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Session Law

Session Law is mainly local but some parts of it are universal. Think of it as a small set of widely recognised laws and a few local bylaws added according to the Session. It also depends to some extent on whether the session is led or just a Gathering.

Being Folk, it is not written down, it is part of the Oral Tradition. In some Irish Sessions it was and maybe still is essential to wear jacket and tie or you won't be asked to play. Other session rules which vary according to session are:

  • Wait to be invited into the session / Anyone can join the session
  • Wait to be invited to start a tune / Anyone can start a tune
  • Do not fiddle aimlessly with your instrument in the quiet bits
  • No practising if there is an audience
  • Do not disturb the other musicians - wait until the set finishes to go to the bar
  • No cutlery / Only one set of spoons at a time / Any amount welcome (rarely)
  • Only One Bodhran per set / Any amount welcome (rarely)
  • Singing Allowed / Singing Restricted / Singing Banned - that's what Folk Clubs are for
  • No solo spots or session unfriendly tunes unless by licence

There may be restrictions on types of Instrument (Highland Pipes, Bombarde and most Brass Instruments are generally frowned upon as being too loud. Highland Pipes and Bombardes played together indoors at close range can actually damage your hearing). Too many of one type is consisdered bad form in some sessions but in others it may be designed for predominantly one type of instrument (e.g. all Whistles, all Ukulele).

Some sessions allow shaky, rattly, thumpy things as long as the owner buys a nuisance licence from the Musicians.