Singing from books: Why?
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Singing from books: Why?

Blowzabella 10 Dec 05 - 03:22 PM
wysiwyg 10 Dec 05 - 11:03 AM
dick greenhaus 10 Dec 05 - 10:49 AM
Deckman 09 Dec 05 - 11:12 PM
Keith A of Hertford 09 Dec 05 - 09:39 AM
Deckman 09 Dec 05 - 09:03 AM
Ebbie 09 Dec 05 - 02:05 AM
Joe Offer 09 Dec 05 - 12:26 AM
sharyn 08 Dec 05 - 10:42 PM
Joe Offer 08 Dec 05 - 07:37 PM
George Papavgeris 08 Dec 05 - 03:34 PM
sharyn 08 Dec 05 - 03:11 PM
leftydee 08 Dec 05 - 12:50 PM
Pistachio 08 Dec 05 - 12:26 PM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 08 Dec 05 - 11:33 AM
JulieF 08 Dec 05 - 10:57 AM
DMcG 08 Dec 05 - 08:49 AM
Tyke 16 Apr 02 - 09:54 PM
Bill D 16 Apr 02 - 09:49 PM
*#1 PEASANT* 16 Apr 02 - 09:14 PM
CarolC 16 Apr 02 - 08:56 PM
kendall 16 Apr 02 - 08:48 PM
CarolC 16 Apr 02 - 08:38 PM
Snuffy 16 Apr 02 - 07:48 PM
Harry Basnett 16 Apr 02 - 04:51 PM
KingBrilliant 16 Apr 02 - 06:06 AM
McGrath of Harlow 16 Apr 02 - 06:00 AM
GUEST,chipper 16 Apr 02 - 06:00 AM
Genie 16 Apr 02 - 05:38 AM
Jon Bartlett 16 Apr 02 - 03:39 AM
Abuwood 16 Apr 02 - 03:39 AM
Bert 16 Apr 02 - 02:44 AM
maire-aine 15 Apr 02 - 09:48 PM
McGrath of Harlow 15 Apr 02 - 08:44 PM
Ned Ludd 15 Apr 02 - 07:21 PM
George Seto - 15 Apr 02 - 07:05 PM
Joe_F 15 Apr 02 - 06:51 PM
Tyke 15 Apr 02 - 06:49 PM
GUEST,Captain Swing 15 Apr 02 - 05:30 PM
John Routledge 15 Apr 02 - 04:33 PM
McGrath of Harlow 15 Apr 02 - 04:10 PM
Harry Basnett 15 Apr 02 - 03:59 PM
kendall 15 Apr 02 - 03:34 PM
GUEST,Russ 15 Apr 02 - 03:30 PM
Tam the bam fraeSaltcoatsScotland 15 Apr 02 - 03:03 PM
Mrs.Duck 15 Apr 02 - 02:57 PM
CarolC 15 Apr 02 - 02:55 PM
McGrath of Harlow 15 Apr 02 - 02:51 PM
CarolC 15 Apr 02 - 02:29 PM
John Routledge 15 Apr 02 - 02:26 PM
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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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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.


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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: Deckman
Date: 09 Dec 05 - 11:12 PM

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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 - 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: leftydee
Date: 08 Dec 05 - 12:50 PM


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.


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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.

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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: 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.


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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: 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: 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.... 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' THERE is wiring!

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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 a part of that game.


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


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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: 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 - 08:38 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: 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: 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: 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?


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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: 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: 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.

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

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.


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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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: George Seto -
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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: GUEST,Russ
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 03:30 PM

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

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

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: 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: 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: 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: 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 - 02:29 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: 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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