At the Bagitos session last week, I was reminded of just how much fun a session can be. Not that all sessions aren’t fun, they are, but this one was particularly exhilarating because of the energy that was created by the group.
Irish sessions are a little different from a regular jam sessions in that there are some unwritten rules musicians need to follow. For example, we usually play a tune three times and then follow it with another tune or another couple of tunes. This is called a tune set. The fun of it is pulling that second or third tune out of your head at a moment’s notice. It’s easy to get caught up in playing the same old tune sets because you know how to play them and it’s safe because you’ve practiced it before. But pulling one out of your head while you’re playing is another thing altogether. It’s where I think the creativity of a session comes in.
At last week’s session, someone would play their one tune and then someone else would pick up the pace and string along another tune and so it went.
In an Irish session class I took at The Summit School of Traditional Music in Montpelier, we did this at the end of every class. We called it the ring of fire. One person in the circle would start a tune, play it 3 times then the next person would carry it through to another tune and on it went around the circle. This way you never get wrapped up in playing the same old tune sets. Instead you are forced to play on the fly, which I think makes you a better player and certainly adds some spice to the session.
This week we’ll see what the session holds. What do you think makes a good session?
2 thoughts on “What makes a session fun?”
For me it’s the moments of deep pleasure – locking into a good rhythm with everyone there, or when someone moves into an unplanned tune you were thinking of too, or someone starting a tune you love but had forgotten about, playing a variation of the tune the 2nd or 3rd time through, and the player next to you plays it too. I guess I like feeling like musical ESP is happening, but also little surprises.
If a session has these some of these moments, I’m happy.
Well put! Thanks for your comment! I love being able to go to an Irish session anywhere, not knowing a soul and yet knowing similar tunes. It’s like another language only Irish musicians speak.