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Starting an Old-Time Session

Sean Belt 19 Apr 06 - 11:06 PM
BanjoRay 20 Apr 06 - 08:58 AM
fretless 20 Apr 06 - 02:05 PM
fretless 20 Apr 06 - 02:09 PM
Sean Belt 21 Apr 06 - 12:21 AM
fretless 21 Apr 06 - 05:56 PM
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Subject: Starting an Old-Time Session
From: Sean Belt
Date: 19 Apr 06 - 11:06 PM

Hey, all,

I'm looking for some help and advice. The bar that until recently hosted an old-time music/bluegrass session in my city is closing down. And to be truthful, the session was kind of dissapointing anyway; poorly attended and kind of an odd tension between the bluegrassers who didn't want to play fiddle tunes, and the old-timers who ddn't want to play Hank Williams songs and "Muhlenberg County" over and over again.

So, I'm looking to get something started again in a nice tavern where the local old-time players can get together once or twice a month and have at it. What are your thoughts? What makes a good Old-Time session? How to make both seasoned players and newbies feel welcome and satisfied? Where and how to advertise/promote?

And with that, I throw the floor open...

- Sean Ruprecht-Belt


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Subject: RE: Starting an Old-Time Session
From: BanjoRay
Date: 20 Apr 06 - 08:58 AM

Bluegrass and Old time don't seem to sit well together in the same session. Old time is mostly about fiddle tunes, with maybe a few songs, with all the instruments simultaneously trying to make the tune sound better, while bluegrass is mostly about songs interspersed with instrumental solo breaks - totally different structures which don't blend. So pick the right genre for you and stick to the one.
For old time you really need a good fiddler who's heard and relates to a lot of old recordings, and has a large repertoire of tunes. You need a good guitar player who can provide a solid rhythm and hold the session together. The others - banjos, mandolins - will pick up the tunes and try and make the fiddler sound better - at least thet's what I do in a session.
Which is your city, Sean? If you're in the UK you can advertise/ promote through Foaotmad, which has a quarterly magazine and a mailing list, which you can feed by writing to publicity@foaotmad.org.uk
Good luck with it - it's not easy.
Ray


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Subject: RE: Starting an Old-Time Session
From: fretless
Date: 20 Apr 06 - 02:05 PM

Be VERY nice to the tavern owner. OT musicians and their audiences (as opposed to the bluegrass crowd) don't tend to run up much of a bar tab, and you're going to be dependent on the owner's good will to keep the jam going. Back when I ran one of these things in New York City about a generation ago, We kept the owner happy by holding OT jams on Thursday nights, when the bar would have been empty anyway, and concerts, which were mostly bluegrass or combined BG/OT on Saturdays, when we could get the owner more traffic and therefore more money.

Banjo ray is absolutely right about the incompatibility of BG and OT musicians in jams. The Washington DC BG and OT group holds biweekly jams and it used to (and perhaps still does) designate different spaces for the two styles.

Good luck, in any case. A good jam session is a delight and worth every bit of the effort.


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Subject: RE: Starting an Old-Time Session
From: fretless
Date: 20 Apr 06 - 02:09 PM

P.S. - where are you planning to do this? You will want to advertise, and there's no better time to start than now.


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Subject: RE: Starting an Old-Time Session
From: Sean Belt
Date: 21 Apr 06 - 12:21 AM

Thanks for the suggestions.

I agree that bluegrass and old-time don't really mix well in a session. Completely different approaches to the music. Old-time is about community and sharing. Bluegrass is about performance and showing what one can do. It's my intention to keep this session geared towards old-time, if possible. Though, we do run into the occasional player who thinks that old-time is just bluegrass played slower!

As for where I'm planning to do this: St. Louis, MO over here in the States. Hope it works out!


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Subject: RE: Starting an Old-Time Session
From: fretless
Date: 21 Apr 06 - 05:56 PM

St. L. is a bit far from DC...unless, of course, you are offering free beer to the musicians. Post the location when you're done with the negotiations. And good luck!


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