mudcat.org: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
Lyrics & Knowledge Personal Pages Record Shop Auction Links Radio & Media Kids Membership Help
The Mudcat Cafeawe

Post to this Thread - Printer Friendly - Home
Page: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]


Reading Lyrics vs Memorization

Related threads:
Conversation abt club and reading words-Dick Miles (44) (closed)
How do you learn/memorize songs? (85)
Advice please!!! - memorize fiddle tunes? (34)
Recreating versus memorizing a song (61)
Help: World record for most songs memorized (15)
BS: The first song or poem you memorized (57) (closed)
Tips for Memorizing Songs (40)
BS: How to do you memorize a song? (37) (closed)


GUEST,Oldnew 09 Jan 21 - 04:34 AM
GUEST,jag 09 Jan 21 - 03:48 AM
Jack Campin 08 Jan 21 - 09:26 PM
Allan Conn 08 Jan 21 - 07:01 AM
Howard Jones 08 Jan 21 - 05:41 AM
GUEST,jag 07 Jan 21 - 05:56 PM
Steve Shaw 07 Jan 21 - 01:35 PM
John P 07 Jan 21 - 01:00 PM
Steve Shaw 07 Jan 21 - 12:04 PM
GUEST,Peter 07 Jan 21 - 12:02 PM
Steve Gardham 07 Jan 21 - 10:59 AM
Allan Conn 07 Jan 21 - 10:32 AM
Steve Gardham 07 Jan 21 - 07:47 AM
GUEST,Allan Conn 06 Jan 21 - 04:15 PM
GUEST,Howard Jones 06 Jan 21 - 10:59 AM
Allan Conn 06 Jan 21 - 03:23 AM
RTim 05 Jan 21 - 11:01 PM
John P 05 Jan 21 - 08:19 PM
Steve Gardham 04 Jan 21 - 04:37 PM
Bill D 04 Jan 21 - 04:14 PM
Steve Gardham 04 Jan 21 - 02:25 PM
Jack Campin 04 Jan 21 - 11:31 AM
GUEST,Nick Dow 04 Jan 21 - 11:13 AM
Steve Gardham 04 Jan 21 - 10:05 AM
Bonzo3legs 04 Jan 21 - 09:43 AM
Richard Mellish 04 Jan 21 - 07:03 AM
Deckman 04 Jan 21 - 06:08 AM
Howard Jones 04 Jan 21 - 05:04 AM
GUEST,Sol 03 Jan 21 - 07:46 PM
GUEST,jag 03 Jan 21 - 05:15 PM
GUEST,jag 03 Jan 21 - 05:09 PM
GUEST,Nick Dow 03 Jan 21 - 04:16 PM
Howard Jones 03 Jan 21 - 04:08 PM
Deckman 03 Jan 21 - 12:07 PM
Bonzo3legs 03 Jan 21 - 11:53 AM
GUEST,jag 03 Jan 21 - 11:45 AM
Howard Jones 03 Jan 21 - 09:35 AM
GUEST,Some bloke 03 Jan 21 - 07:52 AM
Richard Mellish 03 Jan 21 - 07:17 AM
Steve Gardham 02 Jan 21 - 05:50 PM
Jack Campin 02 Jan 21 - 05:18 PM
Steve Gardham 02 Jan 21 - 03:05 PM
GUEST,Ray 02 Jan 21 - 12:43 PM
leeneia 02 Jan 21 - 12:31 PM
Steve Gardham 01 Jan 21 - 05:13 PM
Jack Campin 01 Jan 21 - 05:01 PM
GUEST,Nick Dow 01 Jan 21 - 04:18 PM
Steve Gardham 01 Jan 21 - 04:08 PM
GUEST,jag 01 Jan 21 - 04:06 PM
Jack Campin 01 Jan 21 - 03:46 PM
Share Thread
more
Lyrics & Knowledge Search [Advanced]
DT  Forum
Sort (Forum) by:relevance date
DT Lyrics:






Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: GUEST,Oldnew
Date: 09 Jan 21 - 04:34 AM

Simple. Write those snooty money raking elitists a nice new song called Bookflipping Timewaster. And hand out some aongsheets so they can all join in the chorus. Makenitnlog and complex, and impossible to memorize.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: GUEST,jag
Date: 09 Jan 21 - 03:48 AM

At a festival couple of years ago. Band starts song intro. Singer goes talks to one band member. Crosses stage and talks to another. Comes back to the microphone and owns up that none of them can remember first line of self-penned song. Half the audience launches into song. All have a laugh then carry on. All folk together.

As I said. I think some people's rules and customs, as presented, ignore how real people's brains work.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Jack Campin
Date: 08 Jan 21 - 09:26 PM

Just came across an anecdote from someone who ran a music shop in Inverness. Matt McGinn came in one day. To buy one of his own books, because he was about to do a gig there and had forgotten some of his own words.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Allan Conn
Date: 08 Jan 21 - 07:01 AM

Also depends on what is being talked about! I was talking about the likes of our early session which is floor spots with individuals or people collaborating doing actual performances. The later session is a session where players are more all playing together. So someone may for instance play an instrumental piece to written music at the early performance - but of course that would be different for the later one where folks are playing along with each other.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Howard Jones
Date: 08 Jan 21 - 05:41 AM

Playing tunes is entirely different. Even if you can play with the appropriate style while sight-reading, and whether or not you learn tunes from dots, to participate in a session then sooner or later you have to set the music aside and play by ear. When a tune starts up, readers have to identify the tune, find the right page (and perhaps the right folder) and hope they have the same version in the same key. By the time they are ready to play the set has moved on to the next tune. Hence the need for "slow sessions" which I mentioned earlier.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: GUEST,jag
Date: 07 Jan 21 - 05:56 PM

Joe Offer's quote in the first post included "... a sheet in your back pocket for security, that's fine..."

I don't know about other people but if I learn something from a full text I find glancing down at that far faster, so less obtrusive, than hunting down through a series of disconnected first lines - unless I have practiced with that.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 07 Jan 21 - 01:35 PM

You may not be disagreeing as much as you think. What you put in bold is just what I was saying when I made that comment about experienced traditional musicians who have already learned hundreds of tunes by ear. The trouble, is if you "learn a tune" from dots you are not organically incorporating all those nuances that I referred to - as you learn. You have to try to add them in later. It can work as long as you are very experienced already. Not only that, there are so many different "versions" in the tune books (I gave all mine away years ago) that you end up with dot-learners arguing about which version is "best" or the "correct one," or telling someone else that they're playing it wrong. A dead giveaway, is that. Many an enthusiastic youngster is so impatient that they try to pick up dozens of tunes from the dots as quickly as possible in order to be able to join in in sessions. In most cases I've seen, their enthusiasm rapidly drops off. In m'humble you can't beat the real traditional way of learning tunes, which is by listening to real traditional musicians playing... It's slow, but it works.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: John P
Date: 07 Jan 21 - 01:00 PM

Steve, I disagree about learning from written music. I don't like performing from written music, but see nothing wrong with using as a learning tool, as long as you know what the music is supposed to sound like. I don't care if someone I play with learns a tune from a score, but I expect them to know what I mean, and how to play it, when I say it's a reel or a jig. I agree that playing from the music often sound wooden, and listening to someone who doesn't know how to play a reel is painful, but I've also heard plenty of painful reels from people who don't read music.

I should amend the ambiguity my previous post to say that, even on a professional stage, the music is the thing, and not the tools used to deliver it. If someone can do a great job of staying with the band and with the audience while reading music, that's fine. I just haven't experienced it. And I think it looks bad, as if the band is unprepared.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 07 Jan 21 - 12:04 PM

My experience, which is considerable, was playing instrumental music, not singing, and mostly traditional Irish music (with the inevitable bits of Scottish and Northumbrian...). In my opinion (an important caveat), tunes should always be learned by ear. What is in the dots is not the tune. Dots don't contain the little nuances of rhythm, tempo, variation, articulation and ornamentation. Dots keep you totally earthbound. I've sat at a table in sessions with really "gifted" instrumentalists who are great sight-readers, playing tunes they didn't know from the dots. *Groan.* Talk about wooden. All those things I mentioned ARE the tune, not add-ons, and you should be using them as you are learning the notes, not sticking them in afterwards. I would just about make an exception in the case of very experienced players with hundreds of tunes under their belt that they've learned by ear. They are so soaked in the ways of authentic, traditional playing that they might be able to avoid the impossible constraints imposed by dots alone. Absolutist, moi?

As for singers, I can fully understand getting verses in long ballads mixed up or left out. But if you're singing from a script, you're not going to be in the spirit of the song at all. A tiny, discreet prompt sheet that can be furtively glanced at not too often, just to remind what comes next, would seem to be OK to me. We had one bloke who had a bit of paper sellotaped on the top edge of his guitar... But no permanent eyes-down, or songbook on table, or (heaven forfend) music stand... all that is just awful...

Steve, ducking nervously, in a mostly-singing thread, fish out of water an' all that...


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: GUEST,Peter
Date: 07 Jan 21 - 12:02 PM

In public speaking you are taught not to read from a script as you will fail to engage with your audience.

It is the same with most people who sing from a folder. A crib sheet is fine to give you the opening of each verse but performing from a written score is a professional skill that most folkies do not have.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 07 Jan 21 - 10:59 AM

I don't think any of us are promoting blanket criticism. There are bound to be a few exceptions. It's a matter of common sense and a degree of tolerance. We are really discussing amateur performance here and my experience of the folk scene is that professional performers would not use crutches in this way anyway. If I may 'we are all reading from the same hymnsheet' Ooh, that was bad!

The only problem I would see from your good performer using a crib sheet/paper copy etc. is that other lesser mortals see that and think it's okay, and before long you have a club full of readers with their noses in folders.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Allan Conn
Date: 07 Jan 21 - 10:32 AM

Yes Steve the post from John P says "Professionals shouldn't have music or lyric sheets on stage."

I help run a floor spot session myself and there are a variety of ways how folks perform. I agree no-on wants to see someone with their face in a sheet of paper - and certainly nobody wants to hear folks stumbling through songs because they haven't practised. That is so for just trying to read a song you haven't bothered to learn - or the other example is the guy who refuses to use a crutch even though he forgets the lyrics just about every week. Both are as bad as each other IMHO. As long as the performance is good then I don't care if they are using crib sheets or not. That is what counts. And actually one of our better performers always uses crib sheets - but you'd be hard pressed to know he was looking at it. Just the odd glance.

On the other side there is the players who come from the more formal musical background. We had an American lady come for a while who was a piano tutor, an organ tuner by trade, and a really good piano player. She wanted to accompany me on the song Circle Game - but would not do it without the sheet music which she had to get first. Just a different type of musician. Likewise I have a friend from the classical background who had been a top viola player in orchestras all his life. He has taken to playing both jazz and folk without the music but at first he did find it a culture shift. So that is why I commented on the blanket "professionals shouldn't have music or lyrics on stage" It is horses for courses and the performance that counts!!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 07 Jan 21 - 07:47 AM

Has anyone commented on what professionals must or mustn't do? I thought we were discussing amateur performance.

As usual, I completely agree with all that the very sensible and logical Howard has to say.

For me, as I have said, the problem reaches the strained level when the reliance on crutches becomes the norm. I am quite happy to be in a room with one or two readers in a normal session/singaround, but a full room of them; bye, bye!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: GUEST,Allan Conn
Date: 06 Jan 21 - 04:15 PM

The point is that a blanket statement about what professionals must or mustn't do is not logical. Many musicians read music while playing. It doesn't need to be complicated pieces. Surely it is the performance that matters not whether there are sheets of paper in the vicinity.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: GUEST,Howard Jones
Date: 06 Jan 21 - 10:59 AM

Classical musicians are usually performing much longer and more complex pieces, perhaps in a foreign language. These hardly compare with singing in a folk club.

There is certainly a place for song circles where novice and unconfident singers can go to perform to a sympathetic and tolerante audience. However I go to a folk club hoping to be entertained, not to participate in a self-help group. The problem is that such clubs often don't make it clear that is their purpose. Furthermore the practice has spread into mainstream folk clubs, where floorsingers may be appearing alongside professional and semi-professional performers. That is really no place to be stuttering through a song you barely know.

In the world of instrumental sessions (where I now spend more of my time, having been driven away from many folk song clubs by declining standards), there are "slow sessions" aimed at people without the skills to play in full-fat sessions, either because they rely on reading music or lack the technique to play at full speed. For some these are a place to develop the skills to enable them to move on to proper sessions, but many do not and are happy to play at that level. The point is, these are advertised as slow sessions and everyone knows what to expect. Perhaps if song circles and folk clubs which accept this were more up-front about their policies this issue would be less controversial.

Again, let me emphasise that my concern is for performance standards, and my objection to the use of books is where it affects those, which unfortunately is more often than not.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Allan Conn
Date: 06 Jan 21 - 03:23 AM

"Professionals shouldn't have music or lyric sheets on stage." Someone better tell the Royal Philharmonic.......


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: RTim
Date: 05 Jan 21 - 11:01 PM

I am 74 years old and have been a singer all my life. At school I was in choirs and light operas, as a teen I was a singer in a Rock Band. In my late teens I discovered Folk Music, beginning with American Folk and then Traditional English Folk Music.
When younger I started to sing unaccompanied and I could learn a song within a day or two – and I would only sing those songs I could remember, but often made mistakes, and that was the way it was for years and years, even when I was not singing regularly. But I could remember the songs I had learnt years ago.

However, as time has gone on, it is more difficult to learn and remember new songs…and as years went on and the opportunity for singing reduced – as did my powers of recall diminished. If I had a gig, I would create a gig song list and that would always include the start line of all the songs – I found I needed that for both the tune and for pitching the song correctly. That escalate into listing the first line of each verse…and that is where I am today…not for all songs, just a few.
Singing on Zoom is a totally different situation…..I tend to sing songs that I think I should be singing - often songs I really want to sing, but don’t know yet…I know the tune, but can only sing if I have the words. These are songs I would NOT sing at a live gig; and as no one can see the words – I use them.
I see NO problem doing this. I have seen performers like Richard Thompson use words on stage –and even Luciano Pavarotti!!! The Copper Family nearly always use words. My wife is a Professional musician – and Always uses a score when playing.
Singing live is a very personal event and you should always be as professional as you can when you perform….sometimes you sing from memory, sometimes you need to glance at cheat sheets and sometimes you need ALL the words in front of you. You know the song and have sung it many times before live performance…but you sometimes need the “crutch” of words.

So – in short - Get off my and others cases – just accept there is more than one way to do what we do….but let us continue to do it!!

Tim Radford


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: John P
Date: 05 Jan 21 - 08:19 PM

1. It seems like a song circle is supposed to be the place where amateur singers can participate in a singing tradition that often defined as being participatory. We shouldn't expect amateurs to have professional skills, one of which is memorizing music and lyrics. The music is the thing, not the tools that are used to deliver it.

2. Even an amateur, with or without a song sheet, should deliver a song cohesively and convincingly if singing in public. If you can't make it through the song without falling off rhythm or under-delivering the song in some other way, please practice at home until you can.

3. Professionals shouldn't have music or lyric sheets on stage. See professional skills in #1 above. Just my opinion I suppose, but every time I've been on stage with people who are reading music, they aren't as tuned into what the band is doing as they could be, or how the interaction and feedback loop with the audience is progressing, and the performance suffers thereby.

John P


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 04 Jan 21 - 04:37 PM

Hi Bill
Go with all of that. I have on occasions when desperate to air a new song written the first word of each verse down on a record card in my back pocket, but didn't really need it.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Bill D
Date: 04 Jan 21 - 04:14 PM

I've said many times... in person, and maybe in Mudcat on other threads, that I understand the desire to 'get the words right' when singing...especially if you are reviving something not done recently.
   The problem is, many people simply cannot focus correctly and follow the words on the page... which leads to awkward pauses and breaks in the rhythm. The point of singing at all is not just to be 'onstage', but to present a song in and enjoyable way.
   If you know the song.. both tune and words... reasonably well and merely need a reminder, just in case... fine. *IF* I can close my eyes and not tell whether someone is using notes, I am okay with it. I will sometimes make a small note card with the 1st words of lines jotted down.. but I will NOT plow into a song that I barely know and mumble thru it, just because it is an interesting find on a certain topic.
On FSGW's recent ZOOM Getaway, a couple of people, determined to be in every session, actually read *at* songs they had just written... one that very morning. They really didn't even have a clear tune worked out. Tedious!

I am content to sing only what I am really ready to sing.. even with a few glances at notes.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 04 Jan 21 - 02:25 PM

This thread keeps wandering off topic so people can score points on info that is barely relevant. Can I just remind posters that Joe started the thread with amateur performance on the 'folk scene' albeit, the American folk scene; although Joe didn't actually restrict his point just to cover the American folk scene. Most of the posters are from the other side of the pond, but most of the same principles, I would contend, still apply. Joe will soon put me right if I am wrong. Therefore I would ask that we refrain from adding in professionals and poets.

The 'folk scene', aka the second revival this side of the pond, takes very little other than the songs themselves from the oral tradition that existed before WWII. One thing it does take is that singers who perform in public learn their songs before they sing them. This idea of sitting there with a folder or something similar in front of them is relatively new on this 'folk scene'. We 'finger in the ear loners' (whatever they are) think in general this is a retrograde step and we do our best to discourage it. Maybe we are wrong. Convince us!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Jack Campin
Date: 04 Jan 21 - 11:31 AM

I didn't have amateurs reading their work at sessions in mind. I meant the pros. Here is the poet who got the biggest audiences of all time, reading his most famous work.

Yevtushenko reads Babi Yar

It's a professionally made film. It would have been easy to cut away from the sheets and obscure his eye movements reading from them. But nobody thought it mattered.

Some more you might have heard of:

Allen Ginsberg

Charles Bukowski

Tom Leonard

Alice Walker

Audre Lorde

Seamus Heaney

Jean Binta Breeze

John Cooper Clarke

Andrei Codrescu

John Hegley

George Szirtes

Jacques Prevert

Simon Armitage

Attila the Stockbroker

Patti Smith (reading prose by Oscar Wilde, but she performs it like one of her own poems).

For every poet I could think of who might have made it to Internet video, what I found was them reading from paper (apart from one video of Jean Binta Breeze where she is acting in character as The Wife of Bath in Brixton Market). And in most cases what they were reading from was a published copy of their own book - not a privately marked up copy, they were using exactly what their readers had access to.

I have at times had a fair amount of poetry memorized. But performing it from memory would NOT have been what the author intended.

One of the most memorable live poetry performances I've seen was when six New Zealand poets (led by Ian Wedde, I think) read the index to Freud's "The Interpretation of Dreams" aloud in unison as a piece of found surrealism. Take a look. I can't imagine anybody memorizing that.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: GUEST,Nick Dow
Date: 04 Jan 21 - 11:13 AM

Every time!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 04 Jan 21 - 10:05 AM

Oh dear! Here we go!

Howard, thanks for the common sense! I'm afraid that seems to be flying out of the window!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 04 Jan 21 - 09:43 AM

Nice family folk clubs do not have this problem, it is only the domain of finger in the ear loners!!!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 04 Jan 21 - 07:03 AM

Many thanks to all who have contributed to a civilised discussion. That is not everyone.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Deckman
Date: 04 Jan 21 - 06:08 AM

BULLSHIT …. GROW UP AND LEARN THE WORDS OR DON'T SING IT.   BOB(DECKMAN)NELSON


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Howard Jones
Date: 04 Jan 21 - 05:04 AM

Read what I am saying. It is not the book which is the issue, it is the performance. The production of a book is only a symptom. Far too often (the majority of times in my own experience) someone who relies on a book is unable to produce a good performance. Where this is not the case then the use of a prompt doesn't matter (and it is usually only a prompt, rather than reading the words off the page).

I think (atlhough I'm guessing here) that it is mainly about confidence. Someone who lacks the confidence to get through the words may also lack confidence in their performance. A book may help with the first, but without the preparation that learning a song by heart involves they are less likely to overcome the latter.

Performing from memory is hardly niche. It has long been the norm for most genres of popular music. If prompts are used they are usually out of sight, and the singers have the necessary performance skills so they aren't an issue.

Examples from "outside the niche" are only helpful where they are comparable. Church services are clearly not - you arrive at a service not knowing which out of several hundred possible hymns have been chosen, or which version. It is entirely reasonable to use a hymnal. Neither is this a performance. It bears no comparison with a folk club, where a singer will usually perform only two or three songs, of their own choosing,and which they have plenty of time to prepare.

It is certainly true that memory becomes less reliable as you get older. I am in my mid-sixties and notice this myself. However it is also true that memory can be trained, and regular use will help to keep it going. If you are used to memorising songs it becomes easier to learn new ones and to retain the ones you already know. Use it or lose it.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: GUEST,Sol
Date: 03 Jan 21 - 07:46 PM

Someone once said to me that if you sing from a lyric sheet you will never learn the words by heart. There's a lot of truth in that. I have a friend who sang the same closing song every Saturday night for over 10 years. The song has only two verses yet he wouldn't/couldn't perform it without his lyric sheet in front of him.

"In the old days" we would painstakingly write out each line of a song while listening to it on a record player or tape deck. Writing the lyrics down helps to embed them in your memory. Because we can now just cut-and-paste from the net, that process has gone.   

I should add that as we get older it is becomes harder to memorise lyrics so please allow us elderly folk some slack re. the need for a crib sheet.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: GUEST,jag
Date: 03 Jan 21 - 05:15 PM

To finish. I think one reason people keep introducing examples from outside the niche where the customs apply is that the wider world offers evidence that the justifications don't make complete sense.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: GUEST,jag
Date: 03 Jan 21 - 05:09 PM

If someone has developed the skills and can present a song well then I won't notice the book.

Fine. So they argument that someone with words on a sheet hasn't worked and internalized the song doesn't wash.

Maybe even they have the skill to only to need a prior glance through or a vague memory and then to read a verse ahead. I have watch someone read a story to a child and, first time through, read ahead and alter bits that maybe too frightening at bedtime. As Jack Campin has indicated it only takes practice to sing a hymn reasonably on sight, sorting out the scanning of the words ahead of time. These days (and its mainly funerals for many of us) one also has to spot where the familiar text has been made gender neutral and how - try that without book in hand.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: GUEST,Nick Dow
Date: 03 Jan 21 - 04:16 PM

Perfect! That last sentence is the best on the thread.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Howard Jones
Date: 03 Jan 21 - 04:08 PM

jag, I have no experience of poetry readings. However perhaps the clue is in the word "readings". Anyway,from what I have heard I would observe that poets are often not the best at presenting their work. The expected and accepted practice there is presumably rather different from that which applies to many forms of musical performance. I'm not sure they have any relevance to folk clubs.

The accepted practice in folk clubs is (or has been until recently) to sing and play from memory. This reflects traditional practice, as well as the practice in most other forms of popular music.

It is not the books themselves which I object to, it is what they represent. Far too often they indicate someone who is not really ready to perform in public. They haven't done enough work to internalise their songs or develop their technique. Some may say this is elitist, but I don't believe it is a function of folk clubs to act as support groups for people with low self-esteem. If people expect others to sit still and listen to them sing, they should make the effort to learn the skills. Folk clubs offer far more sympathetic audiences than most who will tolerate mistakes (up to a point) and they are great places to develop skills, but you have to do the groundwork.

If someone has developed the skills and can present a song well then I won't notice the book.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Deckman
Date: 03 Jan 21 - 12:07 PM

Many years ago I ceased to attend the Seattle song circles because of the prevalence of the "BLUE BOOKS." To me, the use of the books ruined the ambiance. Each to his own … bob(deckman)nelson


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 03 Jan 21 - 11:53 AM

"... with the words in front of you makes you look like an amateur."

What a hideous condescending statement to make. Richard Shindell always had his words in front of him and so did the wonderful Polly Bolton. People like guest ray are the reason that people stay away from folk clubs!!!!!!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: GUEST,jag
Date: 03 Jan 21 - 11:45 AM

One response to the 'hard-liners' on this discussion, and to the situation described in the OP would be "OK. It's your sport, you make the rules, you train the novices, you mark the score sheets"

Within such constraints it's understandable but maybe not an activity for the Joe Offer's of this world.

What doesn't make sense to me is seeking to explain it by reference to generic assumptions about what goes on in different people's heads in heads in different performance situations and with different audience expectations.

From Howard Jones' the presence of a book or prompt, this is only a symptom of a lack of preparation and a lack of confidence resulting in a weak delivery. we have to assume that the situation is very different from a poetry reading . Is it? How so? Can that inform this discussion?

Apart from little Johnny, eyes tight shut, reciting the poem he has just learned by rote to admiring adults how often does someone 'making a presentation' to an audience not have multiple things going on it their head in parallel, only one of which is 'remembering what words come next'. For some people and situations the words that come next can readily be offloaded to a piece of paper to freeeing up processing power for other things.

Many comments seem to describe a grown up version of little Johnny, with some novices regarded as needing the schooling that Johnny's experience from probably part of.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Howard Jones
Date: 03 Jan 21 - 09:35 AM

Richard Mellish, I haven't done a census and can rely only on my own experience. I can think of only a few occasions where someone has successfully used a prompt. In by far the majority of cases I have come across the production of a book or song sheet is a bad sign.

The problem is not so much the presence of a book or prompt, this is only a symptom of a lack of preparation and a lack of confidence resulting in a weak delivery. Whilst a prompt may avoid the worry of forgetting the words, I feel strongly that you cannot develop the skills and confidence to perform to an audience if you have to rely on props such as these. Yes, it is difficult, and particularly at first it can be nerve-wracking, but that is all part of singing in public. Some Bloke put it better than I could when he referred to it as a courtesy to the audience.

Lead sheets have their place, particularly for those who may be called on to play from a very wide repertoire on little notice.
I have sympathy with those buskers and pub singers who may need lead sheets, and software now provides a convenient and discreet way of using these. However for an amateur singer in a folk club who is unlikely to be called upon for more than two or three pieces in an evening there is little excuse.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: GUEST,Some bloke
Date: 03 Jan 21 - 07:52 AM

Funnily enough, I was thinking of John Ogden and hearing him playing an evening of Chopin at Worksop College many years ago. (He was an old boy.) I was interested to see he didn't have a musical score to play to, as I had been taught to do so.

When I started playing in folk clubs, it was difficult to make that bridge from playing in an orchestra where I had the music and tempo as a crutch, regardless of how well I knew the piece and it took time to be "free and easy" even when it was just me and a guitar.

But, and this is the big but for me in this debate...

Although I played to "dots" I knew them inside out, through practice and rehersal. Having the score in front of me, I could concentrate on the expression rather than the mechanics.

In a singaround of just singing, knowing the song is still important. I have yet to see anybody's folder words include breathe points or other cues. Sight reading a song means you are concentrating on the words rather than how to sing them.

No matter how age or natural inability precludes memorising words, you can still learn the song, learn how to make the most of cadence points, crescendos and expression. The words in front of you should be a guide, not something you are experiencing milliseconds before your audience.
After all, you aren't in the bath. You are trying to entertain people and that doesn't take talent, it merely takes courtesy. Courtesy of doing your best. Crafting the words isn't skill but practice.

Assuming those who sound good are just talented isn't a good assumption. I assume they have practiced the song and thought about how to present it. Any natural skill is tempered by practice. the more you prepare, the more "naturally talented" you come over.

You owe to to those spending their time listening to entertain them. If it isn't entertaining, what is it??


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 03 Jan 21 - 07:17 AM

Howard said
> If you have a good singer who has put in the work to learn and understand the song, it won't matter if they need to refer to a crib sheet because that won't interfere with their performance and delivery. The reality is that the majority of those who rely on having the words in front of them have not put in that work, and can't deliver the song properly. Learning a song from memory requires you to study it and think about it in a way that simply reading from a book does not.

I don't know whether the majority of those who have the words in front of them can't deliver the song properly, but it certainly applies to some of them.

Despite the range of opinion here, I think most of us can accept crib sheets as a legitimate help for singers who (for whatever reason) are likely to forget their words or are just afraid of forgetting, but to draw the line at singers relying totally on reading the words of songs that they don't actually know at all.

Another thread has popped up referring to software that I had never heard of but which I presume has the sole purpose of allowing you to perform a song that you don't know. Am I being too harsh there or merely misunderstanding?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 02 Jan 21 - 05:50 PM

Quite, Jack
I know of music sessions where having the dots out is the norm. Wouldn't be any use to me. If that's the norm they're welcome to it. For 70 years now, and indeed what we perceive as the old tradition with traditional song, the norm has been to learn the song you are going to sing. With me at least it's a respect thing. Matters not one jot what happens in classical music or any other for that matter.

And on the very rare occasions I go into a church I'd rather sing without the book, thankyou, but that's just personal to me.

Funnily enough most of the poets at our sessions take the trouble to learn their own poems. 4 out of 5 I can think of. And somewhat oddly the odd one out is the one that is the most dramatic and precious.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Jack Campin
Date: 02 Jan 21 - 05:18 PM

How many professional performers have you seen in clubs with the words in front of them?

Every single poet performing their own work.

The classical music scene has managed not to get its knickers in a twist about it: some performers memorize all the time, some do it sometimes, others don't do it at all, and it it never features as a criterion of quality. And nobody in a church thinks God objects to hymnbooks (or the modern equivalent).


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 02 Jan 21 - 03:05 PM

I know you are using this as an example, Ray, but the tenor of the discussion is of amateur performers.

The British folk scene has always been very welcoming and tolerant. If a newcomer turns up at a well-established singaround and produces a folder the organisers will usually applaud and accept. If that person then does not after several weeks look around them and see what the norm is then they deserve to be told in some way what the norm is.

The big problem comes (IMHO) when the folders become the norm and then I suppose you leave them all to it and go elsewhere.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: GUEST,Ray
Date: 02 Jan 21 - 12:43 PM

How many professional performers have you seen in clubs with the words in front of them? It maybe fine for hired backing musicians, playing what they’re told to play, but not for the main act.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: leeneia
Date: 02 Jan 21 - 12:31 PM

"Singing with the words in front of you makes you look like an amateur. If you’re happy with that, fine, but expect to be treated like one."

What kind of threat is that supposed to be?
============================================================
That and similar comments here are just another form of The Great You Shut Up, the trend in our culture to squelch individual art and expression, especially music-making. "Either let me have the stage or buy something commercial" is your motto.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 01 Jan 21 - 05:13 PM

Maybe!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Jack Campin
Date: 01 Jan 21 - 05:01 PM

Maybe relevant comments about sightreading:

John Ogdon

Most classical soloists have an active repertoire of less than 20 concertos, all memorized. Ogdon was the total antithesis of that - he could and did sightread the most complex music imaginable, consistently creating awe-inspiringly spontaneous performances. He could play rings round anybody else at the peak of his career.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: GUEST,Nick Dow
Date: 01 Jan 21 - 04:18 PM

Unless you are memory trained, then with age memory fades. Writing the songs down in a family book, for that reason is an accepted Tradition.
My wife is a Romany Gypsy, she writes her songs down in her very best handwriting in her songbook, and then sings with her eyes closed! (Figure that one out!)
That said the Gypsy Folk mostly could not read and write. If you look at their songs they sometimes tend to be confused.
The great Traditional singers Henry Burstow sent a list of the titles of his songs to Lucy Broadwood, and also sent some of the words as well. It was Bert Lloyd who pointed out that Folk songs tend to survive in better form with the literate.
So reading the words if necessary is not such a crime, however, not practicing or working upon your singing style is a transgression in my book. So the question that should be asked is why are you singing in the first place? The answer should be, to make my audience love this song as much as I do. So if you're heart is in the right place who cares if you need a memory aid? I don't yet. However the time may come.....


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 01 Jan 21 - 04:08 PM

Sorry, Jack, can't agree. In our club in the 60s and 70s we had our weekly guests and floor singers, mostly regulars, but visitors always welcomed, and roughly one in 3 was a 'club night' i.e., a singers night. Also once a week we had a singaround on a separate night. Some singers were able to come up with 3 new songs every week and at the opposite end were those with a very small repertoire, maybe 10 songs or so. All were welcomed and enjoyed. Hearing the same songs over and over to me must have been like the tradition in a particlular village where a night's singing would be not much different to the one they had last week with new songs being introduced only occasionally. This was an important way to pick up songs as you hear the same song sung over you soon learn it. I probably had about 75% of the Watersons repertoire in my head at one point as they were our residents. With a strong vein of floor singers and an appreciative audience, a good mix of well known songs and newer material kept everyone happy. Written copies were nowhere to be seen thank God.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: GUEST,jag
Date: 01 Jan 21 - 04:06 PM

"... with the words in front of you makes you look like an amateur." Doesn't seem to have bothered the priest at every church wedding I have ever been to.

They know the words, the have had presumably have thought a lot about what they mean to the 'audience'. I suppose could be respect for the text as set out. But that could apply to many ballads - need it detract from the delivery?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Reading Lyrics vs Memorization
From: Jack Campin
Date: 01 Jan 21 - 03:46 PM

Think a bit further ahead.

The local club I stopped going to years ago had singarounds three or four weeks each month. That makes about 40 a year. Singers would typically get 2 slots a night. So if your repertoire is 12-15 songs, you are expecting your audience to stay interested in hearing the same song 6 times a year.

Memorization-dependent amateurs can't do it. The only way you can not be boring in that situation is to use a written copy. And have the skill to use it effectively - a skill which has declined sharply in my lifetime (though it persists in genres outside folk).

GUEST above with the point about hymns was me, cookie got lost.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate
Next Page

  Share Thread:
More...

Reply to Thread
Subject:  Help
From:
Preview   Automatic Linebreaks   Make a link ("blue clicky")


Mudcat time: 15 April 12:54 PM EDT

[ Home ]

All original material is copyright © 1998 by the Mudcat Café Music Foundation, Inc. All photos, music, images, etc. are copyright © by their rightful owners. Every effort is taken to attribute appropriate copyright to images, content, music, etc. We are not a copyright resource.