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wally

Losing ones virginity.

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Noodlers, please don't come to our sessions ... go find yourself a [Catfish instead! ;)

 

Cheers

Dick

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Despite my rants in some threads that will have branded me the ultimate session snob, I have no problem with people "noodling" as the Americans call it

 

It's one of those irregular verbs:

 

I improvise

You noodle

He is making a cacophonous racket

 

as long as they have a good enough ear to pick out the key notes and phrases in a tune and gradually fill in the gaps. If they realise they are way out on a particular new tune they can stop and gradually pick it up when they have heard it more often. But if they are tone-deaf and constantly play every tune extremely badly then I do get annoyed.

That's exactly what I (and others) have been advising. Of course, if someone is just playing along randomly then they will be playing wrong notes and getting on people's nerves. We've been advising them to play just the key notes until they can gradually pick up more.

 

As I keep pointing out, I'm not suggesting this is the best way to learn tunes. It is a good way to learn to play along with others in sessions.

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As I keep pointing out, I'm not suggesting this is the best way to learn tunes. It is a good way to learn to play along with others in sessions.

 

Perhaps you are playing along with folks who are too shy to tell it like it is HC?

Or maybe your built like a Brick Sh*t House & folks are too scared to say anything! :D

 

One of the guys I learned session playing with, to his credit, could not suffer fools gladly.

Oh that there were more honest guys like him out there.

Anyway, he is a flute player but despite that, if we were joined by a 3 chord trick guitar basher, who clearly didn't know his instrument, the chords or the tunes, he wouldn't be rude to him, he'd just shout out all the correct chords at each change! .... Worked a treat every time. ;)

Early on, I'd take my new tune in & play it, but of course my ear wasn't in tune yet & I didn't have it properly.

Rather than patronise me & say well done laddie, he'd tell me it was cr*p but go on to explain where I'd gone wrong.

Believe me, I quickly got the message & started learning my tunes correctly before inflicting them on the session.

 

Only for him, I might still be half learning tunes & just faffing along, spoiling any session I joined.

 

Worse still, I might have become one of the PARIAHS of the Session world .... A NOODLER! 7.gif

 

Cheers

Dick

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How do you introduce new tunes to a session where everyone is expected to know the tunes perfectly before joining in?

 

Och that's easy to answer.

 

When there's a wee lull in proceedings, someone will often say ... hey lads, have you heard this or that tune, & they'll play it for the others, who, rather than honk & squeek along with something they have never heard before, will sit back, listen & enjoy the tune.

What is so difficult to understand?

It's not difficult to understand at all, Dick, it was a genuine request for enlightenment as the sessions I play in don't function like that. If someone introduces a new tune, it is expected that others will try to join in. Of course it requires a degree of sensitivity to do so, but more often than not they'll manage. Of course, there will be the usual enquiries about the tune and people then will go away to learn it, but it doesn't stop them joining in if they can, and the idea that they shouldn't would be thought of as slightly bizarre.

 

I admit that sessions like this, which admit players of all abilities, can sometimes be a bit patchy, but they can produce great music too. They also provide an environment in which players can develop their skills to the point where they are good enough to participate in a session like yours, which to be honest sounds a bit elitist. Now I'm not against elitism, on the contrary I think it is essential to maintain and develop standards. But a session can be about more than that - for me, a session is about sharing music with friends, who shouldn't be excluded if they are not yet of a high enough standard.

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A further thought ... I suspect that more musicians than you realise are actually playing the tune on the fly, and haven't spent hours working on it at home. If you understand the structure of the music, have a good ear, and know your way around your instrument it isn't that difficult to do. A skilled musician will get away with it without others realising.

 

Believe me, I would realize it. To some people like me, irish music is more than just about the 'structure of a tune'. Many tunes have different known settings for example, and only someone who've been listening to sessions and old recordings for years will recognize one setting from another, and actually adapt to it in the midst of a session. But I'm one of those who think that if you're trying to learn a tune on the fly that you never heard before, or only a few times, it's a total disrespect for the music. Don't worry though, we can agree to disagree on that one.

 

It's true there are different sessions for different people, the problem is that noodlers will often spoil the fun of non-noodlers in non-noodlers sessions. A noodlers is usually oblivious to the fact that some sessions might not be welcoming to noodling.

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It's not difficult to understand at all, Dick, it was a genuine request for enlightenment as the sessions I play in don't function like that. If someone introduces a new tune, it is expected that others will try to join in. Of course it requires a degree of sensitivity to do so, but more often than not they'll manage.
:huh:

Aye, that's the trouble, nobody gets it all right first time through as they hear a new tune, so how can I possibly listen & enjoy this new tune if I'm surrounded by Noodlers who are playing a variety of bum notes! Not a pleasant experience. :angry:

 

I admit that sessions like this, which admit players of all abilities, can sometimes be a bit patchy, but they can produce great music too. They also provide an environment in which players can develop their skills to the point where they are good enough to participate in a session like yours, which to be honest sounds a bit elitist. Now I'm not against elitism, on the contrary I think it is essential to maintain and develop standards. But a session can be about more than that - for me, a session is about sharing music with friends, who shouldn't be excluded if they are not yet of a high enough standard.

Learners actually feel very comfortable at our sessions. They can see how we treat each other & our music with respect & they are happy to start tunes at their own speed, safe in the knowledge that we won't try & speed them up or play along, even if we don't know it & so end up playing a lot of Bum Notes in their ears & putting them off their stride!.

They also see skilled & experienced musicians sitting at ease & being relaxed, listening to tunes as well as joining in, so then they don't feel uncomfortable when they just sit & listen.

 

The high standards in sessions are, in my opinion, set by the attitude of those present & not by speed or expertise. I'd rather feel at home, as part of a friendly & respectful session than find myself between two Noodlers in the middle of some elitist free-for-all, no matter how good those musicians were.

 

Cheers

Dick

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In listening carefully, they'll also be able to decide whether they like it enough to want to learn it.

Then, if they don't tape it, they'll get the name of the tune from the player, or maybe the name of the CD he lifted it from. Then & only then, once they have gone home & learned it to the best of their ability, they'll be able to play along with the tune, the next time it's played, thus treating the tune, it's composer & the player ... with respect.

 

Amen. Now your post makes me remember what kind of session I'm craving for, and so hard to find when there's not much music happening in your town. <sigh>

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They also provide an environment in which players can develop their skills to the point where they are good enough to participate in a session like yours, which to be honest sounds a bit elitist.

 

Yeah, it's not the first time I hear "elitist" about not playing tunes you don't perfectly now. I think the "issue" here is not something that can simply be discussed and understood, one "side" or another. It's about your irish music culture, and it runs deeper than simple words.

 

When I started playing, a bit less than 10 years ago, I had the chance see some sessions where there was this unspoken language, local culture where folks would not play on tunes they did not know, would not jump in to play a tune after a few seconds a set is over, would discuss tunes a bit and go around to 'fetch' some great tunes from musicians who were a bit less eager to start tunes. I guess this is what defined my view of sessions but also this was definitely totally compatible with my personality. No one had to teach me, I knew you should ask people around if you could join a session, rarely start sets in a new session with people you don't know unless otherwise invited to do so, etc. It's also a real pleasure to see this exact way of thinking being applied by most teachers in the irish music festival I go to. It's all 'cultural' and although it makes senses to me, it definitely won't make sense to many others. The same way some chinese or arab customs would seem very rude or weird to us, and vice-versa. There are simply many different 'cultures' in sessions, the challenge is finding the ones that fit yours.

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It's hard to find a session where people listen to each other - in Ireland as well as Montreal; not only where each person knows the tune well, but where each person is sensitive to what other people are playing. It's hard to find people who play with you rather than people who are just banging out the tune without being aware of what you are doing. Some great players are mainly soloists rather than session players. Great session players make you better than you'd be if you were playing on your own or if you were playing with less sensitive musicians.

Perhaps some instruments - flutes, whistles and fiddles, for instance - can fit in better than pipes, accordions or concertinas. I'm not saying that a flute or fiddle can't dominate a session, but that they can drop behind other instruments in more of a supportive role. This is just something I've been thinking about. I'm not sure it is the case.

 

Edited to add: Some of us feel very strongly about this, as you can tell. Perhaps the difference between a session that welcomes noodlers and a session where noodling is discouraged is that in a session where noodling is discouraged the players listen to each other. If you listen to what other people are playing and you're sitting near a noodler it will be very difficult to play the tune well -- or even at all. I'm not saying that people who listen are better musicians - only that it's more fun, if sometimes harder, to play with a good musician who is listening to you. A session full of noodlers isn't worth going to if making good music is your goal. Noodling isn't where you know 90% of the tune, where you're picking up a note or two you've missed along the way - or where you're learning a different setting to a tune you know -- but rather when you're playing along only hearing the tune for the first or second time, and only knowing 20% of the tune. By the end of the session you might know 25% of the tune. But the noodling will be destructive of a good session, rather than a contribution which is making the session better.

Edited by David Levine

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What is the purpose of a traditional music session? To me, it is an opportunity for mainly amateur musicians, who play some form of traditional music on a suitable instrument, to get together for a few hours and play as an ensemble. The benefits of doing so, include improving one's playing simply by playing in time with other musicians, learning new tunes, sharing old ones, hearing how your instrument sounds in conjuction with different types of instruments, meeting like-minded people, who share your love of this kind of music and an opportunity to make friends. Sessions can consist of as few as half a dozen people, to twenty or more. The quality of the session depends on the skill level of the musicians and their ability to 'play together'. That, as stated in other postings, involves individual musicians listening to each other, taking their cue from the person who starts the tune and not hijacking it part the way through, either by playing a different version of it, or speeding it up, or jumping in with a follow up tune because they always follow this tune with that tune. When a session consists of a lot of very good, experienced musicians, who want to play some of the less common, more unusual and perhaps more difficult to play tunes, and they have two or three beginner or less experienced musicians in the session as well, it can be very frustrating for both lots of musicians. The 'good' musicians may feel that their session is in danger of being spoiled by less good musicians and the less good musicians may feel left out. There aren't usually enough musicians and venues to have separate ability group sessions, so there has to be a compromise. At all the sessions I go to, the musicians are generally of mixed abilities, with the majority having played for several years and willing to accommodate less experienced musicians, cos we all have to start somewhere, don't we? At these sessions, a mix of easy and difficult tunes, well-known and less well-known tunes get played, which suits everybody. When a less well-known or more difficult tune is played, the less experienced players generally just listen. I don't try and join in playing a tune if I don't know it. If I like the tune, then I will attempt to find out what it is called, track a version down and learn it in my own time. I'd rather go to a well-attended mixed ability session to play, than one consisting of 3 or 4 elitist players, except to just listen.

 

Chris

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Well we listen to each other in our session but still encourage any kids that might turn up to try and catch phrases of the tunes they don't know. I think it's a matter of respect from both sides, combined with generosity from the more experienced players. My music would not be where it is today without the most kind and generous help of people like Peter Horan and other older musicians, who have never castigated anyone for doing their best to pick up a tune.

 

You are of course expected to do most of your work by coming along regularly and getting the tune in your head and then working away at home, but during those regular visits you are not discouraged from trying out the parts you think you have picked up. If it's not right and you realise and stop messing, then you will be politely ignored and no scowls will come your way.

 

Maybe I'm misunderstanding what "noodling" really means?

Edited by Mayofiddler

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Let's just remind ourselves that the context of the thread is about advice to novice musicians on joining a session. It is apparent that some sessions are very different from others, but I think the same ground rules apply.

 

If there are a lot of novice musicians in a session who both don't know the tunes and are not very confident players, then if they all try to join in it will be noticeable. I don't think think that's necessarily the case with a single musician, provided they follow the guidelines and obey the ethos of the session.

 

There's also the assumption that these players will be playing "out of tune honks and squeaks", this isn't necessarily the case. If someone can only manage to play one phrase of a tune, and keeps quiet on the others, how will that interfere with the other musicians?

 

Whether or not the players are listening to one another is an entirely different matter. I have known players who know a tunes well, but who have a set version of a tune in their heads and are unwilling or unable to deviate from it even if the others are playing something slightly different. If you are accustomed to picking up tunes by ear then it makes you more, not less, likely to listen to the others.

 

Azalin is right about it being cultural as well. I don't play much Irish music, and I'm not sure I've played in a session with such purist attitudes. In English music, the usual ethos is to experiment and improvise and to see where the tune takes you - this absolutely demands that you listen to the other players.

 

I'm just trying to challenge the idea that a session where the musicians don't all know the tunes necessarily produces bad music. That's not been my experience.

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when you're playing along only hearing the tune for the first or second time, and only knowing 20% of the tune. By the end of the session you might know 25% of the tune.

I think these figures are far too low. Traditional music from, or derived from, the British Isles tends to follow a predictable structure, with phrases being repeated either exactly or with a slight variation at the end of the line. Moreover, the phrases are often made up of familiar note patterns. If you've a good ear, you should be able to pick up most of the tune by the second or third time through - you only have to get three or four short phrases to have cracked it. There may be some individual twists to the tune which are harder to pick up on first hearing, but then you just drop out for a few notes. I can see no reason why an experienced musician who is accustomed to doing it shouldn't be able to play along with a straightforward tune on first hearing with probably 80-90% accuracy.

 

Of course that's not the same as saying they then know the tune, and they will need to put in more work for that.

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Allright, to come back to what a beginner should do when he (or she) goes in a session for the first time... It's really not as complicated as it might seem. From my point of view, you can first gently introduce yourself and tell the folks that you're a beginner and wondering if it's OK if you sit with them. In most cases you will get points by just asking. It's human nature to reject what's being forced upon you, but be very welcoming the other way around.

 

So you sit in the session and then simply listen for a while and try to get a glimpse of what this session is all about. Are most people playing, even on tunes they don't really know, do thet improvise, does it seem to be accepted. Get a "feel" of the session first, that's all! It's very easy. Once you get the feel of what the session is all about, you can decide if you want to join or simply listen or both.

 

Most sessionners don't mind if you bring a tape recorder, but ASK first. Always ASK first, they'll see you as a sensitive person and they'll probably end up being more welcoming. Anyhow, I think experienced sessioners will appreciate the fact that you're taping tunes, because it shows that you're dedicated in learning the local tunes. If you feel that "noodling" isn't much welcome, then don't play on the tunes you don't know but practice the at home and next time you'll play one, two, 10, 20 tunes you used not to know... after a few years, you'll have a few hundreds.

 

I remember my 2-3 first years playing whistle, nothing was more frustrating than going at a session and knowing 2% of the tunes!! You come back home and you're kind of mad! But be patient, this frustration should motivate you into practicing. It did with me. I was practicing about 3 hours a day for the first 3 years.

 

Believe me, this usually pays off. A few years back while I was in Ireland the guitar player, who knew me from being around at a few sessions, came to me and told me that this was this 'privileged' session happening in a small County Clare town, with old farmers and dancers. He's been asked if he could go, and came to me and invited me because he knew I would not try to desperately join and sit back and listen. He definitely did not ask the other people we were with, most were noodlers and a bit 'over enthousiastic'.

 

So, although it might seem complicated for a beginner to get in a session, it's really not! Be respectful, try to see what the session is about instead of jumping in like a train, and ALL sessions will end up being a good experience. If you don't like the session, you simply won't go back there and find another one.

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So you sit in the session and then simply listen for a while and try to get a glimpse of what this session is all about. Are most people playing, even on tunes they don't really know, do thet improvise, does it seem to be accepted. Get a "feel" of the session first, that's all! It's very easy. Once you get the feel of what the session is all about, you can decide if you want to join or simply listen or both.

Just a small point Azalin, but doesn't it make more sense to do all that before you actually approach a session. ;)

 

Cheers

Dick

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when you're playing along only hearing the tune for the first or second time, and only knowing 20% of the tune. By the end of the session you might know 25% of the tune.

I think these figures are far too low. Traditional music from, or derived from, the British Isles tends to follow a predictable structure, with phrases being repeated either exactly or with a slight variation at the end of the line. Moreover, the phrases are often made up of familiar note patterns. If you've a good ear, you should be able to pick up most of the tune by the second or third time through - you only have to get three or four short phrases to have cracked it. There may be some individual twists to the tune which are harder to pick up on first hearing, but then you just drop out for a few notes. I can see no reason why an experienced musician who is accustomed to doing it shouldn't be able to play along with a straightforward tune on first hearing with probably 80-90% accuracy.

 

Of course that's not the same as saying they then know the tune, and they will need to put in more work for that.

 

I am talking about Irish tunes, that can be very slippery. They are more complex (not to start a flame war here) than most English Morris tunes. Tunes such as The Lads of Laoise or Devaney's Goat (to say nothing of Lord Gordon) aren't going to be gotten from hearing them two or three times - which is generally how many times a tune will be played at an ITM session.

 

I should have specified that I am talking with reference to Irish tunes played on an Anglo. Sorry for any confusion. Maybe we should have a separate forum for ITM on Anglo? Then we'd only be snobby to each other.... joking....

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Playing along with others is a skill that will come in time. Being able to play your own version of a tune, stay with everyone else and also relax enough to enjoy it takes more time than people imagine. You'll be able to do it without hearing yourself after a while, although I hate to think of a session where a concertina can't be heard by its player! The mind boggles. You don't play with the Dublin Pipers Club do you? (sorry Peter :P )

 

I'm a newbie with the concertina so can't help with volume issues. But with fiddles you just need to buy a louder one if you have that problem. As a general tip, it's better to be the quiet instrument in a session than the loudest one. Being the person who wants to be heard all the time can make you unpopular quite quickly. Although of course the loud players don't realise this, they think everyone loves them.

 

<edit> For clarity, there are some instruments that are just loud and it's not the fault of the player</edit>

Sadly for everyone involved, The person least able to hear a concertina is the player. Your only hope is to position yourself in a corner where the sound will bounce back to you before it gets to too many other people. The concertina projects it's sound from the ends away from the player while Flutes and fiddles go straight to the players ear. Early to intermediate concertina players will often play loudly ( if they can muster up the courage) so they can hear at least a little of what they play, while their neighbors are well aware of the sound emanating from the instrument next to them. Eventually you will be able to play tunes you know without hearing yourself with confidence and attentiveness to what others are doing, but it really helps to play with a small number of people at first ( 4 or 5 at most ) until you can trust your fingers to go where they are supposed to. Most of all you should forgive yourself your errors as the price of learning to play with others, and perhaps beg forgiveness of those who may have forgotten their own error filled ways. I hope people will remember that the music is a gift from God to everyone, and see the struggling player as a friend to welcome and shepherd into the joys of the shared gift.

Someday you will add much more than you ever detracted and be a shepherd in your own right.

Go for it!

Dana

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