What’s a session?

For the purposes of this blog, an acoustic music session is one kind of occasion when people play acoustic instruments together. A session is different from a performance, but it's a little difficult to describe why, and publicans are often confused by the distinction.

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What Does a Drummer Do At Campfire Sing-Alongs?

Lovely blog on campfire sessioning, by rock drummer Steve Coulter.

Greenfriar

It’s not easy being a rock drummer around a campfire.

This wonderful song book appeared a couple of years ago, handed down from a friend of a friend at a three-day motel party in Palm Desert. The chords-and-lyrics book had been printed, photocopied, and tabbed—pure magic in a three-ring binder from Staples.

It has just about every grand, beloved and ridiculous song you could ever want to sing around a campfire, from “King of the Road” to “Don’t Stop Believing.”  You haven’t truly lived until you’ve seen a drunken mom belting out Pat Benatar in the orange-yellow glow of a campfire, while her filthy children dance in the shadows. 

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The Bodhran

I'm quite serious about wanting people to send in guest posts about their instruments. They don't have be 'hymns of praise' - but this one kind of is. Sung to the tune of Battle Hymn of the Republic.   I have bought myself a bodhran – it’s a kind of Irish drum. Some pronounce it... Continue Reading →

Round-the-table songs

You’re in a session, happily watching other people’s fingers and singing along with choruses. Someone starts a song, and to your horror you realise people around the table are taking turns to make up the verses! You don’t know the song, and your turn is approaching with the speed and inevitability of a freight train.... Continue Reading →

And we thought WE were niche!

Have you heard of ‘filk music’? While Wikipedia says it began in the 1930s, this genre – if so it can be called – got its name from a typo in an unpublished article in the 1950s. Loosely defined as folk music with a science fiction or fantasy theme, filk music is typically sung session-style... Continue Reading →

What does it mean if everyone goes to the bar?

You start a song, and suddenly find yourself surrounded by empty chairs. Was it something you sang, or are you just being paranoid? First off, let’s accept that everyone legitimately needs to leave the session sometimes. They have to get a drink or order food, go to the loo, make or take a phone call.... Continue Reading →

Original songs in the session

A few older folkies are on record declaring that people shouldn’t write new songs. Their reasoning goes: Unless a song is sung regularly in public, it will be forgotten. Since opportunities to sing are limited, every time you sing a new song you’re starving some wonderful old song of attention, causing the old songs to... Continue Reading →

Arranging a session song II: Instrumentation, lead breaks, flow

Instrumentation Maybe this is your regular session, and you knew before you arrived that Mal was likely to bring his banjo and Ian’s in town this week with his button box. Maybe you’re in a strange city and you’ve walked into a session bursting with mandolins and fiddles. As song leader, you’ll never have total... Continue Reading →

Welcoming strangers

An acquaintance once invited me to a session in another city. I stepped into the crowded pub with guitar in hand and nervous anticipation on face. My acquaintance wasn’t there, and hadn’t warned anyone else that I was coming. Despite being clearly visible, standing awkwardly in the room’s entrance with an instrument, I was studiously... Continue Reading →

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