4 Common Misconceptions of an Irish Session

by Katrina VanTyne

If you’re not versed in Irish music and you happen to stumble into a place like Bagitos on a Saturday afternoon when the place is filled with musicians, you might not know exactly what to make of it. There is definitely an art to sessioning and a few unwritten rules you should know before you either jump in and play or call your friends to come listen to the band.

Here are 4 common misconceptions of an Irish session:

1. Oh look, a band!
This is not a concert and we are not a band. We are just a bunch of musicians who like to get together and share Irish tunes. There is no set list, we play tunes off the top of our head. This is basically a jam session for people who play traditional Irish music.

2. You don’t need to practice because it’s not a performance
Most of us spend hours upon hours practicing and learning tunes before we ever play them at a session. Even though this isn’t a performance there is an expectation that a musician can play the music at a certain level. Irish sessions usually take place in pubs, restaurants and other public places so we want it to sound good.

3. Anyone can join
Before you break out that drum and start pounding it, it is customary to ask the session hosts if you can play. Some sessions have different “rules.” For example, at the Bagitos session in Montpelier, we prefer melody instruments only. There are other session however, that welcome all instruments. It’s best to listen to the session first and then ask the session host.

4.We get paid lots of money
Most (if not all) of the time musicians who play at a session not only don’t paid anything, but they drive from near and far, to be there. So if there is a tip jar, please feel free to contribute. Obviously, we don’t play for the money but it sure is nice to know our music is appreciated.

Want to learn more? Below are some relevant posts on Irish sessions:

4 thoughts on “4 Common Misconceptions of an Irish Session

  1. Hi Katrina,
    Thanks for your text on Irish Sessions and your blog.
    I’m a fiddle player or rather trying to be.
    I’m on the north side of the border(Can.)
    I think your tips can help me avoid some embarrassment.

    David St-Onge

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