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Music Books at Pub Sessions


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We have many folks who started late in life, a surprising number of classically trained musicians from local orchestras, and a mix of trad and non-trad instruments. I don't care what instruments show up at the session, or if folks bring music. I just explain that if they get used to this, they have to understand they can't just show up at any session and be welcomed. I do provide a printed collection of common tunes, which I encourage people to learn on their own.

 

So what happens here is that we get the beginners, who for the most part eventually learn to lose the sheet music and listen better. We now occasionally sound completely awesome, hammered dulcimers and double bass included. Eventually some of the better players 'graduate' to the other session, which is fine. Makes me feel like the idea is working. Different members have spawned at least 3 other performing groups.

 

 

The above pretty much describes the sessions that began in my local pub two years ago as "beginners" nights. (Firstly, though, let me state up front that I hugely admire the members of this community who play by ear and only by ear. As somebody who didn't pick up a free reed instrument until I'd turned 50, clearing a route along the ear/brain/finger pathway has been hard graft, and having printed music in front of me has been a huge help in getting started). Anyhow, back to our "beginners" nights. We started with a small repertoire of tunes, mainly traditional English, printed out and mounted in ring binders designed to stand upright. The main point of the evenings was to have FUN making music which we certainly did. And do. The number of people turning up to these sessions has grown and grown. A year or so back there were too many of us to fit into the snug (especially when a couple of cellos arrived) so we started holding our sessions in the back bar (which is twice the size of the snug). That's absolutely bursting now, giving a great atmosphere. We now have a tune book containing 100 tunes. These are also avilable in the abc format so people can print them out at home and practise. Yes, we have printed music on the tables. What tends to happen, though, is that most of the "beginners" don't stay beginners, though they continue to come to the sessions. They simply make less and less use of the books.

 

Like Blathskite's session, ours has taken on a life outside the pub. Most significantly, we now have a dance band playing (mainly) English traditional music. Usually we muster 20+ musicians for an evening's dancing. This Saturday we're playing at a fundraiser for a women's project in India. Next month we're playing at a dance to raise money for a local green (i.e. environmental) festival. In March we're playing at a fundraiser for a children's hospice. When you think about it, this has all happened from scratch in two years and, arguably, it wouldn't have happened at all without the availability of printed music.

 

The pub, incidentally, is The Beech Inn in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester (UK). We have sessions on Wednesdays, alternating tune evenings and song evenings. Oh yes -- there are Irish sessions at The Beech on Mondays -- no printed music anywhere to be seen!

Edited by Tatter Jacket
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What is it about Irish Sessions that they have to have so many rules and regulation, mostly unwritten, that will get you ostracised/thrown out/shouted at if you transgress them? Most English/Euro sessions seem to be far more tolerant of beginners/readers/odd instruments etc.

 

It seems that to become what is designated a competent Irish player you have to listen to the correct CDs and learn all the nuances, by ear, no tune books; then practice in solitude until you emerge as a fully fledged player with the require repertoire under your belt. :blink:

 

the biggest thing in irish sessions is that you have to know your music by memory. if you know only one set, or one tune, we are very welcoming. if you pretend to know sets by pulling out sheet music, some people might not be very welcoming.

 

the way that most of us have become "fully fledged players" is by sitting quietly in the circle at our sessions week after week, until our one set naturally blossoms into a whole repertoire through immersion. you have to practice at home, yes, but most of the tunes that i play at sessions are tunes i learned in sessions and never studied at home. all the tunes i work on at home (for hours every day) are tunes that no one else seems to know B)

You are fortunate to have hours a day to practise. :)

 

Following your encouragement to others to sign up for Noel Hill Irish Music Schools, (which some this side of the pond have said they might be interested in), does he send out the scores a long time before the event so that people have time to learn them in advance? Presumably you have to play by ear/memory without score during the workshops/sessions?

 

http://www.concertina.net/forums/index.php?showtopic=11612

 

BTW with the pound getting more dollars at the moment. it could be more interesting. How much did the school cost (without travel costs) incl. food and bed?

Edited by Kautilya
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David makes an important point. It takes time to become a session player. Starting out by sitting quietly on the edges and joining in where you can is essential, not just to build up a repertoire but also to gain a deeper understanding of the music. Listening is as important as playing, and they're not mutually exclusive. However I doubt you can listen effectively if you spending half your time trying to find the right page and the rest of it trying to figure out what they're playing when it doesn't quite match what's in front of you.

 

It's also important to understand that the culture of traditional music sessions is to play without music, and to respect that. You wouldn't go along to your local orchestra and tell the conductor, "Just start playing and I'll pick it up" - you'd be expected to be able to play from a score. With traditional music you're expected to play without.

 

By all means use written music as an aide-memoire, to share tunes, and to learn new tunes - although you can only properly start to learn a traditional tune once you've put the music to one side and started to play it. If as a novice you find you need music to lead a tune, then this may be tolerated, but only for so long - after a while you'll be expected to move on to playing without. If you have to use a prompt, use it discreetly - there's a world of difference from the occasional glance to ensure you're staying on course and playing the whole thing from the dots

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What is it about Irish Sessions that they have to have so many rules and regulation, mostly unwritten, that will get you ostracised/thrown out/shouted at if you transgress them? Most English/Euro sessions seem to be far more tolerant of beginners/readers/odd instruments etc.

 

It seems that to become what is designated a competent Irish player you have to listen to the correct CDs and learn all the nuances, by ear, no tune books; then practice in solitude until you emerge as a fully fledged player with the require repertoire under your belt. :blink:

 

the biggest thing in irish sessions is that you have to know your music by memory. if you know only one set, or one tune, we are very welcoming. if you pretend to know sets by pulling out sheet music, some people might not be very welcoming.

 

the way that most of us have become "fully fledged players" is by sitting quietly in the circle at our sessions week after week, until our one set naturally blossoms into a whole repertoire through immersion. you have to practice at home, yes, but most of the tunes that i play at sessions are tunes i learned in sessions and never studied at home. all the tunes i work on at home (for hours every day) are tunes that no one else seems to know B)

You are fortunate to have hours a day to practise. :)

 

Following your encouragement to others to sign up for Noel Hill Irish Music Schools, (which some this side of the pond have said they might be interested in), does he send out the scores a long time before the event so that people have time to learn them in advance? Presumably you have to play by ear/memory without score during the workshops/sessions?

 

http://www.concertina.net/forums/index.php?showtopic=11612

 

BTW with the pound getting more dollars at the moment. it could be more interesting. How much did the school cost (without travel costs) incl. food and bed?

 

as for noel's class, how it works depends on which level you are placed in. in the advanced class, yes, we are expected to learn and play exclusively by ear, with sheet music only serving as an aide for writing down fingerings (which are allowed during practice but usually not in class). in the intermediate and beginner classes, students are expected to listen to the recordings to play along, but ALSO expected to bring the sheet music and a music stand to class.

 

noel does not send out sheet music ahead of time, as he will sometimes change the pieces based on what each individual class needs and wants. it is also very helpful to have noel guide you through each piece of music, preventing the sorts of mistakes and missteps that you may encounter if you had to go through it on your own.

 

please send me a pm asking me about money/etc.

 

David makes an important point. It takes time to become a session player. Starting out by sitting quietly on the edges and joining in where you can is essential, not just to build up a repertoire but also to gain a deeper understanding of the music. Listening is as important as playing, and they're not mutually exclusive. However I doubt you can listen effectively if you spending half your time trying to find the right page and the rest of it trying to figure out what they're playing when it doesn't quite match what's in front of you.

 

It's also important to understand that the culture of traditional music sessions is to play without music, and to respect that. You wouldn't go along to your local orchestra and tell the conductor, "Just start playing and I'll pick it up" - you'd be expected to be able to play from a score. With traditional music you're expected to play without.

 

By all means use written music as an aide-memoire, to share tunes, and to learn new tunes - although you can only properly start to learn a traditional tune once you've put the music to one side and started to play it. If as a novice you find you need music to lead a tune, then this may be tolerated, but only for so long - after a while you'll be expected to move on to playing without. If you have to use a prompt, use it discreetly - there's a world of difference from the occasional glance to ensure you're staying on course and playing the whole thing from the dots

 

i love your example about the orchestra! you'd be kicked out so fast with no one feeling any pity.... a lot of people seem to find it really easy to tell us how our musical culture should operate, when in fact it is very inviting, open and kind to beginners.

 

i can't tell you how many times we have invited people to play their party piece, sing their favorite song, even play scottish bagpipes at any of the sessions i go to. usually the people who feel snubbed are those who don't even ask us to let them play and declare that the fact that we play quickly means that we are not welcoming and rude.

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BTW with the pound getting more dollars at the moment. it could be more interesting. How much did the school cost (without travel costs) incl. food and bed?

 

 

please send me a pm asking me about money/etc.

 

 

Just a ballpark figure will do; others here will be interested to know too.

Let's say: the cost for intermediate level with bed and board?

:)

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The pub, incidentally, is The Beech Inn in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester (UK). We have sessions on Wednesdays, alternating tune evenings and song evenings. Oh yes -- there are Irish sessions at The Beech on Mondays -- no printed music anywhere to be seen!

 

Hi Tatter Jack,

 

We manage to get along to the Monday sessions every few weeks and they're nothing like as hardcore irish as some, occasional dots as cribs are sometimes glimpsed especially early one when people seem to be happier to try out new tunes before it settles into reels and such. I'm the only concertina that I've seen there though, so I guess you stick to wednesdays.

 

On the orchestra comments, DH plays in a small, friendly, anyone can join in orchestra and one other rule (apart from "thou shalt play the dots and only the dots") seems to be, thou shalt not tap thy foot. DH does and the euphonium player, who maybe plays in a band, but it almost seems strange to see so many people playing, and so many stationery feet!

 

Chris

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For many years I played button accordion (melodeon) in our local 'hardcore' session at Fagan's in Sheffield and, over the yeras, worked my way to the inner table , in itself an interesting phenomenon worth discussion. Then for all sorts of reasons I took up C/G Anglo and have concentrated on that for about 10 years .

 

Now I go to various sessions and the English ones are quite laid back apart from a few where the aim is to play obscure tunes which seem to freeze people out.

The Irish session I attend is very high powered and I have gone right back to the start although I can play most of the tunes if I ride on the back of the fiddlers and flute players. I am happy to sit on the fringe and am accepted although I'm sure I would make people narked if I couldn't keep up and played duff notes. I don't use dots and, even though I know most of the tunes , I don't always know the names. It seems OK to ask the names of a few and people use small recorders ( the App, Tunepal on a phone is common) I am going to take my Zoom along a few times when I and the others feel comfortable with that

 

I learn by ear and often look things up on The Session or my CD , tape and LP collection and in books but always adapt to the version played.

 

When I ask the more familiar players for the names of the tunes in a set so I can get them off, there seems to be a reluctance (maybe they are too busy practising at home!)

 

I have adopted the approach of working out a set or two and playing them when 'dropped on' ( in itself a scarey thing) and this seems the way in and can fit in once the initial adrenaline frenzy dies down.

 

I still feel like a beginner again and it's harder as I'm now 72! but it has made me think a lot about the etiquette and as I don't drink any more I don't have the beer goggles on.B)

 

Incidentally I hear that orchestral players commonly use beta blockers etc. to calm nerves and the sue of booze and drugs is another topic!

 

All in all I think we have to respect the rules of the particuar session and phase ourselves in gradually.

 

I help run another session on Sunday lunch with a few mates which is very suportive ( in terms of numbers 4 in a bar would be quite OK with no 'audience' ) and it's laid back but the standard of the tunes and songs is not the primary purpose , it's a sociable event -

 

I'm convinced that in England at the momentt that's not what Irish traditional sessions are about and that is another topic again.

 

If I play my own repertoire at home with a few pals there are no problems at all and I feel like I did as a youngster in Manchester in the 1950s when my Dad had a few Irish friends around for a few tunes . Maybe I should go full circle and back to the well.:rolleyes:

 

 

I suppose it's all about where your comfort zone begins and ends. I know some great musicians who won't go to sessions and some who hate public performance!

Edited by michael sam wild
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Interesting discussion.

When I played the trumpet I could not play any tunes without music ,so when I started on the concertina and I knew that I was then going to play for Morris Dancing I realised that holding down music outside a pub would be out of the question and decided to play by ear. Not easy at first with trying to memorise every note and in what direction ,but now I realise it was worthwhile. With all that in mind I can realise that people who play to dots create difficulties for themselves when the music being played is not the same as the dots in front of them, whereas by ear players can adjust to the music. If I had to choose whether someone in a session was playing to dots, or leading one of the tunes to dots rather than not play at all, I would prefer them to play. Classical musicians play fluently to dots, but many cannot play in a session and I expect visa versa. Dot playing in sessions, or even singing from written words never seem to me as being as fluent as someone who has memorised them, but I expect there are some exceptions. We used to use dots as a reminder of tunes, or tunes to certain dances,usually just the first four bars and I found that very useful ,but for Folk Club bookings Mike and I work very hard to ensure everything is to memory including what box I have to pick up. Sessions are great, but not that important ,what is important is that everyone enjoys themselves.

Al

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Interesting discussion.

When I played the trumpet...............

Al

 

Thank goodness for that explanation!

 

And all these years I was thinking your pursed, ruby red lips had been botoxed; but I was too polite to ask.

:rolleyes: :rolleyes:

 

Now I hope we can look forward to some trumpet voluntaries on your squeezebox.

Dare I suggest for starters some of the favourites by that French trumpeter who must have learnt trad toons from "down t'pit" when he was a young coalminer? For those unfamiliar with his output, u will notice he mainly plays on a tiddly little (baroque) trumpet but that does not stop him jazzing.

 

Interestingly, the opening embedded advert on this utube is for:

Embouchure Exerciser - More Endurance, Power, Range Guaranteed Results!

 

I think the composer must have been a calypso fancier with a name like De Tele-mann (banana), so you can give the melody some of your welly (tho not at foot-stomping-banned-sessions............

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQm-P2muMEc&feature=player_embedded

 

 

or something in the more traditional, slower, memorised and dot-free, ITM style

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=maurice+andre+baroque+youtube&docid=1440331596234&mid=0F72E3445BE553DA36F50F72E3445BE553DA36F5&FORM=LKVR10

 

And appropriately a March, à la Day, but from the Prince of Denmark

 

There are quite a few here** for DirGe too methinks especially

 

The reduced dots are here too for Brandenburg Concert 2, 3rd movement (Solo Bb Trumpet score scroll)

 

Or with Dizzy Gillespie

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14cQO9hq8mQ

**

http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=maurice+andre&oq=maurice+andre&aq=f&aqi=g10&aql=&gs_sm=e&gs_upl=800l2713l0l4129l11l5l0l0l0l0l375l1142l0.3.1.1l5l0

Edited by Kautilya
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Interesting discussion.

When I played the trumpet...............

Al

 

Thank goodness for that explanation!

 

And all these years I was thinking your pursed, ruby red lips had been botoxed; but I was too polite to ask.

:rolleyes: :rolleyes:

 

 

It's the mascara that I've always wondered about.

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Interesting discussion.

When I played the trumpet...............

Al

 

Thank goodness for that explanation!

 

And all these years I was thinking your pursed, ruby red lips had been botoxed; but I was too polite to ask.

:rolleyes: :rolleyes:

 

 

It's the mascara that I've always wondered about.

yeah - you should have seen it running when he got caught in the storm at Bradfield == coz he refused to put his tent under a tree, having been almost zapped by lightning on an earlier occasion........

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Interesting discussion.

When I played the trumpet...............

Al

 

Thank goodness for that explanation!

 

And all these years I was thinking your pursed, ruby red lips had been botoxed; but I was too polite to ask.

:rolleyes: :rolleyes:

 

 

It's the mascara that I've always wondered about.

Now that's funny you should say that Dirge, as my wife once talked me into dying my hair black ,to cover up my grey hair. I actually started to go grey at eighteen. Not only did the dye make my white shirt collars black, but for a few weeks I looked like an ill Pakistani.

Al :)

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Interesting discussion.

When I played the trumpet...............

Al

 

Thank goodness for that explanation!

 

And all these years I was thinking your pursed, ruby red lips had been botoxed; but I was too polite to ask.

:rolleyes: :rolleyes:

 

 

It's the mascara that I've always wondered about.

Now that's funny you should say that Dirge, as my wife once talked me into dying my hair black ,to cover up my grey hair. I actually started to go grey at eighteen. Not only did the dye make my white shirt collars black, but for a few weeks I looked like an ill Pakistani.

Al :)

I on the other hand noted that my wife was 'touching up' her hair colour so asked why I shouldn't do that too and got a rather blunt reply.

 

The sight of you with jet black hair and grey skin is an amusing concept, Al.

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Interesting discussion.

When I played the trumpet...............

Al

 

Thank goodness for that explanation!

 

And all these years I was thinking your pursed, ruby red lips had been botoxed; but I was too polite to ask.

:rolleyes: :rolleyes:

 

 

It's the mascara that I've always wondered about.

Now that's funny you should say that Dirge, as my wife once talked me into dying my hair black ,to cover up my grey hair. I actually started to go grey at eighteen. Not only did the dye make my white shirt collars black, but for a few weeks I looked like an ill Pakistani.

Al :)

I on the other hand noted that my wife was 'touching up' her hair colour so asked why I shouldn't do that too and got a rather blunt reply.

 

The sight of you with jet black hair and grey skin is an amusing concept, Al.

In the rain it caused black streaks down my face as well

Not very successful

Al

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Now that's funny you should say that Dirge, as my wife once talked me into dying my hair black ,to cover up my grey hair. I actually started to go grey at eighteen. Not only did the dye make my white shirt collars black, but for a few weeks I looked like an ill Pakistani.

Al :)

 

It's not white hair...its platinum blonde. ;)

 

As for sessions. I can't play by ear in a session on the concertina. Mainly because I can't hear myself...so I could be playing all the wrong notes or the right ones and wouldn't know.

(Melodeon at least I have a chance of hearing myself. So I'll nervously give it a try.) But my usual way is I memorize tunes from the dots...which takes me weeks and months(I do actually 'see' the music in my minds eye).

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I am on the "not the done thing" team, which not necessarily leads to "practice at home until fully fledged player". I look at tune books (which I've used a lot in the beginning, 30 years ago) as skeletons of tunes, nothing else. Once the skeleton is in place, leave the book.

 

If Irish sessions sometimes seem a bit unforgiving when it comes to certain behaviors, I actually find that OK and acceptable, too - "Right, these are our rules, period". Those kind of social rules exist in all society and cultures. Why should a group be forced to accept whatever behavior is forced upon them by any casual visitor? I'd say that a visitor has an obligation to be alert and receptive to what goes on in the group and - yes - adapt to that. If I am visiting another country, I keep eyes and ears open to avoid putting my foot in too many social muddles. Try Japan.

 

Here's a true, real-world example:

A man appears at a local Irish session here in Southern Sweden. He plays bones, extra large super-sized, wooden bones. Clickety-clackety, ad nauseam.

 

Right. He then switches to spoons and a young man at a nearby table of seven comments: "Oh - I didn't know that spoons could be an instrument!"

 

So. Our man proceeds to the bar and return with 14 spoons, which he delivers to the table of young men. He demonstrates how to use them.

 

I leave the following 15 minutes to your imagination…

 

This man, who made several appearances after this, now infamous one, insisted that "this is an open session" and what he did was "audience participation".

 

Two points are clear here:

 

1) This fella had set up his own interpretation of "open" and taken it to the extreme.

 

2) Nobody had asked for or wanted any "audience participation".

 

In Sweden, where everything is supposed to be quiet, middle-of-the-road and democratic, a situation like this is difficult to solve. Which probably was the man's god fortune - in Ireland, he might have had been asked: "Wouldn't you like to play your spoons for a bunch of nice doctors and nurses?"

 

But I am straying away from the subject. Personally, I wouldn't object to a tune book at a session, but I would wonder about it.

 

/Henrik

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Now that's funny you should say that Dirge, as my wife once talked me into dying my hair black ,to cover up my grey hair. I actually started to go grey at eighteen. Not only did the dye make my white shirt collars black, but for a few weeks I looked like an ill Pakistani.

Al :)

 

It's not white hair...its platinum blonde. ;)

 

As for sessions. I can't play by ear in a session on the concertina. Mainly because I can't hear myself...so I could be playing all the wrong notes or the right ones and wouldn't know.

(Melodeon at least I have a chance of hearing myself. So I'll nervously give it a try.) But my usual way is I memorize tunes from the dots...which takes me weeks and months(I do actually 'see' the music in my minds eye).

l

I have heard of this before "Dot Memory" ,can you use it like a busker book and add notes to enhance it or are you restricted to the dots as written ? It is rather a shame to go down this route as "By ear" players, once they know the tune can play along.It may be worth trying this out with simple tunes and try and progress.

Al

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