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Training detracts from 'soul' of music?

Gloredhel 07 May 02 - 07:26 PM
pattyClink 07 May 02 - 05:22 PM
Alice 07 May 02 - 11:16 AM
GUEST,irishajo 07 May 02 - 10:53 AM
Alice 07 May 02 - 10:45 AM
Alice 07 May 02 - 10:36 AM
GUEST,irishajo 07 May 02 - 09:02 AM
Escamillo 07 May 02 - 04:49 AM
KingBrilliant 07 May 02 - 03:22 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 06 May 02 - 01:59 PM
Don Firth 06 May 02 - 01:01 PM
Willie-O 05 May 02 - 12:10 PM
Alice 05 May 02 - 12:08 PM
Sam Pirt 05 May 02 - 10:16 AM
C-flat 05 May 02 - 06:12 AM
hesperis 05 May 02 - 01:20 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 04 May 02 - 10:03 PM
MandolinPaul 04 May 02 - 09:38 PM
mack/misophist 04 May 02 - 07:09 PM
Don Firth 04 May 02 - 02:22 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 04 May 02 - 11:11 AM
Mark Clark 04 May 02 - 11:02 AM
53 04 May 02 - 10:44 AM
GUEST,Russ 04 May 02 - 10:13 AM
Don Firth 04 May 02 - 02:22 AM
GUEST,Boab 04 May 02 - 01:45 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 03 May 02 - 09:02 PM
Jim Dixon 03 May 02 - 08:07 PM
Alice 03 May 02 - 06:24 PM
GUEST,Russ 03 May 02 - 05:57 PM
Don Firth 03 May 02 - 02:25 PM
greg stephens 03 May 02 - 04:35 AM
GUEST,Russ 03 May 02 - 01:31 AM
Lynn 02 May 02 - 10:46 PM
sophocleese 02 May 02 - 06:24 PM
irishajo 02 May 02 - 06:17 PM
Jim Dixon 02 May 02 - 05:48 PM
hesperis 02 May 02 - 05:41 PM
Don Firth 02 May 02 - 05:06 PM
Don Firth 02 May 02 - 04:56 PM
M.Ted 02 May 02 - 03:36 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 02 May 02 - 03:26 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 02 May 02 - 03:15 PM
Jim Dixon 02 May 02 - 02:35 PM
Jim Krause 02 May 02 - 02:18 PM
Jim Dixon 02 May 02 - 02:06 PM
Jim Dixon 02 May 02 - 02:04 PM
Jim Krause 02 May 02 - 01:42 PM
Kim C 02 May 02 - 01:29 PM
C-flat 02 May 02 - 01:24 PM
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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: Gloredhel
Date: 07 May 02 - 07:26 PM

Amos, I love you!

That said, I started classical piano lessons at age 8 and voice training for classical and Broadway styles at age 9. I picked up the harp when I was 12, and because of my background in music theory was able to do a lot on my own, but eventually got a teacher for that too. Despite my now nine years of classical training, my harp teacher, when listening to a recording of me playing some O'Carolan tunes, remarked that she hadn't realized how deeply I "felt" that style of music. The voice is a bit harder to adjust for different kinds of music, but it is possible to do that as well.

Having the right teacher helps. I was very lucky. All my music teachers have been very supportive and even encourage me to try new things, as long as I'm not remiss in practicing the pieces they assign to me. I was a little surprised to find out that my voice teacher is a fan of Steeleye Span and Silly Wizard, but you have to remember that not everyone who is involved with classical music is as narrow as the stereotype.

At an Irish music festival last summer, I got strange looks from some people when I revealed my classical training. They seemed to think that it would "ruin" me for traditional music. I did notice however, that none of the professional musicians thought it odd, and one even remarked that she wished she could read music.

I'm in favor of training, but as was said before, be very, very careful about choosing a teacher.


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: pattyClink
Date: 07 May 02 - 05:22 PM

Great thread, I have to applaud Don's remarks.

I'm in favor of training. Problem is, you then have to have the ear and skill to use your new tools within folk song appropriately. Some people don't have that ear, or instinct, or it takes a long time to develop. That's where the phony or classical 'feel' pops up and ruins the effect. So I'm all for getting some training, then using it with care.

Coming from the other direction, there are a lot of 'natural' singers who've done a CD or two who just aren't going to go any further because they think they need no work on technique. Folk singers particularly can linger on their consonants so that everything is pinched and nasal, or mumble a la Bob Dylan, at full mic, so that none of the clever lyrics are ever heard. I might enjoy hearing you do a song or two, but a whole evening or CD can get tiresome. You may start thinking you're being slighted by audiences in favor of those with better looks or more 'star quality' or connections, when it's an annoying vocal style that's dragging you down. Think it over, if the audience doesn't 'get it' like you'd like, maybe you need a vocal tuneup.


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: Alice
Date: 07 May 02 - 11:16 AM

irishajo, if you are familiar with the era of the civil rights movement in the US, you will will be inspired when finding more about Odetta.


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: GUEST,irishajo
Date: 07 May 02 - 10:53 AM

I read it Alice. I plan to find out more about her after my finals are over. I should be studying now, as a matter of fact... :-)


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: Alice
Date: 07 May 02 - 10:45 AM

Did anyone read what I wrote about Odetta? It didn't get a response, so I thought it may have been buried in the thread (posted simultaneously with W-O, so it didn't come up as the last message).


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: Alice
Date: 07 May 02 - 10:36 AM

kris, that happened to me, too. I started hearing what I had never heard before, because I became aware of what singers could do and what many cannot do. To the point of folk singing brought up by Andrés - most folk songs we discuss here are not melodies that make great demand on range, but I think there is something to the idea that certain techniques of using the voice, Swiss yodeling for instance, may have come about within a culture because of the environment people sing in. I wonder. When you "holler", or belt out a work song, you can ruin your voice in no time if you don't do it with enough breath to support the volume and with relaxation of the mechanism. I wonder if some folk naturally developed techniques that we now see as part of the Italian bel canto. I know that history documents that development in Italy, but I am thinking of other cultures finding ways that are similar that kept people from losing their voices to laryngitis. Or was the life span so short that it didn't matter - death before your voice was shot. The Tibetan monks that tour the world doing their chants do amazing things with their voices. The voice problems from pop styles that came after the development of microphones - I think we discussed that in another thread.


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: GUEST,irishajo
Date: 07 May 02 - 09:02 AM

You all have given me a lot to think about. Thanks so much for the very interesting responses.

Two more thoughts that have occurred to me while reading these posts:

1. How does one find a good teacher (lamarca already started a thread about this - so I won't.)

2. A question about style, which I started a thread for here. Don Firth talked about this question here, I just thought the idea deserved its own thread.


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: Escamillo
Date: 07 May 02 - 04:49 AM

Kris, it happened to me and I beleive that it happens to anybody who has broadened his/her knowledge of the art of singing. We become more critical, but not necessarily less sensible to all expressions.

There's something I ignore (as many other things): did the very old folk singers (1900 to 1920) have a more "classical" style ? For example, if you listen to very early recordings of Neapolitan singers, or even early Afro-American singers, and more recent too, like Robeson, don't you find that they were fully trained and mature classical voices ? I love that style in blues, gospel, Italian and Spanish and Russian songs and many others, and it could be a matter of taste, but I have not had the opportunity to listen to old folk singers.

If this is true (early folk tenors, baritones, mezzos, etc) this would confirm my thoughts that the microphone and the power amplifier have made the difference, as it happened to popular singing in general.

Don, your comments on opera singers are very illustrative, I agree !

Un abrazo - Andrés


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: KingBrilliant
Date: 07 May 02 - 03:22 AM

I've been taking singing lessons for about a year. The latest marvellous discovery is that if you have proper breath support then you have a whole lot more time & space to pay attention to delivery as you're singing. Its a small point, but makes a huge difference to what you can conciously communicate.
Actually - there's tons of marvellous discoveries to be made - its definitely well worth getting decent lessons.
My teacher does not like folk music (she claims its too miserable - I think she hasn't been listening to the right songs....), but she respects the fact that folk is what I do. So she has been teaching via show tunes up to now, and we are about to move into classical. This hasn't made me sing folk songs in a show tune style - its a case of taking across the useful tools from the one idiom to the other. I've got the same amount of passion & soul as I ever had - the difference is that with a bit of training I can communicate that passion & soul much better.
The only down side I can see is that training has made me more likely to focus on the flaws in (mine & others') singing technique - which can be a bit distracting - so it has changed my listening tastes a bit. Anyone else find that happens?

kris


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 06 May 02 - 01:59 PM

LOLROFNBATBP! (Laughing out loud, rolling on the floor not being able to breathe properly.) If I told you her last name, you'd be rolling on the floor, breathing incorrectly, too. It perfectly describes her personality. I thought it was particularly insulting to say you can't sing "right" sitting down, as Gordon Bok was sitting next to me on one side, and Sandy & Caroline Paton were on my other side. Insult me, leave my friends alone.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: Don Firth
Date: 06 May 02 - 01:01 PM

Jerry, she sounds like the kind of voice teacher that it's best to avoid. Dogmatic. If you ever run into her or her ilk again, you might point out that Violetta in La Traviata sings her final act aria while laying in bed and coughing up a lung from "consumption." In Tosca, Mario Cavaradossi sings the impassioned e lucevan le stelle while seated at a writing table. Edgardo in Lucia de Lammermoor sings his final aria slumped over on the stage with a dagger in his chest. Werther, in the opera of the same name, sings the whole final act while lying on the floor with a bullet in his head. There are hundreds of examples where a singer can't stand there at attention and sing with his or her hands clasped daintily. As long as you can get a good lungful of air, you can sing.

You also might point out that she can hardly give a decent singing lesson if she has her head up her— well . . . no. That's not nice.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: Willie-O
Date: 05 May 02 - 12:10 PM

Interesting discussion. To restate the original question, "If one learns to sing/play correctly, will that person lose some of their personal signature?"

Hell no, but I'm using my own definition of 'correctly' when I say that.

In our area there is a vocal teacher who has a lot of students, and has a good understanding of vocal technique, harmony and technique. But just one problem: has lousy pitch. Some of this teacher's students develop into very good singers, but I hear a lot of off-key kids who have been taking singing lessons...(we got to a lot of school concerts and the like).

I'm not usually the strict parent, but I put my foot down when my daughter wanted to study voice with this person (everyone she knew was doing it). For several years. Recently (finally), a friend who is a singer-songwriter--and who knows how to deliver a song with both precision and feeling--was finally able to start teaching my daughter. It's going well, and I'm glad I waited for the right person to be available.

W-O


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: Alice
Date: 05 May 02 - 12:08 PM

Classical training, soul, and folk music = Odetta!!

People talk about the power and clarity of Odetta's voice in praising her blues/folk singing. It was her academic classical training to be a professional singer that gave her those skills. She began voice lessons when she was 13. She was raised in Los Angeles, singing in musical theater and summer stock plays in California. Here is more detail on her bio: click.

In her radio interviw on NPR a couple of years ago, I heard her say that she fully planned a career in Oratorio, her idol being Marian Anderson, until she found folk music and switched genres. When Odetta received the National Medal of the Arts and Humanities in Washington, the "...ceremony was especially moving for Odetta, since her dear friend and childhood singing influence, Marian Anderson, was prevented from performing on that same stage just sixty years earlier because of the color of her skin."

In the 1970's she began performing in symphony and ballet performances. She has performed opera, musical theater, film acting... it was her foundation in bel canto voice technique that has given her the power and endurance to have a career that spans over 50 years, with a voice as strong as ever.

Her use of folk music in social activism has inspired a whole country in its transformation. Her powerful voice came from strong academic training and from her soul.

Alice


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: Sam Pirt
Date: 05 May 02 - 10:16 AM

Wow, you set off a right one here!!! and unfortunatly I don't think there is an answer, because its this sort of wierd logic that makes music what it is!!!! *smile*

I AM LOOKING FROM A FOLKMUSICANS PERSPECTIVE - NOT CLASSICAL (its a whole different kettle of fish!!)

You see I play the piano accordion and have not had regular tuition BUT I have gone to the Folkworks summer school and recived a week of tutoring on Accordion from loads and loads and loads of top class musicians. That is 'training' whether it be once a year or once a week.

Now that allowed me to pick bits of of all of there styles to create my own. It could also be argued that without any input AT ALL it would ALL be my style, which is true but I wonder if my style would be just as adventurous as it is now?? mmm??. At this point the question WHAT IS FOLKMUSIC ABOUT?? Folkmusic is music 'made by the people for the people' which means its about swaping tunes, stories, tips & techniques, you know the old experienced players teach the young ones. is it??

You see if you are never made aware of these tips and techniques how will you ever discover them. You see the techniques CAN give you more 'tools' to carve feeling into the tunes. As well as making your playing more advanced.

OK so you have had the training, but what about EMOTION????? Well thats up to the individual. In theory the clodest of musicians (in the emotional sence) must still feel emotions while they are playing it just does not spill down their fingers and on to their instrument as perhaps the 'general' folky would like, it doesn't actually mean they are feeling any less? mmm I've never thought of it like that. My brains getting knotted I think its best I signed off!!

Essentially its up to the individual, but knowledge is power and you can only leave something behind if you know what it is. wow!!

Cheers, Sam


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: C-flat
Date: 05 May 02 - 06:12 AM

I agree with Hesperis about picking the right teacher but I feel that it's as, if not more,important to pick the right time. Many children are given musical instruction because it's what their parents want. I wonder how many of those kids grow up with a love and appreciation of music, borne out of their understanding of musical theory, and how many grow up feeling music was a chore. As an adult the choice to take up further education is usually driven by a desire to improve an existing talent and is therefore likely to bear fruit but to a child, making the same headway would depend entirely on the teachers ability to create a desire and show the fun side of making music before getting bogged down in scales etc.


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: hesperis
Date: 05 May 02 - 01:20 AM

Training, if done properly, will DEFINITELY enhance. Training, if done improperly, will destroy. Be bloody careful when you pick your teacher.


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 04 May 02 - 10:03 PM

Many years ago, I did a Singing Styles workshop at a folk festival. It was my desire to get people to talk about who their influences were, and how they felt that they came to sing the way that they did. I find that a very interesting topic. I no sooner gave an introduction to the workshop than a woman in the audience raised her hand and started berating my singing because I was sitting down while I was singing. She then went on to talk about using your lungs properly, proper posture, and all sorts of other "right" ways to sing. Ironically, I have performed standing up more than any of the other singers in the workshop, all who are much better known than I am. It took some doing to shut the woman up, explaining that I was not trying to teach anyone how to sing, just asking people to share their influences. The woman was overbearingly negative. She is a professional voice instructor and was undoubtedly trying to drum up customers. I don't think that she picked up any from the workshop. Even though I've never taken voice lessons or had any desire to, I believe in the value of them for those who want to take them.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: MandolinPaul
Date: 04 May 02 - 09:38 PM

Hey kids.

This argument has always been a pet peeve of mine. How important is training? If you can't speak the language, you'll write some pretty shitty poetry. You need a vocabulary to work with.

There are some people who receive a very small amount of training, but become fabulous musicians because they have a great instinct and can learn how to do absolutely everything within their limitations. However, those are still limitations. If Muddy Waters had had some formal training. Think of how much more he could have done (and yes, he did one hell of a lot).

Getting back to my poetry analogy, how could knowing more words and technique possibly be a bad thing? The better poet is probably still going to be the person who knows that there are more words that rhyme with "use" than "utilize", but at least he will have more tools to work with.


Paul


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: mack/misophist
Date: 04 May 02 - 07:09 PM

I was going to tell a zen storey that answers this question perfectly. Then I realized that explaining it would destroy everything. Chops, Training, let the musicians tell as much of the storey as is in them without destroying anything.


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: Don Firth
Date: 04 May 02 - 02:22 PM

I just want to be clear on one point. I'm not advocating imitating someone's voice, I'm suggesting that one's style should be appropriate to the music one is singing (actually, "style," for all it's vagueness, is almost too precise a word). The way to do this is, as Mark says above, "immersing oneself in the target idiom until all its nuances and feeling and possibilities have been explored and, dare I say, grokked." If you do that—immerse yourself—you won't really have to do anything consciously about your style, it should just follow automatically. Good vocal technique gives you the tools to allow your voice to do this.

Pavarotti is immersed in opera. That's the way he thinks, so that's the way he sings. Unlikely as it may seem, if he'd spent all that time immersed in Anglo-American folk music, he'd still be a tenor with a big voice, but I'll bet his style would be much different.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 04 May 02 - 11:11 AM

Now, it seems like there is a vast difference between getting voice training (which I haven't) and trying to imitate a style that is not your own (which I have.) Some friends of mine who got voice training, but might prefer to remain in the closet, didn't end up sounding any different (their style and the texture and phrasing of their singing didn't change.) They sang with more strength, more breath control and plain old confidence. The only real noticeable difference was that they sounded better. They are walking advertisments for getting vocal training.

Singing in a style that is not naturally yours is something that every human on earth has done. We all started out singing along with music on the radio or records, imitating the inflection and phrasing of the singer. We weren't trying to do "impressions," it's just natural to imitate the singer when you sing along with a record. When I first started singing folk music, I stupidly tried to sound like I was 70 years old, had false teeth and lived in the Southern Appalachians. Now, I get shivers down my spine, like someone squeeking chalk on a blackboard, when I hear someone adopting a completely unnatural dialect. We have all been influenced by the style of singers and musicians whose music we love. That is good... it is how the tradition is carried on. But, at some point the good singers and musicians move beyond imitation and create their own style which owes some inspiration to the tradition, but is new and unique. Their singing will in turn influence younger singers who will create a new style that still carries a sense of the tradition in it, no matter how subtly. Sometimes when I hear a singer, I'll hear someone else in them. When I heard Bobert's singing, I heard Buddy Holly in there and commented on it. I heard right. Tradition isn't something you preserve, like pickles. It's something you absorb and renew.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: Mark Clark
Date: 04 May 02 - 11:02 AM

As a player who, early on, eschewed training in the name of spontaneity and authenticity, put me down solidly on the side of training. No amount of “soul” can entirely substitute for technique. To perform with feeling and authenticity requires immersing one's self in the target idiom until all it's nuances and feeling and possibilities have been explored and, dare I say, grokked. Learning to listen is at least as difficult as learning to perform.

Once an idiom has been made “one's own,” the more technique the performer has at hand, the better and more interesting will be the performance. Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, et al., created bebop, in part, from the difficult exercises they were playing in order to improve their technique. Bebop is thought of as an impromptu form but being steeped in the idiom is, by itself, definately insufficient to enable its performance.

Folk and traditional forms may not be as demanding as bebop but even the unaccompanied Appalachian singer is employing rather precise technique that, if not well mastered, betrays the performer as second rate. To a listener with modern urban sensibilities, the technique may not be apparent but it is none the less important to the performer's intended audience.

But that's just my opinion, yours may be different.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: 53
Date: 04 May 02 - 10:44 AM

Depends on the person and their own natural talent. I've seen some who have had no training play circles around those who have had a ton. Just depends on the person.


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 04 May 02 - 10:13 AM

The problem with trying to come up with a general definition for "folk style" is that, at least as far as the singers of traditional ballads is concerned, it is all about individuality.

Listen to Granny Riddle, Maggie Hammons Parker, Sheila Kay Adams, Jean Ritchie, Dwight Diller, Addie Graham, Dellie Chandler Norton, etc.

If you can come up with a definition that manages to encompass all that you hear I'll be truly impressed.

I've noticed that when people wax enthusiastic about such singing they don't talk about the technical stuff--grace notes, melisma, pacing, rhythm, etc. They talk about the things Jerry mentioned--feeling, energy, etc. Things that I wouldn't ordinarily think of as stylistic.


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: Don Firth
Date: 04 May 02 - 02:22 AM

Style. Hmm. Tricky.

Merriam-Webster sez "A distinct manner of expression (as in writing or speech) (writes with more attention to style than to content) (the flowery style of 18th century prose); A particular manner or technique by which something is done, created, or performed (a unique style of horseback riding) (the classical style of dance)."

The human voice is amazingly flexible, capable of expressing a full range of moods and emotions. One can convey all kinds of subtleties by the tone of one's voice. We do it all the time, not by direct muscular control, but by the mind. What you think and how you feel affects the style of way you say something.

Perhaps an example:— Back in the Fifties I was asked to assist the director of a play being put on by Seattle's Cornish School of the Arts. The play was Dark of the Moon, by Howard Richardson. It's sort of "Rosemary's Baby," set in the Southern Appalachians, ostensibly based on a folk legend. At one point the female lead, a character named "Barbara Allen," sings the ballad Barbara Allen. The words are radically different from the traditional Anglo-American ballad, but they tie in with the plot of the play. The tune, though, was supposed to be the same as the most commonly heard version (at least at the time).

The big clinker was the way the female lead sang the ballad. She was a pretty fair singer (some voice training), but the problem was not her training. She didn't know the tune, so to learn it, someone had loaned her one of Josh White's records with Barbara Allen on it. Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with Josh White. Quite the contrary. But blues were his strong point. Anglo-American ballads were not his métier. He sang it in an almost exaggerated blues style, totally inappropriate for that particular song. Josh White was much too tasteful a musician to have sung ballads in that style unless he was under a lot of pressure from the record company to do so. So instead of singing in the straightforward, matter-of-fact manner typical of the way a young mountain girl would have sung, "Barbara Allen" sang with blue notes and sexy slides from note to note. The style might have been at home in some smoke-filled bistro. But not at a mountain barn dance. She didn't know anything about folk music and she didn't know any better.

I pointed this out to the director, who also didn't know anything about folk music, which is why she called me. "That's it!" she said. "I knew something was not right about that. But that record was the only source we had." I sang the ballad without accompaniment, demonstrating the way I thought it should be done. Then I suggested that the lead actress forget the Josh White version, get some of Jean Ritchie's records, and listen carefully to the way Jean Ritchie sings. She did, and on the opening night of the play, her voice was the same as before, but she was singing in an entirely different style. She sounded like the young mountain girl that she was supposed to be.

I wound up getting "Musical Consultant" credit in the program.

A singer with good vocal technique has the ability to assume a style—even a variety of styles. The best way to acquire the style you want is to listen to singers who sing that style. But imitating another singer's voice, like trying to sing "mountain tenor" if you don't have the range, or trying to sound nasal or raspy, can eventually ruin your voice. Don't imitate the voice. Emulate the style. And sing with your natural voice

And above all, don't display your technique, just try to tell a good story.

I hope this makes sense.

And to Baob:— I think the problem with McKellar is that to a degree, he is displaying his technique. This is an occupational hazard with many singers who are primarily classical singers. I can't imagine someone like Luciano Pavarotti singing anything folk without sounding like an operatic tenor. It's just ingrained in what he's done all his life (also, there is the song itself: Robert Burns' and Stephen Foster's songs do a nice job of surviving both folk singers and classical singers). But if a person who sets out to sing folk songs decides to take voice lessons, I don't think they would have any problem. I know many examples of this—including a few folk singers who keep the fact that they've studied voice a deep, dark secret.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: GUEST,Boab
Date: 04 May 02 - 01:45 AM

Kenneth McKellar is a much-loved tenor in Scotland. His renditions of several of the songs of Robert Burns ---"My Love is Like A Red Red Rose" stood out in excellence---was masterful to say the least. He was a trained singer. Bur the plain truth was, he just didn't have what it takes to put across the vast majority of the folk songs of his own country. That changed. Since my love affair with folk music and song has spanned a fair lifetime, I was privileged to be around when an early t.v. series of Scottish folk song was screened featuring Jean Redpath, Alastair MacDonald, and---Kenneth McKellar. I wasn't alone in noticing a very marked difference in Ken McKellar's approach to folk song following his experience with Jean and Alastair. The "diction" which used to set my teeth on edge when Ken sang a song in dialect became modified and much improved the feel of the song. Alastair MacDonald never could match McKellar at "Red Red Rose"---but Ken would be gey sair left at the post trying to match either of the other pair at, say, "Bogie's Bonnie Belle"!!


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 03 May 02 - 09:02 PM

Hey, Jim:

I'll respond, even though not asked to. Just some opinions. For starters, I've heard too many folk musicians who forgot to have a good time playing. Too many hushed, reverent tones. I have to believe that folks sitting on their back porch playing music, or playing at a Saturday dance were a lot more fun than many people I've heard who were scholarly, knew the background to the songs and expounded on them at length, and then proceeded to bore me until I lost all feeling in my extremities. I don't that I can define what is missing in them, any more than you can. I think it's FEELING, not the beat. I could sit and listen to someone like Almeida Riddle all night, and she had a pretty lousy voice and sure didn't have "the beat." But, she sang from the heels up. Put everything she had into the song. Maybe it's ENERGY that's so often missing. You can put energy into a ballad. As a matter of fact, you'd better put some energy into ballads or all but the die-hard folkies will fall asleep.

Leave reverence to church. Boys just want to have fun.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 03 May 02 - 08:07 PM

Don Firth, I like what you said about style, back at 2:25, but what exactly is the difference between an art style and a folk style? I mean, although I think I can intuitively tell the difference, I don't know how to describe the difference.

I have friends who play "folk" music in a style that I find bland and boring because it sounds too "artsy" to me. Now, they haven't asked me for advice, and they probably never will, and even if they did, I'd probably lie. But just for the sake of argument, let's suppose they did ask for advice on how to make their music sound less "artsy" and more "folksy." What should I tell them?

I made a stab at it when I tried to say that the difference was a matter of rhythm, and of accenting the beat, but nobody yet is high-fiving me and saying, "Right on!" So I wonder if I missed the mark a bit. Come to think of it, some of the a cappella singing that I especially like dispenses with rhythm altogether, and is not at all like dance music. Help!

By the way, I'll bet Russ' wife's voice teacher didn't say, "That's great for folk music. Now I'll teach you the style to use for art music." More likely she said, "Now I'll teach you the right way to sing." Gr-r-r!


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: Alice
Date: 03 May 02 - 06:24 PM

ditto what Don said


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 03 May 02 - 05:57 PM

Don,

Well said.

It was a long time ago and my wife was young and impressionable. She eventually returned to her roots. These days she's got the style thinkg under control.

The story was meant to be sort of a cautionary tale.


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: Don Firth
Date: 03 May 02 - 02:25 PM

Russ, I venture to say that it isn't the training per se. I've had plenty of voice training and I don't sing folk songs like art songs. I don't try to imitate Woody Guthrie or Ralph Stanley. Nor do I try to imitate Ezio Pinza. I just open my mouth and sing. Placing the voice and using good breath support will not, by itself, make anyone sound like an art singer.

During voice lessons, I have sung an occasional operatic aria. And when I do, I sound like an opera singer. It's kind of a mind-set. But I use a different mind-set when I sing folk songs, and as a result, they don't sound like operatic arias.

Kiri Te Kanawa is a highly trained operatic soprano. When she sings opera, she sounds like an opera singer. But when she sings Pop songs or Broadway show tunes, she doesn't. She adapts her style to the song she's singing. What your wife needs to do is keep the technique, but learn to sing in the appropriate style. Good technique gives one the choice. But you do have to choose.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: greg stephens
Date: 03 May 02 - 04:35 AM

Why does Amos always seem to make points so much better and more wisely than anyone else? What I want to know is, is it a naturally developoed ability, or is it the result of attending a formal training course in "Letter writing to Mudcat Studies"


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 03 May 02 - 01:31 AM

Once upon a time many years ago my wife took voice lessons for a semester or two in the school of music of the local university.

There's no denying that she learned many valuable things. Unfortunately, the lessons also caused a significant change in the way she sang the traditional ballads she had learned from her grandmothers. She applied what she had learned and started singing them like art songs. I didn't like what I heard. She lost what I can only describe as an "edge" and the ballads started to sound pretty instead of powerful and moving and haunting. To my ears it took her several years to get over the lessons and get back to the sound that I thought was appropriate for her traditional material.


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: Lynn
Date: 02 May 02 - 10:46 PM

Training gives you options. How you use them is what makes it 'soulful' or not. I wouldn't trade my expertise in music theory for anything. It's served me extraordinarily well. Does it get in the way? Well, sometimes. Especially if I'm trying to figure out just exactly what chord it is that I'm playing in an odd open tuning. My classical training is on piano. When doing vocal harmonies, I can visualize them more easily as notes on the piano keyboard. I can manipulate them easier that way. In practice and performance, that may change. And that's ok. Going with the flow is part of the 'soul' of music. For some folks, it's all 'going with the flow.' Working that way only takes me so far. Then I go back to the training.

Singing is another matter, in a way. I know what I need to do to avoid damaging the cords - breathing, support, using some of the natural resonance - but I don't try to sing like a bel canto baritone when I do folk stuff. It's totally out of character with the music. But I can project in situations when I'm singing acoustically (no amplification), and do it without straining too much. That's where the training kicks in.

Much of what we're talking about here is the difference between technique and musicality. What's 'musical' for one style can be counterproductive (and perhaps counterintuitive) in another. Technique (training) is just a means of getting there.

Amos and Jerry make some very good and valid points, too.

Lynn


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: sophocleese
Date: 02 May 02 - 06:24 PM

I am reminded of Lady Bracknell:

"I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance. Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone. The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever. If it did, it would prove a serious danger to the upper classes, and probably lead to acts of violence in Grosvenor Square."

Of course she is a caricature.


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: irishajo
Date: 02 May 02 - 06:17 PM

I was the guest in the first post. That's what I get for posting in a hurry on my lunch hour at work. :-( Sorry.

Anyway, thanks for the very thoughtful responses. I'm going to mull these over for a while before I try to make any coherent statements.

Thanks for the musical selections, Jim Dixon. Interesting to hear the different styles.


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 02 May 02 - 05:48 PM

If anybody else can find some examples of tunes played by both "classical" and "folk" musicians, and can link to some sound samples for comparison, I'd be happy to hear them.

They aren't as easy to find as I'd hoped.


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: hesperis
Date: 02 May 02 - 05:41 PM

"Someone who has it won't be hindered by training."

Um... THAT depends on the training.

I had it. I lost the joy of singing 7 years ago because of singing in youth choirs, and only got it back this year. My conductors did their best (unintentionally, I sure,) to train certain things OUT of me, and sitting next to someone who always sang exactly a hair out of tune was the last straw.

...And I LOVE music, and LOVE singing!

And now it's going to be a lot of work to get back what used to be completely natural.


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: Don Firth
Date: 02 May 02 - 05:06 PM

Music theory applies to all kinds of music. A C chord is a C chord whether it's in a folk song or a Beethoven symphony.

Let's put it this way:-- musical training, including music theory, teaches you how to drive. Then you decide where you want to go.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: Don Firth
Date: 02 May 02 - 04:56 PM

Musical training and soul are two different things. Be it opera, pop, folk, or Swiss yodeling, you can have one without the other. A musician who has years of training and fine technique, but who lacks soul is a well oiled machine that signifies nothing. A musician who has great soul, but little knowledge and faulty technique is stifled—unable to express that soul to the fullest.

Training does not place limitations! Many folkies in particular seem to think that training will load them down with a lot of rules and limit their creative freedom. That's hokum! Training shows you what you can do. It can show you possibilities you may never think of on your own. And the choice is yours. Just because you can do all kinds of things doesn't mean you have to.

Nor will training force you into some kind of mold. For example, not everybody has a classical voice. Joan Baez does, and she's able to sing that way even without voice lessons. But all the voice lessons in the world would not make Dave Van Ronk sound like Ezio Pinza. You work with the instrument you were born with. One major advantage of taking some voice lessons early on is that you learn how to avoid wrecking your voice.

What's kind of pathetic is when someone spends years trying to dope out something that a teacher could have shown them in one lesson. There's a woman here in town who's been playing guitar and singing since she was a kid. She's sung in coffeehouses, done concerts, and had a children's TV show at one time, singing folk songs. She does quite well, considering she has avoided learning anything about music theory out of fear of what she thinks is a bunch of "thou shalt not" rules. Every time she learned a new song, she had to have someone show her what chords to play or use the chords in a songbook. Her ear is good, but she didn't know what chords go together. A couple of years a go I showed her the Circle of Fifths (astounded that she didn't know it!) and explained it to her. She thought it was bloody miraculous! But if I'd metioned anything about music theory, her mind would have slammed shut and she'd still be wondering what chords go together and why.

Don't be afraid of a little learning.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: M.Ted
Date: 02 May 02 - 03:36 PM

I think that you would be surprised, GUEST, by the entertainers that have both musical training and "soul"--most don't go out of their way to let people know about it--nowdays, it is probably more likely than not that performers have vocal and music training, as well as dance and acting--remember that the best trained make it look natural--


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 02 May 02 - 03:26 PM

For me, the harp work of Voorhees wins, but the dulcimer-guitar duo is also very pleasant. The overblown accordian work doesn't fit my image of O'Carolan's music. The duo guitar work doesn't really compare because it is an adaptation that departs from O'Carolan's line, especially in other parts of the adaptation.
(The duet on dulcimer and guitar caused "Illegal Operation" and close-down on Netscape, but worked with Internet Explorer. Had this happen before.)
We only have one basic line of any of O'Carolan's pieces, so we really know very little of what he was striving for in his music. No harmony, no grace notes, nada.


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 02 May 02 - 03:15 PM

Being one of the great unwashed (musically,) I tend to see the value of just "doin' it" in folk music. Like everyone else, I see things through my own experience. One of the distinguishing factors is whether you want to be a solo musician, or play with others. Most of my life, I performed alone, so it didn't make any difference what key I was playing in, or if I knew the notes on the strings. To this day, when someone wants to tune to me when I'm playing banjo and asks for a particular note, I say, "tell me where it is, and it's all yours." The joy of approaching music that way is that every instrument is just sitting there with tunes to be played if you figure out how to get them out of there. I took just enough lessons to learn the basic picking patterns, and then just figured out what else I wanted to know, myself. When I want to play a diminished chord (I think that's what they're called) I hear the notes in my head and it's just a matter of figuring out a configuration for my fingers that doesn't require a contortionist to play it. I never wanted to sound like anyone else, or copy anyone else, or read music, and I more or less achieved my goals. My approach to computers, instruments and life has been pretty much, "hmmm, I wonder what happens when you do this?" Is that more soulful than being a truly trained musician? I don't think so. Training gives you tools that I don't have. I could do more if I'd been more ambitious. As long as you make music yours, the more tools you have, the more fun you can have. I don't buy into the noble, primitive musician stuff at all. Or that you will lose your soulfulness if you get more musical training. I listen to someone like Rick Fielding, as an example, and I think he just uses what he's learned and is able to express ideas I never could.

Singing in a gospel quartet has been a whole new experience for me, and when people come up after hearing us and compliment us on our harmonies, they often ask, who works out the arrangement? We all laugh (politely.) I usually say, when I'm singing harmony and I'm singing the same harmony as Frankie, either he has to go up, or I have to go down. If he goes up and runs into Derrick and Derrick can't go up any higher, then I go down and try not to run into Joe. It's as simple as saying,"Hey you, get offa my line." Does that make us more soulful? Not particularly. We're just untrained musicians, and happy with what we're doing.

The thing that I love about folk music is that you don't have to have music theory, or know what note you're playing you can't do that, if your playing in a band, or trying to make a living being a side man. But, if there's an instrument leaning against the wall over in the corner you can just reach over and say to yourself, "Hmmm, I wonder what would happen if I do this...?"

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 02 May 02 - 02:35 PM

OK, here are corrected links:

Here's Carolan's Concerto, performed by John Williams and Timothy Kain on guitars.
Go to this page and then click on cut #9.

Here's Carolan's Concerto, performed by John Whelan on accordion.
Go to this page and then click on cut #13.

Here's Eleanor Plunkett, performed by Rachel van Voorhees on harp
Go to this page and then click on cut #7.

(Caution: before playing the following cut, make sure Windows Media Player is stopped. Otherwise you will have 2 tunes playing at once.)
Here's Eleanor Plunkett, performed by Anne Benson on hammered dulcimer and Ken Steffenson on guitar. (AIFF format).


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: Jim Krause
Date: 02 May 02 - 02:18 PM

Jim Dixon, I think you are right in your analysis of folk music and the necessity of accenting the beat. I have heard plenty of bland classical music. If we take a broad definition of Classical Music to include the works of the Baroque masters, your point about emphasizing the beat also stands up. Because many baroque suites have dance movements in them. Some examples are the various gavottes, gigs, (or gigues, if you will) minuettes, pavannes, courantes, etc. etc. Dance music is dance music. What makes baroque chamber music come alive is paying attention to the beat. Just like in folk music.

Good classical music needs to be performed with as much soul as folk music. And I suspect that how much one is exposed to live performance determines to some extent how soulfully the music will be performed. It is a difficult thing to talk about, or write about. The music needs to be felt by the performer in order for the performance to come alive.
Jim Krause


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 02 May 02 - 02:06 PM

I see most of my links don't work. I will try to have them fixed.


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 02 May 02 - 02:04 PM

Funny you should ask. I was recently thinking of starting a thread on a closely related subject, but I never got my thoughts organized well enough to do so. I will try to do it now. I've been thinking about the relationship between CLASSICAL training and folk music. I have known some highly skilled classical musicians who produced mediocre work in the folk field, and I've been trying to understand why.

I don't think training hurts anyone. If you missed something in your training, you can always learn it later. But I think someone who is trained in playing classical music and later takes up folk music has some additional things to learn, and not all of them learn it.

I suspect some classical musicians are taught to believe that, since classical music is the most complex and difficult kind of music to play, therefore anyone who can play classical music well can automatically play ANYTHING well. This is not true. What is frequently missing is THE BEAT.

Most folk music is grounded in dance music – rhythmic dance music, not like ballet. Dance music has to have a strong and regular beat. Folk musicians are influenced by their traditions to produce a good beat even when they're not playing dance music. Music without much of a beat seems too delicate, bland, or ethereal. It needs a bounce to it.

See if you agree with my judgment of these samples:

Here's Carolan's Concerto, performed by John Williams and Timothy Kain on guitars (for Windows Media Player).

Here's Carolan's Concerto, performed by John Whelan on accordion (for Windows Media Player).

Here's Eleanor Plunkett, performed by Rachel van Voorhees on harp (for RealPlayer).

Here's Eleanor Plunkett, performed by Anne Benson on hammered dulcimer and Ken Steffenson on guitar. (AIFF format).

I suppose tastes will vary, but I prefer the versions done by the folkies.


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: Jim Krause
Date: 02 May 02 - 01:42 PM

Yes, I have some thoughts. I have had the benefit of quite a bit of training. I won't bore you with the details. Suffice it to say that in my not so humble opinion, that without that training & experience, I should not have been able to sing in a bar every Saturday night for a couple of years running, or unamplified at Silver Dollar City without that training. I can't recommend proper vocal training highly enough for those who really want to keep on singing without damaging that precious instrument, the voice.
Jim


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: Kim C
Date: 02 May 02 - 01:29 PM

What Amos said.

Someone either has music, or they don't have it. Someone who has it won't be hindered by training. Someone who doesn't have it can be taught to play, and play well, but it's not the same.


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Subject: RE: Training detracts from 'soul' of music?
From: C-flat
Date: 02 May 02 - 01:24 PM

I think training can be a bad thing when imposed on young learners. The kids who grow up with a passion to play take short cuts in their musical education to faster acheive the sound they want to hear but their passion usually overcomes any technical shortcomings. I'm sure some of the people who've made a living in the music business probably had to go back over and take some formal training to reach another level of understanding and enable them to better share ideas with other musicians. Those same players may have had their talent stifled at an early age had too much attention been paid to the musical theory.


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