Pub session

Pub session

A pub session refers to playing music and/or singing in a public house.

However, this kind of loose assembly of musicians occurs all over the world, with no accepted generic name. If no alcohol is present then there is probably tea or coffee, and possibly smoking. There will almost always be some kind of leader who sets the tone of the event by starting off, or by selecting who will play next, or sing next. Performers will be given priority for seating, rather than spectators. Folk music instrumentalists like to construct a "set", consisting of two or three tunes. Sometimes they will be in the same time signature, sometimes faster tunes come at the end. Jazz musicians having a "blow" will start with a straight tune, then introduce variations, or toss the tune around between different instruments.

Traditional Irish session

Main article: Irish traditional music session

The characteristic dance-tunes of Ireland include jigs, reels, polkas, slip jigs, hornpipes and highlands. The flute is more popular in Ireland than most European countries. Other instruments frequently encountered are the fiddle, the guitar, mandolin, bouzouki and bodhran. Uilleann pipes do occur but are so hard to play, and so difficult to integrate into a band that they are rarely seen. For much of the twentieth century Ireland had so-called "Country house" music sessions where a householder would invite local musicians and singers into their kitchen for an evening. Occasionally itinerant musicians would be welcome. There are still "kitchen sessions". Pubs are the more frequent venues.

Traditional English session

The characteristic dance-tunes of England include reels, waltzes, jigs, polkas, hornpipes and occasionally a march. Brass bands were very popular in England in the nineteenth century. This has resulted in the almost unique presence of tubas and trombones at English folk dances, though they are rare in pub sessions. Other instruments include the melodeon, the guitar, the fiddle and harmonica. Music hall songs occur more frequently than in Ireland or Scotland.

Traditional Scottish session

The characteristic dance-tunes of Scotland include jigs, strathspeys, reels, waltzes and occasionally a march. There are organisations devoted to playing highland bagpipes. Understandably these sessions are held in large halls rather than pubs. They usually involve marching up and down in formation. Other organisations are devoted to playing the accordion, more so than in England or Ireland. These hit a peak in the 1950s, but are still found. Pub sessions tend to be dominated by fiddles or singers of traditional ballads.

Jazz, rock, blues and bluegrass session (jam)

Main article: Jam session

Particularly in the 40s and 50s, jazz jamming would involve a competitive element, with individuals trying to out-do each other in complexity. Characteristic instruments would be the piano, the trumpet, the saxophone, drums, trombone and upright string bass. Bluegrass sessions are also not for the faint-hearted, with fast playing as the norm. Banjo and mandolin are the main instruments for bluegrass.

Chinese music (Silk and bamboo)

Jiangnan Sizhu or ‘silk and bamboo' is a combination of flutes (bamboo) and string instruments (silk), occurring in tea-houses along the south bank of the lower Yangtze river. This has occurred for over 100 years, and has survived political and cultural revolutions. Twenty or more musicians will sit at tables in a tea-house to play well-known, usually quite slow tunes.

Egyptian and Moroccan Sha'abi

Main article: Sha'abi

"Sha-abi" means "of the people". Egypt's defeat during the 1967 war brought a desire for new "down-to-earth" music. This inspired many songs concerned with urban social issues, sometimes using western electric instruments such a guitars and synthesisers. This music is heard in clubs along the "Pyramid Road".


Main article: Rebetiko

Rebetiko, also called rebetika, rembetika or rembetiko was centred on the cafes, smoking houses and drug dens of Greece and Turkey in the first half of the twentieth century. Using a rich combination of instruments: - the bouzouki, baglamas, violin, accordion, guitar, touberleki, finger-cymbals there was a bluesy, folk-rock feel to the music, with a very soulful singer often present. In addition to all the above, many cities have an annual procession. Musicians will gather in much larger numbers than usual. Some will rehearse a small number of familiar tunes, but others will allow tunes to be selected almost at random. The musicians will either march or be seated on floats (lorries).

External references

Processional music

Main article: St. Patrick's Day Parade Scranton Main article: Notting Hill Carnival Main article: Mardi Gras Main article: Calgary Stampede Main article: Trooping the Colour

See also


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