McDonnell's Traditional Irish Music Slow Session

Traditional Irish Sessions in Victoria, Australia

The sessions listed below have been recommended by our slow session players.   If you find any errors in the details or know of other traditional Irish music sessions in Victoria please send us an email.  Most of the sessions are in Melbourne and its surrounding suburbs unless otherwise noted.

Sessions can change without notice, to be safe call the pubs/venues before you travel just to be sure the session is still on. 


If you are interested in learning more about traditional Irish sessions and session etiquette click here to check out the note on session etiquette at the bottom of the page. 

Ballarat, Victoria

Irish Murphy’s, Still have Traditional Irish Sessions. 6 Sturt Street, Ballarat, Victoria, 3350. Phone: (03) 5331 4091. website:

Box Hill, Victoria (Now On Zoom)

A Celtic Jam session is an informal get-together to socialise and share music with others,
crossing all social and demographic boundaries. No sheet music or music stands are needed,
musicians simply come together and learn tunes from each other. To learn more about their sessions check their website:

Canberra, ACT

Slow Session Experience, The National Folk Festival Each year typically has a popular slow session. It is held every morning of the Festival. Check out their website for more details

Carlton, Victoria

The Last Jar typically holds Irish traditional music sessions throughout the week.  Phone the pub for more up-to-date information on their sessions (9348 2957) Address: 616 Elizabeth St, Melbourne. 

Chelsea, Victoria

The Chelsea Yacht Club month Celtic Music sessions will resume on Sunday 26 Feb 2023.  They run from 4 – 7 pm.  Cover charge of $5.00 for adults and Children by donation.


Collingwood, Victoria

Melbourne Comhaltas, Wednesday: 7:30 – 10:00 pm.  They will resume their meetings on 8 Feb 2023. St Phillips Church Hall, 150 Hoddle St. Music session and set dancing. For more info check out their website or send an email to


Session Etiquette Note from:

Summary: Some basic rules can make any session run more smoothly. Irish Traditional Music Sessions are acoustic sessions, and so no amplification is used.  As a basic rule of etiquette it is always advisable to play only when you know the tune or song.  An Irish session is not like a jam session where excessive noodling is acceptable.  Instead, an Irish session requires that each player comes to the session with not only a great deal of enthusiasm, but also with practiced restraint.  The point of providing tunes and sets is for musicians to know some of the tunes prior to entering the session. There are a number of books that discuss other points of etiquette at a traditional Irish session, but my favorite by far is the little book by Barry Foy’s Field Guide to the Irish Music Session (2008).  You can find it for under $10 at either Amazon, or Frogchart Press.

Session Guidelines: It should go without saying that not every session will embody the same rules, but every session will embody some rules. Every session has, and needs, guidelines.  That’s really all that etiquette is, just a set of guidelines. Now, what this means is that, first, sessions are as different as people, and second, just like people, there is often quite a bit they have in common. For many reasons a session is a singular form of participatory social music, unfamiliar enough to many to require an explicit discussion etiquette and proper style. What’s needed, then, is something to start with, some default guidelines to have in mind when showing up at an unfamiliar session. In other words, if you do not know the particular rules of a session you are thinking of attending, then you can use the following guidelines as a starting point.  Some sessions can run smoothly on these rules alone, others require more in order to deal with what I might call “unique personalities.”  Some sessions may reject one or more of the guidelines below, or introduce many others.  The decision as to what guidelines apply to a specific session will ultimately be up to those who run the session, and if you pay attention, you will be able to fit in fairly quickly.  This would be completely unnecessary if everyone had grown up where sessions were common and well-run.  Since we didn’t, it isn’t.  Of course, if you know the session and sessioners, or have observed the session for a while, you probably don’t need any of these guidelines . . . well, unless you plan on travelling to another session at any point in your musical life.

Default Guidelines for any ITM Session: 

  • Treat all musicians with respect.
  • Be civil.  Well, the watchwords are courtesy, consideration, sensitivity, and patience. These will keep you from becoming the brunt of jokes and barbs at future sessions.
  • Before you come to a session, PRACTICE. All the other musicians have spent many years practicing on their instruments to be able to play. If you don’t have the same level of commitment then respect them and listen, don’t just show up and play like a hack. 😉
  • Warm up before playing. Maybe a bit of yoga — this ain’t no joke!
  • Tune your instrument to the group standard, but don’t start playing while others are tuning.  (A=440 most often)
  • The musician who starts the tune will set the tempo, and it should not falter until the set is over.
  • Don’t play at a speed above your skill level. It’s better to play a tune slowly and well than quickly and badly.
  • Don’t take a seat in the session circle unless you are going to play.
  • Do NOT, whatever you do, bring sheet music to a regular session. If you don’t know the tunes well enough to play them without sheet music, you shouldn’t be trying to play tunes in a regular session.
  • Sessions are social & musical events.  Be cognizant of how others are responding to your behavior.  For instance, watch your tempo:  don’t play everything so fast that hardly anyone else can keep up.  If that makes you unhappy, then start your own fast session.  Don’t hijack someone else’s session just to show off.  Also, don’t be a tune hog.  Everyone at the session has their favorite tunes, and many want a chance to play theirs.  Share the tune choice with others.  
  • Only one percussion instrument (bodhrán, bones, etc.) at a time, so take turns. Bones and bodhrán can sometimes work together, but not every time. [does not apply to learning session gatherings]
  • Only one rhythm instrument (guitar, bouzouki, etc.) at a time, so take turns.  A bass and rhythm instrument (e.g., mando-bass and guitar) can work together. [does not apply to learning session gatherings]
  • If your instrument is much louder than the other instruments at the session, then you should play it so that all the melody instruments at the session can be heard clearly by everyone.
  • The more popular tunes, which every musician is likely to know, are often played early in the session, so if you want to play these tunes, get to the session early.
  • If you arrive later in the session, ask whether it’s been played already before you start playing one of the popular tunes.
  • Before you start a tune, listen to be sure that another tune has not already started.
  • Irish traditional music sessions are acoustic sessions, and so no amplification is used.
  • Playing great music is serious business, but it helps to have a good sense of humor.

Need more on session etiquette, or just want some different points of view?  Read on grasshopper! You will find that having some manners and a bit of respect for other musicians goes a long way and that there is considerable agreement about basic etiquette across sessions.

Beir Bua!