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Arranging tunes in pub sessions

Les in Chorlton 30 Jun 14 - 12:03 PM
Les in Chorlton 01 Jul 14 - 03:08 AM
Jack Campin 01 Jul 14 - 06:45 AM
Mo the caller 01 Jul 14 - 08:08 AM
Les in Chorlton 01 Jul 14 - 08:19 AM
GUEST 01 Jul 14 - 08:30 AM
Musket 01 Jul 14 - 08:30 AM
GUEST 01 Jul 14 - 08:33 AM
Les in Chorlton 01 Jul 14 - 10:17 AM
GUEST,freespiritceol 1 01 Jul 14 - 04:50 PM
Les in Chorlton 02 Jul 14 - 02:32 AM
Jack Campin 02 Jul 14 - 03:25 AM
The Sandman 02 Jul 14 - 03:33 AM
Howard Jones 02 Jul 14 - 03:54 AM
Les in Chorlton 02 Jul 14 - 04:18 AM
GUEST,leeneia 02 Jul 14 - 05:40 AM
Les in Chorlton 02 Jul 14 - 08:42 AM
Les in Chorlton 02 Jul 14 - 09:15 AM
GUEST,Peter Laban 02 Jul 14 - 09:16 AM
Jack Campin 02 Jul 14 - 10:07 AM
Howard Jones 02 Jul 14 - 10:52 AM
GUEST,Peter Laban 02 Jul 14 - 11:27 AM
Tattie Bogle 02 Jul 14 - 12:35 PM
Mo the caller 02 Jul 14 - 01:17 PM
Les in Chorlton 02 Jul 14 - 01:20 PM
Les in Chorlton 02 Jul 14 - 01:30 PM
GUEST,Les B 02 Jul 14 - 02:05 PM
Les in Chorlton 02 Jul 14 - 02:32 PM
Les in Chorlton 02 Jul 14 - 02:35 PM
Les in Chorlton 03 Jul 14 - 04:34 AM
Mo the caller 03 Jul 14 - 05:47 AM
Les in Chorlton 03 Jul 14 - 05:58 AM
GUEST 03 Jul 14 - 06:02 AM
GUEST,freespiritceol1 03 Jul 14 - 06:30 AM
Les in Chorlton 03 Jul 14 - 08:58 AM
Jack Campin 03 Jul 14 - 09:04 AM
Les in Chorlton 03 Jul 14 - 09:16 AM
Jack Campin 03 Jul 14 - 09:44 AM
Les in Chorlton 03 Jul 14 - 10:20 AM
GUEST,Peter Laban 03 Jul 14 - 12:08 PM
Les in Chorlton 03 Jul 14 - 12:15 PM
Tattie Bogle 03 Jul 14 - 01:36 PM
GUEST,Peter Laban 03 Jul 14 - 02:37 PM
Les in Chorlton 04 Jul 14 - 02:56 AM
Jack Campin 04 Jul 14 - 04:10 AM
Les in Chorlton 04 Jul 14 - 05:12 AM
The Sandman 04 Jul 14 - 07:07 AM
Brian Peters 04 Jul 14 - 07:12 AM
Les in Chorlton 04 Jul 14 - 07:36 AM
Mo the caller 04 Jul 14 - 10:08 AM
The Sandman 04 Jul 14 - 10:13 AM
Les in Chorlton 04 Jul 14 - 10:45 AM
GUEST,Peter Laban 04 Jul 14 - 11:11 AM
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Subject: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 30 Jun 14 - 12:03 PM

We run what I think is a fairly typical mostly English tunes session. The one major difference being we have our own tune book which contains around 130 tunes commonly played in English pub sessions and we have copies on the table for those who can use them.

Generally we play 2As 2Bs and three times through then a straight into a second tune. All standard and all good fun.

Sometimes we play all in together then second time fiddles only, third time squeezers and so on with variations with As and Bs.

Can anybody pass on anty other 'arrangments' for want of a better word?


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 01 Jul 14 - 03:08 AM

Refresh


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: Jack Campin
Date: 01 Jul 14 - 06:45 AM

The more fixed and complicated your arrangements get, the harder it is for a newcomer to fit in. Are they going to be expected to remember things like "we all drop out for a whistle solo first time through the B part of the second time through The Oyster Girl"?


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: Mo the caller
Date: 01 Jul 14 - 08:08 AM

Even worse are the rhythm-bending arrangements, and the 'minor key 3rd time'. We need to be warned if that sort of thing is coming up.


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 01 Jul 14 - 08:19 AM

Thanks folks - all good points. We have a few 'arrangements' that we use quite a lot - and we always explain what we intend to do. Ken, who generally 'conducts' shouts out instructions as we go through. I have to say ours is a light-hearted session. We probably do two a night.

One strategy is to start with whistles for one A then add fiddles for the second A, banjos, mandolins for the first B then squeezers and everything else for the second B. Dropping back to whitsles for the A and so on.


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: GUEST
Date: 01 Jul 14 - 08:30 AM

I like the idea of a sort of "call and response" thing from different classes of instrument to mix it up and add light and shade. Banjo plays a phrase, squeezebox answers, fiddles have their say, whistles chip in an answer. I'm not saying that would be easy to call in a busy session but it might keep players on their toes - and keep the interest up for musicians as you're always in and out but you're not always starting at the same place in a verse.

An alternative might be calling random groups for each phrase...dog owners, back row, lager drinkers, the english, the irish, teachers, sexual deviants...etc...so long as SOMEONE keeps playing.

Or just pointing at rough segments/quarters of the room in order and see what sounds come out. That way people can anticipate their turn coming which might be less chaotic.

Perhaps best tried with better-known tunes that have become almost over-familiar.

I should say, I'm not really a session player so I don't know what session players would think of this, but as a listener to sessions I sometimes wish there was more variation and surprises.


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: Musket
Date: 01 Jul 14 - 08:30 AM

If I wanted that, I'd join Mrs Musket with her bell ringing.

The sessions I go to, I tend to see a different style. We call it spontaneity.


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: GUEST
Date: 01 Jul 14 - 08:33 AM

The spontaneity in terms of spontaneous arrangements gets harder when you get over a certain size group maybe.


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 01 Jul 14 - 10:17 AM

Ok, thanks again - good ideas for sure. I will say this to save others the bother: spontaneity sometimes needs to be well planned


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: GUEST,freespiritceol 1
Date: 01 Jul 14 - 04:50 PM

Hi les we host a rambling house session at our home in the kerry mountains with around 30 or so young local musicians. We just say to listen to whoever is leading the tune and follow what they do. That works fine. If someone plays a part an extra time it,s not the end of the world, and it,s all done with great humour and fun, and we have some great times. Keep enjoying the music. All the best john


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 02 Jul 14 - 02:32 AM

Thanks John. I feel that music played together is one of the ultimate cooperative activities. It generates a real good feeling.

I have only been playing in our session for around 6 years. Around 140 different people have come and gone. Around 20 gather regularly and we play as a ceilidh band of a random 20 or so.

I have heard alsorts of bands live and on disc. We went to see Dervish recently and I was struck by the way the build drama by bringing instruments in and out - which is one thing we try a bit - not quite as effectively as Dervish though.

Pairings can be fun - we go from Constant Billy a morris jig into Blue Eyed Stanger in 4/4. We also have Speed the Plough in G then in Em and then back to G.

Drum solos can be good not to mention short periods of silience

Best wishes


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: Jack Campin
Date: 02 Jul 14 - 03:25 AM

Nigel Gatherer in Edinburgh often uses Johnny McIljohn's No. 1 as a "by section" number - he calls out the grouping he wants to do it (whistles, freereeds, a cappella...). Which usually means I get to do it as a washboard solo if I'm there.


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: The Sandman
Date: 02 Jul 14 - 03:33 AM

i may be stating the obvious here, and you my already be doing this try and arrange your two tunes so that there is a key change, or that the second tune has a feeling of lift,this doesnt always depend on a key change for example two irish tunes tatter jack walsh ,rambling pitchfork work much better one way round than the other , often a case of experimenting


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: Howard Jones
Date: 02 Jul 14 - 03:54 AM

I find the idea of "arranging" pub sessions to be rather odd, and the opposite of what I consider a session to be. It imposes a degree of organisation and control which is the antithesis of the spontaneity a session should encourage.

An arrangement should evolve spontaneously from the musicians listening to each other and reacting creatively. It doesn't happen every time, or even very frequently but when it does the results can be fabulous.


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 02 Jul 14 - 04:18 AM

I went to a workshop at Whitby Folk Festival around 8 years ago. It was run by Damien O'Kane. He taught us a polka for around an hour and then we all played it together then he called fiddles, squeezers, whistles in and out for another 30 minutes it was great fun and so I addopted once a session or so when we started ours.

We play for around 3 hours every other week and we try 'arrangements' for a couple of tunes. That's all.

I would n't want to overstate the sophistication of what we do for a laugh but 'spontaneity' in big groups - we have had 30 and often get 20 - is tricky. Count Basie, Duke Ellington and all those big bands had a challenge organising improvisation with so many musicians.

I understand it is common in sessions for John Ryan's Favourite to be played:

Two As and two Bs - all together.
The A beggins with two accentuated Ds - everybody plays them
then fiddles play that bar and the one after.
Bar three has the two Ds and we all play them
fiddles play that bar and the one after
Bar five has them Ds again and we all play them and the fiddles finish off the A part

This repeated as above and then we all play the B twice.

Next time through the whistles replace fiddles, and so on.

Does this make sense and is it played elswhere?


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 02 Jul 14 - 05:40 AM

I think you have a good system, Les. We do much the same, but we have somebody call out "strings!" or "flutes" when it's time to have a dedicated section. If dancers can have callers, why not musicians?

We think it's juvenile to call out "repeat!" so we use the French "repetez" instead. If we remember.

I'm impressed by your book of 130 tunes.


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 02 Jul 14 - 08:42 AM

Thanks leanneia. our Tune book is a free download here:



as a pdf, ABCexplorer and midi


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 02 Jul 14 - 09:15 AM

Here is an example of the arrangement of John Ryan's that I have failed to describe above:


Here

And played more than a bit quicker than we do -


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: GUEST,Peter Laban
Date: 02 Jul 14 - 09:16 AM

I don't think I could be part of a session where someone takes it upon themselves to shout at you what and when to play.

To my mind a problem with weekly sessions that have a set repertoire is that they become band rehearsals more than sessions. Which in itself is fine ofcourse but it defeats the purpose more than a bit, again, to my mind.

Also surprised to see how many tunes in the collection are based on the repertoire of bands popular in the 1970s.


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: Jack Campin
Date: 02 Jul 14 - 10:07 AM

I don't think I could be part of a session where someone takes it upon themselves to shout at you what and when to play.

Nigel only does it for that one tune, it doesn't get out of hand.

Also surprised to see how many tunes in the collection are based on the repertoire of bands popular in the 1970s.

Are you just thinking of the Irish tunes in that, or the English ones too? (I wouldn't expect an English session to adopt many recently-popularized Irish tunes).


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: Howard Jones
Date: 02 Jul 14 - 10:52 AM

I have found that at regular sessions where the same tunes get played frequently then a 'standard' version will often evolve. What is new to me (after 40+ years of playing) is the idea that this should be formally discussed and agreed beforehand.

I prefer to let things flow and see what emerges from the interchanges between musicians. Sessions should be creative rather than simply recycling material. However each to their own, of course, and if the people at the session are happy with this then who am I to disapprove?


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: GUEST,Peter Laban
Date: 02 Jul 14 - 11:27 AM

[i]Are you just thinking of the Irish tunes in that, or the English ones too? [/i]

Jack, it was a general sort of feeling, there seems to be a fair number of tunes I remember from the seventies (and even then some people thought they were getting a bit old) that seem to linger on.

The Irish tunes definitely but not exclusively. I can see your point about new uptake but on the other hand, they were lifted from recordings during the seventies so I don't see a reason why there shouldn't be a regeneration of the repertoire.

In my mind there's a lot to be said for refreshing the repertoire constantly. One pub in town here used to have a sign up saying that anyone who started the Kerry polka (=John Ryan's) would face immediate eviction. And there's no reason whatsoever to still hang on to tunes that were already played to death two decades ago, there are many tunes as good or better (and just as simple and easy to play from a beginner's perspective). And I am astounded the Bear Dance is still doing the rounds, more than forty years every aspiring folkgroup in the Netherlands and Flanders took it up.

Sticking to such a limited core repertoire can so easily create a stale atmosphere and it will certainly fuel the argument of those who nurse a perception folk music is basically a bunch of older people playing the same tunes again and again. And there's no need for that at all.


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 02 Jul 14 - 12:35 PM

I have seen John Ryan's last about 15 minutes in one session,where different instruments took the diddley bit between the loud Ds, who plays next being determined by the session host. OK if you don't take it too seriously: I thought is was a big laugh.
Same with Johnny McIljohn's as mentioned by Jack Campin, and at Nigel Gatherer's sessions. It's probably only one tune per session anyway: I can cope with that.

It is also quite commonplace in Bluegrass sessions to invite certain instruments in turn to lead the tune.

Mostly here, tunes get played just twice before moving on to the next tune in the set, because most folk have learned all the same tunes. That is unless, in the fairly rare event, of someone introducing a new tune (which doesn't always go down well with some of the "everyone must be able to play everything that everyone knows" brigade.) In this case you might play it 3 times to give people more chance of picking it up, while the brigadiers go to the bar or the toilet.
I do find some of the sessions are a bit samey, in terms of content, but worse than that, over-familiarity can lead to "automatic pilot" with loss of musicality and excessive speed. It's refreshing to go elsewhere, even a few miles down the road, where the "standards" will be a completely different set of tunes.

Other than that, I'd say there's more scope or call for arrangements if playing more privately with a small group of friends, and indeed we do just that when planning a performance gig.


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: Mo the caller
Date: 02 Jul 14 - 01:17 PM

Sessions are very varied animals. Les' session started as a slow tunes workshop, and has evolved.
What do you do if someone fancies starting a tune that isn't in your book Les? Or if a visiting musician knows a different version. Do people lead a tune or is there a session 'boss'?


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 02 Jul 14 - 01:20 PM

Well thanks for all that. Much good advice I guess.

We started as a Begginers Session around 6 years ago and I guess we are improvers now. We picked up the tune book idea from Beginners Sessions at Whitby and Shrewsbury. Most of us have never played in sessions before.In my limited experience of sessions nobody said what the tunes were and they played so quick I could never join in.

We have engaged a large number of people who can read a bit and we play steady. The tunes we play are mostly English and have been played for between 10 and 400 years.

We enjoy what we do.

If I could return to the original point of this post:

"Sometimes we play all in together then second time fiddles only, third time squeezers and so on with variations with As and Bs.

Can anybody pass on anty other 'arrangments' for want of a better word? "


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 02 Jul 14 - 01:30 PM

Hi Mo, to be honest we only really play from the 133 in our book. On some occasions visitors have played stuff we don't know and we have enjoyed it. The issue for most of us is that we cannot pick up tunes in the middle of hearing them for the first time.

I know lots of people can and it's an impressive skill. Sessions like that are quite different.

We generally kick off with something we think everybody knows and then I ask people to pick a tune and they do.

Come and play with us again Mo - you will be most welcome again


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: GUEST,Les B
Date: 02 Jul 14 - 02:05 PM

I am curious to know whether you are using the actual books in the session? If so It must be very daunting for a stranger, esp someone like myself who can't read a note of music, it would also seem more like a rehearsal.
cheers Les


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 02 Jul 14 - 02:32 PM

Yes Les we use the books. We have special music stands and the print is big so that people can see and read with little trouble - if raedindg is what they can do.

Yes I know it's unusual. Our Tune book is a free download here:



as a pdf, ABCexplorer and midi


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 02 Jul 14 - 02:35 PM

Sorry I hadn't finished that

Yes Les we use the books. We have special music stands and the print is big so that people can see and read with little trouble - if raeding is what they can do.

Yes I know it's unusual. Our Tune book is a free download here:

Here

Our tunes are generally well known and I think people who play in sessions a lot will find lots they know. If you are one of those who can pick up a tune on one or two hearings you will have no problem.

Best wishes


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 03 Jul 14 - 04:34 AM

Refresh


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: Mo the caller
Date: 03 Jul 14 - 05:47 AM

Let us know when you are having another Ceilidh, Les.

Have you got anyone among your group who can write second lines. There are often workshops at festivals (we went to one at Lichfield but I'm not sure I could put it into practise). And with a big group some of the ideas (like leaving some of the notes out on some repeats) wouldn't work without a lot of 'orchestration'. But a simple harmony line might be nice as long as not everyone chose to play it. You might find some online - e.g. Spare Parts , Valmai writes interesting arrangements.


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 03 Jul 14 - 05:58 AM

Thanks Mo. No Ceilidh plans at the moment but we may have an away day special to somewhere.

We have discussed writing second lines but I suspect it is a step too far for most of us.

Simple ideas are what we are looking for.


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Jul 14 - 06:02 AM

Hi Les, just downloaded your tune book, with your permission we will make it available to the rambling house gang. It,s a great idea and I'm sure they will have lots of fun with it, also if you ever come to visit these parts you will feel at home. PS friendly and inclusive small festivals here in October and March. All welcome. All the best and thanks again John. PS keep up the good work, it sounds like you are doing fine.


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: GUEST,freespiritceol1
Date: 03 Jul 14 - 06:30 AM

PS that,s south west cork and Kerry. Cheers john


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 03 Jul 14 - 08:58 AM

You are most welcome John. A number of other Sessions have tune books - I will dig 'em out and put the web address on here

Cheers


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: Jack Campin
Date: 03 Jul 14 - 09:04 AM

Les, do you have any planned way of getting people to stop depending on the book?

Nigel doesn't, and it's the one glaring weakness in his project. There are quite a few players who have got very much better at playing the tunes over the years - often better and with more idiomatic feel than average ear players do - but with absolutely no sign that they'll ever learn even the simplest ones. I'd be tempted to find out how to sabotage the fusebox, except Nigel has started selling LED score lights.


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 03 Jul 14 - 09:16 AM

I have no desire to stop people using the book. We have 133 tunes - I suspect none of us can play all of them except the really good readers. Most of us probably play from memory but I don't think many of us can pick up tunes on first hearing.

Having the book means any site reader can drop in and play, those who have learned already can also play. Because we have dots, ABCexplorer midi and recordings of live bands from YouTube on our website, people have all ways of learing the tunes.

We feel we are part of the living tradition of tune playing - dots, ears - sitting by Nellie - all the ways people have learned across 4 or 500 years.

Have you seen the Winder Collection of tune? Great book!

Cheers


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: Jack Campin
Date: 03 Jul 14 - 09:44 AM

I wasn't suggesting you immediately (or ever) drop the book. But if somebody has been coming along for years and hasn't memorized anything from it, there's a problem that needs addressing.

I think you sometimes do street performances. That's a nightmare if you have to keep sheet music dry and in place. You don't need many tunes for that, and it makes sense to do the ones that the most people have memorized. If there are just one or two people who have to stop when their page flutters over in the wind, that's okay, but it looks awful if everybody's like that for every tune.

Ideally books like this would have ink that fades, so that memory has to take over gradually. The ink used for British Rail senior citizen annual discount cards goes invisible in six months so it's a solved problem.

Nigel has his tunes in a zillion little A5 booklets. Very handy and flexible, but to start a set you need a master index so they can call out a booklet name and page number. (Suggestion: if you go for multi-volume collections like that, don't do what Nigel did and code them by colour. The group now has a couple of colourblind players who can't tell the purple and green books apart. Pictures of animals like the O'Reilly computing book series would have worked better).


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 03 Jul 14 - 10:20 AM

Thanks Jack, all good advice.

When we play outside we generally play what we know from memory. When we play as a Ceilidh Band - which has another set of problems - around 140 have played with us and I invite the lot. Then 3 reply and 20 turn up on the night. We have a seperate dance book - agreed with our caller and these tend to be our well known tunes.

We have no plans to go to 2 volumes - but then I never had a plan in the first place. When I started the tunes session I couldn't really read at all now I can a bit and I think that goes for lots of others.

Great little tunes all of 'em.

Cheers


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: GUEST,Peter Laban
Date: 03 Jul 14 - 12:08 PM

Here's a link to the Winders' books mentioned : Winders printed books also to be had hee.


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 03 Jul 14 - 12:15 PM

Thanks Peter - as well as hundreds of great tunes it's a great telescope into the history of playing dance tunes


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 03 Jul 14 - 01:36 PM

I have posted on other threads re the ear/dots argument and still maintain that both are complementary skills. There are some who will forever stick with the dots, others who learn almost exclusively by ear, others (like me now) who will maybe learn from the dots and eventually stop using the book as muscle (and even brain?)memory kicks in. And a number of my friends have done the same tho' there are some who can still play nothing without the notes in front of them.
One reason for throwing the music away is playing in various outdoor situations where music stands blow over, sheet music blows away, etc, unless you have a few sandbags and a liberal supply of clothes pegs!

Having learned to read music at early age I was dependent on that skill and pretty useless at learning by ear up until about 10 years ago, since when I have made a concerted effort to do more by ear/from memory. It goes hand in hand with being a bit more familiar/adept at finding my way round my instruments. One very satisfactory spin-off is being able to play more tunes "off the cuff" on piano too (not that I take that to sessions!)

I am indebted to people like Nigel and yourself, Les in C, for the books and recognise their value. We have used some of your tunes up here in Edinburgh!


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: GUEST,Peter Laban
Date: 03 Jul 14 - 02:37 PM

I don't think it's as much the ear/sheet argument that applies here but the continuing dependence on the printed music.

Mind you, I cannot imagine a session group, other than (almost) complete beginners gathered around music stands playing such simple tunes but if that is what you do and are happy with I am not going to tell you are doing it wrong. I do think weaning yourself (or the group in this case) off the sheet will be beneficial when it comes to ear, memory and general musical development and will engender a freer approach to the tunes. More opportunities for growth in other words.


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 04 Jul 14 - 02:56 AM

Thanks to all for much thoughtful and valued advice but

we run what I think is a fairly typical mostly English tunes session. The one major difference being we have our own tune book which contains around 130 tunes commonly played in English pub sessions and we have copies on the table for those who can use them.

Generally we play 2As 2Bs and three times through then a straight into a second tune. All standard and all good fun.

Sometimes we play all in together then second time fiddles only, third time squeezers and so on with variations with As and Bs.

Can anybody pass on anty other 'arrangments' for want of a better word?


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: Jack Campin
Date: 04 Jul 14 - 04:10 AM

Scottish trad has an easier time with this since we have a long established tradition of sets of tunes in different tempo - "march, strathspey and reel" aka "MSR", "slow air, march, strathspey and reel" or (less commonly except in the competition scene) "hornpipe and jig". With clusters like that it makes sense to step up the instrumentation as things get louder and faster.

The 74th Fraser Highlanders pipe band are great at tune set arrangements, just using varying numbers of bagpipes and drums. In the folk band scene I don't think the Whistlebinkies have ever been equalled at that, though they were never the most high-energy group around.

Most ceilidh bands will change instrumentation sometimes when a new tune coincides with a new dance figure, to give the clearest possible cue to the dancers. They generally don't go in for random changes within a tune.


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 04 Jul 14 - 05:12 AM

Thanks Jack - that's just the kind of help I was looking for - will try some of your suggestions at this Tuesday:

At The Dulcimer Bar


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: The Sandman
Date: 04 Jul 14 - 07:07 AM

each to their own.
I think it is important to pick up tunes by ear, i learn tunes from music too. i see no harm in discussing informally[eg rose in the heather works better going into mug of brown ale than other way round] at the same time i experimebnt by trying out new combinations in a spontaneous fashion, some work some do not, after all it is not a paid gig but an open session. in ireland there is s0ome confusion because some paid gigs are described as sessions, if i was doing a paid gig, i would not experiment with trying new tunes together.


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: Brian Peters
Date: 04 Jul 14 - 07:12 AM

Peter Laban wrote:

And I am astounded the Bear Dance is still doing the rounds, more than forty years every aspiring folkgroup in the Netherlands and Flanders took it up.

Sticking to such a limited core repertoire can so easily create a stale atmosphere and it will certainly fuel the argument of those who nurse a perception folk music is basically a bunch of older people playing the same tunes again and again. And there's no need for that at all.


Although I think it's important that session repertoire doesn't get stale, and that it's important to introduce new material, the point about the old favourites like (speaking for England) 'Harpers Frolic', 'Rochdale Coconut Dance', 'Seven Stars' and so on is that they are very inclusive - most players arriving at a session for the first time know that repertoire, and it gives them a way in. As for 'Bear Dance', it's the first minor-key tune that most melodeon players learn, and just about every talented young melodeon player that I've come across will have cut their teeth on it - and probably still enjoy blasting it out once in a while, no matter how far they might have moved on.

I know a young melodeon player who had the choice of two local sessions - a youthful one, where they play all kinds of technically challenging stuff, and the 'old men's session', where they still do all the 1970s favourites. She actually loved both.


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 04 Jul 14 - 07:36 AM

Thanks Brian. The reason tunes have been played for hundreds of years is because they are good tunes - especially for dancing - the are dance tunes. The 20 / 21C creation of 'The Session' in which people who are generally pretty good at playing tunes sit together and play tunes - sometimes so fast that we can't tell what some of them are and certainly couldn't dance to them is an evolution within a living tradition! Xlnt.

Being able to pick up a tune after 2As & 2Bs is seen as something to aspire to. Ok, if that's your aspiration. I and many of the people who come to our Sessions can't do that and many of us have been playing for many, in my own case 50+, years.

So arrangements please


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: Mo the caller
Date: 04 Jul 14 - 10:08 AM

I learned from dots, OH picks things up by ear. Over the past 10 years by going to sessions (particularly the Audlem session) and a 'band workshop' we've improved the other skill.
It's not an either / or, there is a middle ground. Where a tune that is already firmly in your head will come out of your fingers, as well as your voice. I found that the thing that helped me learn this was the fact that the Audlem session included people who sang very familiar songs (e.g. Whiskey in the Jar) and everyone played along, especially in the chorus. Some even used to tell us the key before we started. And did instrumental breaks shouting out 'fiddlers' or squeezers, or even 'recorders' (who, what, Me?? panic, panic, wrong notes). You don't have to pick up a whole new tune at first listening, though there may be bits (runs, the key-note at the end) that you could join in with.
Maybe, since you are 'Improvers' your index could include the sort of info that OH has in his note-book. Name of Tune, Key, First note (or two) - so that people who want to play in other sessions can get started without using the dots all the time.


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: The Sandman
Date: 04 Jul 14 - 10:13 AM

"And I am astounded the Bear Dance is still doing the rounds, more than forty years every aspiring folkgroup in the Netherlands and Flanders took it up."
new people arrive to learn the music, to them the tune is not an old chestnut but something exciting, all the time new people come to the music and learn old chestnuts but treat them as musical pearls traditional music has hsome hope of flourishing.


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 04 Jul 14 - 10:45 AM

Beech Band Dancing with Bears


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Subject: RE: Arranging tunes in pub sessions
From: GUEST,Peter Laban
Date: 04 Jul 14 - 11:11 AM

Yes, that took me right back to 1975 when I used to busk with those tunes and a hurdy gurdy.


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