How frustrated are you with sessions these days and is there any better options? When they work and have a strong core of musicians driving them they can be great. There is also no doubt that there are some fantastic ones around the country, but these are by semi professional and professional musicians. In speaking to some friends recently they stated their disappointment with the general sessions. Too many musicians, too much singing, too much drinking between sets, to loose. You name it they could describe it and I think I got them on a good day.

I have also long held the belief that sessions are not necessarily the best way to learn and musicians should be getting together in smaller groups, learning some sets, and then starting their own session in the knowledge that they were in control of how it progressed.

Are there any better options?

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To Anne Wright: I find that if you play the tune the way most people in your local area play it then you will be pretty sure to be playing it as "right" as possible. However, be aware that people in other areas of the world play the same tune slightly different. I use a recorder to record the predominant playing of the tune and then write that version out in Easy ABC format then I have a model to work from. Hope this helps with the frustration.

Jim

Thats a great idea of plugging the guitar in to a small amp, to be able to lead tunes.

I know a session in Galway which is completely un-amplified, except for a mouth organ

player who plugs his mouth organ into a small amp. It works well & he does not over

dominate things.

Only suggestion I would make - don't assume that because the session is such-and-such a

way, even is such-and-such a way for months/years, that they don't welcome something

different! I've been organizing a session for years, which looks very traditional. But if a saxophone

player walked in and joined, I'd love it! If a bass guitar player joined in (amplified backing, not too

loud), I'd love it!



Kathy Barwick said:

I'm a guitar player. 2 guitars in a session is difficult (backing) so sessions just aren't that fun for me. (Except for a great session I played in Dublin, where the other guitarist and I worked together I know lots of the melodies but without amplification it's no use at all to play along. I did participate in a small session with a friend of mine where everyone encouraged me to plug into my little Roland Cube. ... sounded great and I could lead tunes then. And the backing sounded more in balance with the rest of the players too. That was the most fun I had at a session. Sadly, that session isn't going anymore.

There's another session nearby that bans amplification, which is ironic because the room is very loud and about the only thing that can be heard at all is the pipes.

I do like to go occasionally to hear the tunes. I get lots of ideas for things to learn that way.

I know that session! Is it still going?


I know a session in Galway which is completely un-amplified, except for a mouth organ

player who plugs his mouth organ into a small amp. It works well & he does not over

dominate things.

Yep - as far as I know!

Brid Clarke said:

I know that session! Is it still going?


I know a session in Galway which is completely un-amplified, except for a mouth organ

player who plugs his mouth organ into a small amp. It works well & he does not over

dominate things.

Part of my frustration is my own lack of musicality.  I can't hear a tune and play it.  If I hear a tune a lot, I can play it in my head, but don't have a clue what notes to play on an instrument.  I did the recorder route in a session, but if I can't find the sheet music to match it I can't play it.  I know that goes against how a good Irish musician learns and plays.  I'm just having too much fun (despite the frustration) to give up.  Last time I played an instrument, it was a clarinet in grade school, so I'm learning how to play an instrument at the same time I'm learning a musical genre.  

So to answer Tony's original question, what frustrates me about sessions is me!

Jim Wells Sr said:

To Anne Wright: I find that if you play the tune the way most people in your local area play it then you will be pretty sure to be playing it as "right" as possible. However, be aware that people in other areas of the world play the same tune slightly different. I use a recorder to record the predominant playing of the tune and then write that version out in Easy ABC format then I have a model to work from. Hope this helps with the frustration.

Jim

To Anne Wright: First of all: don't give up. I agree with you, this music is too much fun to just give up. You mention not being able to "hear the tune and then play it". I can do this with simpler tunes, but it takes years of practice to do so with complicated tunes and forget learning tunes by ear at full speed until you are an expert (professional level). I have been playing music (trumpet) since I was 8 years old and am now in my 70s  and learning by ear comes easy for me so I guess what I am saying is to be gentle with yourself. It takes years of practice to do some of these things that other people do so easily.  Some will never do them (like learning by ear) and others do them so quickly and easily that we must be careful not to see ourselves less than them. Those who learn quickly and easily I call talented. Talent is not required for the joy of playing Traditional Iris music. Just a dedication to practice, learn and try new things. I suggest you find a beginner session in your local area and start with reading music and playing slowly so that you can build skills. My website: http://www.dallasslowsessions.com has an example of what we are doing here in Dallas, Texas. We have sheet music for beginner and intermediate sessions on our website that you can download and practice with. They are simple tunes that are known at most sessions throughout the world.

I suggest you start playing with a penny whistle. It is a great instrument to start on and get the basics with.


If you do not have a beginner session in your area, I suggest you ask an intermediate level player to start one. I have created a website for just that purpose. You can find it at: http://www.traditionalirishmusicsessions.com/.

Again, I encourage you to not give up. Many of us started on clarinets or trumpets or other band instruments as children and then made the transition to Traditional Irish music instruments later in life.

Good luck and have fun learning.

Jim

Well said, Jim.

As the old saying goes, " Do THAT for which God has intended, even if you do it imperfectly. All else brings you into spiritual danger." ... and it sorta helps when you find someone to share in the fun of it.

It's only taken me a short 60 years to figure that one out. Thanks for being a good teacher and friend, Jim.

KelticDead

Jim Wells Sr said:

To Anne Wright: First of all: don't give up. I agree with you, this music is too much fun to just give up. You mention not being able to "hear the tune and then play it". I can do this with simpler tunes, but it takes years of practice to do so with complicated tunes and forget learning tunes by ear at full speed until you are an expert (professional level). I have been playing music (trumpet) since I was 8 years old and am now in my 70s  and learning by ear comes easy for me so I guess what I am saying is to be gentle with yourself. It takes years of practice to do some of these things that other people do so easily.  Some will never do them (like learning by ear) and others do them so quickly and easily that we must be careful not to see ourselves less than them. Those who learn quickly and easily I call talented. Talent is not required for the joy of playing Traditional Iris music. Just a dedication to practice, learn and try new things. I suggest you find a beginner session in your local area and start with reading music and playing slowly so that you can build skills. My website: http://www.dallasslowsessions.com has an example of what we are doing here in Dallas, Texas. We have sheet music for beginner and intermediate sessions on our website that you can download and practice with. They are simple tunes that are known at most sessions throughout the world.

I suggest you start playing with a penny whistle. It is a great instrument to start on and get the basics with.


If you do not have a beginner session in your area, I suggest you ask an intermediate level player to start one. I have created a website for just that purpose. You can find it at: http://www.traditionalirishmusicsessions.com/.

Again, I encourage you to not give up. Many of us started on clarinets or trumpets or other band instruments as children and then made the transition to Traditional Irish music instruments later in life.

Good luck and have fun learning.

Jim

Anne, if I may make a suggestion, try this (not to the exclusion of what you're already doing and of course not in a session, but at home): When you can play a tune in your head, sit down and find the notes (by matching) one at a time. Build the tune one note at a time. It will take you a long time to find them all, and don't look for note 4 until you've learned the first 3. And, when looking for those note.... just guess. If the note you guess is higher (or lower) than the one in your head, adjust accordingly. You'll be training yourself to hear intervals. And, playing the scale of the tune before working on it will help you eliminate many of the wrong options.

Put this on a long-term learning strategy. You'll find the second tune comes easier than the first, using this method. After you've done this for a while you will be learning how to find notes. You'll also be learning to recognize things you already know by ear (lots of repetition in these tunes).

Players that do this in the session... are more or less doing the same thing but faster. Same process.

So start slow, one note at a time. I've been playing guitar since 1968 and this is still how I do it. You'll find it slow going at first but 1. memorization will be easier and 2. you'll be learning where those notes are.

Hope this is helpful.

Anne Wright said:

Part of my frustration is my own lack of musicality.  I can't hear a tune and play it.  If I hear a tune a lot, I can play it in my head, but don't have a clue what notes to play on an instrument.

It does take lots of practise, I remember when I was first starting out I had music written in ABCs. Anyhow I started lessons with a new fiddle teacher and she refused to teach me with music, I was so upset at the time, but realise now that she was doing me a favour. I remember sitting down for hours and ours and rewinding tapes (omg) over and over. I thought I would never get it. But eventually I did. 

Another great thing is the 'Amazing Slow downer' you can download it for free off the internet. You can put tunes to as slow as you need them without changing the pitch. Very clever little app. 

I do think learning by ear is important, in the long run, if you don't have it it will hold you back. And because you already have theory under your belt - well the sky is the limit! 

Anne Wright said:

Part of my frustration is my own lack of musicality.  I can't hear a tune and play it.  If I hear a tune a lot, I can play it in my head, but don't have a clue what notes to play on an instrument.  I did the recorder route in a session, but if I can't find the sheet music to match it I can't play it.  I know that goes against how a good Irish musician learns and plays.  I'm just having too much fun (despite the frustration) to give up.  Last time I played an instrument, it was a clarinet in grade school, so I'm learning how to play an instrument at the same time I'm learning a musical genre.  

So to answer Tony's original question, what frustrates me about sessions is me!

Jim Wells Sr said:

To Anne Wright: I find that if you play the tune the way most people in your local area play it then you will be pretty sure to be playing it as "right" as possible. However, be aware that people in other areas of the world play the same tune slightly different. I use a recorder to record the predominant playing of the tune and then write that version out in Easy ABC format then I have a model to work from. Hope this helps with the frustration.

Jim

The last session I attended (at Larkin's Pub in Garrykennedy, Co. Tipperary) had a really nice feature - they would let anyone even a rank beginner play something by themselves, in between the tunes of the regular session at various times.  Young children would play whatever piece they could at whatever speed they could, and everyone applauded and encouraged them, then the regulars would play some more and the youngsters/beginners got to listen and learn.  The regulars were very good too; more than one all-Ireland champion in the weeks that I was there.  It gave the beginners a supportive outlet for their first efforts in public, and it gave the session regulars a chance to evaluate someone new with the option of inviting them to continue on in the session.  A really warm and friendly group, though this has nearly always been my experience in rural Ireland. 

session in the white house ashbourne county dublin  12 folk singers 5 trad musicians an outstanding session very welcoming landlord irish folk music is not dead yet when you see such gifted singers and musicians dublin is the place for it songs from the fureys dubliners clancy brothers i will be back 



professor moriarty said:

sessions in london are a click they give you the cold shoulder to visitors it was feautered on an article in the the irish music magazine the british way of life is different  to the irish dublin sessions are wonderfull o donoughes pub ithe famous pub theyask you to playin merrion row most sessions in dublin  and ireland are friendly then ireland is the land of welcomes england is the land of unwelcomes especially london 

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