Results 1 to 15 of 15

Thread: First Learning Session: Seeking Feedback

  1. #1

    Default First Learning Session: Seeking Feedback

    So I facilitated my first learning session to clear out the cobwebs, as well as level up my playing so that I can get in on some session action when the sessions start opening up post-COVID (they haven't yet in my area). In my local community we have had a couple high-level sessions in the area, and some other less intense groups about an hour or so away, but no real learning sessions locally, and I wanted to fill that gap not only for myself, but for others, because I just think Irish sessions are so great, and want to open that world up for people as well as for myself.

    I think it went ok, but I wanted some feedback from veterans to make sure I'm on the right track, and get on it if I'm not.

    I chose four tunes to start, to leave time for "getting to know you" as well make space for the possibility of numerous run-throughs for real beginners. Everyone kept pace, and this turned out to be great.

    Someone came with bagpipes. That takes up a lot of sonic space! I don't know what to do with that. Seating arrangements? He has played regularly in another session close by, and it seems to me he wants a space to learn and tighten up his game to do better in this other session he's connected to - which is EXACTLY what my session is about, so I want to support him. But I also want to make sure we can hear one another! Is there a "hack" for this veterans can share?

    I'm also not sure what to do with guitars. One guitar player left early because he just didn't know what to do, and I wasn't sure how to support him. I honestly don't know how to play guitar in a session, even though I play some guitar. There was another guitarist who came with the mandolin player, and she really knew her stuff, and sounded great! Should i have sat them next to one another so that the one who knew what she was doing could support the guy who was struggling?

    I kept it to 1 hour and 45 minutes, which was enough time to run through each of four tunes two or three times. We are going to add two tunes to the list for next week. We are keeping the time to two hours since it's a "school night".

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    Aberdeen, Scotland
    Posts
    690

    Default Re: First Learning Session: Seeking Feedback

    Bagpipes? Like a full set of Highland pipes?
    Nothing you can do except submit or flee.
    Or something smaller and sweeter like border pipes, Northumbrian pipes, uillean pipes?

    Four tunes is plenty for a 1h45 teaching/learning session for players of various abilities and familiarity I imagine.
    Next week, run through the four and add one , or no more than two.

    As for guitars, first thing is to make sure they're listening to their relative volume and don't drown out other instruments. In most sessions, one guitar playing at a time is enough.
    I've seen guitar classes but I don't know what the content is.
    E.g https://www.scottishculture.org/clas...ops/whistle-3/

    I know guitarists who know the tunes and can give any session a lift.
    I know others, good friends even, who don't leave any space for anybody else.
    Bren

  3. The following members say thank you to Bren for this post:


  4. #3
    Registered User Jill McAuley's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Co. Mayo, Ireland
    Posts
    3,214

    Default Re: First Learning Session: Seeking Feedback

    Nice way to scaffold things by taking the approach of adding a couple of tunes each week, and the time you've set for it seems spot on, that way folks won't start to fade resulting in the quality of the session deteriorating.

    Multiple guitars is a tough one - as Bren noted one guitar at a time is enough, particularly with a group of learners because for two guitarists to both not get in each other's way and not get in the way of the other instruments then they'd need to be skilled players (so they probably wouldn't be attending a learner's session in the first place!) Having a policy where the backers take turns, with one playing and one sitting out could help. Some backers will bring multiple instruments to a session for just that reason, so that they can pick up a whistle etc. when it's another guitarist's turn to back a set.

    For learning resources there's online lessons via OAIM (Online Academy of Irish Music) and for free content decent "how to" videos can be found on YouTube if they trawl through the dross that's also on offer. One thing to consider though - if the guitarist didn't know what to do, then even a "learning" session is probably beyond their abilities right now - they need to do a wee bit of homework and come back better prepared.

    Is it an "irish music learning" session or a "tune learning session"? If it's the former quite a lot of time may be lost in the 1 hr 45min coaching/supporting people who are still grappling with the difference between a jig and a reel for example (or how to back irish tunes on the guitar!). Whereas if it's the latter, then maybe including some kind of description in the advertising (which you may already be doing) that clearly states that it's a tune learning slower session and states what basic level of competency/familiarity with Irish music players should have might help, that way folks don't show up and feel frustrated/dejected because they can't keep up. "Learner" as a term is subjective - some folks may perceive it to mean that they don't need any prior knowledge of Irish music, something that could prove frustrating for the other attendees who are familiar with playing irish tunes but want to work on playing with a group of people, learning new tunes and getting tunes up to speed. I think folks appreciate when parameters like that are set as then they know what to expect. Kind of like when attending workshops/summer schools - it's really helpful when descriptors are provided stating what equates "Beginner", what equates "Intermediate" and what equates "Advanced" so that folks are guided into the best environment for successful learning.
    2018 Girouard Concert oval A
    2015 JP "Whitechapel" tenor banjo
    2018 Frank Tate tenor guitar
    1969 Martin 00-18




    my Youtube channel

  5. The following members say thank you to Jill McAuley for this post:


  6. #4

    Default Re: First Learning Session: Seeking Feedback

    Bren and Jill, excellent advice!

    Thank you both!

  7. #5

    Default Re: First Learning Session: Seeking Feedback

    Quote Originally Posted by Bren View Post
    Bagpipes? Like a full set of Highland pipes?
    Nothing you can do except submit or flee.
    LOL. That's how it felt. But, I honestly don't know. I'll ask him when I see him again. I don't know my pipes. He just called them "pipes."

  8. #6
    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    St. Paul, MN
    Posts
    1,331

    Default Re: First Learning Session: Seeking Feedback

    Quote Originally Posted by PhillipeTaylor View Post
    LOL. That's how it felt. But, I honestly don't know. I'll ask him when I see him again. I don't know my pipes. He just called them "pipes."
    Did he stand and play or sit? And did he have one piece in his mouth? Highland players usually stand and inflate the bag with their own air. Small pipes are usually played seated.

    Then again, I don't play Irish or go to sessions because of my background as a guitar player. But I have jammed with an uillean piper on Nordic music.
    2017 Northfield F5SA, Strad-O-Lin, 2008 Weber Gallatin F, 2018 Collings MT, 1929 Gibson A Jr., 2018 Eastman MDO-305
    http://ericplatt.weebly.com/
    https://www.facebook.com/LauluAika/
    https://www.lauluaika.com/
    https://www.facebook.com/Longtine-Pl...4404553312723/

  9. The following members say thank you to Eric Platt for this post:


  10. #7
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    Invergordon,Scotland
    Posts
    2,535

    Default Re: First Learning Session: Seeking Feedback

    Quote Originally Posted by PhillipeTaylor View Post

    I'm also not sure what to do with guitars. One guitar player left early because he just didn't know what to do, and I wasn't sure how to support him. I honestly don't know how to play guitar in a session, even though I play some guitar. There was another guitarist who came with the mandolin player, and she really knew her stuff, and sounded great! Should i have sat them next to one another so that the one who knew what she was doing could support the guy who was struggling?
    !
    "There was another guitarist who came with the mandolin player, and she really knew her stuff, and sounded great! Should i have sat them next to one another so that the one who knew what she was doing could support the guy who was struggling? "

    Yes, I would say so. You're lucky to have such a good player. Make the most of her, especially since you don't know it that well yourself.
    While it's true that too many guitars don't really work in a session, if it's a LEARNING session then I think it's different. I'm sure the guitarist who was struggling would probably pick up a lot by trying to follow/copy/listen to her. No doubt she might get a chance to try to explain the basic idea and take it from there.
    David A. Gordon

  11. The following members say thank you to Dagger Gordon for this post:


  12. #8

    Default Re: First Learning Session: Seeking Feedback

    Eric, he sat down, and it was likely one of the less than full pipes - but it was still dominating. Not sure what to do with that.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Thank you David! Excellent advice!

  13. The following members say thank you to PhillipeTaylor for this post:


  14. #9
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Pacific Northwest, USA
    Posts
    5,085

    Default Re: First Learning Session: Seeking Feedback

    As others mentioned, it would help to know what kind of piper you're dealing with. Some types might work okay in a learning session, others won't, and the skill of the piper is also a factor.

    I play in a local Scottish/Cape Breton/Irish session with fiddles, whistle, and a piper who brings either border pipes or smallpipes. The border pipes are LOUD, very dominating, so the piper basically leads every tune when he's playing that set of pipes. His smallpipes are quieter, almost hard to hear among the fiddlers but they do blend in better. If your piper is playing Uilleann (Irish) pipes, those should also be reasonable for group playing.

    Assuming that these are "session pipes" like those mentioned above, they'll be designed to play with other instruments in common session keys based around D and G. But it's still important that the piper keep them in reasonable A440-based tune. Otherwise it will be very disruptive for the rest of the group. Keep an ear out for tuning drift, and ask the piper for a correction if you hear it getting too far off pitch.

    Guitars, Oy! That's a contentious issue.

    When I helped lead a beginner to intermediate session a few years ago, we had to impose a rule about one guitar player at a time, to keep the melody flowing without too much distraction from the accompaniment.

    Guitar accompaniment in this music is improvised while the melody is fixed. It's the opposite of many Western music genres like Bluegrass, Blues, or Americana "Folk" music where there is a standardized chord progression. When you have two or more guitar players improvising with different chords and different rhythm emphasis, it's usually chaos. Very distracting for the melody players. So one guitar at a time is best, taking turns if necessary.

    Guitarists taking turns is the "social" solution, but if a guitar player shows up who is actually very good at backing this music, they are worth their weight in gold. Seriously. You might consider just making them the official guitar backer and discourage others from participating. That's a hard thing for guitar players to understand if they're not familiar with this music, but it's the unwritten rule of all the intermediate to higher-end Irish sessions in my area, and it works.

    Good luck with your project!

  15. The following members say thank you to foldedpath for this post:


  16. #10

    Default Re: First Learning Session: Seeking Feedback

    Thank you so much Foldedpath for your thoughts!

  17. #11

    Default Re: First Learning Session: Seeking Feedback

    I have another friend who is a very accomplished guitarist, and he actually plays the melody quite well - I gave him the Silver Spear to practice, and he had it down so that it sounded great after a couple days. He said he can't accomplish the right feel/rhythm without some hammer-ons and pull-offs, but he plays it faster than some of the members can already, and it sounds good to me.

    What are people's thoughts about a guitar jumping in on the melody line? Is that unprecedented?

  18. #12
    Registered User John Kelly's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Ardnadam, Argyll, Scotland
    Posts
    1,821

    Default Re: First Learning Session: Seeking Feedback

    In the weekly session I play in I use both mandolin(s) and guitar and often take the lead on guitar, especially slow airs where I can play chordal melody as well as single-note playing. We have fiddle(s), flute/whistles, concertina, accordion, mandolin(s), guitars and quite often percussion, as well as a set of small pipes. Our repertoire is traditional, with a lot of Scottish and Irish and a strong Scottish West Coast flavour (pipes, fiddles and accordion) as well as a growing number of modern tunes from Canada and elsewhere outside Scotland. Sometimes the fiddler and I will start a slow air then the flute comes in (and whoever else wants to add to the mix)! It works in our situation, but we all know each other pretty well and have played together in bands over the years.
    I'm playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order. - Eric Morecambe

    http://www.youtube.com/user/TheOldBores

  19. The following members say thank you to John Kelly for this post:


  20. #13
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Pacific Northwest, USA
    Posts
    5,085

    Default Re: First Learning Session: Seeking Feedback

    Quote Originally Posted by PhillipeTaylor View Post
    What are people's thoughts about a guitar jumping in on the melody line? Is that unprecedented?
    I've heard very good guitar backers use small bits of melody to connect chords, but it has to match the melody line everyone else is playing or it will be distracting. The main risk in that approach is departing from a strong rhythmic accompaniment. For me, that's really the core of the guitar player's job in this music. Unless the guitarist is playing only the melody line and nothing else, which is a rare thing.

    Sometimes a trad guitarist will even sit on the same "modal" (no thirds) chord for large parts of the tune, providing essentially a percussion accompaniment under a chord drone. Dennis Cahill frequently does this when backing fiddler Martin Hayes, for example. It isn't always necessary to constantly change chords to follow the melody. The main thing is not to lose the rhythm.*

    * Speaking here of the dance tunes: reels, jigs, slip jigs, hornpipes, marches, strathspeys, where supporting the rhythm is essential. The slower stuff like airs and "slow reels" can benefit from fingerstyle guitar, arpeggiated chords, etc. I do that sometimes when backing on guitar with a tune like Farewell to Nigg, or Dark Island. For a dance tune at dance tempo though, I think you need a good rhythm strum.

  21. The following members say thank you to foldedpath for this post:


  22. #14
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    Aberdeen, Scotland
    Posts
    690

    Default Re: First Learning Session: Seeking Feedback

    Quote Originally Posted by PhillipeTaylor View Post
    I have another friend who is a very accomplished guitarist, and he actually plays the melody quite well - I gave him the Silver Spear to practice, and he had it down so that it sounded great after a couple days. He said he can't accomplish the right feel/rhythm without some hammer-ons and pull-offs, but he plays it faster than some of the members can already, and it sounds good to me.

    What are people's thoughts about a guitar jumping in on the melody line? Is that unprecedented?
    It's certainly not unprecedented and I've heard several good guitarists leading or playing along on melody in sessions.

    He might find that his hammer-ons and pull-offs can't be heard so well in a session when everyone else is playing, and that often leads guitarists to go for the banjo-like "pick every note including ornaments" approach.

    Eventually. But it's early days yet.
    Bren

  23. The following members say thank you to Bren for this post:


  24. #15
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
    Location
    Guildford + Falmouth England
    Posts
    473

    Default Re: First Learning Session: Seeking Feedback

    I'd suggest everyone tuning at the start as if it's an automatic part of every session (if only...), and of course, tune to whoever can't tune their intrument, which will often be a squeezebox of some kind, maybe a keyboard. If it is an accordion, ask whoever plays it to use a single reed sound at fiddle A string pitch. Tuning to a Musette sound (more than one accordion reed at fractionally different pitches, think Jimmy Shand) is to be avoided. If multiple fiddles get their instruments in tune, at least they have the base notes of the open strings to fall back on if their fingers aren't quite there yet. Whistles and some other wind instruments like recorders can often be blown into tune if they're slightly out, and they too are often tuneable by moving the mouthepieceup and down a little. 12 strings and harpists - well, you only have 105 minutes, right?

  25. The following members say thank you to maxr for this post:


Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •