As not all musicians are aware of "unspoken rules," it has become necessary to post such rules for everyone to see.
- Only tunes or songs which are old enough to be free of copyright law (90 years or older) will be played.
- The tunes and songs which are frequently played at this session are listed on this website. Practice that list of tunes and songs first. Play along with the YouTube playlist on the front page as well. Don't start a tune that the other session players have not become accustomed to.
- The musicians with a melody instrument who have been playing here for years are those who will start a set of tunes. Follow them.
- The musicians who have been playing the longest might introduce a "new" [90+ years old, of course] tune every now and then. That doesn't mean that you should do the same, if you're new to the session.
- When the lead musician who started the set of tunes is about to change from one tune to another, they will generally lift one of their feet for a few seconds. This is also the gesture shown right before they end the set, so be prepared for either a transition to another tune, or the end of the set.
- Don't play your instrument louder than the lead musician. If it's a song, be sure that you play quietly enough so that everyone behind you can hear the words.
- Percussion instruments should match the lead musician. Their purpose is to assist the other melody instruments in following the lead musician.
- Guitars, mandolins, and other stringed instruments that are playing chords, and not the melody, are considered percussion instruments, and should... match the lead musician.
- If it's a crowded session, with many musicians showing up, give up the middle of the circle for the lead musicians. It's best that everyone is close enough to hear the melody being played.
- Bodhrans which are not being played to the same beat as the lead instrument are forbidden. See the next checklist.
- Djembes, congas, tambourines, and other non-Irish percussion instruments which are played too loud (or sometimes being played at all) or aren't being played to sound like an Irish instrument are also shunned.
- End the sets gracefully. It can sound bad when the lead melody instrument is ending slowly or quietly, while the percussion instruments are still going at the same pace... or going at all.
- Anticipate the end of a tune in the set after two times around. It might go three times, but two is the norm.
- Near the end of the second time around in a tune, keep an eye out on the lead musician for a clue as to whether they're ending the tune, ending the set, or continuing.
- Don't touch someone else's instrument without first asking them, even to move it.
- When someone gets up temporarily (ordering another beverage; going to the restroom; going outside for a smoke...), that doesn't mean that their seat is now available. And remember the previous rule about moving their instrument.
As this website is managed by a bodhrán player, I feel it is appropriate to include etiquette specifically for bodhrán players here.
- If the tune is not fast enough to warrant playing a bodhrán, put... the tipper... down.
- If you can't play the rhythm yet, practice using my bodhrán practice guide until you're able to keep pace with every tune that you hear.
- If you're off rhythm, you'll mess everyone up... including the lead musician.
- If you're too loud, other musicians near you won't be able to hear the lead musician. "A quiet, peripheral role is always appreciated by experience musicians." -
- Make sure your bodhrán is loosened up enough, and that it isn't leaving a metallic, ringing noise after each beat.
- If a musician can hear two bodhráns, and they're played slightly differently, it can be distracting. It's best to have only one bodhrán being played per tune.
- If you're sitting right by an experienced bodhrán player, are matching their rhythm exactly, and are playing very quietly, then there might be an exception to the previous rule... as it would sound like one bodhrán. But if you can't anticipate and match the silences being played on the other bodhrán, sit the set out.
- The same rules apply as with other musicians at the session. If you don't already know a tune, don't join in. Practice it on this website, so you'll be ready next time.
In addition to the etiquette posted above, please read the following web pages on other websites regarding session etiquette: