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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
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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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