View Full Version : My first Session

Avi Ziv
Dec-05-2004, 11:30pm
Folks, sorry if you saw this already but I just realized that I posted it to the wrong area by mistake. - Avi

I just played my first ever Irish session!!!

Feeling completely unprepared but fully inspired, I recently decided that procrastinating would not do me any good and I should just dive in. I love the music but lack the repertoire on the mandolin. It’s one thing to sit on the porch and pick and another thing to participate in a session. Well – it was fabulous! #The musicians were friendly and I felt surprisingly relaxed even in the face of them asking me to start the off on a couple of tunes (I looked behind me but they were talking to me ). #We had 4 fiddles, concertina/bouzouki, guitar/bodhran, and another mandolin/banjo – round the table we sat at the pub and played for three hours. This was the afternoon session, which preceded an evening session at another pub but I couldn’t make it to the second one. Maybe next time. #My biggest fear was the awkwardness of now knowing the tunes. I mean I play only about 15 session tunes and there are many hundreds out there. To my surprise I did know a few of the tunes (a sign that my list of essential session tunes is not bad) and the musicians were nice enough to play any tune I asked them to, as they saw that I was a beginner session player. #I was also satisfied that the tempo was not outside of my abilities and I think I could play almost any of those tunes with a little practice. Of course the problem was that they could not name most of the tunes.... But I was able to pick up at least fragment phrases out of each tune, by the time they got to the third turn at it. #

One thing I’d like to ask here is – can anyone really hear a mandolin playing melody lines in a session? From where I was sitting (around the table) I could hardly hear myself against 4 fiddles. Any advice? I also believe that I started playing so loudly (out of desperation) that my tone probably went to trash. Would I hear a big difference in volume if I switched to an octave mandolin? I am thinking about getting one in the coming months. Anyway, I also tried to do some backup lines during the tunes that were new to me. That worked out not too badly. At times we also had a bouzouki playing backup and I didn’t want to muddy things up with two sets of chords on top of one another. So I moved to single note rhythmic lines high above the bouzouki and that seemed to clean things up nicely – at least to my ears. #An interesting thing happened – at one point one of the proprietors came into the room and asked us to confirm that we are playing all “original music and not covers”. He obviously had no clue what we were playing, with a question like this, but the point was that someone from ASCAP or BMI or such probed him to see if we are violating any copyright material. The guy leading the session told him that this is all traditional music from the past 150 years or more. The man walked away without much of an argument. I have heard about this happening around pubs, and wherever there is live music, but I’d never experienced it myself. #As a nice side benefit, the place supplies the musicians dinner and #a pint – a gesture much welcomed by us after three hours of playing.

This was a very very good experience and I am looking forward to many more. The immediate challenges are picking up as many tunes as possible and figuring out how to be heard.

Thought I’d share my excitement

Have a nice week

Dec-06-2004, 6:02pm

Yeah, Irish sessions tend to be friendly, most of the time. There is an advantage to not being heard and I use it everytime I go to Ireland and take my mandolin instead of the banjo. Also, the mandolin is a lot easier to carry on the plane http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

You can be heard in the session, but not if you are in the middle of the fiddles and sitting behind the mandolin. I would not worry about it until you learn a few thousand more tunes (it's thousands or tens of thousands, not hundreds of tunes, BTW.)

Dec-06-2004, 6:21pm
Don't sacrifice your tone and technique for volume. if you're worried about other people hearing you, just remember that the sound mainly projects outward from your chest, not upwards towards your face.
My first session, i could hardly hear myself over the accordion player in the corner. Then the guitarist showed interest in my mando and played a set of tunes on it, and it really cut through.
So don't worry too much about getting heard. You'll be heard much more if you screw up than if you blend in nicely, and that's not what anyone is looking for.

Dec-06-2004, 6:55pm
Hi Avi,

Glad you enjoyed it.

I'd say in general the mandolin projects more in a session than an octave mandolin, but as Jaws said, this may not be apparent to the person playing it.

Also, if you're playing melody on OM in a session where there is a guitar or bouzouki or OM doing backup, the melody OM may not stand out as well as a mandolin.


Shouldn't you be studying? http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

Dec-09-2004, 6:59am
Glad you enjoyed the session - I really enjoy sessions, particularly in the afternoon.

I find that I often fall into the trap of trying to play too loudly as the expense of technique (this makes triplets hard to play), and agree that the mandolin cuts through better than you might think, although this can be difficult when there are multiple fiddles/accordians/banjos etc..

I also think that the mandolin is rare in that it can be used for both melody playing and rhythm playing (you never really hear rhythm fiddle playing)..

Anyhow, keep on sessioning...

Martin Jonas
Dec-09-2004, 9:19am
That's my experience as well: others tend to hear the mandolin much clearer through the fiddles than the player himself. I find this especially so with a carved mandolin. So, don't play too hard to make yourself heard and sacrifice tone, and also be aware that others may hear you even when you think you're just noodling to yourself and haven't got a clue where you are in relation to everybody else.


Avi Ziv
Dec-09-2004, 9:24am
Thanks all for the input. Martin - I think I need to pay attention to what you said in particular about noodling. Although the players were very generous, I may have been overly eager to try and pick up tunes rather than sit back and listen more. I'm sure next time will be more relaxed and I won't push myself so much. I will delay bringing an OM to the session so not to fall back on it (as a backup instrument) at the expense of learning new tunes. I like doing both but I think my first few months should be focused on tunes as they are the basis of this music.