Welcome - Fáilte
Every Irish session has a different flavor, so here’s a bit about ours.
We play a mildly eclectic mix of tunes and songs, centered around Irish music. For the most part we play traditional Irish tunes and songs, with a healthy smattering of other Celtic (Scottish/Breton/etc.) and folk (Scandinavian, Breton, Cajun, Americana) traditions.
We want to encourage musicians who have seldom or never joined in an Irish session but we want them to know what they're getting into. A session is different from an open mic or a jam. Here’s how:
A session (or seisiún in Irish) is not a performance. We play for our own (and each other’s) improvement and enjoyment.
But we want it to sound good. The best way to make this happen is be a good listener first, a good player second.
A session is also a social event. We all share at least one of your interests! We hope to be supportive, friendly, and make the most of our time together. Feel free to trade email addresses and phone numbers, ask for help, and spend a little time chatting between tunes.
The Session Leader
The session leader generally employs a light touch, but always defer to him/her.
Typical instruments: fiddle, mandolin, flute, Irish whistle, uilleann pipes, concertina, banjo, Irish harp, accordion, bodhran, guitar, bouzouki, bousar. If you want to bring something else, please post the question on this page.
Be in Tune:
Bring a tuner, or ask someone with no tuning capability (accordion,concertina) for a note. Checking your tuning throughout the session is a good idea.
If you look around, you’ll see that the best musicians spend a great deal of time listening. If something sounds off, it might be you. It’s a good practice to stop playing and collect yourselffor a few measures.
Most Irish sessions don’t encourage harmony. Part of the character of Irish trad is unison playing. In our session, harmony is very judiciously applied, usually to tunes we have played many times together. Random harmony on tunes you don’t know really, really well (especially if you’re playing harmony because you don’t know the tune) is actively discouraged.
Irish music is traditionally focused on melody, (and unison melody at that). Too many rhythm instruments can detract from the whole. If you play a drum or a strummed instrument, be very conscious of fitting in with the other rhythm players, and not overwhelming the melody players. Some Irish sessions have a “one guitar” rule – we don’t want to do that, but we don’t want cacophony, either.
If You Don’t Know the Tune:
Listen. If you want to try to pick it out, do so quietly. Remember others need to hear the tune to learn it themselves. When it’s over, ask the name. Interesting discussion often ensues. You’ll find sheet music for most tunes on thesession.org.
Who Chooses the Tunes?
We try to give everyone a chance to select and begin themusic, but please defer to the session leader/s. When you’re invited, you can decide what to play or sing, or pass. You don’t have to play a whole set (usually 3 tunes) and you don’t have to play fast either.
Stick with the tempo of whoever led the set. Don’t push it faster because it feels better to you. If it’s too fast and you can’t keep up, the most common technique is to play every other note, or every third note, or one note here and there.
Songs are welcome, whether you can accompany yourself or not! If you know your key, let the other musicians know. If you don’t, someone who plays chords can help you find it, especially if you can give a starting note. Remember: you lead the musicians not vice versa (see below under Playing for Singers).
Playing for Singers:
Keep in mind that the musicians should support, not overwhelm, the singer. The singer determines: the key, the tempo, the phrasing.If you keep your eyes on him or her, you’ll be able to anticipate his or her phrasing. Keep in mind that most singers need a mic to be as loud as even a guitar, so save your marvelous licks for breaks or gaps in the music.
Noodling refers to playing the tune “sort of” but not quite, either because you don’t know it or because you’re “improvising.”Irish music sessions do not generally welcome improvising. It’s disruptive. If you are trying to learn the tune, please do so quietly so others can hear.Consider: if even 2 people are noodling, the real tune will be swamped and no one will ever learn it!
Especially as you grow as a musician, make an effort to avoid falling back on the same old tunes, sets, and songs. Your fellow musicians will welcome new stuff! The beginning and the end of the session are often more quiet and appropriate for bringing in new material.
Is it Irish?
We try to remain true to the title “Irish Session”without being too hidebound to tradition. If you’re thinking of introducing music that’s definitely not Irish, try examining your motives: Are you exploring new repertoire to play in an Irish idiom? Or are you looking for ways to shoehorn a tune you like into a setting where it doesn’t fit?
One More Thing:
Never play anyone else’s instrument without permission. Even if it’s an accordion.
Thanks to Judy Minot and the Usual Suspects at the Seisiun Formerly Known as Frenchtown for collecting, writing, and editing these.
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