I'm starting an Irish session band at college and I was wondering how others approach session playing. I've started with guitar and piccolo in addition to tenor banjo. The rhythm guitarist can keep up all right, but the piccolo player seems to have a hard time keeping up with the banjo. Am I going too fast? She's a pretty good musician, but Irish songs seem to throw her. Any advice on playing with others?
Unfortunately, if you slow to the lowest common denominator it gets really hard to decide when to go back to "normal". I have had this experience from the opposite side of the fence and what helped me was that between songs, or between sets, someone sometimes explained the wherefore and whys of the Irish fiddle tunes. I had some experience with appalachian fiddle style so I wasn't completely lost with the explainations.
Just as importantly, your piccolo player need to get three, five, or eight fairly straight forward CDs of Irish music and play them to the naseau of everyone around them. The tunes MUST be in their head. Individual tunes are best, tune style is imperitive.
Our session is open to all and we solve the problem of speed and level of accomplishment by doing a round robin in which everyone gets to pick the tune in a clockwise fashion. We do limit the choices to Irish and (sometimes) american old time tunes with Irish flavor which leads eventually to a repetoire that everyone learns after a while. This is the simplest way for a group such as yours I think
Remember, a session is first and foremost a social event and those who run it set the rules. Since you are obviously working with beginners, make it a slow session and if no one knows any tunes, teach them and encourage others to go out an learn some tunes to bring back to the session. We allow sheet music and other aids such as tab in our session. You will find that some sessions are not as forgiving (if that is the word) and are more stringent ( if that is the word) which often leads to better music but less craic.
You've been given some very sage advice. Here's something more to consider coming from a ITM flute player (I play flute, whistle, fife, and mandolin as well as tenor banjo). If your friend is using an actual Boehm system piccolo, that might be part of the problem. There's a very good reason that the Irish trad players stuck with the English Simple System flutes. They lend themselves mechanically to the ornamentation. The Boehm instruments were a real godsend to European music and remain the standard today, but Irish musicians have not widely embraced them. The tin whistle, fife, and Irish flute continue with the simple system because they can be played so much faster.
Does your piccolo player double on tin whistle, and if so, does she have the same difficulty keeping up when playing the whistle? If the answer is no, she may just be stumbling with the Boehm fingerings. It's not easy to play ITM on a piccolo.
No, she only plays flute and piccolo. Shame, because I really like the sound of tin whistle. They just happen to be WAY too hard to find here. However, I saw a band tonight that only had two members. 1 guy on dulcimer, the other guy on recorder/mandolin and they played Irish trad. Beautiful, despite only having two people. So that's an idea.
Just go to www.elderly.com and buy some tin whistles, they are not that hard to find and are cheap for what they give you. Learning to play the whistle is not that hard, learning to play well is as hard as any other instrument.
Whistles are a good way to start out, however and the investment is not that much at the basic level.
Tin whistles can be hard to find in every music store, but the Internet solves that right away. Elderly is one good source as Mike mentioned, but a quick Google for tin whislte will land you lots of suppliers. It can be a little confusing at first, as there are lots of makes and keys available, but I'd recommend a Generation brand whistle in the key of D for starters. Your friend should be up and playing in no time. Tin whistles are about as much fun as you can have for $10!