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Help: Why a finger in the ear?

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leeneia 27 Sep 19 - 12:28 PM
Big Al Whittle 26 Sep 19 - 06:52 PM
Joe_F 26 Sep 19 - 06:16 PM
Lighter 26 Sep 19 - 07:23 AM
Jack Campin 26 Sep 19 - 02:52 AM
leeneia 17 Jun 19 - 12:51 AM
Richard Atkins 16 Jun 19 - 09:59 PM
Doug Chadwick 16 Jun 19 - 05:30 PM
WalkaboutsVerse 16 Jun 19 - 03:59 PM
Weasel 16 Jun 19 - 03:37 PM
Steve Shaw 16 Jun 19 - 10:21 AM
GUEST,Starship 16 Jun 19 - 10:09 AM
Jeri 16 Jun 19 - 10:05 AM
GUEST 16 Jun 19 - 09:42 AM
GUEST 16 Jun 19 - 09:28 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 16 Jun 19 - 08:50 AM
GUEST 16 Jun 19 - 06:19 AM
GUEST,RWJ 14 Oct 11 - 10:54 AM
alanabit 14 Jun 11 - 05:59 AM
Dave the Gnome 13 Jun 11 - 03:08 PM
Big Al Whittle 13 Jun 11 - 02:31 PM
Marje 13 Jun 11 - 01:01 PM
The Sandman 13 Jun 11 - 12:32 PM
Trevor Thomas 13 Jun 11 - 11:43 AM
The Sandman 13 Jun 11 - 08:57 AM
Trevor Thomas 13 Jun 11 - 08:52 AM
DrugCrazed 12 Jun 11 - 07:52 AM
Big Al Whittle 12 Jun 11 - 06:13 AM
The Sandman 12 Jun 11 - 05:23 AM
RoyH (Burl) 12 Jun 11 - 04:29 AM
RoyH (Burl) 12 Jun 11 - 04:06 AM
Hesk 12 Jun 11 - 03:51 AM
GUEST,Warren fahey 12 Jun 11 - 12:40 AM
Allan Conn 11 Jun 11 - 12:35 PM
Fred McCormick 11 Jun 11 - 12:14 PM
Richard from Liverpool 11 Jun 11 - 09:45 AM
glueman 11 Jun 11 - 09:31 AM
Dave the Gnome 11 Jun 11 - 09:23 AM
GUEST,Desi C 11 Jun 11 - 08:19 AM
GUEST,Jim Martin 11 Jun 11 - 04:34 AM
Jim Carroll 11 Jun 11 - 04:02 AM
GUEST 10 Jun 11 - 10:44 PM
Gurney 10 Jun 11 - 04:10 PM
GUEST,Dave in Michigan 10 Jun 11 - 03:52 PM
michaelr 10 Jun 11 - 03:26 PM
Jim Dixon 10 Jun 11 - 11:28 AM
Vin2 10 Jun 11 - 11:14 AM
Big Al Whittle 10 Jun 11 - 10:25 AM
McGrath of Harlow 10 Jun 11 - 09:47 AM
Jack Campin 10 Jun 11 - 09:40 AM
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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: leeneia
Date: 27 Sep 19 - 12:28 PM

I have suffered hearing damage in the really high range, and twice recently when an operatic soprano sang her highest notes, I had to put a finger in my right ear to prevent pain. Not her fault, by any means.

Not really pertinent; just thought I'd mention it.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 26 Sep 19 - 06:52 PM

If you put your fingers in both ears and drink a glass of water - it cures hiccups.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Joe_F
Date: 26 Sep 19 - 06:16 PM

Curiously, I have a way of achieving the effect of a finger in my ear(s) without inserting anything. I have a muscle in each ear that gives a click when I contract it. If, while keeping those muscles contracted, I give a brief sniff, my ears go into a state where I get direct conduction from my voice. I have mentioned this to a couple of ear people, but they hadn't heard of it.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Lighter
Date: 26 Sep 19 - 07:23 AM

Jack, I think she's just complaining that the harpist has given her a headache.

Check their facial expressions.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 26 Sep 19 - 02:52 AM

The earliest picture I've found of somebody doing it:

Hurrian cylinder seal of Queen Uqnitum


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: leeneia
Date: 17 Jun 19 - 12:51 AM

Maybe somebody already said this. Singers don't put fingers in their ears. In a noisy environment, they might cup a hand behind the ear so they can hear their own voices. I've had to do it myself, occasionally.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Richard Atkins
Date: 16 Jun 19 - 09:59 PM

Message was relevant but destroyed with cut off .Not doing again off to bed :>(


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Doug Chadwick
Date: 16 Jun 19 - 05:30 PM

Just watching the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World, a competition for opera singers, on BBC Four. One of the contestants appeared to be singing with his finger in his ear during the rehearsals although he didn't repeat it when actually performing on stage.

So it's not just folk singers.

DC


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: WalkaboutsVerse
Date: 16 Jun 19 - 03:59 PM

Some muezzin do similar when calling to prayer.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Weasel
Date: 16 Jun 19 - 03:37 PM

I'm a french horn player and similarly, we're often asked why we put our hand inside the bell. The standard response is, "Because I can't get my foot in"..


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 16 Jun 19 - 10:21 AM

Well I can say something new. I frequently played the harmonica in pub sessions with the harp held in my left hand but jammed against my right inner wrist with the right hand cupped over my ear. When you have the fiddle belting out next to you and the strummers strumming away like buggery, you can easily lose your own sound in the mix. I was often accused of having an affectation but I took no notice of the ignorantes.


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Subject: RE: Help:
From: GUEST,Starship
Date: 16 Jun 19 - 10:09 AM

"Why a finger in the ear?" Because it beats the alternatives.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Jeri
Date: 16 Jun 19 - 10:05 AM

Wow, a 17-year old thread resurrected so nobody can say anything new. Trolling somebody, or what?


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: GUEST
Date: 16 Jun 19 - 09:42 AM

EVEN OLDER THAN THIS
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: GUEST
Date: 16 Jun 19 - 09:28 AM

OLDEST SINGING TECHNIQUE IN THE WORLD
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 16 Jun 19 - 08:50 AM

Why? Probably too much wax.

This, of course, is why we used to keep a tiny bottle of olive oil in. Back in the old days before we realised that some people ate the stuff. Warm a teaspoon, put a little oil on it and pour into ear. Tilt head to get rid of it. Wax reduced.

Seriously, I don't recall ever seeing a singer do this, except people taking the mickey, in fact it was from the Michael extraction that I realised it must be a 'thing'.

And I now enjoy oil and vinegar salad dressings: in the old days pure vinegar was all we used and that mainly came from the jar the pickles had been in.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: GUEST
Date: 16 Jun 19 - 06:19 AM

There must be something wrong with me. I prefer wines and spirits to beer, I haven't cupped my hand around my ear since the 1980s, I'm not bearded and I've never owned an Aran pullover. (Guernseys, or Breton pullovers - but that's another matter.)


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: GUEST,RWJ
Date: 14 Oct 11 - 10:54 AM

I tried sticking a finger in my ear and didnt like the sound. Maybe it was what the listners could her to. Not good!!


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: alanabit
Date: 14 Jun 11 - 05:59 AM

I remember a performance I gave which was so ethnic that by the time I finished the whole audience had both fingers in their ears...


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 13 Jun 11 - 03:08 PM

I says to a girl at the folk club "Can I put my finger in your ear?"

She says "Oh, Ok - It's folk musiuc after all." Then, after a few minute "Hey, stop it - That's not me ear!"

It's OK" I says "That's not my finger either..."

Dave the rude Gnome


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 13 Jun 11 - 02:31 PM

talk about the offending digit!. If they want a finger - let them have a finger. Like King lear said, Reason not the need....!

(his daughters had just told him he had to disband his retinue if he wanted to live with them. They have been called 'monsters of ingratitude' for not letting Lear have a hundred beer swilling knights and a spectactularly unfunny jester hanging round the place.)

What kind of monster won't let an old folksinger stick his finger in his ear?

Live and let live!


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Marje
Date: 13 Jun 11 - 01:01 PM

I've said this before, but not in this thread: in a small gathering, when a singer cups his hand around his cheek or ear, this may well hide his face and muffle his voice for some of his audience. So although the singer may hear his own voice better, the others present may not appreciate not being able to see his mouth or hear the words clearly because of the arm/elbow in the way.

It's not about the singer makiing a beautiful sound to wallow in, it's about communicating the song to other people. The singer needs to consider whether a hand to the ear or cheek is going to enhance or impair communication.

It may be helpful in a recording studio, or in a massively amplfied concert, but that's not the context most of us are used to.

It shouldn't be necessary just because you're singing harmony - the whole point it to hear the other singers and blend with them. Choirs, whether professional or amateur, don't stand with their arms to their faces - they learn to listen to the other parts, including the orchestra, and sing in tune with the rest.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: The Sandman
Date: 13 Jun 11 - 12:32 PM

my apologies, it is difficult to know when someone is joking on the internet.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Trevor Thomas
Date: 13 Jun 11 - 11:43 AM

That wasn't meant to be entirely serious, Dick.

Perhaps I should have phrased it differently.

"....singing solo, unaccompanied and in a room of twenty or so other people (or fewer) who are all sitting in a respectful silence.

If someone can't hear themselves under those circumstances, they're possibly not terribly good at listening."

If you really can't hear yourself when you're the only person making any sound, then no, I don't pretend to know what's going on there.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: The Sandman
Date: 13 Jun 11 - 08:57 AM

If someone can't hear themselves under those circumstances, they're probably singing a bit too quietly.
no, not the case at all, I do not sing quietly but I sometimes like to have the finger on the jaw when singing,if a person has a cold or sinus problems, i have found it it helps
Trevor you are illustrating that you do not know what you are talking about.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Trevor Thomas
Date: 13 Jun 11 - 08:52 AM

Singers use the finger-in-the-ear in most genres, in order to better hear themselves, when they're singing harmony, or with a loud band. Nothing wrong with that - all tried and tested etc.

But there is a certain type of folkie (not spotted so often these days, but you see them from time to time) who do the finger in the ear thing when singing solo, unaccompanied and in a room of twenty or so other people (or fewer) who are all sitting in a respectful silence.

If someone can't hear themselves under those circumstances, they're probably singing a bit too quietly.

I think in this case, it's pretty obviously an affectation, possibly copied from Ewan McColl, who had several affectations, but was sufficiently authoritative, or influential for them to have been seen as 'the way to do things'.

It was more widespread in the 60s, as was the Arran sweater, and this has passed into cliche. I think the practice has largely died out, but somewhat tediously, the stereotype persists. To this day, any mainstream paper/magazine that mentions folk music will invariably mention something about 'finger-in-the-ear' in the opening paragraph.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: DrugCrazed
Date: 12 Jun 11 - 07:52 AM

I usually find that the person I usually sit next to has his finger in his ear when he's leading. On the side I'm sitting on. :(


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 12 Jun 11 - 06:13 AM

why not a finger in the ear? its their finger, their ear. they have a democratic right to put fingers in the ear. if they wanted to put fingers in your ear, without your permission - that would be different.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: The Sandman
Date: 12 Jun 11 - 05:23 AM

I find it very helpful for unaccompanied singing, It enables the singer to hear their own voice clearly.
to be precise i think i generally have my hand on my jawbone.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: RoyH (Burl)
Date: 12 Jun 11 - 04:29 AM

The great Paul Robeson used this technique at times, and I have seen film of Ella Fitzgerald doing the same thing. As stated earlier, the Watersons do it, Martin Carthy also. The late John Reavey did it. Al Atkinson, grand singer from Nottingham does. I think all this sniping from the media, and from non-trad music people, is a load of tripe, a sneer so common it's become a cliche. My guess is that the 'finger in the ear'jibes were started by people who didn't like Ewan MacColl, and who couldn't hear that he sang magnificently.   Who cares if a singer uses the hand/ear technique, or sings with his/her eyes shut? If a good song well sung is the result, let's have more of it. Burl.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: RoyH (Burl)
Date: 12 Jun 11 - 04:06 AM

Opera singers do it too. Check out this Youtube of the phenominal mezzo Vivica Genaux http://www.youtube.com/watch?v+QcFLh9t4RJY
A superb voice, interesting jaw movements, and look at her left hand.
My thanks to Dai Woosnam for turning me on to this wonderful singer from Alaska.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Hesk
Date: 12 Jun 11 - 03:51 AM

I think "finger in the ear" is just a derogatory way of describing "hand cupped over ear".
Has anyone mentioned touching the cheek bone, this seems to have a similar effect, The cupped hand is close to the ear, but lower down.
This also amplifies the sound in your head, so that you can concentrate in a noisy environment.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: GUEST,Warren fahey
Date: 12 Jun 11 - 12:40 AM

I think many are underestimating the creative power of the traditional musician. the finger in the ear or cupped ear is, as many here have noted, a means of staying closer to the tune. Sarah Ogen Gunning springs to mind (check the videos). Ewan MacColl used it for the same reason ... It was not an affectation. he told me it helped his concentration and failing hearing.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Allan Conn
Date: 11 Jun 11 - 12:35 PM

"However, I adopted the practice of singing with one hand cupped over my ear when I first started singing. And yup. A lot of people thought it was an affectation I'd picked up from Ewan MacColl!"

At Kelso we have an early open mic session, then later a pub session is a very lively and at times noisy bar. Last week it was even noisier than usual and during one song I was having trouble hearing myself so cupped my ear. It made a hell of a difference. Though it isn't something I'd normally do


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Fred McCormick
Date: 11 Jun 11 - 12:14 PM

I have never in all my born natural ever seen anyone sing with their finger in their ear, although I have heard one or two people sing as though they've got it firmly stuck somewhere else.

However, I adopted the practice of singing with one hand cupped over my ear when I first started singing. And yup. A lot of people thought it was an affectation I'd picked up from Ewan MacColl!

The reason in fact was that I found it helped me to sing without straining. Gradually, as I learned to adapt to different acoustical environments, and to sing in a key that was somewhat lower than stratospheric, I found I needed it less and less.

But having recently joined a socialist choir, I find I sometimes need to cup one ear, and sometimes both, to hear the harmony I'm supposed to be singing and not what the basses, altos and sopranos are singing.

Anyway, Paul Robeson used to cup his hand over his ear because, tremendous voice and all that, he had a very narrow vocal range. So if he could get away with it, I don't see why anyone should complain about the rest of us.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Richard from Liverpool
Date: 11 Jun 11 - 09:45 AM

I was taught as a boy chorister to occasionally cup a hand over the ear to check my individual pitch and tone. A way of making sure that I was individually pulling in the right direction before turning back to the sound of the rest of the choir and concentrating on the blend.

But you know what? I have never seen anybody cup a hand over their ear or stick a finger in their ear at any of the folk clubs or singarounds I have attended in the past year or so since I got into the whole folk thing. Perhaps it's something that people should try, and to hell with the fact that it's become a sneer-laden stereotype? If you haven't, give it a go. You never know, you might find it useful. It made me a better chorister, without a shadow of a doubt.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: glueman
Date: 11 Jun 11 - 09:31 AM

As someone who has suffered from sinus and ear problems since birth, I always cup one ear for the first few bars to make sure my noise is in the same key as other singers. A whole song performed that way, especially with eyes tight shut, would be beyond my giggle factor whether I were the offender or someone else. Unless the noise coming out of the remaining open orifices was transcendently sublime of course.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 11 Jun 11 - 09:23 AM

From 'The Folker' (Fred Wedlock I think)

I mostly sing traditional
With my finger in my ear
Coz half the tripe I'm singing
I just can't stand to hear

It's a load of cob-lye-arrrs

Bar after bar
(Bar after Bar)
To the rhythm of an off-key
Japenese one string thatched guitar

Yamaha

:D (tG)


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: GUEST,Desi C
Date: 11 Jun 11 - 08:19 AM

There is a practical point to it, in that it helps concentrate the sound back into yourb head so you can better be in the right key. I suspect it began in the early English trad folk clubs where P.A's were very rare or frowned upon, I suspect as many others here have said many people just copied it parrot fashion thinking they'd look cool. I'm not sure there was ever a need to carry on singing your song with your finger in ear, It is rarely seen now but one does still see it done from time to time


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: GUEST,Jim Martin
Date: 11 Jun 11 - 04:34 AM

Ear ear or here here



http://farm1.static.flickr.com/118/279012493_0d7dd915cf_o.jpg


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Jun 11 - 04:02 AM

"I suspect a lot of it was simply because MacColl was a Communist"
It was Alan Lomax's suggestion that singers in Britain looked to their own national repertoire for their source material.
When he first came to Britain all the singers he met were singing a hodge-podge of songs from all over the world, America, Africa, China, Russia, Germany, Israel... you name it, they sang it; Ewan and Bert were singing American songs; there's a recording of MacColl singing Sixteen Tons for a National Coal Board film somewhere here.
The WMA (Workers Music Association), the fore-runner of Topic even released records of it by The Clarion Singers, Paul Robeson, etc. - used to have some of them at one time.
The hand-over-ear technique is a centuries-old technique, used internationally - we have a photograph of Bengalese temple singers using it somewhere, and the Bengalese singer/teacher, Kali Das Gupta, who lived in London in the late sixties used it all the time. Leslie Shepherd used a woodcut of a nineteenth century broadside seller likewise in one of his books (I think The Broadside Ballad.
One of our Irish Traveller singers described his father singing in the pub with his back to the crowd and his hand cupped over his ear some time in the 30s/40s "just like that feller Ewan MacColl".
Lloyd said it was popular with Eastern European singers and it is a toss-up whether it was he or MacColl introduced it to the revival (MacColl devised various vocal/stage techniques for his work with Theatre Wokshop, relaxation, voice production, projection etc.)
I seem to remember that The Watersons sang with both hands cupped over their ears on occasion.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Jun 11 - 10:44 PM

The poster, of course, is gargoyle...
It is a Rugby/Hash Song.

You will find "finger in the ear" in the "Monkey Boy" DT/MC thread.

The lyrics and tune include hand visuals and "square dance" locked elbows....and exchanging partners.

Would you like a finger in your ear? Would you like a finger in your rear?
Would you like a finger in your beer
REPEAT - to Dance
No F--king Likely, No f--king likney

For body movements and audience participation - this equals "Father Abraham" .... and is closely connected to "Lost Control".


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Gurney
Date: 10 Jun 11 - 04:10 PM

Bone conduction, it's called.
The Lo-Fi equivalent of the earphones that all recording studios use, so that you can hear yourself over the other noise.

I used to call such singers 'petrol pumps,' and include myself in their number.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: GUEST,Dave in Michigan
Date: 10 Jun 11 - 03:52 PM

Singers put a finger in an ear when singing for the same reason that Highland Pipers march when playing: to get away from the d*mn noise. [second half heard from an American player of the Highland pipes]


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: michaelr
Date: 10 Jun 11 - 03:26 PM

"Why a finger in the ear?"

So you don't have to drop your trousers...


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 10 Jun 11 - 11:28 AM

Yes, I'm still around, and still paying attention to threads like this.

At first I was mainly concerned with understanding what gesture, or hand position, was actually being described, who did it, how did it originate, what was its purpose? I think this has been pretty well answered.

Then there is the further question of who uses the descriptive phrase of a "finger in the ear" to disparage a certain kind of music, and why?

Jack Campin: Your theory that Ewan MacColl's communist connections account for the scorn with which folk music is viewed by "Tories" is interesting, but I don't think Pete Seeger was ever scorned in quite the same way. Yes, he was blacklisted in the 50s and banned from TV, but he eventually recovered from that, and at any rate, it was only the politicians and TV executives who banned him; I don't think he was ever rejected by true folk-music fans.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Vin2
Date: 10 Jun 11 - 11:14 AM

As may have been mentioned already, Mick Jagger & John Lennon have been filmed with their hands over their ear when singing - usually in a studio.

Don't see it as much in concerts now cos, methinks, of the use of sound monitors in front of the artiste?


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 10 Jun 11 - 10:25 AM

A finger in the ear is worth two in the bush.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 10 Jun 11 - 09:47 AM

I've never been in a folk club where English traditional songs, when sung properly, are scorned.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 10 Jun 11 - 09:40 AM

Yes, Ewan McColl et al used a technique that became the butt of tedious anti-folk jokes for decades- but the real issue is, why did the British feel the need to denigrate their cultural heritage in this way, while at the same time embracing American folk-roots culture, especially the blues. And today it's still generally considered cool to sing the blues but not to sing English traditional music, even in many "folk" clubs, where "anything goes" as long as it's not English.

I suspect a lot of it was simply because MacColl was a Communist and so anything he was closely associated with had to be ridiculed by the right-wing establishment, be it his singing technique, his musical material, the facts of his biography or the venues he worked in. You can't often mention his name in any thread in any discussion forum, even today, without some Tory nutter frothing at the mouth about one of those subthemes for dozens of followup postings.

You leftpondians had the same with Pete Seeger and the banjo.


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