Glen Echo Open Band FAQ

Q: What is involved in playing in the Open Band?
A: Just show up with your instrument and find a seat in the second or third row. If you can, try and find a seat next to someone who plays the same instrument that you do. Its best to arrive by about 8 pm, so that you have time to meet some other players, tune up your instrument and warm up a little before the dance starts at 8:30. We start the sound check about 8:15 and play the polka to open the dance at about 8:25.

Q: Are there periodic practices?
A: No, we do not practice as a group.

Q: What about sheet music?
A: We do not use sheet music as a group or have any collection of tunes organized in a book. Many of the tunes that we play can be found in the fiddle tunes books commonly available - The Fiddlers Fake Book, The New England Fiddlers Repertoire, and The Portland Collection. All three books are available from the Country Dance and Song Society, Elderly Instruments, or the House of Musical Traditions in Takoma Park, MD. Open band players are encouraged to memorize the tunes, since we are playing for dancers and the best way to make a connection with the dancers is to be able to look at them while you play. If your nose is stuck in sheet music, it's pretty difficult to interact with the dancers or the other players and you can miss cues from the band leader. All the musicians playing on mic have memorized the tunes. But learning the open band repertoire is a different story. Sheet music is helpful to learn the tunes or you can also come to the band and learn them by ear as we play for the dance. Bring a tape recorder and ask someone from the open band to play a few tunes for you during the break or after the dance. We do have one member - Jim Stahler, who records the titles of the tunes we play each night and produces an Open Band Tune List. That is very helpful to new players, because it lists all the tunes that we might play, and how many times we played each tune in the last year. So, you can get that list and see the most popular tunes and learn those first.

Q: Do some of the musicians get paid? How is that worked out?
A: Everyone that plays in the open band may sign up to receive a share of the band pay. The share varies with the number of open band players and the number of dancers in the evening, but generally amounts to about $10 to $20. The core musicians who lead the band get paid more.

Q: Would a 14 year old be welcome?
A: We welcome musicians of all ages and abilities. The open band is loosely organized anarchy, so anyone coming to play should be comfortable joining the crowd, introducing themselves to their neighbors and then jumping right in to play some tunes.

Q: How should I best prepare to play with the open band?
A: We suggest that you get a copy of the Open Band Tune List. Then, if you read music buy two tune books - The Portland Collection and The New England Fiddler's Repertoire available from the Country Dance and Song Society, Elderly Instruments, or the House of Musical Traditions in Takoma Park, MD. Then, using the Open Band Tune List, learn to play the most popular tunes at home and practice them at tempos of 112 to 140 beats/minute.

Q: How does the open band sound?
A: Here is a link to a podcast that offers the sets of songs along with the page info in some of the popular books such as the Portland Collection and Fiddlers Fakebook.