating on the technique
2) improving listening and ensemble skills
3) teaching new tunes aurally - I play 2 bars, you play two bars

I don’t think slow sessions are for people to play slowly all night, for no other reason than they haven’t practised enough or been taught properly (although that may not be their fault).

Re: Slow Sessions

In most cases it’s almost impossible to keep "slow sessions" slow as musicians start picking up the tunes from week to week and the tempo invariably creeps up towards normal speed. But surely that’s the measure of the success of the exercise which is primarily to assist musicians in developing a decent tunes repertoire - a reasonable ambition for any trad player. A "medium session" would probably be a better description of most of the slow sessions I’ve experienced.

The Tuesday slow sessions at the Monkstown Culturlann always wind up with an hour or so at normal speed giving musicians a chance to play tunes they’ve learnt previously. This means that there’s something for all tastes throughout the night!

Re: Slow Sessions

I have played in many sessions in my time, and whether I’m a "mediocre player in the proper session" is better judged by others. However, what I observed and learned in "proper" sessions convinced me that an alternative was possible, and that the alternative could be a valuable learning environment.

Sessions can be hostile and intimidating, especially for learners but even for experienced players. Some sessions I’ve been to have been more like competitive sporting events, and, in my opinion, anyone aspiring to play tunes THAT fast is missing the point.

I started a session which was going to be a welcoming, friendly place, where anyone could come and join in playing tunes, listen to the music, and have fun. So far two other sessions have broken away from mine, by players who were ready to take their own playing to another level - that’s exactly what I want. On the other hand, more experienced musicians enjoy popping in to the session now and again to "play tunes at a sensible pace".

My session has now been going for more than seven years, and I am committed to its concept, its purpose and its continuance. It’s very successful - the people who come get a huge pleasure from playing music with other people which, in my opinion, is what it’s all about.

Re: Slow Sessions

Nigel,
You’ll note that I did mention that your session was a worthwhile project, though I didn’t name you as such.
In an ideal world, it should be possible for learners to go to the "big boys" sessions and learn at the "feet of the masters" (as Michael suggests)but we both know that this isn’t always possible.
Of course, budding sessioneers shouldn’t become too reliant on slow sessions and they ought to make an effort to "break out" eventually if they wish.

Also, for the reasons we have both given, even experienced musicians can gain something from attending the occasional slow session.