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Singing from books: Why?

Harry Basnett 13 Apr 02 - 06:07 AM
greg stephens 13 Apr 02 - 06:19 AM
Harry Basnett 13 Apr 02 - 06:45 AM
Bullfrog Jones 13 Apr 02 - 07:08 AM
GUEST,Hilary,not logged in 13 Apr 02 - 07:13 AM
greg stephens 13 Apr 02 - 07:14 AM
brid widder 13 Apr 02 - 07:19 AM
GUEST,No Biscuit 13 Apr 02 - 07:32 AM
GUEST,Russ 13 Apr 02 - 07:53 AM
Willie-O 13 Apr 02 - 08:17 AM
John Routledge 13 Apr 02 - 08:32 AM
Sooz 13 Apr 02 - 08:34 AM
RichM 13 Apr 02 - 08:49 AM
Mooh 13 Apr 02 - 08:54 AM
wysiwyg 13 Apr 02 - 10:45 AM
Wincing Devil 13 Apr 02 - 11:52 AM
kendall 13 Apr 02 - 11:53 AM
Genie 13 Apr 02 - 12:46 PM
Harry Basnett 13 Apr 02 - 01:58 PM
Bill D 13 Apr 02 - 02:01 PM
Mudlark 13 Apr 02 - 02:16 PM
Genie 13 Apr 02 - 02:50 PM
katlaughing 13 Apr 02 - 02:58 PM
Bullfrog Jones 13 Apr 02 - 03:06 PM
Jon Bartlett 13 Apr 02 - 03:50 PM
kendall 13 Apr 02 - 04:06 PM
GUEST,cookieless paddymac 13 Apr 02 - 04:12 PM
GUEST,mgarvey@pacifier.com 13 Apr 02 - 04:52 PM
BlueSage 13 Apr 02 - 04:54 PM
Micca 13 Apr 02 - 04:57 PM
Abuwood 13 Apr 02 - 04:59 PM
katlaughing 13 Apr 02 - 05:22 PM
Lanfranc 13 Apr 02 - 06:04 PM
greg stephens 13 Apr 02 - 06:35 PM
Genie 13 Apr 02 - 07:04 PM
McGrath of Harlow 13 Apr 02 - 07:51 PM
katlaughing 13 Apr 02 - 08:47 PM
kendall 13 Apr 02 - 08:48 PM
GUEST,Captain Swing 13 Apr 02 - 08:48 PM
Midchuck 13 Apr 02 - 09:44 PM
Bill D 13 Apr 02 - 09:57 PM
Celtic Soul 13 Apr 02 - 10:34 PM
Joe_F 13 Apr 02 - 11:00 PM
Crane Driver 13 Apr 02 - 11:01 PM
Art Thieme 13 Apr 02 - 11:22 PM
RichM 13 Apr 02 - 11:36 PM
Ned Ludd 14 Apr 02 - 12:43 AM
mousethief 14 Apr 02 - 01:17 AM
Genie 14 Apr 02 - 04:28 AM
Abuwood 14 Apr 02 - 04:50 AM
Harry Basnett 14 Apr 02 - 05:13 AM
John Routledge 14 Apr 02 - 06:58 AM
GUEST,Captain Swing 14 Apr 02 - 07:40 AM
Kernow John 14 Apr 02 - 08:36 AM
Harry Basnett 14 Apr 02 - 08:39 AM
kendall 14 Apr 02 - 09:17 AM
vectis 14 Apr 02 - 05:29 PM
Ned Ludd 14 Apr 02 - 05:53 PM
katlaughing 14 Apr 02 - 07:20 PM
McGrath of Harlow 14 Apr 02 - 07:56 PM
katlaughing 14 Apr 02 - 08:19 PM
McGrath of Harlow 14 Apr 02 - 08:24 PM
katlaughing 14 Apr 02 - 08:26 PM
GUEST,Russ 14 Apr 02 - 11:56 PM
mousethief 15 Apr 02 - 01:02 AM
rich-joy 15 Apr 02 - 02:58 AM
GUEST,Chipper 15 Apr 02 - 03:37 AM
Song Dog 15 Apr 02 - 04:03 AM
Jon Bartlett 15 Apr 02 - 04:07 AM
Genie 15 Apr 02 - 05:15 AM
Harry Basnett 15 Apr 02 - 06:04 AM
GUEST,Chipper 15 Apr 02 - 06:21 AM
JulieF 15 Apr 02 - 06:57 AM
McGrath of Harlow 15 Apr 02 - 07:03 AM
Harry Basnett 15 Apr 02 - 07:08 AM
KingBrilliant 15 Apr 02 - 07:57 AM
Harry Basnett 15 Apr 02 - 08:26 AM
DMcG 15 Apr 02 - 08:47 AM
Dave the Gnome 15 Apr 02 - 09:14 AM
Harry Basnett 15 Apr 02 - 12:25 PM
McGrath of Harlow 15 Apr 02 - 01:21 PM
Abuwood 15 Apr 02 - 01:44 PM
CarolC 15 Apr 02 - 01:56 PM
CarolC 15 Apr 02 - 02:08 PM
Paul from Hull 15 Apr 02 - 02:17 PM
Harry Basnett 15 Apr 02 - 02:20 PM
John Routledge 15 Apr 02 - 02:26 PM
CarolC 15 Apr 02 - 02:29 PM
McGrath of Harlow 15 Apr 02 - 02:51 PM
CarolC 15 Apr 02 - 02:55 PM
Mrs.Duck 15 Apr 02 - 02:57 PM
Tam the bam fraeSaltcoatsScotland 15 Apr 02 - 03:03 PM
GUEST,Russ 15 Apr 02 - 03:30 PM
kendall 15 Apr 02 - 03:34 PM
Harry Basnett 15 Apr 02 - 03:59 PM
McGrath of Harlow 15 Apr 02 - 04:10 PM
John Routledge 15 Apr 02 - 04:33 PM
GUEST,Captain Swing 15 Apr 02 - 05:30 PM
Tyke 15 Apr 02 - 06:49 PM
Joe_F 15 Apr 02 - 06:51 PM
George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca 15 Apr 02 - 07:05 PM
Ned Ludd 15 Apr 02 - 07:21 PM
McGrath of Harlow 15 Apr 02 - 08:44 PM
maire-aine 15 Apr 02 - 09:48 PM
Bert 16 Apr 02 - 02:44 AM
Abuwood 16 Apr 02 - 03:39 AM
Jon Bartlett 16 Apr 02 - 03:39 AM
Genie 16 Apr 02 - 05:38 AM
GUEST,chipper 16 Apr 02 - 06:00 AM
McGrath of Harlow 16 Apr 02 - 06:00 AM
KingBrilliant 16 Apr 02 - 06:06 AM
Harry Basnett 16 Apr 02 - 04:51 PM
Snuffy 16 Apr 02 - 07:48 PM
CarolC 16 Apr 02 - 08:38 PM
kendall 16 Apr 02 - 08:48 PM
CarolC 16 Apr 02 - 08:56 PM
*#1 PEASANT* 16 Apr 02 - 09:14 PM
Bill D 16 Apr 02 - 09:49 PM
Tyke 16 Apr 02 - 09:54 PM
DMcG 08 Dec 05 - 08:49 AM
JulieF 08 Dec 05 - 10:57 AM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 08 Dec 05 - 11:33 AM
Pistachio 08 Dec 05 - 12:26 PM
leftydee 08 Dec 05 - 12:50 PM
sharyn 08 Dec 05 - 03:11 PM
George Papavgeris 08 Dec 05 - 03:34 PM
Joe Offer 08 Dec 05 - 07:37 PM
sharyn 08 Dec 05 - 10:42 PM
Joe Offer 09 Dec 05 - 12:26 AM
Ebbie 09 Dec 05 - 02:05 AM
Deckman 09 Dec 05 - 09:03 AM
Keith A of Hertford 09 Dec 05 - 09:39 AM
Deckman 09 Dec 05 - 11:12 PM
dick greenhaus 10 Dec 05 - 10:49 AM
wysiwyg 10 Dec 05 - 11:03 AM
Blowzabella 10 Dec 05 - 03:22 PM
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Subject: Singing from books: Why?
From: Harry Basnett
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 06:07 AM

What's with this trend which seems so prevalent at singarounds these days where people come trotting along with song books and/or files full of lyrics and insist on singing from them all night? I'm not referring to the odd glance at them as a refresher during the course of the evening but actually sitting there and singing song after bloody song out of them sometimes introducing the item with: " Here's a new one from me.." or " I've been working on this one all week.."

Ye gods!! We've all probably referred to scribbled crib sheets in our time or taped the odd verses first lines to a guitar but come on.....

A friend of mine made the point that this is just the same as a musician reading from the dots but I'm not too keen on that at a session either...

Our songs and tunes have evolved through interpretation and 'folk memory'--half the fun is working on a song or a tune and making it, to some degree, your own...I know some of us can retain lyrics and tunes better than others but surely if you feel strongly enough about a song tp sing it in the first place it's got to be worth the effort of learning it.

Slightly puzzled.................Harry.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: greg stephens
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 06:19 AM

The Red Lion session in Market Drayton looks like a library! It is kind of odd, but lets not forget the Coppers sing with their book...and they are Gods. Fiddlers playing off the dots is much worse than singers...its impossible to establish any rhythmic rapport with musicians who've got their noses buried in books.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Harry Basnett
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 06:45 AM

The Coppers were probably sick of people sitting there clutching copies of " A Song For Every Season " abd marching up afterwards to tell them they'd got word three on line two, verse four wrong on 'The week Before Easter'--that's the song and not when they made the made mistake........


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Bullfrog Jones
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 07:08 AM

I'm with Harry -- I don't consider a song is ready to be taken out and played in public until I've learned it! There's nothing more daunting than seeing someone unravelling five pages of American Pie or whatever -- that's when I head for the bar!


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: GUEST,Hilary,not logged in
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 07:13 AM

My particular gripe is with people who sing/play a song well, but every time , come to a complete halt because they can't quite recall one phrase. Yet if they had a crib sheet - a quick glance and problem solved, song sung & finished smoothly.

I do agree that if you have to read the words/tune as you're going along - it can't work.

My 2p worth

Hilary


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: greg stephens
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 07:14 AM

I agree in general...but the Coppers are something else. I've sat late in a bar with them and seeing that ancient hand written book sitting onthe table among the spilled beer was incredible....like someone having the Magna Carta out in their sitting room, only considerably more melodious.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: brid widder
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 07:19 AM

If a song's worth doing it's worth learning the words, and in my experience with written words in front of me I will never need to learn them!! it's only when they are not there that my memory comes into it's own...or not as the case may be!!


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: GUEST,No Biscuit
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 07:32 AM

When someone is a starting out sometimes having the words can give you the confidence and mean the difference between joining in a session or just doing the choruses. This is obvious, but I believe that you cannot sing a song properly until you have "sung it out" several times without the words. Folk songs are very often stories and your delivery will not be as expressive or easy if part of your attention is focused on reading the words. A friend of mine, a young female singer, has a lovely voice and has won compititions, but she lacks confidence and now she is losing bookings (two to my certain knowledge, possibly three) because she insists on using a song book and sees nothing wrong in this. While I can understand people occasionally using the words it is not good practice and akin to leaving training wheels on a bicycle. Another situation I have started to witness recently is that if I have the words in my pocket I invariably panic and want to get them out, so I usually don't carry them with me, only problem is that at the slightist hesitation several well meaning people shove their words under my nose! This causes me to completly hash up the rest of the song. I have now decided to make sure I learn the blasted things before taking them to sings. (UK and cookieless)


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 07:53 AM

I used to sing from my own homemade paper songbook. Now I sing from a digital version on my laptop.

I do it because I have always loved many more songs than I can fully remember. Got tired of not being able to remember the first line or leaving out a key verse.

I normally sing with people that I've been singing with for years. They accepted my notebook and then my laptop with good grace.

Even in groups of people who do not know me, the response has consistently been friendly. I've never had anybody refuse to share the screen with me.

Although the laptop was greeted with some sceptical bemusement, the idea has caught on in some of the musical circles I frequent. If you think the Red Lion session in Market Drayton looks like a library, imagine what a roomful of folkies with laptops looks like.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Willie-O
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 08:17 AM

Russ: (shudder) ;)= I envision the Star Wars cantina scene....

Don't know how the rest of you do it, but I can't focus my eyes on little printed words when singing. Specially when they're closed.

Only cheat sheet I can use is a repertoire list. I'm much more troubled by blanking out on what to sing next, then flubbing a line or two on a song. The professional trick is NOT to let that stop you, preferably not even drop a beat.

Occasionally though I try to pull something out of the back list, start in on it, and am stumped on the first line. Options at that point:

  1. play an extended instrumental intro. Full verse and chorus if necessary. Make it sound real intentional. If the first line still doesn't appear, segue into a real instrumental if possible. Or stop, shrug, and on to the next one.
  2. start in on the chorus and hope the first line appears--it usually does

W-O


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: John Routledge
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 08:32 AM

I find it impossible to sing a song with feeling unless I know the song inside out.

Having heard singers "reading" words of a song for what appears the very first time I find it difficult to put the effort in to listen!!

Having said that I have the first word of each verse of some long songs on a crib sheet as an aide although I often don't look at it. I only do this with songs where I feel it would be tragic to forget the order of the verses.

For me the better a singer "knows" the song the better it will sound; with or without the words.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Sooz
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 08:34 AM

If it is worth performing, it is worth learning! I find it very hard to learn words and put a lot of effort in but it pays back because I believe I then sing the song and not just the words. There is a difference.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: RichM
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 08:49 AM

I agree that a singer can interpret, or present a better performance, from memory than from reading. However, some of us are much better at memorizing than others--its a simple matter to set the rules for your session - if you don't want books , say so in advance.

On the other hand, you may be missing hearing something you may enjoy.
To my regret, I find it very difficult to remember words to songs. Why? I have a medical condition that has affected some of my cognitive abilities. Do I want to have to explain this to session participants? No. I would much rather you make your preferences clear before the session, so I could gracefully decline.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Mooh
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 08:54 AM

I know lots of singers who can easily memorize thousands of songs, even variations, and present them with conviction. I'm not one of them. I need reminders along the way. It could be some sort of minor learning disability, at least compared to the masters, but without a lyric sheet I'm pretty much useless, even if it's something I've sung all my life. Now, I don't have to have my nose burried in a book, but I do need the first line of a verse or chorus now and then, unpredictably. Therefore singing without printed help is exceedingly difficult. This has nothing to do with being illprepared, and to be excluded from jams or sessions on this basis would be unfair. Strangely, I can hear the chord changes and remember melodies okay, and follow them okay too.

This can't be blamed on genetics in my case, God knows my folks had/have minds like steel traps. Instant recall isn't my forte.

This weakness has prevented me from singing openly on many occassions when I would otherwise love to contribute, and has not been healthy for my selfconfidence. Nonetheless, I continue to work on it.

While I agree that preparation should be paramount before performance, and crutches be discarded asap, recall ability does not directly correspond with singing ability.

My two cents. Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 10:45 AM

Harry, my specialty is gospel and I am learning them to do in church at a rate of about three new ones a week. The melodies I memorize. The words and chord changes I read. Thus I am able to share more good material in one lifetime than if I were memorizing. There is quite a lot of variety in these, too, among all the gospel genres I present.

My goal is the presentation of the song-- not people thinking I am so great. I want them to learn it well enough, melodically especially, that it takes root in the listeners and puts a bounce in their step all week. So I guess I have a pretty relaxed attitude about it all. I trust the song to be the song, and I think that in what I do, the impact comes from the song, not however well I may do it on any given occasion.

So when I go to a songcircle I take my trusty binder of personal favorites, because that's how I am used to working in my main activities, and what I am doing is sharing from that activity into other settings. I figger other people are doing whatever they do, and that's OK with me.

The songs that really suit my voice, though, the ones I do most often when we are invited out to play elsewhere-- they are starting to be memory-resident. I do look at the binder when I play and sing these but I am finding that because I am not worrying about how I SHOULD do it, they are changing over time to be more spontaneous and memorized.

People do what they can. I don't see much value in judging them, I'd rather just enjoy the songs.

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Wincing Devil
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 11:52 AM

Damn it Jim, I'm a Computer Programmer, not a Professional Musician!

I sing sea chanteys from my Palm Pilot.

I sing also from the Hughill "Shanty Bible", from lyrics off of the DigiTrad, and from the "Official Ship's Company Chantey Hymnal". When I print the lyrics myself, I print them in the largest font I can, so I can leave them on the table and glance down. At our monthly open chantey sings, we usually 2 laps around the room. I make a CD of the shanties I hope to do and play it on repeat mode during my 2 hour+ daily commute.

I have about 3-4 chanteys I do by rote, which comes in good for parades, because after a couple of choruses of "Sam's Gone Away", "Blow the Man Down" and "Round the Corner, Sally" you have a whole new audience!

WD


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: kendall
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 11:53 AM

Here we go again with another go 'round of differing opinions. I'm one of the lucky ones in that I have at least 500 songs committed to memory. So, I dont look down on those who dont have that ability, because I know some very nice folks who cant do that. Does this mean they shouldn't be allowed to participate? Who is the egotist here, the book readers or the ones who can show off their memory? I know one very nice couple who use song books, but, if you want to hear them, you must go where they are, and, if you dont like books, you are free to not stay. A question, is it bad to use song books unless you are one of the Coppers?


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Genie
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 12:46 PM

I'm with Bridwidder. Like you, Wincing Devil, I often use a giant print lyric or lyric/chord sheet the first few times I do a new song in public, precisely because I can sing the song through a dozen times flawlessly in my car or living room and then draw a blank in the middle of the song the first time I perform it in front of a group.
[This is not surprising, since the stimulus situation in which the song was learned is notably different from the one in which the memory will be tested, by virtue of the audience demanding some of your attention in the latter situation and not in the first. If you memorized the song by singing it to, say, your family, you'd be less likely to go blank when singing it before a different audience.]

Using a very large print, I can glance at the sheet PRN, from 4 feet away, without being obvious about it. [And in a song circle, 7 or 8 people can sing along with me from the one sheet!]

NoBiscuit, I have the opposite experience as you, it seems. Knowing I have the lyrics with me makes me more likely not to freeze up and forget them. Usually I find that after I make up one of these lyric sheets I seldom have to actually refer to it, and if I do, it's only for a quick glance at the beginning of the next line.

Rich M, and Mooh, you bring up a good point. Some people do not memorize and retrieve lyrics nearly as readily as others. And, while I can accept "the folk process" for what it is, it saddens me to have someone's exquisite lyrics bowdlerized because singers relying on their imperfect memories fill in the blanks during live performances with whatever words pop into their heads. Especially when you're singing a song that:
• you didn't write
• isn't one that "everybody knows" and
• really would suffer by forgetting a verse or blowing a line,
I would prefer that you use a cheat sheet and sing the lryics correctly.

On the other hand, if the lyrics aren't the highlight of the song, maybe it's better to sing it with feeling and invent new lyrics than to use a lyric sheet.

In our church choir we usually do have our sheet music in front of us when we perform, but our eyes are on the choir director about 97% of the time, just occasionally glancing at the words and/or music. Part of the trick is to have the sheet music in a position such that you can glance at it without lowering your head.

I saw Nanci Griffith perform live last summer and on several songs, she put sheet music [presumably] on a music stand by her mic. I never noticed her "using "it. That's the point: if you're gonna use it, be subtle enough that it doesn't detract from your presentation of the song.

Genie


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Harry Basnett
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 01:58 PM

Hmmm.......there are quite a few versions of the same songs out there with "exquisite" lyrics due to the folk process...and I'm talking about traditional material here not interpretations of Show of Hands material or 'Norwegian Wood'.

Going back to an earlier point...isn't it possible the Coppers' mighty tome just might be an impressive prop?
I'm not suggesting people give up their singaround security blankets wholesale...just that perhaps they might derive some satisfaction from learning the odd one or two songs. Using books it;s possible to come up with completely different material every week but is there any really any point to that?


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Bill D
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 02:01 PM

There are a few situations where I don't mind seeing folks with the lyrics handy...as long as they are not completely dependant on them!...At our monthly song circle, where a 'topic' is used, it is common to know OF a neat song that is not fully committed to memory...I will often have a 'first word of each line' crib sheet, or a printed version of the lyrics available..This is not a heavy-duty professional venue, and is just for fun.

...but, if you can't do the song even WITH the book, please don't bother!...I sometimes cringe when someone tries to sing a song they obviously have not rehearsed and barely know....mangling the meter, the tune and stopping in the middle of lines to find their place!

I, also, however, cannot abide the idea of rows of singers, except in church, with faces buried in identical books, 'sharing' whatever is on page 57!


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Mudlark
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 02:16 PM

I've been singing for over 40 years and like Kendall have at least 500 songs committed to memory. Unfortunately, they are not all the songs I'd like to sing NOW. And, at 64, I'm having a much harder time learning and retaining not only words, but nonstandard chord changes than I did at 24. I've been working on Wynken, Blynken and Nod for a year and STILL don't have it committed to memory firmly enough to perform. I wish I could throw out On Top of Old Smoky, all umpteen verses, and replace it w/ WBN but unfortunately, it doesn't work that way.

Still, I'm stuck with the certainty that for me, until I know a songBY heart I can't sing it entirely from the heart. The only time I use printed matter to perform is when I'm playing in convalescent homes, as I try to incorporate songs I don't personally care for but that are familiar and singable for those I'm playing for.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Genie
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 02:50 PM

Bill D. In sing-alongs, having lyrics available enables the entire group to sing a song which otherwise would have been a solo or duet with everyone else listening. When we DON'T use books or lyric sheets in sing-alongs, I often find there's pressure to limit our selections to songs with choruses--which leaves out a lot of great songs.

Rise Up Singing, e.g., has a lot of songs I don't know and would like to learn. When people sing them at a singaround and I can follow along with the book, I learn the song a lot faster than I would just by hearing it sung a couple of times--largely because I am able to join in instead of just listening.

It does annoy me, though, that in some "jam sessions" I go to, people keep their heads buried in the books, even on songs like "This Land Is Your Land!" This tends to interfere with good group singing and jamming, because folks aren't looking at the mouth of the person leading the song--so they tend to jump in too soon or too late on the lines--, and they aren't watching the hands or feet of the lead player--so the rhythm tends to get chaotic. Also, many players miss a great opportunity to LEARN to JAM by insisting that all song sheets have chords printed above every line.

On the other hand, as Kendall mentioned, a song may have chords or chord changes that are not second-nature to you, so sometimes it's nice to have the lyric/chord sheet primarily for the chords. [When I do jazz tunes, unless I play and sing the song often, I tend to forget some of the chord changes. So if it's a song I drag out, say, once a year, I find the chord sheet handy. Again, a split-second glance may be all I need.

Harryoldham, Re "exquisite" lyrics due to the folk process," I would agree that traditional folk material--which probably has umpteen versions already--is generally not harmed by invention that springs from necessity [forgetting the lyrics]. I was referring to songs with known authors. Problem with singers inventing new lyrics onstage is that they get recorded, then they get printed on the net, and pretty soon no one can agree what the real lyrics were. If the songwriter's lyrics were well-chosen to begin with, I find this sad--when the use of a lyric sheet could have kept the song intact.

Genie


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: katlaughing
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 02:58 PM

As someone who grew up playing from the dots, with other musicians, and by ear, saying that one cannot keep a decent rhythm with one whose nose is in a book is uninformed, imo. The art is to watch the other players/singers with the music being available in an unobtrusive way. I used to lead a string quartet that way. we played from memory, at times, but most of the time with the music and no one ever complained about our being out of sync.

Singing in Paltalk, well no one can see, but I do use my book of lyrics. If I am playing an instrument, I play by ear. I don't see any harm in having the lyrics handy and I think it is rather snobby of others who look down their noses at someone who may not have their memorization abilities, or be as old, therefore had more time to learn, or even who may not have enough hours in the day to learn them all, but still loves to sing with others. Last I knew that wasn't a crime. Like RichM, I appreciate people being up front about what they will tolerate, though. And, like BillD, imo, if you have the book, you'd better know the song well enough to sing it properly!


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Bullfrog Jones
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 03:06 PM

Apart from anything else I'd have to put my reading glasses on!


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Jon Bartlett
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 03:50 PM

I'm one of the fortunate ones with probably a thousand songs or so in my head and an eidetic memory (I can give you the page number of a quote from a book I read 20 years ago). I understand there are folks who have a hard time with two or three songs. I accept that, and would not be in favour of a "no books" policy anywhere. But I would be in favour of an etiquette rule which said that we use books/crib sheets as little as possible. One of the saddest sessions I ever went to was a Shanty session consisting of a dozen folk all with the Blue Book of Death on their laps, no eye contact, all sitting, no oomph, no ecstacy (which is what I want when I sing). I can't believe that they're all memory challenged: I suspect that they've never tried to learn any of the songs, because the BBD is always at hand. So much of folk practice could be improved by generally agreed upon etiquette (what we aim for) rather than rules (what we HAVE to do). By the by, did anyone ever ask the Coppers why the book was there? Is their singing repertoire limited to the book? Does the book represent all they know?

On a parallel topic, I find that though occasionally I lose words in a song, it never happens when I'm drinking (this is going to sound like "Shearing in the Bar"). I suspect it has to do with right/left brain theory, that one side of the brain looks after linear, logical stuff, and the other looks after gestalt/whole experience stuff (and, I understand, music qua music). My suspicion is that musicians who are trained to read who cannot play by ear, and I've met lots of consummate musicians in that situation, have their music organized along logical/linear lines as opposed to ear players who rely on the gestalt side. My song memory is all linked I think with tunes on the gestalt side; so to "try" to remember is the worst thing I can do when I have a text dropout. And I also suspect that alcohol buggers up the linear side before it buggers up the gestalt side. Comments?


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: kendall
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 04:06 PM

Booze raises hell with my memory,so, if I'm to perform, no booze, and, I'm not really a drinker anyway, so I dont "need" it. Anyone remember Lee Moore, the Coffee drinking nighthawk on WWVA? He couldn't remember one song after performing for 60 years. When I saw him headed to the stage at Smokey Greeen's bluegrass festival with a music stand and a book of songs, I thought it was a joke!


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: GUEST,cookieless paddymac
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 04:12 PM

My 2p is that reading, whether words or music, seems to interfere with most folks abilioty to listen to what the other participants in a session are doing. Maybe its like trying to walk and chew gum at the same time. Without being a purist or overly dogmatic, we make a subtle effort at our session to have a "learning segment" toward the end of the session, during which holding the paper is tolerated with a bit more grace. The one reality about the folk process is the fragility of absolutes.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: GUEST,mgarvey@pacifier.com
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 04:52 PM

I have no quarrel with people having lyric sheets for themselves, or even the book...if they use it for themselves. If they do not announce the page number, wait for people to find it, group themselves around it...if you need to use it, use it, but realize there are some situations where you just probably shouldn't..it's like baseball..sometimes everyone plays together, then there are various leagues. I would definitely say in big groups, like a party, or tavern..they don't belong..know the song or sing in the chorus or hum the tune. in a song circle, everyone should be more tolerant. I think a lot of people like the communal aspects, the sharing or whatever, more than the actual sound of the music. Then it makes sense to use the books. If you like the music more, it truly suffers from the books. I know I was stunned last year when there was a woman (JK) who is a one of kind singer at a camp last year. We were so delighted she was finally there..and these other women would just keep imposing these blue book songs on her, not realizing what they were missing...but I realized their goal was not the sound of the music but maybe their participation in it..which is not bad..it is just personal..Hopefully everyone can find their own niche. mg


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: BlueSage
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 04:54 PM

Maybe the folks who have a difficult time memorizing lyrics are crippling themselves by relying to much on their books. I know. I'm one who has a hard time memorizing anything. The interesting thing is that after twenty years of working at it, memorizing lyrics is no longer the nightmare it once was. It may be that those using lyric sheets at jams might be preventing themselves from developing the ability to memorize efficiently.

On the other side of the coin, it's sometimes fun to push your improvisational abilities and try a song you've never sung before! With the right folks, this can be very rewarding. With the wrong folks, it can be a disaster.

Mike


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Micca
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 04:57 PM

I have said this often, and I hold my hands up again, I enjoy all kinds of singing, from the book, made up as you go along, and"folk processed" but I get embarrassed when folks forget the words and are scrambling about trying to remeber them in mid song, especially if it is a "serious" song, during a session,and In my experience this is FAIRLY common and I personally, would rather use, and see others use, a song sheet or book, rather than destroy a carefully crafted song(lovingly made by some songwriter) by getting it wrong, or breaking the mood in mid song by forgetting the words.
Most of all there are few things more embarrassing than forgetting the words of a song YOU WROTE!!!! (and this is not that uncommon,) as one sometimes switches to an earlier draft or includes a verse that was removed!!)


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Abuwood
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 04:59 PM

To add my 2p as a newcomer, folks tell me I sing a lot better now I have thrown away the dots. I like the idea of a lap top but how would I fit it in my handbag? I use a palm too to remind me of the 50 or so songs I have learned in this first year and a bit of singing, and check the words sometimes before I sing. I can't see to sing from it even with my glasses, and I think if you want to sing you should be sharing it with the others and to do that you have to look at them. Not at the sky, the floor, have eyes closed or in a book but actually connect to share the songs you have chosen. If you have never tried it you should - looking at others can even help, Dave Fentiman was feeding me the words to a song I couldn't remember at Lancaster! I agree that having the words there makes you relaint on them, and then you can't find your place when you need it. I use pictures to link the beginnings of the lines to the songs then I can see the picture in my head to remember the order of the verses. A cloudy bear standing by a river, looking at a star, seeing a ship go by with someone rowing? Guess the song?


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: katlaughing
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 05:22 PM

Just to clarify what I said, I only use what I've cobbled together in a ring binder, no formal songbooks. I know most of the songs well enough that I do have eye contact, just as when I perform/read my written works to an audience.

Maybe when we move and I have a chance to join a regular group, I will call up the faculties I used to use for competitions, when in school. We couldn't use the dots for them, had to have it memorised.

Here's a link some may find of interest: Personal Songbooks

Thanks,

kat


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Lanfranc
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 06:04 PM

Easy! - I have the words to several hundred songs tattooed on the inside of my eyelids. All I have to do is sing with my eyes closed!

Seriously though, I guess I'm lucky, I can remember the words of songs quite easily, though I find it a bit more difficult now I'm older. The guitar chords and picks just come automatically, too.

It's quite scary what you can do if you try.

I'm crap at remembering peoples' names, though!

Some of my best friends use books, though I wish they wouldn't. It's hard to add any feeling or personal interpretation if you do.

Alan


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: greg stephens
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 06:35 PM

Thank you Paddymac for the last sentence of your letter.Wish I'd said that. But I will, I will.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Genie
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 07:04 PM

kat, I agree that good musicians can have their heads buried in sheet music and keep perfect time. With the motley crowds that often assemble at sing-arounds, though, I find a lot of folks can't/don't.

Yeah, Micca, rembemering lyrics to your own songs tends to be the hardest, precisely because you've probably gone through so many revisions en route to the final version that there's a lot of interference going on!

Abuwood, to say that to share a song you "have to look at" the other folks is too categorical. [Ask Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Andrea Bocelli...] It's not so much where your eyes are as where your attention is.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 07:51 PM

To really sing a song you have to have it inside you so that the words just come out without you trying to remember them.

But words are slippery things, and I can't keep all the songs I know in my head well enough to be ready to song them at the drop of a hat. So, if in a singaround somebody sings a song that reminds me of another one I hadn't been planning to sing, and I think that'd be the right one to sing next, that is when I'll use the song book.

Singing in a circle ought to be about one song leading on to another song, rather than a bunch of people singing the party pieces they've been brushing up, with no relationship to the songs before. Of course if you're crafty you can find a way of linking the last song to the one you meant to sing anyway. But sometimes there's a another one that you suddenly feel you should put in, and you haven't sung it in a long time.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: katlaughing
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 08:47 PM

Well said, McGrath.

Genie, thanks, I don't have the experience with song circles that you and the others do. The folks I've played with, in the past, used dots, but their heads were never "buried" in them!*bg* I guess that is an art in itself. Ah well, apples and oranges, eh? Maybe I should ask Ditzee Lee what she does?!


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: kendall
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 08:48 PM

What works for me is simple; when I want to learn a song, I write it down in long hand, and once I have learned it, it is branded on my brain somewhere. When I sing it, I can picture those words in my mind's eye.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: GUEST,Captain Swing
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 08:48 PM

When I first started going to folk clubs around 1972 the clubs were well attended and with a good contingent of younger people ( I was 17 ). I can't remember anyone bringing their words with them, it just wouldn't have happened. You rehearsed your stuff and performed it when it was ready. I found that I would usually make mistakes on the first few performances but the process of 'covering' those mistakes increased both my confidence and my ability to communicate the song.

In 1985 I founded Cottingham Folk Club. We attracted a very large following of local performers. I usually had a great deal of difficulty in fitting everyone in. Most of the performers accompanied themselves, no one brought their words with them. The atmosphere was vibrant, the banter was brilliant.

My policy was to encourage local and new performers. Unfortunately this backfired on me. Soon people realised that we would give everyone a chance. The less able performers rode on the backs of the more able. That's OK as long as those people start to develop for themselves.

Sadly this didn't happen. Gradually the ringbinders started coming in. The experienced performers started to leave and the ringbinders took over along with the people who have six songs that they know and expect to sing them every week.

People with their noses in a ringbinder couldn't communicate, entertain or banter. The atmosphere collapsed. The club became a habit rather than a joy. I left.

Learn your stuff and communicate it !

Cheers - Captain Swing


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Midchuck
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 09:44 PM

I'm in there with Lanfranc.

Words to songs come easy - although I remember lyrics to '50s rock and roll songs from high school better than the new one I learned last week.

But I don't have a prayer of remembering names of clients or casual friends that I meet on the street. I can usually remember the names of my wife, children and cats, but anyone more distant than that, I lose quickly.

I guess everything has its tradeoff.

Peter.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Bill D
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 09:57 PM

ah, Genie...your reply to me presupposes SO many things!!.....

"In sing-alongs, having lyrics available enables the entire group to sing a song which otherwise would have been a solo or duet with everyone else listening. When we DON'T use books or lyric sheets in sing-alongs, I often find there's pressure to limit our selections to songs with choruses--which leaves out a lot of great songs."

I can't comprehend why most songs should be sung as a group!...Many songs are done a bit differently by various people, and I have often been in a situation where I had others trying to sing it THEIR way, when it wasn't what I had planned....And some songs are truly best as solos!

I guess I am confused by your use of the term "sing-alongs" ...what I am used to attending are "song circles", called by our group 'open sings'....where there can be MANY types of song, from hymns designed to be sung in harmony, to solos, to call & answer songs, to songs where the POINT is for a chorus.

No matter what you sing, you will "leave out a lot of great songs." I'd far rather just listen to a decent singer do a song they know, rather than try to follow one I DON'T know well. And if the group repertoire is limited to what is on some standard set of 'song sheets' or RUS, frankly, I would be bored stiff!...

Now, if some people WANT to form a group and sing 'from the book', and they all understand that, fine...no law agin' it, but I am just not wired that way...*shrug*....


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Celtic Soul
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 10:34 PM

I'm coming in late on this one, but what the hey...

For me, if I'm going to, let's say, the local shanty sing, and I want to sing a song there that is not among my usual repetoire, I may indeed choose to have the lyrics in front of me. In my case, I do have songs I need to learn for the group, and I have a lot else on my plate besides what with raising a kid, working full time, and trying to get my house in order. Add to this that my memory is for shite. It takes a *lot* of effort for me to memorize a song (tunes are another thing...I can remember them after hearing them once), and so, I personally choose not to devote the brain space unless it is something I will be doing with my group.

In any case, my personal POV on this one is, if it's an informal atmosphere, and I don't butcher the piece, why not use cheat sheets?

I respect that others may not like this much, but I'd hope that they'd forgive me and give a listen anyway.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Joe_F
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 11:00 PM

It seems to me that (1) having one person sing and the rest listen, (2) having one person sing the stanzas and the rest join in on the refrain, and (3) having everybody sing the whole song are all legitimate, and have their own pleasures, and may reasonably be catered for at different sings or at the same sing. In cases (1) & (2) it is IMO pleasanter if the singer can do without a written text, but some singers can't, and I wouldn't want to tell them to shut up. In case (3) it is certainly nice if people can take cues from each other & not have their noses buried in books, but that requires a stable group & a limited repertoire, because with folksongs, almost by definition, people are going to come in knowing different versions, and some sort of agreement has to be arrived at. That is asking a lot in this age of high mobility. In a group where there are new people at every session, each with his or her own notion of the order of stanzas and the name of the narrator in "St James Infirmary Blues", RUS is IMO the lesser evil.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Crane Driver
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 11:01 PM

I don't use songbooks myself, because I play concertina while singing, and its hell turning the page unobtrusively! Several people at my local club do use them, and that's OK except when someone can't sing a particular song because he hasn't got the right book with him. I guess that's the difference between an online memory system and passive data retrieval. I never had problems learning words until I started singing in a group - I now find that I rarely sing a song exactly the same twice, not in any really important detail, but in little words - 'and' or 'but', that sort of thing. It's only a problem when there are eight of you on stage, some singing 'that' and some singing 'which', but we're working on it. Generally though, no we don't use lyric sheets (except for the Welsh song, but that's another story).

Andrew


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 11:22 PM

As B.D. said, "...but I'll know my song well before I start singing."

I agree. I always felt that we owe that to our audience.

In the days when I was doing school shows, something that pissed me off to no end were the tyeachers that sat there and graded papers while I was minding their students for them. Twenty or even five eople thumbing through a book for the perfect song instead of hearing what is being sung right then, is almost as annoying.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: RichM
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 11:36 PM

There are performances, and there are sessions.

Each has its own etiquette. When I perform, I don't use
written material, except occasionally,only in less formal circumstances.

When I'm sessioning with other singers/players, I do use
written material, except for those songs I know well.

I'm not sure where this idea
that we should all try
to be performers comes from; past generations would gather
around the piano and sing from written materials.
It was understood that we were all 'amateurs'...


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Ned Ludd
Date: 14 Apr 02 - 12:43 AM

Another latecomer- Surely the most important thing is to sing? Personally I normally learn a song fully before public performance, but some folk haven't got that confidence. I hate it when people sing a song that they have not learned, but I know many folk who open a book and never use it, indeed, I have one old friend that was distraught on losing her song book until it was pointed out that she hadn't needed it for years!


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: mousethief
Date: 14 Apr 02 - 01:17 AM

I've never seen a symphony orchestra perform without the sheet music right in front of them. I've never heard them accused of not playing together because of it.

Alex


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Genie
Date: 14 Apr 02 - 04:28 AM

Bill D., I didn't mean to be presumptuous. I attend several "song circles"--where folks take turns leading or presenting a song, and it can be a solo, duet, call and response, all-join-on-the-chorus, or group sing. I also attend one "jam/song circle" where it's explicitly expected that all songs to be sung by the group and, unless it's a very simple/familiar song, we are to use a book or provide lyric/chord sheets. I also participate in instrumental-oriented jams where folks [who are very good folk/bluegrass/Celtic/country musicians] refer to diminished chords and major 7ths as "jam busters" and prefer that you provide melody notation sheets when introducing an unfamiliar song, unless it's a pretty standard three or four chord pattern. [Several of these pickers can play fiddle, mandolin, guitar, bass, autoharp, and dulcimer and pick out melodies by ear if it's in the right genre, but I freaked 'em out by trying to do "Urge For Goin'" one time, because they didn't know the tune and Joni Mitchell uses chord changes that are unpredictable to a bluegrasss player. Individually, a lot of these folks can play jazz guitar or even classical, but they're not used to jamming unless it's bluegrass, country, or Celtic.]

Why should [some--many] songs be sung as a group?--Because you can get HARMONY, COUNTERPOINT, CALL-And-REPONSE, and a whole array of musical complexities that take an ordinary song and make it something incredible! A simple song like "Shortnin' Bread" can be fantastic when done by a group that can harmonize and embellish. [Barbershop and do-wop groups are great at this, not to mention a good Gospel choir.]

Besides there's something magical on a social-emotional level about blending many different voices into one song.

But I agree that some songs are best as solos.

Rich M., good point about the singing around the piano. Similarly, Alex's point about the symphony. FWIW, a lot of good pianists play with sheet music in front of them.

Crane Driver, I mentioned my choir above. Your post ties in with that. Choirs use sheet music [especially when singing Mozart, rather than Woody Guthrie] because the improvisation that a soloist can do will usually NOT work in a group of 40 voices.

FWIW, folks, I recently performed one of my own songs for the "open mic" at Singtime Frolics, and I blew an important line in spite of having the lyric/chord sheet on a music stand in front of me! I was so intent on singing the song TO the audience that I hardly glanced at the sheet and wasn't paying attention to it when I came to that line!

Genie


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Abuwood
Date: 14 Apr 02 - 04:50 AM

Well said McGrath, to make an evening go well it is better that the song flow from one person to another. To do that you have to have a good selection in your head, and that is what I am aiming to. But I like singing harmony too, and to do that the others have to know the song and the repertoire is likely to be limited. So this is my current dilemma. Is it ettiquette to join anothers persons song if you know it and can do a harmony?

To agree with other posts I have pop song still from my youth, but peoples names are often difficult - strange thing memory isn't it?


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Harry Basnett
Date: 14 Apr 02 - 05:13 AM

An interesting point from Captai Swing a few messages back...I also remember the heady days of folk clubs with residents, floor spots and...shock-horror...an audience!!

Is it possible that our folk clubs have declined because we have lost the ability to entertain and thus reach a wider audience? Can it be that the song-circle/singaround has frightened off people by their intensity and the "you've got to join in to be included" mentality...just a thought my kitties.

Incidentally...thanks to everyone who has conributed in making this such an interesting thread.

Keep your thoughts coming......


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: John Routledge
Date: 14 Apr 02 - 06:58 AM

Surely if a singer isn't interested enough in a song to sing it through at least several times before singing it to a group/audience it is unreasonable for them to expect others to be interested enough to listen.

This does not apply where local ground rules provide otherwise. :0)

Keep singihg everyone.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: GUEST,Captain Swing
Date: 14 Apr 02 - 07:40 AM

Harry, I'm absolutely certain that losing the ability to entertain has played a large part in the decline of the folk clubs. One of the biggest headaches I had as an organiser was dealing with the people who clearly shouldn't have been performing because their skills were so poor that they were tolerated rather than enjoyed. Often these people had no notion that entertainment was part of the equation.

In the early days it was not so much of a problem as there were so many good performers that I could slip the odd dodgy one in and with a bit of banter and perhaps accompanyment we could make their performance passable.

As time went on the audiences began to grow tired as more of the poorer performers wanted to sing while at the same time the people with talent were disappearing as the didn't want to sit through half an hour of embarassing stuff before they go their spot. Indeed there were some club members who seemed to have a mission to get anyone and everyone performing.

As the poorer performers became regulars they would of ten get quite affronted if they were missed out so that a decent act could go on.

I think we've been far to kind to people over the years to the detriment of the folk scene in general. None of the people I'm thinking of ever improved their performances or finally learned their words. Most are still singing the same repertoire by all accounts.

As far as the comaprison with classical music goes, we are not talking about 100 people playing a complicated half hour score. We are talking about three or four verses and as many chords.

Cheers - Captain Swing


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Kernow John
Date: 14 Apr 02 - 08:36 AM

Oh Gawd
Another type of folk police!
Are you going to give up the chance of hearing a beautiful voice (not mine) just because the singer can't remember words. Not me.
I'm knocking on a bit now and can't learn new songs like I used to doesn't mean I dont like playing them so I use a book so what?
KJ


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Harry Basnett
Date: 14 Apr 02 - 08:39 AM

I think we're also getting a little bogged down with the 'song-circle' question...this sounds rather like a song workshop which, if that is the case, would necessitate the use of communal lyrics sheets, etc,. The folk club is a different kettle of fish entirely and I find the idea of singing songs with a set theme or, for example, singing a song about a railway because the previous singer sang one a rather strange concept.

The singarounds in English clubs, once restricted to festival sessions, now seem to dominate the club scene and I feel, like the good Captain, that the art of entertaining via folk song has been lost in favour of an almost sewing-circle mentality...and I mean no detriment here to partakers of that particular past-time.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: kendall
Date: 14 Apr 02 - 09:17 AM

MT, comparing a folk song circle to a symphony orchestra is apples to oranges. "Classical" music is much too complex to have each musician playing it "His/her" way. Leonard Bernstien once called "classical" music "Precise" music. It must be totally controlled to sound right. Even a sloppy conductor can make the music sloppy sounding. There is no end to this debate, it all boils down to opinion; and one is no more valid than the other. (Unless you happen to be a control freak)


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: vectis
Date: 14 Apr 02 - 05:29 PM

I need a few prompts nowadays. I can remember about 200 songs but have found that when I learn a new one an older song seems to drop out of the memory bank.
My friends put it down to senility. It really annoys me but I keep finding new songs that I like. I can't interpret songs if I read the words but a prompt sheet gives me confidence.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Ned Ludd
Date: 14 Apr 02 - 05:53 PM

Abuwood, My approach to joining in is that it's o.k. if ,(a) you are invited, (b) if you know the singer well enough to know they won't be upset.

Ned.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: katlaughing
Date: 14 Apr 02 - 07:20 PM

Allex! NICE to see you!!

The point I was makng about string quartets plaing with dots, etc. was that they couldn't possibly play well if they had their heads buried in the books. To say no one can keep rhythm, harmonise, etc. if they use a book is incorrect if one takes a look at a symphony, etc. They all have to watch the conductor very closely. They know the music well enough to play it in their sleep, usually, but they use the dots and still manage to come together with great expression evoking strong emotions in their audiences.

Thanks for mentioning singing around the piano. That's what my family did almost every Saturday night, with and without sheet music and we had plenty of eye contact and feelings expressed.

Maybe most newer members are coming to it completely new without any experience as such? Ah well, it's been interesting.

kat


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 14 Apr 02 - 07:56 PM

A whole bunch of people sitting around singing out of the same book? I've never come across that (apart from hymn books). We used to do it at school when I was a kid of course, and it killed the songs. I was rooting through the attic and I found one of the old songs books - and there were some great songs in it too. But that didn't help.

You can get all the beautiful and powerful harmonies you like in a chorus, and you don't need the word in front of you to join in, not by the time you've heard it a few times anyway by the last verse. And the harmonies are there by instinct with every bunch of folkies I've ever come across. It may be we're more used to that kind of thing in the Old World.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: katlaughing
Date: 14 Apr 02 - 08:19 PM

Sometimes it was with a book, as at Christmastime, when we wanted to do all of the verses, and my brother accompanied us on the piano, as in this picture (click on Family Sing); other times no books were used. When we went camping and dad played the banjo, guitar, fiddle and my sisters their baritone ukes, we never used books, but we also knew all of the songs. When my oldest sister was teaching my sisters and I how to play chords on their ukes, she shared her ringbinder book with us, in which she'd handwritten the lyrics and chords, so that we could use them for learning and for singing with others, sometimes, too.

Mom and dad played for dances without books, but, again, they had a pretty good repertoire which they had down pat. At otehr tiems, mom used the books to play some of her other favourites or one she didn't have down quite yet. So, I guess I grew up with both ways, thinking nothing of it. Of course, I had four siblings and parents to sing with and no song circles to go to.

kat


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 14 Apr 02 - 08:24 PM

Singing from the one book, that's different. That's got communication built into it. Like eating at the same table instead of off in different corners of the house.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: katlaughing
Date: 14 Apr 02 - 08:26 PM

LOL, oh, okay...I see your point. Sorry I didn't make it more clear.:-)


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 14 Apr 02 - 11:56 PM

Really enjoying this thread.

Noticed a couple of tendencies in his discussion.

Criticisms of THOSE WHO SING FROM BOOKS (TWSFB) seem to fall into a few different (but not mutually exclusive) categories.

1. Some are a priori and based upon an abstract theory about "What Singing Ought To Be." The logical implications of the theory clearly cast TWSFB into the outer darkness. Unfortunately, like some theories, they don't seem to have any basis in the concrete realities of real singing by real human beings. (However, these can be a lot of fun to read and suss out.)

2. Some much less theoretical and hypothetical and are grounded in the unpleasant experiences the critic has had in dealing with a limited sample of TWSFB.

2. Some presuppose that SIZE COUNTS, at least as far as memory is concerned.

3. Many are based upon unflattering stereotypes and assumptions about TWSFB which appear to be generalizations based upon the aforementioned unpleasant experiences with TWSFB.
e.g.,
- If you sing from a book, you can only sing from a book.
- If you sing from a book, then whenever you sing it will sound as if you are singing the song for the first time in public after inadequate preparation
- If you sing from a book you cannot devote sufficient attention to the song itself to be able to sing it convincingly.
- If you sing from you clearly not care sufficiently about the song.
Etc.

I would not be silly enough to deny that singing from books is NOT in any way a trade off.

BUT

In defense of my being one of TWSFB,
what else can I say but,
I've seen it done by veritable deities in the pantheon of traditional singers (e.g., Addie Graham, Granny Riddle)
I don't need no stinkin theories.
It works for me.
None of the stereotypes apply to ME.
The people I sing with don't seem to mind. (I assume that those who mind avoid me. Not a bad thing.)
I have not experienced hair loss, headaches, nausea, psoriasis, tintinitus, etc., etc. as a result of the practice.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: mousethief
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 01:02 AM

Kendall, the point was made that singing from a book makes the people unable to be in synch with one another. I gave the symphony example to show how that is not necessarily the case. Don't draw more from my example than it can be made to demonstrate.

Guest Russ really hit the nail on the head as far as I'm concerned.

Alex


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: rich-joy
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 02:58 AM

Good thread!!
Like others, I certainly can't recall songbooks being used by performers in Folk Clubs run during the 70's and I've tended to be (just a bit) deprecating about those who use them - UNTIL, that is, the old "MentalPause" kicked in, at around age 48 - I am now FAR more tolerant!!!!!!
I also find however, that I have trouble even READING the words, coz with the venue lights down low (for "ambience"), even my glasses can't cope!!!

I agree with those who've said that they would rather hear a good singer who has to use notes, rather than not hear them at all. I personally know of a NUMBER of good-to-EXCELLENT singers who "just don't" anymore, because it's too hard to remember the words and they feel they can't do a good performance because of this stress. These singers have fabulous voices and personalities and REPERTOIRES, that are just being LOST, because of this feeling of "no longer being good enough". It's TRAGIC!!!
(But, I DO understand their feelings, only too well!!!)

I also agree about the need for modern audiences to be entertained whilst being educated in Folk - the days are long gone when an audience will politely sit though excrutiating performances of long, tedious, boring, badly sung folksongs JUST because they are Folksongs!!
However, I also like the following quote from Jim Lloyd when he became the new Director of the EFD&SS around 1985 :

FolkRoots Interviewer : " ... A lot of what you're saying has to do with folk as an artform, as an academic interest or as an educational tool. What about it as something that people do for entertainment?"

JL : "Well, it has to be fun. Seriously! There's this wonderful quote from one of Vaughan Williams' lectures, around 1904, when he said something like : "The reason these songs have survived is because people want them to." If people don't WANT to do it, it will stop, and bloody right too. You've got to provide something people WANT to do, not OUGHT to do."
he went on to say :
"There's the problem that we've grown into this idea of "excellence". When I was young, everybody had a party piece. That's stopped now. The level of performance has got so high, we can listen to the best in the world, you feel inadequate. The whole Arts structure is to have academies where you take people who are good and make them excellent, then everyone else who's mediocre sits around and watches them. With Folk, we're fighting against that.
The basis of Folk is that it's communal, everyone can do it, and we have to get back to that. That's not to say you SHOULDN'T master the Art, as many old singers DID - too many people think you can just stand up a bit drunk and do it. There's more to it than THAT!!"

Still holds true, don'tcha think??
Cheers! Rich-Joy

sorry for all of the capitals, I haven't learnt HTML formatting yet ....


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: GUEST,Chipper
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 03:37 AM

Smacks too much of practicing in public to me. Which is OK in a "safe" environment like a workshop or session designed for that purpose. But if you can never break the habit of relying on the book will you ever move into more dangerous waters with any confidence and/or credibility? Making that transition can be very rewarding. What really puzzles me is bands who do paid bookings with the books (no pun intended)in front of them on music stands.

Chipper


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Song Dog
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 04:03 AM

The question; Singing from books: Why? The answer; Because, It's singing.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Jon Bartlett
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 04:07 AM

Two points to add to this excellent discussion: Harry Oldham, if I understand him rightly, thinks it's a bit odd to follow a railway song with a railway song. This is one of the finest times in our club - where singer A sings a fishing song from the coast; singer B has fished that general area, adds a song about a place near there; singer C has sailed in the area and contributes a funny shipwreck song - - etc. I realize that you've got to be in a special place with singers and songs located in that place. And no, I'm not in Newfoundland, but in BC. We once sang a whole set on salmon fishing, and the second set on halibut, herring, and whale from the same coast. I know this is much more difficult in the UK, and that the songs one likes, for example, Tommy Armstrong's Durham mining songs, cannot possibly speak to a southern England audience. But we're fortunate here to have a lot of logging, mining and fishing songs, and though the songs themselves are not VERY well known, the audience oftentimes has personal knowledge/experience or contact, through a partner, a family member or friend with the trade in question. When you get a song circle with this kind of richness, the songs naturally call to one another, and what starts as a performance becomes a conversation. Don't take me wrong when I say this for me is the best kind of love-making, too. That's point one, and one I struggled wiith as a young singer in southern England, with no natural repertoire to sing from.

Point two: the question we have to ask re the ring-binders and the books is: Is this paper necessary? Oftentimes it is, and, as the I Ching says, "No blame". But oftentimes it gets in the way. If we ask ourselves (and encourage others to ask themselves, too) the question, and adapt our own behaviour accordingly, then we'll solve the problem. Nu?


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Genie
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 05:15 AM

Kendall and Capt. Swing, "Classical vs. folk" may be like "apples vs. oranges," but not all songs sung at jams and sing-around have just three or four chords with a common progression. [E.g., we often play and sing "The Rainbow Connection" in a jam/sing-around I attend, and many folkies find its chord progression not to be a play-by-ear pattern]. Songs that have 6ths, 9ths, major 7ths, augmented or diminished chords, or key changes, e.g., may not be Beethoven, but they're not your average folk or country-western ballad, either. Doesn't mean "folkies" don't do 'em, though.

Nice picture, Kat! [Where was Ditzie in that photo?]

McGrath, You say "You can get all the ... harmonies you like in a chorus, and you don't need the word[s] ...by the time you've heard it a few times." Many beautiful songs--folk or otherwise--do not have "choruses." Many have no repeated lines except perhaps for one "hook," or the words to the chorus modulate a bit with each 'repetition'. Should a song have to have a chorus in order to get the 'full-choir treatment'? Or, if you want a song to be given that treatment, should it have to be presented to as a solo over and over, until the group finally learns it by 'osmosis' and can finally start to sing along?
I often hand out song sheets when I present a new song in a session, not because I don't know it, but because I want others to be able to sing with me right there and then [and keep the lyric sheet if they like.]

Russ, beautiful summary! [I just deleted several points I started to make/reiterate, because you summed it up so well!
Point of clarification, though: You said "I would not be silly enough to deny that singing from books is NOT in any way a trade off. " Too many "nots" and I get confused. You're agreeing that "singing from books IS NOT a trade-off." Right?

Rich-joy, thanks for the Jim Lloyd quote! Wow! He really hit the nail on the head! While the appreciation of excellence has its place, so, too does the communal musical experience, as McGrath mentioned, even when it ain't poifect. As Bill Staines wrote, "All God's Critters Got A Place In the Choir..."

And Chipper, what's so horrible about "practicin" in public? Isn't that what pickin' an' grinnin' on the front porch is about?

Genie


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Harry Basnett
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 06:04 AM

Apart from hymns where the singers are making a statement of personal faith doesn't a folk song in first person sound a tad silly when sung by twenty people?


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: GUEST,Chipper
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 06:21 AM

Practicing in public is OK if everyone is clear that's what you're doing. But you have to move on eventually don't you? Chipper


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: JulieF
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 06:57 AM

I admit that at the moment I have a tendancy to sing from words. This is largely because I have such a small group of songs that I have any chance of knowing by heart. I find that I go out twice a month and I have every intention of learning the songs. I know that I sing better if I know the words by heart - maybe with the paper held in my hand just in case I panic, as I can then concentrate on when to breathe. However, more often that not family life has interfered and I have not has the practice time that I wished. My options are: I go out and sing the two songs I know by heart, I sing the ones that I'm working on but don't know by heart or I don't sing. Admitedly my trips out are to places where I feel I am completely welcome as an absolute beginner and when I work up to going somewhere else - I will use a song that I know by heart.

I know that I need to make more time to practice and I'm working on it but I certainly wouldn't have had the courage to sing in public without the words to start with

Julie


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 07:03 AM

"If you want a song to be given (the full choir) treatment, should it have to be presented to as a solo over and over, until the group finally learns it by 'osmosis' and can finally start to sing along?" (Genie)

When it come down to it, that is more or less what I do believe, and I think most people in the places I know in the folk world probably see it that way too. If I hear a song that is new to me, I want to listen to it. If I know and like a song, I can find myself wanting to sing along, and maybe put in a harmony and so forth - if I'm sure that's what the singer wants to happen.

But I wouldn't dream of trying to lay down the law on these kind of things, even if I could. If I found myself in a session where there was some rule that noone could use written or printed words, I wouldn't stay. Or if there was some conventioin that people should be embarassed if they feel happuier with the words in front of them.

"Songs that have 6ths, 9ths, major 7ths, augmented or diminished chords, or key changes." Maybe this is a quibble, but I don't see songs as having chords. It's the arrangements and accompaniments (including some types of vocal accompaniments) that have chords. That's fine - but the song comes first, and there are virtually infinite combinations of harmonies for any melody. One of the great things with a good crowd of folkies is that they can come up with harmonies no one would think possible that work.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Harry Basnett
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 07:08 AM

You make an excellent point Julie..and even if you only learn one song a month it's well worth the effort...

Good luck and all the best..

Harry.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: KingBrilliant
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 07:57 AM

The point that stands out for me in this thread is that of entertainment.
I am just at the start of a self-imposed month long singing ban (trying to rid myself of bad habits & entrench some better ones). I am looking forward to going along to the local open mic session as audience for a while - and I expect to learn a lot.
Last time I didn't sing I was amazed at what a difference the change in perspective made to the evening. I found that, as a participant, I would give a lot of leeway to the other performers - but as audience I was far more demanding.
There are a lot of people getting up and singing, but who are not entertaining at all to the disinterested listener. And these sessions tend to be in pubs, where we have to co-exist with a lot of disinterested drinkers. There are some performers who are stunning technically, but who do not entertain. There are others who are not so good musically or vocally, but who are genuinely engaging and entertaining performers. There are some who are neither good nor entertaining - and its only when you are part of the audience that you realise what an imposition that can be. I don't mean to be harsh - but I am talking about a particular session where the presence of mics & speakers etc implies a certain expectation in the audience - and when this is not fulfilled it leaves me personally feeling a bit embarrassed at the bunch of precious fools we must appear to the pub's non-folkie regulars.
Fortunately there are some people around who are excellent and entertaining (not me yet - but I'm working on it) - but several mentions above of the starving out of these types is sending cold shivers down my spine.
This entertainment issue is something I need to think about and really work on if I want to be entertaining myself - but it is very hard to accurately evaluate entertainment when you are part of it!

That all rambled on a bit more than I intended - but I feel better now its off my chest......

I think my post has probably crept right away from the point of the thread - but sometimes I get so tangled up between when all inclusive tolerance is good, and when its just fooling itself.

Kris (aka confused & stressed of UK)


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Harry Basnett
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 08:26 AM

Interesting points raised in the last message...

A large input in the UK folk revival in the late 50's and early 60's came from people who wanted to entertain.

The skiffle boom saw the formation of many groups of youbg people who wanted to play and sing and found this to be possible and easily accessible via a guitar, three chords, a home-made bass and washboard...many of these went on to take part in the beat boom while others found there was life away from their mainly American folk song repertoire{ and no disrespect here) and began to discover our own native folk song

Did the popularity of the folk club begin to fizzle out with the dawning of the more insular singaround?


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: DMcG
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 08:47 AM

Harry said a couple of posts ago "Apart from hymns where the singers are making a statement of personal faith doesn't a folk song in first person sound a tad silly when sung by twenty people?"

Well maybe, but equally I don't do that much walking on May mornings, not have I ever hid up a chimney (Butter an Cheese an' all), nor worked on a whaling ship or even on a farm. The literal accuracy of the song, in that sense, is not too important. On the other hand - without wishing to overstate my case or upset the more religious types - I think a lot of folks songs, old and new, do have an affirmation of 'faith' in them. How about 'This Land is My land?' for example?

"Did the popularity of the folk club begin to fizzle out with the dawning of the more insular singaround?" - I can't say. I certainly stopped going at that time, but that was to do with getting married, moving from University to 'working', a little later bringing the kids up and so on. Had I stayed in the same town, I would have found the sing-around about the only way of keeping in touch for a few years at least. As it was, moving some 400 miles, I lost even that until a few years back.

{Of course, the sing-around is probably more traditional anyway! And without books because 120 years back my grandmother wasn't educated enough to sign her name but by all accounts she could sing like a good 'un)


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 09:14 AM

Good thread indeed! I am lucky enough not to be embarrased by my small repetoire (Oh, err, Missus) and so can easlily remember 20 or so songs. I don't really know what it would be like to try to remember hundreds as I will never be in the situation where I would need them - Ie of professional performer status.

I don't mind people singing from books though as long as they know the songs anyway and just need a little reminder. I do find it a little annoying when someone does not have a clue what they are going to sing, how they are going to sing it and appears not to have even attempted to learn the words in any way. I find it somehow discourteous to the other people in the club/singaround or whatever.

One strange thing I have noticed. There are they people who dislike singers using lyric sheets and yet those same people seem to think it is OK for a poet to use a book. Why is that? Why does it seem unprofessional for musicians and singers to use printed music or lyrics whereas it looks OK, learned even, for a poet to recite directly from the written word?

I had never really thought about it before yet, certainly in my experience, this seems to be the case. Just another spanner in the works...;-)

Cheers

Dave the Gnome


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Harry Basnett
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 12:25 PM

Good point, Dave...though I. sometimes think poets do this for effect...it fits with the romantic image of the flicked back hair and gesticulating free hand.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 01:21 PM

"Did the popularity of the folk club begin to fizzle out with the dawning of the more insular singaround?" Other way round, I'd say. When the numbers go down for other reasons and it's down to a faithful few, it tends to turn into a singaround. And the pub gets rid of the function room, but is all right about allowing singing in the bar.

Performance poets typically use the book as a prop, and there are some singers who do that as well. As with Bob Copper. (Or Henry Kipper.) And that's maybe the answer - if you use a songbook, make use of it for more than just the words, it's potentially a way of punctuating and pointing a song.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Abuwood
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 01:44 PM

I would rather hear someone sing an entertaining song from a book than suffer someone dragging through 26 verses off by heart of a dirge where I lost the plot in verse 3!


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: CarolC
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 01:56 PM

Well, I have to admit that these kinds of attitudes certainly baffle me.

I don't sing. Ever. I'm not sure exactly why. And the interesting thing is that singers are constantly bugging me to sing. And I say, "no, I don't sing". And they don't seem to be able to accept this. And yet, if I did sing, I would have to read the lyrics from books or sheet music, because I have cognitive problems that make it almost impossible for me to remember lyrics (I have CRS - Can't Remember Songs). Maybe it's a good thing I keep saying no. I think it would be humiliating if I finally consented, then proceeded to sing from a book, and was treated unkindly because of it.

Maybe song snobbery is part of the reason I don't sing.

And for Harryoldham and others who sing in pubs in England, maybe your songs and tunes have evolved through interpretation and 'folk memory', but there is a wide world of folk music out there. Not just your own traditions. Where I live, there are quite a few different traditions represented. And I can't imagine wanting to limit myself to just those traditions anyway. How insular.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: CarolC
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 02:08 PM

I need to make a correction to my previous post...

I didn't mean to suggest that other folk traditions are not the result of interpretation and 'folk memory'. But I am saying that your traditions are not the default tradition. And it's not an automatic given that anyone comes from just one tradition anyway, and that it's necessarily more legitimate to limit oneself to just the traditions represented by one's ancestry.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Paul from Hull
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 02:17 PM

Carol, I think Harry was saying that until the 'rediscovery' of our own Enlish folksong, all there was for people here to be exposed to was folk music from elsewhere


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Harry Basnett
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 02:20 PM

We're not talking about traditions here--we're discussing the use of lyric sheets and song-books...


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: John Routledge
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 02:26 PM

Are we all agreed that the use of books as a complete substitute for practice, and time (however short) spent exploring a song, is generally a bad thing ?


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: CarolC
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 02:29 PM

I was refering what you, yourself, said in your opening post, Harry.

And I'm sorry if my post was crabby. I suppose it probably was. But I guess I get a bit impatient with people who are 1) only talking to one, very specific group of people here in this international forum, without specifying that they are doing so (people here in the US are as guilty of it as those of you in England), and 2) people who are judgemental about how others sing, play, or otherwise enjoy music.

And maybe I need to go take some more cold medicine.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 02:51 PM

"Our songs and tunes have evolved through interpretation and 'folk memory'" - well, I didn't take that as meaning some ethnically exclusive "Our".

I just read it as meaning the songs that we like to sing, whoever we are, and wherever we got them. (Including the ones we wrote ourselves, because they still grew out of songs we've heard, however "original" we might think they are.)

The way we interpret a song will be coloured by the tradition or traditions which we have inside us, which may bear very little relation to who we are descended from. But insofar as its different from the tradition from which the song comes, we'll change it. That's why people always tend to assume, for example, that so many songs from all over the world are Irish, because they've heard Irish singers singing them, and the sound Irish.

This is drifting away from the thread topic, except insofar as one of the risks, if people just relied on print for their songs, could be the risk of interfering with this kind of change and interchange of traditions.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: CarolC
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 02:55 PM

I think I had probably better remove myself from this discussion. I don't think I'm being very coherent.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Mrs.Duck
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 02:57 PM

If I only ever sang the songs I know by heart it would be a short session. I am faced with two choices - I can either do only those songs or resort to using a lyric file to help me out. I do try to manage and gradually my known repetoire is increasing but we are still only talking a dozen or so that I'm sure of. I do try not to READ the words but merely to glance down from time to time and I would not dream of singing a song in public that I have never practised a few times first. On the occasions when I have tried that it has usually been a disaster when I realise I've run out of tune or words! That said I do not pretend to be a public performer! I go to the singarounds and join in and take my turn when it comes round. I do not do floor spots and on the odd occasion when I have taken to the stage I only sang songs that I knew. I work full time and have 5 kids to see to when I'm home so don't get a lot of time for practising or going out for that matter so when I do I want to make the most of it. I also think it is unfair to say that using a lyric sheet stops you delivering the song with feeling.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Tam the bam fraeSaltcoatsScotland
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 03:03 PM

I have a terrible memory, that's why when I go to sessions I have to use books, The songs that I sing at the session are ones that know one else knows or you get some one comes up to you and says "Can you sing...." what do you then. With me it's simple I just look up the words in the book that I have and if it's there then I'll sing it for them. Or if not then I'll ask some one else if they have the words.

However I can learn songs before I sing at the folk club.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 03:30 PM

mousethief,
Thanks for the positive feedback. Always good to hear from you. Even when it is not positive. Honest.

Genie,
Thanks for parsing that pitiful attempt at multiple negatives. That is in fact what I meant. My grammatical reach far exceeded my grasp.

Anyway,
It seems to me that one source of the disagreement about "Those Who Sing From Books" (TWSFB) comes from the fact that the contributors to the thread are talking about significantly different venues and the expectations which are appropriate to those venues.

So when I say that being one of TWSFB works for me, I should be a little more specific about just WHERE it works for me.

These days I mostly sing for fun with people who know me to some extent. I know a very large number of musicians and sing with a number of different groups and subgroups. But in any given group most of the participants will have some familiarity with me and my music and my approach to music and my musical foibles, and I with theirs. I notice that as you pay some dues and people get to know you they becomes more and more willing to cut you some slack.

When I get together with my musical buddies, the assumption is that we will all participate and contribute. We are both the performers and the audience. We don't ordinarily get together in a public place where there will be a significant number of non-musicians present. If we're at a party, we'll seek out an empty corner or room. Non-musicians are free to drop by and listen, but we're just as happy if they leave us alone.

I occasionally do music with strangers. But I have been doing this long enough to have learned some lessons the hard way. I remember the night I was jamming with some Irish musicians at a party and remarked that learning the tunes was kind of hard when they only get played three times and that changing keys every time we changed tunes made my life a little difficult. BOY, DID I GET PUT IN MY PLACE.

So, when I am doing music with strangers I am much more circumspect and keep a lower profile until I have figured out the ground rules. The laptop stays in the case until I have scouted the territory. In spite of the fact that I am one of TWSFB, I know enough songs from memory to be able to pull my weight. But as I said, I love a lot more songs than I can remember.

I have also learned to avoid situations where I sense that my approach will cause problems. There can come a time when the best thing to do is quietly pack up and leave.

That said,
I don't even have problems when the singer is a professional and opts to sing from a book. If I like the piece my eyes will be closed anyway. If I don't care for it, I don't care how impressive a demonstration of a prodigious memory it is.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: kendall
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 03:34 PM

I would hope that no one resents people who CAN'T remember lyrics, and they are not being lumped with those who are too lazy to bother learning them???

Whenever I walk by a handicap only parking space, I dont resent the fact that they are always closest to the building; no, I thank God that I am able to walk the extra distance.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Harry Basnett
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 03:59 PM

And there kendall hits the nail on the head...I don't think anyone is jibing at singers who, for whatever reason, CANNOT remember lyrics and still wish to sing...that is completely different to being a singer who cannot be BOTHERED to learn the words to songs.

I think this thread has been interesting in highlighting some of the differences between the U.S. song-circles and the U.K. clubs and--point taken CarolC--I am sorry for making (through self-confessed ignorance) no differentiation between the two.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 04:10 PM

Changing keys when you change tunes - now I find it hard when someone brings in a new tune and doesn't change key. I go searching all around to find thp new key until at last the penny drops.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: John Routledge
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 04:33 PM

If you know a song sufficiently well it can be sung with feeling.The use of the words as a safety net in these circumstances causes me no difficulty.

Listeners have to put time and effort into listening to and following a song. Is it unreasonable to expect that the singer also puts some effort into preparation and presentation of a song.

Happy Singing


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: GUEST,Captain Swing
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 05:30 PM

I'm with Harry and Kendall on this one. I have no problem with people who care for their songs, present them well but use books because of memory problems. These people will usually be revising and increasing their repetoires constantly and their performances will be interesting.

Incidently, while I can't remember any books in the early seventies, I can't remember many floor singers over the age of 30 either. What's happened? Or is this another thread?

Cheers - Captain Swing


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Tyke
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 06:49 PM

What a great thread! Ok I'll own up some times I do use a crib sheet I find that if I take the words along, for a new song, that I'm going to try out! If I fold them up the words and placing them in my back pocket whilst I sing the song helps.

Yes! the sing around situation is not helping people to learn the art of stagecraft. Singing one song and then waiting an hour to sing again will not teach any one how to give their performance some light and shade. The Art of singing one song that you know well and them following it by the one that you have just learned with the knowledge that you have the chance to sing another song to finish. Enabling you to recover if your new song is a little wobbly.

Going out on tour with Gordon Tyrrall and Then Dab Hand were I was able to perform the same set of song's to different audiences each night. Taught me the best way to deliver a particular song. If you have you're head in a book reading the words how can you relate to your audience (OK Les Barker but that is part of his stage craft/act). We are toying with the idea of running a performers club with booked guests and support acts. This is precisely because I agree with quite a lot of the sentiments that have already been added to this thread. The chances are that we will fail however at least we will have tried to give an opportunity to the wealth of young talent that is languishing about in musicians session's with no small venues to practice their art.

That said I should stick up for people who for one reason or another use a songbook. They us a book because they are unable for whatever reason can't remember the word's. I don't use a book for lot's of reasons one is because I am Dyslexic for me to try and read and sing the words straight from a book would be a disaster. I was as a boy threatened with the church choir dispensing with my services. Because by the time I had found the Hymn in the book the choir was on the last verse. If you do not use a book and you are able to remember the words with a little effort your singing/performance will improve.

The advantage that Dyslexia gives me is that although I have no short-term memory my long-term memory is very large. This means that if I learn a song and place it into my long-term memory it stays there.

Although I would never directly criticise anyone using a "songbook"! I did decide to take the Mickey out of the singers at the Tap and Spile Session Sunday Nights in Whitby. Along I went with the Digital Tradition loaded into my Laptop. However this backfired because when Angi Haywood was telling someone about the Tap and Spile Session and saying that they should come along. He replied "Oh no I have been there and they take thing's far too seriously! They all have songbooks! AND ONE BLOKE HAD A LAPTOP!"

There has be room for both! However if you need a book just remember that you will not be able to deliver the song to the best of your ability. If you are playing an instrument and singing that goes double. If your excuse is that you need to be able to sing different songs each week. This is due to your because of your small insular audience. Then surly you must consider how one of your other singers will feel if you end up singing out of a book a song that he or she has just spent 3 weeks learning to sing it without. Oh and please, please if you are a club organiser turn some of your sing-arounds into singers-nights. Ban the Books on these nights and book some local talent to give the night some roots on which you can grow some more talent. That said my real hate is not the books it's the daft bat that thought up theme nights! But that another thread! Cheers it will be nice to see you all at the Moore and Coast! With or without your song books.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Joe_F
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 06:51 PM

How we learned songs in music class when I was in grade school, in California: We didn't have books; the songs were on phonograph records, which were badly worn (this was in the days of 78s) & almost unintelligible. The teacher would play a record, and you would raise your hand if you thought you could guess some of the words, and if you were right, she would write them on the blackboard. She would play it over until the class had deciphered the whole song. By that time, we had heard the tune so many times that we knew it, and the words were in front of us, so we could all sing it.

Perhaps, in our day, the process could be computerized. %^)


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 07:05 PM

Sounds good, Joe_F.

I DO practice songs for several weeks before trying to sing them, but as I only have small amounts of time 20 to 30 minutes at any given stretch in a day, to sing alone without the book/page, I never seem to get more than a chorus and one or two verses "down" in my head.

I figure the best of the world is to sing it with the page in front mof me. I think many of us have the page there for a crutch, more than anything. As I said in the thread about stage fright, it is also handy when I don't want to "see" the audience. I can tune out the audience and just sing.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Ned Ludd
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 07:21 PM

Tyke, I often wondered what that piece of paper in your pocket was! The singers night instead of singaround idea has already been tried but falls down when numbers are low. I think that clubs should try to foster confidence in newcomers ,but it is inevitable that some will need a security blanket and the only way to stop that would be to embarrass people. (which I for one am not ready to do.) The General.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 08:44 PM

Themes for sessions - I tend to agree with Tyke on that. Trying to sing songs relate in some way to the previous song is one thing, but artificially constraining them to a single topic is very cramping. It's a bit like having a conversation in everything has to be jokes, and the same sort of jokes. As an occasional game maybe, but not something you want to do too often.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: maire-aine
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 09:48 PM

Amazing the number of responses this thread has collected. I try to make sure that I have a song memorized before I take it out in public, but the guitar chords are another matter. When I sing with 'the usual suspects', usually the others play, and I don't have to-- all I have to do is sing. The problems comes when I'm alone (or with folks that don't know it)-- then I have to play and sing at the same time. It's like that walking & chewing gum thing (ha-ha). Then I want the book within sight, just for the chords. Only rarely do I actually read from the paper, and that is only among friends, when I want an early reaction to the material before I go to the trouble of learning it.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Bert
Date: 16 Apr 02 - 02:44 AM

I can sing a few hundred songs without looking at the words but know the chords for only about fifty. I'm not a good enough guitar player to fake it so I often look at my songbook for the chords. That is in informal situations. If I'm performing I'll learn the chords or sing acapella.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Abuwood
Date: 16 Apr 02 - 03:39 AM

A very interesting discussion - it would seem that the general concensus is learn it if you can, but don't knock those who can't. But whatever you do, make sure it is in your head first and don't try and work out stanza's etc from a book on the hop (like singing hymns in church). While so many singers are on the subject can I suggest slight diversions to new threads on the similar subject(sorry I can't do clickies) What is a folk song? Songs with/without patter?


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Jon Bartlett
Date: 16 Apr 02 - 03:39 AM

Re: "I can't sing". I've never actually believed anyone who said that. If you *can't* sing, then your speaking voice will be a monotone, and how many folk have voices like that?

Then it occurred to me that when I say (as I often do) "I can't dance", I probably mean the same thing. To use modern jargon, "I've got dance issues". And some folk have "sing" issues - we've all heard the stories, or mebbe told them, of music teachers saying, "You just mouth the words". Might this be true of memory too? If people say, "I've got a terrible memory", might they mean "I don't like to remember" (or....) rather than "my mind just doesn't remember things?".

Can I ask something of some folk here with "bad" memories. Try to sing in your head the words of a song, one you've heard a million times (Beatles?), and then write the words down, not all in one go mebbe, but just fill them in over the course of a day: do you think you'd get the whole song? And if you could (as I think you might), what does that mean about memory? My 2c.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Genie
Date: 16 Apr 02 - 05:38 AM

OK, got the %!*@%! taxes done, so I can get back to y'all's scintillating discussion!
Harryoldham [and others],

Why is a congregation singing hymns necessarily a different beast from folkies singing around a campfire [or a pub table, for that matter]? Group singing has many payoffs quite aside from theology.

Chipper, there's "practicing," and then there's "practicing." The first run-through of a play and dress rehearsal are both "practice."

McGrath, yeah, songs don't have chords per se," but with 3-part harmony, they do. In a jam session, if the pickers are using chord patterns that are compatible with each other's, it sure sounds better than if they aren't. And some chord pattens pretty much preclude some harmonies. [Much to my chagrin, the current Unitarian hymnal has a [piano] arrangement of "Amazing Grace" that makes the exquisitely beautiful high harmony that is often sung with that song sound weird, because the chords don't fit with it.] A melody may not "have" chords, but it does to some extent circumscribe the chords and chord sequences that will "fit" it.

Dave the gnome, re people who "dislike singers using lyric sheets [yet] seem to think it is OK for a poet to use a book," I' m reminded of when I saw Basil Rathbone do dramatic readings when I was in college. Superb entertainment undiminished by his having a book on the lectern.

Carol C., I like your neologism/acronym for that common disroder "CRS." [BTW, have you got the stuff with the codeine in it? It'll suppress your cough, all right, but coherency is sure to be a casualty. Get over that cold now, okay?]

Russ, I think you're getting to the main point about where, when, and why to use books or song sheets.
Personally, though I have a couple thousand songs committed to memory and still find lryics easy to memorize, I still use or advocate lyric sheets when:
• I'm singing in another language, especially one where my pronunciation is far better than my comprehension,
• I want to encourage the whole group to sing with me--because it's a good song for a group to sing--and they don't all know it.
• The combined lyrics and chords are such that, even though I've been doing the song from memory for years, there's a danger of blanking on one or the other in a live performance. [I seldom do a recording session without the words and chords in front of me, precisely because the demand to do it perfectly greatly increases the chances of drawing a blank somewhere in the middle of the song!]
• [Sometimes when] I'm doing in front of a live audience a new song that I've rehearsed many times with no audience--'cause the change in ambient conditions may produce a blank and I'd druther not blank.

And, oh, a lot of big shot performers are using teleprompters or some sort of electronic cue card--just as "prompters" were used in the theater from Shakespeare's time.

In reply to your question, John R.: yup.

Joe_F,
"By [the] time... we had heard the tune so many times ... we knew it." Yeah, but you were--what?--six?

Abuwood,
I agree that the consensus seems to be "learn it if you can, but don't knock those who can't." I'm not sure there's consensus that using a book "like singing hymns in church" is bad if it's an informal song session just for fun.

John G., I once heard a music teacher remark that we never say to a child who walks or talks awkwardly, "You can't walk," or "You can't talk." So why do we say to one who doesn't sing beautifully "You can't sing." I would add that if someone were truly "tone deaf," as many like to say they are, they wouldn't notice if someone else were off key--but they usually do.

Genie


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: GUEST,chipper
Date: 16 Apr 02 - 06:00 AM

yes, the first run-through or the dress rehearsal but I doubt if the Mousetrap would have run so long if the actors were still reading from the script after a week or so.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 16 Apr 02 - 06:00 AM

But three part harmony is only one way of singing together. Another way to go is to have two or more melody lines, or part melody lines, going alongside each other. It's a different way of thinking, and probably more rooted in a lot of traditions. Genie's example with Amazing Grace illustrates the way that thinking in terms of chords can block of good things sometimes.

The arrangements used in West Gallery singing (a not too distant relative/ancestor of Sacred Harp) include lots of examples of harmonies that really got frowned on by the respectable music professionals.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: KingBrilliant
Date: 16 Apr 02 - 06:06 AM

Tyke - is that a general thing with dyslexia that you get good long term memory? And if so, how do you go about putting the song into long term rather than short-term??
Also - what is the difference between a singaround and a singers' night - how does a singers' night operate?

Kris


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Harry Basnett
Date: 16 Apr 02 - 04:51 PM

Oooh...thats a good question and could, perhaps, lead to another thread. I think this is a bit of a grey area and I must apologise in advance here because I'm talking from my experience of English clubs.

A singaround involves working your way around a room with each person (who wishes) taking a turn at singing or playing wjereas I take a singers night to be somewhat similar to the folk clubs I remember from the 70's and 80's with a resident or residents hosting the night with singers coming to the front of the room or stage to sing, usually, two or three songs. This would give a singer the confidence to go on to the next stage which would be to sing as a 'floor spot' at a guest night--a warm-up act if you will--for the professional artist booked on that night ...this can be a real test of nerves. Many professional folk-singers honed their craft by paying their dues as floor singers.

Incidentally...there is no ban on people using books at our singarounds...two or three regulars use them regularly until they feel comfortable enough with a song to fly without the aid of a safety net.

Any more on this?


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Snuffy
Date: 16 Apr 02 - 07:48 PM

There's obviously a big difference between those who are (or would like to become) "performers", and those of us who see singing as primarily a social activity.

I have been to various folk clubs over the last 35 years, but would never dream of getting up and doing a "spot". Most of my singing has been in pubs or private social occasions (parties, weddings, etc), where someone might lead a song, but it was understood that everybody would join in in all the bits they could remember - chorus or verse.

I've been going to local singarounds in for about 3-4 years now, and have begun to feel comfortable there. Last year I went to half-a-dozen folk festivals and joined in pub singarounds, but never went to see any of the booked acts. I prefer doing to watching. YMMV. There's room for all sorts in the folk world, but my personal preference is to get a public bar joining in "Lily The Pink", rather than sit in a concert at a folk festival.

But I don't want to stop people who do enjoy that.

WassaiL! V


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: CarolC
Date: 16 Apr 02 - 08:38 PM

Thanks Genie! I'm feeling a bit better today.

Jon G Bartlett, there really are people who have cognitive problems that are caused by something physiological rather than psychological. In my case it's not that I can't remember anything. But there are certain things I don't seem to be able to remember. Whether I like it or not. One of the things I can't remember is numbers. Except if they are said in a way that sounds like a poem. Then, I have a limited ability to remember them. Sometimes.

For some reason, I am not able to remember most lyrics. The exception being some of the simple songs I learned as a child. But there are no songs other than those, that I can remember the lyrics to, even in my head, no matter how many times I've heard the song. This is a bit ironic, because I can remember some poems. If they have an obvious and easily understood structure and if they rhyme.

I can remember melodies and I usually can play melodies without looking at sheet music (if the piece isn't too long or complicated). But I have much more difficulty remembering chords (which are played using one button per chord on the left side of my accordion). So I use sheet music for a lot of the pieces I play for the chords. I practice almost every day, usually for at least a couple of hours each time. So it's not that I'm not putting the effort in. But despite this, there are only a few out of all of the pieces I play, that I don't need to use sheet music for the chords.

Different people's brains are wired differently. Some brains are good at some things, and others are good at other things. This is quite natural, but it can be a bit distressing when people assume that everyone else's brains should be good at what their brains are good at. I bet there are some things my brain can do that your brain can't do.

I'm particularly good at remembering conversations. I can remember almost word for word things that people say, in surprising detail, long after they've said them, and long after they've forgotten what they've said themselves. And for some weird reason, I can remember the Latin names of plants that I identified more than twenty years ago. But for some weird reason, I can't remember lyrics. I think that if I could do it, I would.

At any rate, the fact that some people experience cognitive difficulties that other people don't experience is born out by science. Brain scans have been done on people with different kinds of problems, and it has been shown that there are actual physical reasons that some people experience cognitive problems.

The last thing I want to say is that it's often humiliating enough having such cognitive problems anyway, without people suggesting that we could do better if we tried. And believe me, people seem to love to say things like that. To me it's like telling someone in a wheelchair, "I bet you could walk if you really tried".

Now, as far as the "can't sing" bit goes, in my case it's not that I can't. It's that I don't. If I wanted to, I would. But perhaps there are people who can't. We're all different.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: kendall
Date: 16 Apr 02 - 08:48 PM

I've often wondered how it is that some people sing off key, they know they are off key, yet they cant seem to adjust. Then, there are those who sing off key and dont know the difference. It baffles me.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: CarolC
Date: 16 Apr 02 - 08:56 PM

Brain wiring, kendall.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: *#1 PEASANT*
Date: 16 Apr 02 - 09:14 PM

depends on what product you wish to produce without music from memory is one product and one game.

I prefer those who insist on being traditional to get rid of the books to do so...as a part of that game.

however,,,,,

you can also sing well from a book- it does take some work to avoid some of the problems but it can be done.

Conrad


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Bill D
Date: 16 Apr 02 - 09:49 PM

I know someone who cannot seem to 'hit' a note, even when he is PLAYING the correct note on an instrument...he says he has some hearing loss in middle registers, but I think it may be more than that....

...as to memory, it seems that we ARE wired very differently...some people remember sounds, and can learn song choruses instantly..(and ROUNDS!...bah, humbug!)..I need to see them in print first. Then I can do pretty well...and when I sing, I often 'see' the printed page in my head..including songs that finish at the top of the next page. I can 'usually' transfer this to 'aural' memory patterns after awhile, and simply sing as if I'm speaking.

Just think about those translators at the U.N., hearing one language and remembering a sentence with inverse word order, and putting into another language with 'normal' word order...all done 'on the fly'..now THERE is wiring!


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Tyke
Date: 16 Apr 02 - 09:54 PM

In reply to KingBrilliant and General Lud The difference between a singers night and a singer around description of in " Folk Clubs" (Folk Clubs usual a private room in a Public House. Where a charge for entry was made on the door this nominal charge would then give the control of the room to the organiser and or committee or Co-operative). "Resident singers and or Group" a number of musicians and or singers poets. Who would support the club by performing regularly at the club? They would for their efforts receive some benefits these could be beer free entry not only on singer's night but also on guest nights or a share of the profits. "Guest Nights" a professional or seem- professional Folk Artist would perform and the door fee and monies from the club funds (profits from singer's nights and raffles) would make up their fee. Sometimes the club would break even or make a profit or loss on the nights. Clubs would come and go and others would spring up in their place.

So a singers night would be when club residents would, along with singers from other clubs would perform a set of three songs. The club's MC who's job it would be to create an atmosphere. He or She would attempt to do this by manipulating running order of the artists and by using his or her repartee to introduce each singer or group of singers. Different techniques would shine through ever artist could be ether depending on the MC personality the most wonderful or He or She would introduce ever artist or group as crap. Whichever technique was used the MC's who managed to make each and ever singer feel at ease and valued would encourage singers to visit that club again.

The basic rule of the club would be that the audience would not chat amongst themselves whilst some one was performing. The set's of three song's would enable the singers to build up a sets of songs that would then joined together enable them to become guest's at other folk club's. That is if they were thought to be talented enough to do so by club organisers.

The failure of General Lud to make a commercial success running singers nights to raise funds is not a reason for others not to try to make it work. I did say that I was toying with the idea of running a club were singer's nights with booked singers and guests would be used as the format. I also expected that the likelihood would be that it would fail financially. General Lud has been running Folk Clubs for many years he has learned to treat the running of his club as a business and not a charity. Good advise! However the main point of this thread is the use of songbooks! The point I'm trying to make is that songbooks and or singer around do little to promote the art of delivering, performing, singing or playing and instrument. Making room on your clubs calendar to run singers nights and promoting those nights! Probably will not make your club a profit in the short term. It will hopefully however give up and coming singers and or musician a chance to learn some stagecraft. That in the long term has to be profit!

On the other hand you could run some auditions and manufacture a folk groups and singers instead. Who needs oral tradition when you can create Clones!


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: DMcG
Date: 08 Dec 05 - 08:49 AM

Sorry to resurrect an ancient thread, but I've been musing on this topic recently, partly to understand my own behaviour. By way of background, I only sing in 'informal' sessions.

With one exception, I never sing from a book. Broadly my rationale is that much of the life of a folk song depends upon your own interpretation and variations, and having a fixed set of words as a 'definitive' version limits that. As I normally sing solo, there are no issues agreeing what to do.

Carols, on the other hand are essentially based on a group of singers, and so everyone needs to agree on the same lyrics. For that reason, I almost always use printed words with carols - even when I am singing them on my own.

Last night I sang about six carols at a session, all from a book and all on my own. I'm not entirely convinced that my rationale makes sense in this circumstance.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: JulieF
Date: 08 Dec 05 - 10:57 AM

Isn't it strange when something comes along to show you how much you've changed.

Way back in 2002 I made the comment that I always sang with sheets as I would never sing new songs otherwise.   Nowadays I almost never sing with the words ( possibly because I now tend to close my eyes when I sing) but also because I'm concentrating on other aspects of what I'n doing - how the words fit and the decoration I'm using.   I verly rarely sing a song out without having done it to death ( sang in the shower, hummed on the bus, belted standing in the college carpark ( the trams and other traffic drown it out).

Might have more problem when I get further into the Irish and scots gaelic stuff though.

J


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 08 Dec 05 - 11:33 AM

I never sing from books! Of the 200 or so songs I sing I have learned words and accompaniment by constant repetition.

How damn lucky I am that God, in his wisdom, gave me the memory to do that.

It never bothers me to see a singer/musician using a music stand, and singing/playing from sheet or book, whether amateur or professional.

All I require from him/her is the best performance of the work of which he/she is capable.

Surely that should be the desire of every listener.

There are many performers whom I admire who need to do this, and some of them are able to produce stunning renditions of songs they could not attempt otherwise.

Those of us who decry the use of written aids should ask themselves whether they would prefer to miss out on a musical tour-de-force, if the musician has to use sheet music to produce it. I believe that the only honest answer to that question should be a resounding NO.

Don T.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Pistachio
Date: 08 Dec 05 - 12:26 PM

I'm not yet 50 and I don't recall all the words.My 'domestic dementia' (or being a twin and sharing a brain) causes me to struggle with some songs, old and new - and if I have a book in front of me I'll deliver a far better rendition than if I'm nervous about remembering/forgetting the words. I put my words together in a comb-bound book complete with dark cover so at least the appearance of the 'prompt' is not an 'unravelling of scraps'.
I even bought a book to teach myself some memory skills - but forgot to read it - or even where I put it. It's a problem some are blessed with and some aren't and however I feel that if I want to sing then I'll just have to bring my crutch to lean on.
Listen - if you will.
H.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: leftydee
Date: 08 Dec 05 - 12:50 PM

Don,

You're absolutely right about repetition. The more you rehearse a song, the more natural it becomes. I have old Irish stuff I do that is 100% muscle memory. I will panic a bit before a verse but then the mouth opens up and the words fall out. Your brain has excellent filing capabilities if you let it. When trying to learn difficult lyrics I resort to writing them out long-hand a few times. It makes the pick up a lot quicker for me as opposed to listening or reading the words.

I don't object to folks using a book,I've done it myself, but I think the perfomance is enhanced without it.

Lefty


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: sharyn
Date: 08 Dec 05 - 03:11 PM

I've just read through this (revived) thread and have these comments:

1) I agree with Art T, that it is extremely annoying to be in a singing session (workshop, singaround, pub, whatever) and have other people thumbing through books instead of listening -- people run through songs in their heads instead of listening too, but at least you can't hear them doing it. So, books need to be used with etiquette and discretion.

2) In my experience, the "rail song followed by a rail song" is just one of those things that happen in small sessions when singers are listening to one another closely and the songs themselves spark memories of other songs, linked by melody or theme or even the singers we learned the songs from. In my opinion, this is part of the magic of small sessions with committed singers -- and this kind of magic can be obliterated by those who insist on singing their party pieces or their entire repertory from their personal books: I was recently at a late night session where someone entirely killed the session by presenting piece after piece, handing around lyrics, and totally ignoring the vibe of the session. The rest of us quickly developed the need to get some sleep and left.

3) My problem with the infamous "Blue Book" is that people get married to the version presented therein and stop listening to singers presenting different versions of the song -- this happens a lot with traditional material that has been "fixed" by the blue book.

4) I am one of those singers with a prodigious memory, slipping a little as I age. I am often asked to prompt other singers -- and sometimes do it unasked when someone is flailing about for too long. I do know that some people need aids, which is fine -- just please be subtle about how you use them, use only when needed.

5) As I have often stated elsewhere, I make a distinction between traditional material and songs by known writers. Traditional material is fairly fluid and exists in multiple versions and will stand massive variations and still live -- you don't have to get it "exactly right" because there is no "right" version (although you should try to sing a song with respect for the song, the tradition and your listeners). When you sing songs by songwriters, contemporary or otherwise, please make an effort to get the words right, in the right order -- and use "cheat sheets" if you need to do so, after making an effort to learn the song correctly, of course. As a writer, I hate it when people muck with my lyrics or the order of my verses.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 08 Dec 05 - 03:34 PM

For me, there is a very important distinction, regarding the purpose of the singing: Is it to entertain, or is it to share? Accordingly, the singer becomes a "performer" or just "a sharer". The two have different requirements:

a) At gigs, or when supporting a guest at my home clubs, I take the view that the paying punters want to be entertained, and I only sing songs I know well, where I can concentrate on the performance.

b) At singers nights, especially at my home clubs, I often bring out new songs for their first airing, and to get initial reactions from the friends there who have supported me so much in my songwriting; there, I am "sharing" my latest song, which I have invariably not learned by heart yet (and may never do, if the reception is not such that would make it part of my "main" repertoire).

Also at singers' nights some singers try to be topical, and wish to sing songs that they only sing once a year. I have no problem with them using a book; they are "sharing" the song with me, not trying to impress me with their performance of it.

I do find it distracting in a concert when the performer uses a safety net. But when big names perform on TV with autocues, I cannot chastise the "sharers" using books in singarounds. And I would even argue that the latter approach (the sharing) is closer to the folk process, safety nets or not. But in the end, it's horses for courses - entertaining or sharing.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 08 Dec 05 - 07:37 PM

When I came here to Mudcat early in 1997, I was a fairly new member of the Sacramento Song Circle - I think I had been Singing from Rise Up Singing (the Blue Book) with that group for just over three years. Well, that group still uses the Blue Book and I've come to know most of the songs in it and find I rarely need to look at anything more than the first word in a verse.

I find the same is true for my singing in church choirs. I think that my singing in general has improved because I know the songs better, and because I look at people instead of at a book. Still, I'm glad I had the book while I was in the process of learning, and I'm glad that everyone in the community has the same book when I do community singing.
So, the book has a function, especially in community singing.

I often hear "purists" complain about Rise Up Singing tending to "standardize" the lyrics of traditional songs. I have to say I think that argument is mostly moot. Most of the songs in the "Blue Book" are NOT traditional, and the book usually (but not always) has the correct lyrics for songs with a known author. Maybe I'd have a different perspective if I were a ballad singer, contending with wannabe ballad singers who want to sing only the twenty ballads printed in Rise Up Singing....

But for most people, the Blue Book helps get them to sing, and that's a good thing, isn't it?

-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: sharyn
Date: 08 Dec 05 - 10:42 PM

It can be, Joe -- unless they interrupt other singers to say. "It's in the book, page 73" or tell a singer that "that isn't how it goes -- it's in the book" or assume that the version in the book is correct and nothing else is: I have been at sessions where all of these things have happened. Also, instrumentalists who haven't a clue how a song goes think they can accompany a song just because there are guitar chords in the book -- NOT.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 09 Dec 05 - 12:26 AM

I'll sure agree about the instrumentalists, Sharyn. If it's my turn for a song, I want to do it MY WAY, and I don't need to follow the lead of somebody who thinks he's a musician just because he has a guitar.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Ebbie
Date: 09 Dec 05 - 02:05 AM

Interesting thread. I'm glad it was refreshed.

There's been a different kind of development in my weekly song circle. More than two years ago a friend brought an acquaintance of his to the Friday night music and she came faithfully every week. I had enough room in the house at the time so I didn't discourage her but I really felt that she added nothing whatever to the event. She did follow along on her guitar with the chords but she played so faintly no one ever heard her and she never sang. And after two years I still knew nothing whatever about her other than that she was a special needs teacher in a local school.

Then about four months ago she started doing one song a night, usually after just about everyone had left. She sang in a key way high for her so it was difficult to listen to, and she sang straight from the book, never raising her eyes, and she frequently got lost and made false starts.

Eventually, I started suggesting that she try a key just slightly lower and we all praised the improvement. Turns out that she has s sweet clear voice if she sings in a suitable key.

Now most nights she takes her turn just like everyone else. She still thinks she needs the book in front of her but once in a great while she'll sing a song from memory, and seems amazed that she remembered it.

I guess my point is that some people take just a whole lot longer to come out but it can be worth waiting for.

I still don't know anything about her other than she is a special needs teacher in a local school. *G*


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Deckman
Date: 09 Dec 05 - 09:03 AM

I just stumbled across this thread. I'm glad I did. As others have said, that are some very good comments here. And I also agree that there is no RIGHT or WRONG to this issue.

I attended a song circle gathering about a month ago. It was the first song circle I'd been to in many years. Because of the bad weather that night, there were very people there, but I was delighted to see two friends I've sung with many times over the last 25 years.

However, I was really startled and dissapointed to witness the complete domince of the dreaded Blue Book, "Rise up singing." Everyone, except me, had their copy out and the entire sing session was controlled by what was in the book. It even sunk to where a few people would simply ask, "Bruce, can you sing number 117?"

I tried to break that mindset a couple of times by adding a song, at my proper turn of course, that was NOT in the book but followed the theme what was just sung. To me, this is a very large part of my enjoyment of song session: the spontaneous music that just happens because of the variety and depth of singer's repetoires. And you get NONE of that with your head buried in a book!

Should the book be banned? Of course not. There are mnay folks at singing sessions that need it in order to participate. But, the sessions should NOT be limited to, or controlled by, just the book.

Just my two cents worth. I'm enjoying this thread. CHEERS, Bob(deckman)Nelson (in the Seattle area)


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 09 Dec 05 - 09:39 AM

I am sure people listen more when a singer sings without a script.
Nothing wrong with it sure, but there is less empathy.
My way to learn songs is to have it on tape while driving. It takes time but it is dead time.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Deckman
Date: 09 Dec 05 - 11:12 PM


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 10 Dec 05 - 10:49 AM

Of course, if the purpose of sings is to have everyone sing together, the most effective way is to limit the group's repetoire to one song, which can be repeated indefinitely.


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 10 Dec 05 - 11:03 AM

IMO it's really pretty simple, and I can't believe there are this many posts about it! So here's the short course:

If you like to sing with a songbook, go ahead. If you don't, then don't. Why go on from that simplicity, and judge others' choices about the matter?

Besides, as we all age, some of us are going to confront memory problems and may need songbooks. Some of you who are judging people who use them, now, may be judging people who have simply reached that point before YOU have. IT'S NOT YOUR BUSINESS.

~S~


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Subject: RE: Singing from books: Why?
From: Blowzabella
Date: 10 Dec 05 - 03:22 PM

I agree with George - to me, going to see a concert, or a booked paid performer, is a very different experience to a singaround. I would be disappointed if I went to see a fave artist at a formal or semi-formal gig and he sang with words - unless, he made something very special of it. On th eother hand, going to a singaround, where people are, as George said, sharing songs, offering something they may be working on, or whatever, is a different thing altogether and I don't see any problem with books, slips of paper or whatever in that context.

I know that classical musicians and opera singers often have music in front of them but I really do't think it is comparable - nor do I think they have it because they don't know the words. It's just a different way of presenting the music - thier version of sticking a finger in the ear, so to speak.

I know that, had I ever been fortunate enough to see Frank Sinatra sing New York or My Way and he had had a bit of paper in his hand, to prompt him, I would probably have felt a bit short-changed.


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