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Thread: "Noodling" at Sessions

  1. #101

    Default Re: "Noodling" at Sessions

    I have to say. As a newbie, I found this whole thread discouraging. I mean, I get it, you don't want to be rude and play over people when you don't know the song, or interrupt instruction by mindlessly playing notes or talking separately. That's just common politeness. And obviously I wouldn't just plop myself down without asking or introducing myself. I don't want to be where I'm not welcome.

    But if I go to a session/jam, it'll be to have fun and enjoy others' company and the shared experience of feeling something cool. I spend enough of my day in rigid, cold hierarchies with way too many formal and informal rules and judgmental people. That's not a thing I want to do for fun. I don't want to be there to impress anyone or be impressed by anyone.

    I think I'd rather noodle at home with my cat if this is what it's like to play with others.

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  3. #102

    Default Re: "Noodling" at Sessions

    Quote Originally Posted by adam e View Post
    I have to say. As a newbie, I found this whole thread discouraging. I mean, I get it, you don't want to be rude and play over people when you don't know the song, or interrupt instruction by mindlessly playing notes or talking separately. That's just common politeness. And obviously I wouldn't just plop myself down without asking or introducing myself. I don't want to be where I'm not welcome.

    But if I go to a session/jam, it'll be to have fun and enjoy others' company and the shared experience of feeling something cool. I spend enough of my day in rigid, cold hierarchies with way too many formal and informal rules and judgmental people. That's not a thing I want to do for fun. I don't want to be there to impress anyone or be impressed by anyone.

    I think I'd rather noodle at home with my cat if this is what it's like to play with others.
    It's not universal! There's lots of variety. Find one that suits you and go for it! Don't be discouraged before checking them out.

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    Default Re: "Noodling" at Sessions

    Quote Originally Posted by adam e View Post
    I think I'd rather noodle at home with my cat if this is what it's like to play with others.
    As a number of folks have said, Adam, it's not like that everywhere by any means. In UK, I'd suggest it's mostly not like that (dunno about USA myself, but I bet it's highly variable). Asking people to recommend a session can have variable results - IMO the best way to figure out a session is to go along, but leave your instrument in the car when you first walk in. If you know some of the tunes you can go get it and join in what you know, if it's all too advanced you can always enjoy listening. I've been playing fiddle for 50 years (mandolin for maybe 2...), and I do that, sometimes I just don't know the tunes they're playing. Sometimes it's a new session and it hasn't settled in yet. There's one recently started about 50 yards from my house, and I have reports that on the three nights a friend has been there so far, they had 1) nobody playing 2) a semi-pro Irish band at the heart of it playing enough well known tunes not too fast that others could join in, and 3) a mixed ability and style bag of local players who had a good time doing whatever they did. Leave the cat at home, though, it probably wouldn't like it

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  7. #104
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    Default Re: "Noodling" at Sessions

    Quote Originally Posted by adam e View Post
    I have to say. As a newbie, I found this whole thread discouraging.
    That's the problem with reading about something too much before doing it!
    Playing with others is a great joy and the only way to get started is learn some tunes and jump in.
    Just like you said, "enjoy others' company and the shared experience of feeling something cool"
    The fact that you care about being rude, playing over people etc puts you ahead already.
    Bren

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  9. #105
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    Default Re: "Noodling" at Sessions

    It is a discouraging thing - when you have someone like the OP who defines noodling like that. Noodling, as I understand it in 50+ years of playing, means just what JeffD said, it’s just messing around on your instrument. Random playing about. It’s a valuable tool in the woodshed, it can often lead to writing a new melody! I take noodling at a jam to mean random playing around between tunes, or really at any other time! Granted things vary at jam sessions depending on the leader or group, but IMHO a beginner should be encouraged to at least try to play along and respectfully corrected if they’re causing disruption. Noodling, just playing randomly or playing disconnected fills and licks between tunes is the annoying thing. And not just noodling, but practicing scales arpeggios etc. is rude in such a setting.
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    Default Re: "Noodling" at Sessions

    Considering the hundreds (yes, hundreds) of people I've introduced the concept of politeness and rules at a pub, a bit of discouragement is the standard response. Most people afterwards have more respect for what the sessiun players are trying to do.

    Any 11 year old can drive a car, but they need to know 'the rules of the road' before they get out there.
    Decipit exemplar vitiis imitabile

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  13. #107
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    Default Re: "Noodling" at Sessions

    Quote Originally Posted by DougC View Post
    …Most people afterwards have more respect for what the sessiun players are trying to do…
    -don’t know if that’s true, ‘most’ people.
    It depends, and there are different definitions of ‘respect’.

    eg. Most slaves respect their master.
    People in power respect lawyers, etc.

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    Default Re: "Noodling" at Sessions

    Yea because lots of slave owners keep popping up at sessions.
    Here's a shot from that session down at the "Old Amphora & Tibia"
    Click image for larger version. 

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    I believe things got a bit out of hand when someone called for the Spartacus set.

    I think you'll find good sessions are about as close to the real meaning of Anarchy as you can find in a modern setting.
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    Default Re: "Noodling" at Sessions

    Quote Originally Posted by adam e View Post
    I have to say. As a newbie, I found this whole thread discouraging. .
    I understand.

    One thing that bonds musicians together, I believe, is we have all found ways of getting past the discouragement. This particular discouragement, and many others.
    Life is short, play hard. Life is really really short, play really really hard.

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    Default Re: "Noodling" at Sessions

    Quote Originally Posted by Beanzy View Post
    Here's a shot from that session down at the "Old Amphora & Tibia"
    Click image for larger version. 

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    I believe things got a bit out of hand when someone called for the Spartacus set.
    "Who's the guitarist on this one?"

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    Default Re: "Noodling" at Sessions

    Quote Originally Posted by Bren View Post
    "Who's the guitarist on this one?"
    Not sure, but it’s a good example of a well managed session.
    There’s someone in the background guarding a huge stack of confiscated bodhrans.

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    Default Re: "Noodling" at Sessions

    The 'noodlers' were sent to the lions as I remember.
    Decipit exemplar vitiis imitabile

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  23. #113
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    Default Re: "Noodling" at Sessions

    Quote Originally Posted by Simon DS View Post
    People in power respect lawyers, etc.
    Unfortunately the people you refer to often claim lawyers as their fig leaves without respecting anything about them... It takes professional honor to oppose this kind of want/appetite (speaking out of experience).


    Quote Originally Posted by DougC View Post
    Any 11 year old can drive a car, but they need to know 'the rules of the road' before they get out there.
    And it takes a knowledegable craftsman to restore the wreck that the 11-year old leaves when he crashes the car.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gunter View Post
    Noodling, ... means ... just messing around on your instrument. Random playing about. ... I take noodling at a jam to mean random playing around between tunes, or really at any other time!
    Granted that not everybody is able to come up with a "proper" solo/acompanyment etc. It´s a give and take in a session. The acomplished musician has to get off the high horse and give the novice his due. You have to be able to remember where you started from. This also means forgiveness for too loud, too random, to weird playing. And you have to help the beginner along, meaning that you encourage them to play to the best of their ability, help them to not get into other musicians way etc. Other than that, you´re spot on about noodling. Some people are just too self centered to care about playing music with others. They should rather stay with themselves.
    Olaf

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    Default Re: "Noodling" at Sessions

    Quote Originally Posted by adam e View Post
    I have to say. As a newbie, I found this whole thread discouraging. I mean, I get it, you don't want to be rude and play over people when you don't know the song, or interrupt instruction by mindlessly playing notes or talking separately. That's just common politeness. And obviously I wouldn't just plop myself down without asking or introducing myself. I don't want to be where I'm not welcome.

    But if I go to a session/jam, it'll be to have fun and enjoy others' company and the shared experience of feeling something cool. I spend enough of my day in rigid, cold hierarchies with way too many formal and informal rules and judgmental people. That's not a thing I want to do for fun. I don't want to be there to impress anyone or be impressed by anyone.

    I think I'd rather noodle at home with my cat if this is what it's like to play with others.
    I think that you do have to learn how not to take yourself too serious (it took me some time). Even the greatest musicians are just human beings. So if you are in a jam session, do not do what you would not want to have done and you´ll be allright. Most of all, don´t be afraid.

    What is just awkward is when people are so removed from everything that they do not notice that a jam session means playing with others. Some beginners just don´t notice. I don´t blame them, because they are beginners. But they have to learn. And it is the duty of the advanced musician to encourage them to learn. In the end the beginner will learn or he will willfully stay ignorant. That´s when I have to draw the line.

    In the end it´s all about having fun. Musical rules and having fun are not mutually exclusive (and music has rigid rules, though I wouldn´t call them cold. Don´t obey them and your up sh.ts creek).
    Olaf

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    Default Re: "Noodling" at Sessions

    Quote Originally Posted by PhillipeTaylor View Post
    My Understanding:

    I have been told by a fiddler who taught my wife and I for a time that "noodling" at a session was trying to play along with the tune when you cannot play the tune all the way through at the tempo the group typically plays that tune. Basically, if you can't play the tune well enough that you could lead the tune, and you try to play along, you are "noodling". BAD!

    I have come to learn that some of the other learners in my group do NOT have that understanding of "noodling". Some others have learned that "noodling" is trying to figure out the tune from scratch, which is not ok at a normal session, but often ok at a learning session. But "playing along" when you kind of sort of "know" the tune is perfectly acceptable at "most" sessions.
    I do think you have to let go of your "understanding".
    - Play as good as you can (in a jamsession, alone, for others, in a concert; play like you wrote the song, like you own it)
    - Don´t do what you don´t want others to do while you play (like being louder than you, playing a different rythm than the one you play, playing in a different key from the one you play in, playing into your solo - it all happened... to me too)
    - Do to others what you would want others to do to you (see above)
    - Don´t take others too earnest (they too are just human and maybe they secretly envy you)
    - Don´t take yourself too earnest (you too are human and there´s definetly someone playing better than you)
    - Don´t play too loud (about 99 % of all jam sessions are waaaay too loud)
    - Have fun (and don´t you ever forget that)

    And if you play in a jam session where I am playing too, don´t forget to remind me to stick to my own rules (because you tend to forget them).

    If you do all this, you are not noodling.
    Olaf

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    Default Re: "Noodling" at Sessions

    Olaf, is there anything else you'd like to say?

    BTW in (Irish Trad music), it is not called a JAM session. That's for rock and jazz groups.
    Decipit exemplar vitiis imitabile

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    Default Re: "Noodling" at Sessions

    Thanks Olaf, it’s such a breath of fresh air to get a wider perspective. I encourage you to share more!

    Yes there are some ‘seisiúns’ that are different.
    For example does the Greek term for an evening’s ‘seisiún’ (in Greece) include the odd Greek tune? Misirlou for example. English tunes? French trad?

    Remember also, that in the US some trad tunes come from somewhere else… and then from somewhere else again before that, so it’s understandable that ‘noodling’ at sessions/Seisiúns/jam sessions can have different definitions.
    Last edited by Simon DS; May-26-2022 at 3:07am.

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    Default Re: "Noodling" at Sessions

    Quote Originally Posted by DougC View Post
    Olaf, is there anything else you'd like to say?
    Yep
    Olaf

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    Default Re: "Noodling" at Sessions

    I still can't grasp how something as simple as expecting attendees at a regular session (not a tune learning or slow session) to make an effort to know the tunes/be capable of playing them up to speed is "rigid" or an attitude that cramps people's ability to have "fun". One thing I do wonder is if irish traditional music is seen as some kind of "low hanging fruit" for learners, hence the expectation that some have that they should be able to participate at a session even if they don't know the tunes or can't play them to the same speed as the other attendees.
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  32. #120
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    Default Re: "Noodling" at Sessions

    Jazz open-mic/jams don't have this problem because, when a group assembles onstage, the participants discuss what to play, and veto any suggestions that are not known by all.

    Any given tune at an Irish session, on the other hand, will have a grey-zone fringe of participants who "kinda" know the tune, and how wide that zone is varies from session to session – confusing for the genre's johnny-come-latelies.

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    Default Re: "Noodling" at Sessions

    Jamming as I understand it, is different than attending a ITM sessiun.

    Jamming is the "low hanging fruit" or playing anything and calling it improv.
    Decipit exemplar vitiis imitabile

  34. #122

    Default Re: "Noodling" at Sessions

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Bevan View Post
    Jazz open-mic/jams don't have this problem ...
    Jazz jams have all sorts of problems, depending on the personalities of the principals. Like one I heard recently: Q: What key? A: The usual.

    There are plenty of jazz jams where if you don't have the chops, you're not really welcome -- and I don't blame them as long as they're polite in how they communicate that. There are lots of anecdotes where "polite" wasn't involved at all.

    But yeah, in general, when everyone's on the same page, jazz jams are a lot more democratic.

    Blues jams are more like the popular backyard football play: "Everyone go out!" (Meaning, for any folks who aren't familiar with US backyard football, everyone try to catch a pass -- or in the blues jam, everyone make whatever noise you want; extra credit if you're too loud.) Personally, I love blues jams, but I wouldn't go to one if I wasn't playing in it!

  35. #123
    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Noodling" at Sessions

    Quote Originally Posted by Jill McAuley View Post
    I still can't grasp how something as simple as expecting attendees at a regular session (not a tune learning or slow session) to make an effort to know the tunes/be capable of playing them up to speed is "rigid" or an attitude that cramps people's ability to have "fun". One thing I do wonder is if irish traditional music is seen as some kind of "low hanging fruit" for learners, hence the expectation that some have that they should be able to participate at a session even if they don't know the tunes or can't play them to the same speed as the other attendees.
    My own take is it's quite the opposite. ITM is the highest hanging fruit. It's one music I will continue to listen to but not play. At least in an organized fashion. That does include the learning and/or slow gatherings.

    The high quality of musicianship is probably why other folks seem to be drawn to playing it. And seem to think it's easy when it's not.

  36. #124
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    Default Re: "Noodling" at Sessions

    Quote Originally Posted by Jill McAuley View Post
    One thing I do wonder is if irish traditional music is seen as some kind of "low hanging fruit" for learners, hence the expectation that some have that they should be able to participate at a session even if they don't know the tunes or can't play them to the same speed as the other attendees.
    I think it's because Irish trad appears on the surface to be "acoustic adjacent" to other genres of music. Especially here in the USA. Unless you happen to see a piper in the group, the instrumentation isn't all that different from OldTime, Bluegrass or "Folk" jams. An acoustic guitar player isn't going to innocently wander into a typical Jazz piano and horn jam, or a community amateur Classical orchestra, in the same way they might drag up a chair to an Irish session. "Hey, it's an acoustic jam! You guys know any Grateful Dead tunes?"

    There is also the crossover angle, with some instrumental tunes being familiar to players of OldTime or Bluegrass as well as being standards in Irish sessions (although played very differently).

    So sessions in the USA may have to be a little more strict in maintaining guardrails, simply because there are so many other players of acoustic music in this country who will wander in and think the music is approachable with little effort.

    That said, I have also heard the opposite from a few people. Like a friend in a former band where we played mostly OldTime/Americana music. He was a very good multi-instrumentalist on mandolin, fiddle, banjo and guitar. He said he didn't like Irish trad because it was too much like Classical music.

    Well, no, it's nowhere hear as technically demanding. I'm not sure exactly why he felt that way, but maybe it was just how slightly alien it can feel to someone steeped in Americana music. And his ear was good enough to know that it really is different. All those dance rhythms, modes switching within the tunes and so on. Some people just aren't comfortable if it's not steady-on 4/4 drive and the key never changes.

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  38. #125
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    Default Re: "Noodling" at Sessions

    It seems that there are a lot of easy and approachable acoustic folk musics. And that's the experience of most who make assumptions about ITM. The particular problem is that the sessiun is open, like other groups. Where people 'get into trouble' is in not knowing more about Irish culture and they apply their prior set of rules to the Sessiun.

    The "Too much like Classical Music" comment at least recognizes that there is no particular 'template' for applying chord patterns, and licks and tricks to a variety of tunes.
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