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Do you sing from Memory?

RTim 16 Nov 07 - 10:10 AM
MMario 16 Nov 07 - 10:16 AM
Hawker 16 Nov 07 - 10:33 AM
GUEST,maire aine 16 Nov 07 - 10:37 AM
Fred McCormick 16 Nov 07 - 10:41 AM
bigchuck 16 Nov 07 - 10:48 AM
GUEST,Terry McDonald 16 Nov 07 - 10:58 AM
GUEST,strad 16 Nov 07 - 11:06 AM
DebC 16 Nov 07 - 11:14 AM
the button 16 Nov 07 - 11:17 AM
Seamus Kennedy 16 Nov 07 - 11:18 AM
Bee 16 Nov 07 - 11:21 AM
Louie Roy 16 Nov 07 - 11:24 AM
GUEST,allan s. 16 Nov 07 - 11:32 AM
The Villan 16 Nov 07 - 11:42 AM
M.Ted 16 Nov 07 - 11:44 AM
Amos 16 Nov 07 - 12:03 PM
Marje 16 Nov 07 - 12:05 PM
Alan Day 16 Nov 07 - 12:19 PM
PoppaGator 16 Nov 07 - 01:00 PM
The Sandman 16 Nov 07 - 01:11 PM
Marje 16 Nov 07 - 01:37 PM
Tradsinger 16 Nov 07 - 01:51 PM
NormanD 16 Nov 07 - 01:56 PM
The Villan 16 Nov 07 - 02:00 PM
GUEST, Mikefule 16 Nov 07 - 02:03 PM
dwditty 16 Nov 07 - 02:11 PM
GUEST,Jim Carroll 16 Nov 07 - 02:15 PM
Micca 16 Nov 07 - 02:23 PM
The Sandman 16 Nov 07 - 02:26 PM
GUEST 16 Nov 07 - 02:26 PM
Santa 16 Nov 07 - 02:29 PM
Deckman 16 Nov 07 - 02:29 PM
SINSULL 16 Nov 07 - 02:30 PM
Don Firth 16 Nov 07 - 02:31 PM
PoppaGator 16 Nov 07 - 02:47 PM
Herga Kitty 16 Nov 07 - 03:17 PM
GUEST,Jim Carroll 16 Nov 07 - 03:28 PM
GUEST,Captain Swing 16 Nov 07 - 03:54 PM
kendall 16 Nov 07 - 04:14 PM
jacqui.c 16 Nov 07 - 04:32 PM
kendall 16 Nov 07 - 04:37 PM
Richard Bridge 16 Nov 07 - 04:49 PM
Micca 16 Nov 07 - 04:56 PM
Liz the Squeak 16 Nov 07 - 05:24 PM
Bill D 16 Nov 07 - 05:26 PM
GUEST 16 Nov 07 - 05:29 PM
oggie 16 Nov 07 - 05:31 PM
My guru always said 16 Nov 07 - 05:31 PM
John Routledge 16 Nov 07 - 05:36 PM
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Subject: Do you sing from Memory?
From: RTim
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 10:10 AM

I was wondering how Mudcatters, etc. sing, ie. - Do you at events (eg. Singarounds, Get togethers, song clubs or song circles and partivcularly things like The Getaway) or even at paid bookings, ALWAYS sing from memory, or do you have a set of notes, etc. nearby as a backstop or even a main reference that you sing from?

Because of years of not singing, then getting back at it more regularly AND because I have a rather larger number of songs I can sing - my song book is becoming a bit of a "Crutch" and I rely on it far too much - However, if I am doing a paid booking I will ALWAYS memorize the songs, but always have a large print version nearby of those not really in my head - just in case!

What are your thoughts on this subject?

Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: MMario
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 10:16 AM

I *try* to sing from memory; but under some circumstances will "use the book" as a memory tweaker.


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Hawker
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 10:33 AM

Prefer to sing from memory, but since my TIA last year My memory is even less reliable than it was before - and it wasn't too reliable then! I have back-up BIG print words nearby too, If I have them I rarely need them, if I don't I probably would!
Cheers, Lucy


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: GUEST,maire aine
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 10:37 AM

I try to make sure I have the words under control, but I often forget the guitar arrangement. If I haven't had a chance to practice a particular song, I'll keep a page nearby for the chords more than anything.

Maryanne


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Fred McCormick
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 10:41 AM

I would suggest that if you haven't memorised the words, you probably haven't absorbed the song sufficiently to sing it in public. The only songs I've ever sung from the page have been topical squibs with a very short life span.


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: bigchuck
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 10:48 AM

I always sing from memory. I feel strongly that I can't do a song justice until I have in memory, nor do I feel it can evolve until then.

Sandy Morse


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: GUEST,Terry McDonald
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 10:58 AM

On principle I always sing from memory - I was amazed when I came back to the club scene a couple of years ago to find almost everyone had their words in front of them. Wasn't allowed when I was a lad....


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: GUEST,strad
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 11:06 AM

I always sing and play from memory, as much a courtesy to the audience as anything. I don't understand how anyone can play for dancing from the notes. Watching the dancers feet is as much an aid to the band and you see some amazing and amusing sights on the dancefloor. A transparent backlit dress on a lovely dancer I would have missed if I was playing from the notes. And if you lose your place during a long song a phrase regarding a canoe and no paddle comes to mind.


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: DebC
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 11:14 AM

What Sandy said. I always sing from memory. Now sometimes the memory don't work so well.... :-)

Deb Cowan
www.DebraCowan.com


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: the button
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 11:17 AM

I'd never sing a song in public that I couldn't sing from memory. Not karaoke, is it?


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Seamus Kennedy
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 11:18 AM

Always memory....when I can remember to do so.

Seamus


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Bee
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 11:21 AM

Ninety percent of the time I sing from memory. However, I'm pretty new at this. I've only sung in front of a crowd three times, and kept my lyrics nearby in case of memory loss from stark fear.

I do find that if I don't constantly practice some songs, I will forget parts of them.


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Louie Roy
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 11:24 AM

If you can't do a song from memory don't do itbecause you don't do the song justice and it sounds terrible


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: GUEST,allan s.
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 11:32 AM

when I was young I could always sing from memory And probably still sing those songs w/ a few written aids. Now at 78 I always need the words in front of me ... As my MD said "dont worry its just that your short term memory is short very short"    See what you all can look foreward to as you get older....


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: The Villan
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 11:42 AM

I sing from memory, but unfortunately my memory can't remember anything.


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: M.Ted
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 11:44 AM

I started out playing in bands and orchestras, where we always worked with the music in front of us--then moved on to folksinging and bands where everything was done from memory. As the years went by, I wished that I'd written out all the memorized stuff. Over the years, you do forget--

Fred McCormick--you are wrong, of course--memorization has nothing to do with understanding, and is not necessary to communicate the deeper truths in music--one could actually make a good case against memorizing music, because it tends to gloss over a lot of the details in a piece.

At any rate, you lose your memory with age, and it helps to keep a notebook for prompting--unless you are one of those (as evidenced in the cruel and miserable Davey Graham thread) who believe that the minute a performer starts to slip, they should be shot, or at least locked away and never seen or heard again.


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Amos
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 12:03 PM

ALways. The only time I don't is when I am learning a song, something I don't do in public usually!


A


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Marje
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 12:05 PM

It's all very well advocating the use of crib sheets, but I'm finding that the eyesight is deteriorating at about the same rate as the memory - bummer, innit?

But seriously, I do think that it's important that a singer takes the trouble to learn the song. There's really no excuse for singing it all from a book or word-sheet, it just comes over as lazy and half-hearted, and puts a barrier between you and the audience.

But having some kind of prompt nearby for a song that you really know and might just momentarily go blank on - that's another matter and can be done quite discreetly.

My method (I've probably said this here before) is this: for each song, I take a piece of card, about the size of a credit card, and write the title and the key on one side. On the other side I write a few words (often the first words of each verse) to remind me of them. I include any other problem areas, such as easily confused lines, and things like place-names that tend to slip my mind.

The process of making the cards is part of the learning process - it's helpful in pointing up the tricky parts of each song. You'll find if you try it that you probably actually know about 90 percent of the song, it's just a few key words and lines that you get stuck on.

I check out the cards before I go out to sing or even just before I sing, just to refresh my mind and remind me of the bits I might forget. If I feel uncertain I may even clutch the card in my hand while I sing, but I don't think I've ever had to use one at this stage. (I have, of course, sung impromptu at times without using the card, and occasionally got totally stuck. It happens.)

If you really can't be bothered to learn the song and work out some way of getting it right, you're unlikely to be able to engage your listeners. Well, this listener anyway.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Alan Day
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 12:19 PM

I too sing and play from memory.I also memorise fairly lenghy monologues.It is very difficult to put feeling into a song or a recitation if you are reading it.The same does not necessarliy apply to musicians using dots,but even then the music has been played so many times the players are almost perfoming from memory.
Al


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 01:00 PM

In my younger days, I never worked from any kind of notes, never even taped a card to my guitar as I've seen many performers do.

Now, I was singing on the street back then, subject to wind, etc., and without a music stand or any such structure to hold a crib sheet. I was out there performing for hours at a time, and if I skipped a verse or sang lines out of order while working a new number into my repertoire, that was no problem, just part of the learning process. I'd just keep repeating until I got it down. It's not like I was under any kind of scrutiny, that's for sure.

At any rate, until quite recently, I would never have considered using any kind of cheat sheet. If nothing else, it would detract from maintaining eye contact with the audience.

When I restarted my long-dormant performing "career" just over a year ago, with monthly one-hour coffeehouse appearances, I was persuaded to start referring to notes. There's a music stand available on the little stage, and many of the players use it. I was advised to "just treat it like practice" as I slowly began to regain confidence, stage presence, etc. ~ and indeed, some of my fellow amateur performers at the Neutral Ground Coffee House are rank beginners, only slowly developing their skills and their repertoires, many using every imaginable type of "crutch" as long as they feel the need. (Others are true pros, established groups and soloists using their monthly slots more or less as rehearsals where they can pick up a few bucks passing the basket.)

At age 60, I sometimes need to peek at the words, and can't predict just when. Of course, the longest and wordiest songs on my list are the ones most likely to give me brain-freeze. Back in my younger days as a street singer, I made it a point to regularly sing a number of very long songs (notably Dylan compositions like "Tom Thumbs' Blues," etc.) just to pass the time. Even though I had so many songs firmly committed to memory for a good 3-5 year period, I cannot feel confident about keeping the lines and verses in order today, not without peeking at the lyrics once in a while.

I've begun to play another freebee venue regularly, a weekly open mike allowing just two songs per participant. There's no music stand there, and I generally pick my two songs from among those I really know well. Thankfully, there are enough numbers about which I feel sufficiently confident to sing without notes, and more of them as time goes on. I do hope to be able to abandon cheat-sheets completely sooner or later, but I recognize that advancing age may make that difficult if not impossible.

Incidentally, while I feel the need to periodically "peek" at lyrics, I never have any such problem with chords, or fingerpicking patterns, bass runs, etc., etc., or anything musical. I simply can't imagine taking a number onstage without knowing how to play it on my instrument, and I was really surprised to see someone's comment above that they needed a cheat-sheet chord chart.

Well, different strokes for different folks, I guess. Maybe the fact that I don't read music has something to do with my greater confidence in my playing than in my memory for lyrics. Also, long before I've learned the lyrics of a given song (by repeated singing), I will already have worked out an instrumental arrangement and played it over and over and over...


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: The Sandman
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 01:11 PM

I always sing from memory,I find songs with stories easy to remember.
Many years ago, 1977,I did a gig at Highgate folkclub,I sang Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy,forgot a verse, so just made it up,Nobody noticed[including my fiddling accompanist],I wish I had a recording of what it was I sang.
just keep your cool and think of the story.Dick Miles


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Marje
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 01:37 PM

If you did that now, Dick, you'd probably find that someone had indeed recorded it, transcribed it, and sent it in to Mudcat as an alternative version of the song! It'd be on YouTube in no time.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Tradsinger
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 01:51 PM

Like the other contributors to this thread, I would strongly advocate singing from memory as a) it gives a better impression that you really know the song and b) IMHO it leads to a better performance.

That said, none of us is getting any younger and it is more of an issue (so I have heard), but there are all sorts of 'tricks' for remembering words. Usually you only have to get going on a verse or a line to remember the complete verse or line. Try to picture the opening line, or even think of a nemonic (spelling?) to get you going. For example, if the verse starts "Three long steps I stepped up to her", then while you are singing the previous verse, picture '3LS' in your mind or even picture yourself striding out with long steps - that should get you going on the verse. And of course, keep singing the song over and over again to yourself so that the words become a sort of habit and you don't have to think about them.

Failing that, have a 'plant' in the audience with the words who can prompt you!

But above all, keep singing.

Tradsinger


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: NormanD
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 01:56 PM

Or, sadly, there'd be a lengthy and cruel Mudcat thread discussing your fall from grace.

I honestly fail to understand why it seems to be acceptable for classical performers - musicians as well as many singers - to play from written scores? Are they "not doing the audience justice" or performing without feeling?

Norman


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: The Villan
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 02:00 PM

I don't give a toss with or without, as long as its good.


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: GUEST, Mikefule
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 02:03 PM

OK, so I'm early in my singing career, and only have a dozen or so songs, but I never sing a song unless I can do it from memory. That's not to say I never make a mistake, but I do like to feel I "own" a song and can do it on autopilot. Then I can "turn it up" a bit for a public performance. I'm lucky - I have the time to practise.

I remember in my previous incarnation as a regular folk club goer (3 or more nights a week, 20+ years ago) that no one ever sang from the written words. I have returned to folk clubs over the last two or three years and I see quite a few people with song books, used as crib sheets during performance.

But I also note that most of them don't sing the words that are written down!


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: dwditty
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 02:11 PM

I think if the audience takes the trouble to come out to see me, I owe them the courtesy of learning the songs they will hear as well my full attention. Having my head down, reading off a music sheet, does not, in my opion, do that. When I do see performers with a music stand, try as I might, I just don't believe them. As Captain Birdseye said, if you forget the words, make something up. Rarely will anyone notice.

dw


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: GUEST,Jim Carroll
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 02:15 PM

"Do you sing from Memory?"
Is there any other way?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Micca
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 02:23 PM

As I have said before I am Much more embarrassed at forgetting the words than of having "the book" in front of me, and if you want embarrassement at its maximum, it is in forgetting a song YOU WROTE!!!,(this also applies to songs where you know more than one version i.e. Spanish Ladies and Girls of Tachuano) the trouble often is your brain switches back to an earlier revision (or version) before the "Final" draft and you go down a blind alley that you later rejected and get hopelessley lost!!! But, in the end, it is personal taste and it is the act of Singing that counts, and if more are encouraged to sing by using "the book" then that has my vote. Personally, I prefer to sing from memory but it is not always possible for a variety of reasons (lousy memory, singing too infrequently etc) or a "New song". but I would rather sing, book and all, than not.
"Let every man so bend his song
to help his neighbour sing along
let each and all contentment bring
when Old Men sing"


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: The Sandman
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 02:26 PM

Jim,you said you dont do it any more.why dont youstart again?Dick Miles


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: GUEST
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 02:26 PM

Maybe I am just awkward but I always sing from memory when singing solo EXCEPT for Christmas carols which I always sing from written sheets. There is a vague rationale behind this ...


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Santa
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 02:29 PM

re classical performers: I think it is fair to say that most folk music is rather simpler. Usually shorter, too, though it may not always feel that way.

My wife sings from memory. She feels it wouldn't be right any other way - that it would be being impolite to the audience. (I am reminded of the treatment of mime artists in Pratchett's Ankh-Morporka. Hung upside down in a viper pit with the mesage "Learn the words".) She can be quite entertaining on how non-folkies in her choir sessions first react to being expected to sing without their dots.


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Deckman
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 02:29 PM

hopefully!


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: SINSULL
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 02:30 PM

A Getaway moment:
A blind lady knew every single song from beginning to end. Never even a hesitation. And these were songs she had to dredge from her memory. I was suitably impressed and she suitably pleased at the compliments until someone who shall remain nameless pointed out the Braille song books she was lovingly caressing in her large satchel.
LOL


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Don Firth
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 02:31 PM

I've given a lot of thought to this recently.

When I first got interested in folk music, everyone I knew who sang did so from memory. Singing out of a book or reading the words off song-sheets was something that just didn't occur to anyone. I agree with those who say that if you don't know the song, you can't really do it justice. But "knowing" a song goes beyond merely having the words committed to memory.

One of my voice teachers had me bring my guitar to the lessons. He said that he could have me working on art songs and operatic arias and such for vocal technique, but since I was already doing some performing at the time, he thought (bless his heart!) that the best thing to do was work on the songs I was actually singing. He would often stop me in mid-song and ask, "What does that line mean?" Now, he knew what it meant. But he wanted to make sure that I knew what it meant.

He had a point. A very important one. He had spotted the fact that even though I had committed a song to memory, sometimes I was merely singing it by rote. I knew the words. But—I didn't really know what the song was about. So he would have me explain it to him using my own words, rather than just reciting the words of the song.

So there is more to knowing a song than just having the words memorized.

When I was singing actively, four or five sets a night, two or three nights a week plus other gigs, my repertoire of songs was getting a pretty good workout. Keeping them fresh in my memory was not that much of a problem. The main thing I needed to do was make sure that I was with the song, not singing it half asleep.

But within recent years, I'm not singing anywhere near that much, and there are some songs that I used to do regularly that I haven't sung for years. I think it's more this than the fact that I'm in my mid-seventies (my memory is pretty tenacious; as good as it ever was, if not, in certain ways, better) that sometimes in the middle of a song that I've sung hundreds of times, I'll open my mouth for the next line and it just isn't there. It's certainly not that I don't know the song.

I watch the "Classic Arts Showcase" channel fairly frequently and I've watched such things as "The Three Tenors" on PBS, and I have noticed that in the case the three tenors and sometimes in a film-clip of a song recital on CAS, there is a music stand nearby, usually within eye-shot of the singer (Carreras, Domingo, and Pavarotti all had music stands in front of them). These folks certainly know their material and they are not reading from what's on the music stands. But you will occasionally see them glance quickly at it. This kind of insurance—assurance—is certainly better than possibly blowing a song on national television!

So I may appear to be back-pedaling on what I said in the first paragraph, but in a live performance, especially for a paying audience, I think it's better to work with a "safety net" and have a music stand unobtrusively nearby than it is to suffer the embarrassment of a lapse of memory in mid-song—and inflict that kind of uncomfortable moment on the audience.

Provided you know the song. And that doesn't mean merely knowing the words.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 02:47 PM

Amen, Don.

Even though I've begun to "refer" to cheatsheets ~ something I would never have even imagined years ago ~ I feel most confident when I know I can glance at something for reference. I certainly don't fix my eyes upon a lyric sheet and read every single word.

And you're right about the necessity for really understanding a song in order to "know" it and therefore to present it adequately. There are songs I've known for decades that I understand quite deeply, but whose lengthy texts provide me with plenty of opportunities to "draw a blank," or at least to hesititate long enough to lose the beat and ruin the musical setting for the words. Better to work with a safety net, as long as I feel the need.


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Herga Kitty
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 03:17 PM

If you're singing at a folk club, from the front, as a performance, I think it should be from memory. This may be one of the aspects in which folk is different from other forms eg classical music? Patti Vetta performs in folk clubs but her background is as a recording session singer who sings from music on a music stand, so that's how she performs in folk clubs.

If you're singing from your seat (sitting or standing) in a singaround as part of a shared social experience, and you only feel confident to participate when reading from the words, that's OK.

Even when I write songs specially for special events I try to sing from memory (though will have a crib sheet just in case).

Kitty


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: GUEST,Jim Carroll
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 03:28 PM

"Jim,you said you don't do it any more.why don't you start again?Dick Miles"
Cap'n,
I assume you are referring to singing - what else!!!
Why don't I sing any more?
I enjoyed singing at one time, especially when my singing worked for me.
When I became interested in collecting and research I found myself with less time to devote to my singing so, as I was not prepared to sing in public without putting in the work, I was faced with a decision as to what was most important to me - collecting won - simple as that.
I get as much pleasure from research as I did from singing, so from my point of view it was the right decision.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: GUEST,Captain Swing
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 03:54 PM

Folk performers tend to get away with far too much in terms of standards of performance. Using crib sheets or lyrics is a case in point. It really is an insult to your audience to fail to learn your material. I'm sure it's contributed to the demise of the clubs. A performer trying this in front of a 'live' audience wouldn't last long.


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: kendall
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 04:14 PM

Memory. Always.


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: jacqui.c
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 04:32 PM

Crib sheets when I need to - I'm with Micca on this - it's much more embarrassing to forget the words mid song than to glance down at the sheet just to remind yourself of the next line. I always try to sing to the audience, not the crib sheet though. Some songs I have committed to memory but, often, I don't know what I'm going to sing at a song circle in advance and may want to dredge up one that hasn't seen the light of day for some time as it fits in the mood of the evening, or to try a new one that, whilst I may have got it right at home, may not be totally committed to memory in public.

It irritates me when a performer forgets the next bit and wants to go back and do it again to try and remember, or agonises over not knowing the song at that moment. That really spoils my enjoyment of their song.


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: kendall
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 04:37 PM

I just got a vision of Pavarotti stopping in the middle of his solo and saying, "Mama Mia, Ima forgetta the words"!


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 04:49 PM

One of the skills of the performer is the just ad-lib.


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Micca
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 04:56 PM

Kendall, It wouldnt happen because he has them on the music stand in front of him as he sings,and the Notes too


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 05:24 PM

I defy anyone to remember the entire 'Messiah' - including the bits usually cut out - without the music.

Most of my performances are done with the music in front of me, because it's simply far too much to try to remember. Even with the music in front of me, it's far too easy to go wrong. I've discovered that this is because a few members of the choir who stand behind me, have been singing 'Messiah' regularly for a number of years. This will be my third performance in a singing career spanning 34 years in various choirs, so I'm looking at the book for the correct words and notes. These few members have sung it so often they no longer feel the need to refer the score. Consequently, what they sing and what is written in the score are not always the same thing.

Having sung with the words in front of me for more than 3 decades, I find it hard to remember songs I've not sung more than about 90 times. As I get older, it's getting harder to remember tunes too, so the book in front of me is more of a crutch now. I have been known to have the book in front of me and sing an entire song without refering to it once.. I've even been known to turn it to a blank page for the few songs I DO know completely off by heart.

Similarly I've seen a performer stand up in front of an audience, tune up his guitar and not play a single note on it for the duration of the 4 songs he sang. He did grip it like a drowning man grabs a straw though.

Different crutches work for different people. It doesn't bother me, so don't let me bother you.

LTS


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Bill D
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 05:26 PM

It is obvious from the above that most regular singers feel that it is best to KNOW the song....but there are times when it is a problem.

One example: In my club, we have a monthly "Open Sing" with a topic announced. It is often a spur to learing new songs and dredging up old ones....but often, the perfect song for the topic might not be 'locked' in the memory, even though you 'almost' know it. Then a cheat-sheet...just to remind one of the verse order, etc. can be a blessing.

My rule is: ***If I can close my eyes and not be able to tell that a person is reading some of it, I don't worry***....but if they barely know the tune, and have only printed off the song that afternoon, and are unsure of the pacing and have to stop and adjust their glasses and turn pages, it is no fun for anyone!

Certainly, folks giving a concert, and who are expected to KNOW the songs, should only in special cases use notes. I have seen some wonderful professionals read from notes because they had something new which needed to BE in the concert....but that is rare.


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: GUEST
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 05:29 PM

I can't even remember words I've written myself. In fact, I find these much harder to remember than songs by other people, which I never have a problem with actually.

That said, even though I write out words before gigs I very rarely have the presence of mind to actually look at them in mid-song so generally make something up or sing the lines in the wrong order.


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: oggie
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 05:31 PM

re Classical Performers - I've never known why soloists have the music there as they know it inside out anyway. For choirs it can be different but their level is training is such that they can sight read on the fly. When my son was at Eddington Festival I watched them rehearse the Lassus Mass from scratch in 45 minutes and give a brilliant performance. All the chrosters were senior boys and their training was to do this week in and week out seven or more times a week.

When I sing I never use cribsheets, at anyone time I have about 30 songs I could sing at the drop of a hat and many more at a few minutes notice. Over the years I suppose I've learnt 300 plus songs and every so often I delve into the past and try and remember ones I haven't sung for years. If I couldn't sing a song from memory I wouldn't sing it in public, the performance I could give wouldn't work for me or the audience.

Steve


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: My guru always said
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 05:31 PM

Memory, definitely.

I'm with Marje on her 'card system'. I've made cards for each song that I feel I can sing with 'hints' on the reverse & authors name, key (only used if someone's kindly accompanying me on guitar, I wouldn't know a key if it came up & slapped me in the face with a wet herring) and book page number etc on the front. Then I just check through them before starting a set. I also find them very useful to figure out 'sets' in advance by laying them all out on a table & selecting or discarding till I find a good balance & variety of songs for an upcoming 'spot'. Or just shuffling and getting people to pick a card. Not advisable really - I recall a 'gig' when audience picked page numbers from my songbook and we ended up with 3 dreary ballads (probably about whales) on the trot *eek*


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: John Routledge
Date: 16 Nov 07 - 05:36 PM

Bill D I wish your third paragraph could be repeated at the start of every thread on singing with/without words.


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