4 Tips before joining an Irish Session
by Joao Ferreira
Irish sessions are fun gatherings of musicians sharing tunes and conversations in a relaxed setting. They are important by passing along tunes and the tradition. Some sessions may happens in private homes, but nowadays today many sessions take place in pubs and other public spaces.
It’s important to note that Irish sessions are not open jam sessions that musicians might encounter in other genres and styles. An Irish session’s focus is on the instrumental tunes within the traditional Irish culture. So, pay attention, improvising or “jamming” over the tunes played at an Irish session is not okay! Everyone is more than welcome to watch and listen to a session, but musicians from outside the Irish tradition should note that experience playing Irish music is an unwritten privilege of joining the session.
Before asking to join in. You’ll likely observe a few things similar to these at each session. Here I list 4 tips for considering when joining an Irish Session:
1- Session Leaders
Some sessions have experienced musicians in charge of starting sets of tunes or just keeping the music flowing. Sometimes sessions are more open and don’t have formal leaders. A general guideline is to musically follow whoever starts a set of tunes. If you start a set of tunes, you’re in the drivers’ seat, so have a follow up tune in mind and stay strong during the transition.
2- Tune Sets
Multiple tunes are typically arranged in sets of like tune types. For example, instead of playing one jig, the leader of a set of tunes will likely pick three jigs to play together (usually repeating each tune up to three times before going into the next tune). Sometimes leaders will tell the other musicians which tunes will be played and sometimes not. Don`t forget listening is important.
Between sets of tunes, musicians may have a chat. These chats are just as important as the tunes. It’s alright to have some space between sets of tunes, so if you’re new to the session, take your cues from the session leaders before starting up music that might interrupt a good chat.
4- Session Etiquette
Each session might have unwritten house “rules” or guidelines on how the session operates. Some general rules to keep in mind:
- Sit out on tunes that you don’t know
- Don’t be afraid to ask for the name of a tune that you’d like to learn!
- Ask if you can record the session’s tunes on your phone or device to learn tunes at home
I believe after these 4 tips, you will get inspired to start and learn how to play our Feadog Whistles and join an Irish Session. Browse our website and look for the one that fits your needs. If you are already a player becomes our fan visiting our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to be aware of tips and further information.