Lyrics & Knowledge Personal Pages Record Shop Auction Links Radio & Media Kids Membership Help
The Mudcat Cafesj

Post to this Thread - Printer Friendly - Home
Page: [1] [2] [3] [4]


Do you sing from Memory?

RTim 17 Nov 07 - 03:58 PM
GUEST,Bruce Michael Baillie 17 Nov 07 - 04:58 PM
Liz the Squeak 17 Nov 07 - 05:02 PM
GUEST,Captain Swing 17 Nov 07 - 05:14 PM
RTim 17 Nov 07 - 05:33 PM
Santa 17 Nov 07 - 05:34 PM
Stringsinger 17 Nov 07 - 05:58 PM
Liz the Squeak 17 Nov 07 - 06:13 PM
Greg B 17 Nov 07 - 06:19 PM
Don Firth 17 Nov 07 - 06:20 PM
Liz the Squeak 17 Nov 07 - 06:36 PM
Don Firth 17 Nov 07 - 07:40 PM
GUEST,Captain Swing 17 Nov 07 - 07:58 PM
Ferrara 18 Nov 07 - 12:09 AM
Barry Finn 18 Nov 07 - 01:13 AM
stallion 18 Nov 07 - 07:03 AM
GUEST,Waco Jacko 18 Nov 07 - 07:25 AM
Richard Bridge 18 Nov 07 - 07:27 AM
Lowden Jameswright 18 Nov 07 - 07:30 AM
Dave Roberts 18 Nov 07 - 08:13 AM
Mysha 18 Nov 07 - 12:19 PM
Barry Finn 18 Nov 07 - 01:22 PM
Ferrara 18 Nov 07 - 01:48 PM
Marje 18 Nov 07 - 02:08 PM
lamarca 18 Nov 07 - 04:16 PM
Don Firth 18 Nov 07 - 04:23 PM
Richard Bridge 18 Nov 07 - 04:59 PM
Liz the Squeak 18 Nov 07 - 05:15 PM
Alan Day 18 Nov 07 - 05:45 PM
Ron Davies 18 Nov 07 - 06:59 PM
M.Ted 18 Nov 07 - 11:54 PM
GUEST,Jim Carroll 19 Nov 07 - 02:57 AM
eddie1 19 Nov 07 - 04:04 AM
GUEST,Flatpick 19 Nov 07 - 05:09 AM
M.Ted 19 Nov 07 - 07:56 AM
jacqui.c 19 Nov 07 - 08:49 AM
GUEST,Young Buchan 19 Nov 07 - 09:36 AM
the lemonade lady 19 Nov 07 - 10:30 AM
M.Ted 19 Nov 07 - 11:02 AM
GUEST,Rog Peek 19 Nov 07 - 11:28 AM
Barry Finn 19 Nov 07 - 01:49 PM
M.Ted 19 Nov 07 - 02:19 PM
Barry Finn 20 Nov 07 - 02:55 AM
GUEST,Fall of the Roman Empire 20 Nov 07 - 04:18 AM
Joe Offer 20 Nov 07 - 04:23 AM
GerryMc 20 Nov 07 - 04:32 AM
GUEST,LTS pretending to work 20 Nov 07 - 06:35 AM
Keith A of Hertford 20 Nov 07 - 06:41 AM
jonm 20 Nov 07 - 07:46 AM
Ian 20 Nov 07 - 07:56 AM
Share Thread
more
Lyrics & Knowledge Search [Advanced]
DT  Forum
Sort (Forum) by:relevance date
DT Lyrics:













Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: RTim
Date: 17 Nov 07 - 03:58 PM

Thank you to everyone who has been interested in this thread - I think it has been worthwhile.

I want to make it clearer now than my first note - That I ALWAYS prefer to sing from memory and hate it when I have to occasionally "Peek" at the book - however in all cases I know the tune solidly, and have sung the song many times before performing it in public - I just haven't always commited the words to my memory - Totally!

What sparked the thread to begin with was a gig my band (Beggars Description) did today - where I sang one song that I have only just started learning that was perfect for the occasion - and it also had my wife playing English Concertina for me - which is something we don't normally do. As my wife is an Early Musician, she is used to dots, etc. in front of her and she can never really understand why I always try and sing from memory! And as we can see by the responses - it is horses for courses - some like it some don't.

But again thanks for your words - I learnt something and I hope others did too.

Tim Radford
www.timradford.com


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: GUEST,Bruce Michael Baillie
Date: 17 Nov 07 - 04:58 PM

..I'm with Sugwash ans the others in the memory camp, if you can't remember it don't fuckingwell bother!There's little enough room in the average folk club without nusic stands and reams of bloody paper!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 17 Nov 07 - 05:02 PM

Can't help but feel that the attitude of the previous poster would mean far fewer people wanting to participate in an already dwindling genre.

LTS


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: GUEST,Captain Swing
Date: 17 Nov 07 - 05:14 PM

As I said earlier, one of the reasons the genre is dwindling is because people associate folk clubs (and music) with poor performance and presentation. This wasn't the case in the 70s when clubs were packed and there wasn't a music stand in sight.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: RTim
Date: 17 Nov 07 - 05:33 PM

Yes - Folk Clubs in the 70's didn't just have people there to listen - They also performed, and I know from my experiences that some singers were pretty bad when they started and it was great to see them improve over time. You have to have space for singers and musicians to try out infront of an audience!
Today there are TOO MANY concert clubs and not enough performance opportunies!

Tim Radford


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Santa
Date: 17 Nov 07 - 05:34 PM

LTS: or fewer people put off by amateurish performances?

I don't recall any professional singer reading from notes, even for a brand-new song. It is a privilege to experience a new song for the first (or at least very early) time, and using notes might reasonably be forgiven, but I don't recall it happening in my experience.

This might well be the kind of thing that varies from club to club. My regular club is predominantly a "concert" club: even on singers nights people do sing and play without texts. (Generally, there are always exceptions.) If your club is only a bunch of friends that sit around and sing to each other, then all sorts of allowances can be made. The same for a gathering in a pub at a festival. But if you have paying customers, then it is rude not to have learnt the words. Forgetting the words in mid-song is a much less heinous offence: that can and does happen to the best.

Folk etiquette, either you get it or you don't. A bit like people who get up for a beer, or wander in with a new one, in the middle of a song. You just don't do that! But people do.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 17 Nov 07 - 05:58 PM

there are some who are gifted with memory for words. I am not one of them.
I can remember tunes forever.
in the movies,
there are many well-known actors who use a crib sheet and can turn out a convincing
performance.

I don't agree that memorizing words automatically makes for a good performance.
I don't agree that reading from printed material does either.

If you do one style of music, it's easier to memorise without words in front of you,
however if you do a lot of different types of songs, then this is not easier.

I think you can do both depending on the situation. Even recording artists often
have words in front of them and can be convincing in their performance.

You can't generalize because it changes from performer to performer.

Frank


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 17 Nov 07 - 06:13 PM

So we've got a circular argument going on here.

Some feel it is unprofessional to use a crib sheet, even though there are examples of professionals doing so (there's film evidence of Elvis using a crib sheet in the middle of a concert - and that was before he addled his brains with drugs and burgers); others feel it is acceptable for crib sheets in informal situations. Still others consider carrying a library with them perfectly acceptable regardless of the circumstances (that would be Les Barker then. Never heard him do a single poem from memory yet). So when does an informal singaround become a formal concert? When payment has been given?

Frank has hit it on the head with his final statement. We don't need to start getting personal or insulting.

If people find my using a cribsheet so offensive, they should stop asking me to sing.

LTS


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Greg B
Date: 17 Nov 07 - 06:19 PM

Thing about using a crib sheet because you're getting older and
starting to forget more---- as you get older you find that you
can't read the bloody lyric sheet, either.

Wot's to do?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Don Firth
Date: 17 Nov 07 - 06:20 PM

". . . if you can't remember it don't fuckingwell bother!"

Well, GUEST BMB, one assumes that they have the song solidly memorized--in fact, may have sung the song hundreds of times with no glitches. And then, suddenly, there you are, in front of an audience that paid a fairly good wad to hear you sing, and you blank out on the words! That's rather on a par with having your belt suddenly break and your pants hitting the floor. You didn't plan on it, it's never happened before, but there it is!

No one--no one--can be guaranteed that this isn't going to happen to them. And if it does happen a time or two, you begin to reassess your thinking about having a notebook of crib-sheets set unobtrusively by, where you can give it a quick glance if you suddenly begin to feel your pants sliding toward the floor.

Don Firth


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 17 Nov 07 - 06:36 PM

you suddenly begin to feel your pants sliding toward the floor.

So THAT'S why they keep asking me to sing!

LTS


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Don Firth
Date: 17 Nov 07 - 07:40 PM

Hmm . . . this is beginning to take on a whole new dimension. . . .

Don Firth


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: GUEST,Captain Swing
Date: 17 Nov 07 - 07:58 PM

Other than in a rehearsal or a recording, I can't see any justification for having crib sheets. If you don't know it, don't sing it. Performing a song is a method of communication. It's on a par with acting. Who would expect actors to read from scripts?

Mistakes are acceptable in either context. A great part of stage craft is in dealing with the mistakes and esuring that the communication continues.

Whenever I perform a new song I expect to forget some of it so I work out a stratgey to deal with it when I do. That takes the pressure away and makes it less likely that I will forget some of it.

Communication is everything. You can't communicate what you don't know.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Ferrara
Date: 18 Nov 07 - 12:09 AM

Obviously there are strong opinions here but it's a question that each person needs to decide for themself.

I agree with what Bill D said (16 Nov 07 - 05:26 PM). [Well I ought to, we have discussed it often enough.]

If it helps to have a crib sheet there as a backup when performing; if you are singing in a song circle and really want to do a particular song; if you need it for some other reason; and if you can sing the song and make it sound as if you were singing from memory -- I think there are plenty of times when a crib sheet is OK. Obviously no one here is advocating singing every song from a crib sheet, or reading the words during a performance.

But, you know, I believe Big Mick did that just once, in the Getaway evening concert. He was reading a song he had just learned from El Greko; there hadn't been time to memorize it but Mick wanted to share the song. The song, and Mick's singing, were wonderful and memorable. Absolutely appropriate.

We have a friend who physically cannot remember complicated words without a tremendous amount of effort put into learning them. But she is a good singer. I am happy to hear her sing a song with words in front of her. I wish she would bring her song sheets and sing more often.

I have a good memory for lyrics and know hundreds of songs (not necessarily folk songs) and can dredge up many of them with a quick mental run-through. All the same I take a cheat sheet to our local Open Sings if I want to sing something I'm not 100% sure of. Most of the time I just use it to clue me into the next line or verse if needed.

BTW -- Knowing a song really well doesn't keep you from forgetting the words! I sang "Dumbarton's Drums" in front of quite a large audience a couple of years ago. I sing it frequently, have sung it for years, and never dreamed I might need to mentally "run through the words" first. I got to the first chorus, sang "What fond delight, doth ... ... ... ..." Luckily someone called out, "steal." I waved a thank-you, sang "steal upon me," and went on from there.

The rest of the song went beautifully, and the singing on the choruses was all one could ask for.

Rita F


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Barry Finn
Date: 18 Nov 07 - 01:13 AM

A bit long, but

I attend all different kinds of singsongs, singarounds, singing sessions, etc, as much as time allows. Some of the worst I've ever been to are where folks are all singing from "Rise Up Singing" but if that's what gets them off far be it from me to want to change it, if it works from them great. The best singing sessions that I've ever been to there's not a piece of paper, book or crib sheet in site. It's off the cuff 1 song inspiring the next nothing planned just from one singer to the next, each doing their best to keep the juices flowing. This usually has happened at late night sessions during festivals or at singer's camps or getaways, some singing sessions or clubs, it's not all that often but it's almost always spontaneous, with a few exceptions, like at Mystic on their Fri & Sat night sings. How do you do spontaneous from a book or a notepad, how do you follow a few songs about mining than go to page 56???
It's fine if all you want is a few songs between friends who don't normally get together & don't need to digest what they want to sing but if you want to really get the crowning joy of singing in a community setting with those that feel the same way either do as they do or just listen or sing along with them until you can do it on your own, it takes time but it took all of them time and nothing's feels as good when the time & effort is put into it to get there.

As far as memory goes, if you forget a spot here or there who gives a shit as long as you were doing it well, most of us can use our imagination to get past "you forgot a verse". I rather hear half a song done well than a complete song done like shit by someone reading it at me.

I've got a memory worst than most to start with & then I take meds that furthers it's uselessness but I can still sing from a very very
large repertoire. You want to sing a song from recall not memory. You want to sing from recall learn the song 1st, commit it to memory, sing it in the shower, in the car, at work, as you go to sleep, then sing it front of friends or at a session but start to sing them in public without the aids, that's when you'll put the songs into a place that you can later recall them from. You need eat the song, digest it, spit it out & swallow it again & again untill the song's no longer the song you originally heard it's now your song. If you only have the time or efort for a few songs that's better than none or a bunch from a book but doing it this way you can have a lot in a small amount of time if you're willing.
You've fit that song to your style, your way of singing, you've put into it your own little special quirks, personality, subtle traits, phrasing, that's not in your memory now, that's some place else now,
your gut, your heart, your recall whatever you want to call it, it's in a place where it'll be accessable enough to place it back in the forefront enough so that you'll find it with much less effort than if it were just in your memory. It doesn't have to be tha same way as you 1st heard it but it can be if you want. You take the song as far as you're willing to go with it, it's not like you can beat a song to death, you can only kill it by not trying to do it justice though. You don't need a great voice either. Dave Van Ronk, IMHO didn't have a great voice neither did Dylan or Cash, or a whole list of others but they had a special way of putting a song over & across that made them & the song appealing & theyall knew their song well before singing it too. You take any of the Cathy's or Watersons, Blairs & Stewarts, Carters yes they've all great voices but they've also put loads of time & effort into their voices & their songs. So in the end it's up to you to use what you've got & how much you want to put into the songs you want to sing. If the singing from a book crowd does it for you, that's great if not go further take it far as you want or can, otherwise listen to those that have taken it to a place beyond where you're willing to go.

There are some that bring notebooks to sessions that I frequent that are learning a new song & I don't mind, neither do other I'd guess.
As far as I'm concerned they're learning a new song & are practiced singers just trying it out amongst friends & using us as their sounding board, again that's ok among friends, I wouldn't be agreeable to them doing that anywhere else or in a different setting.

I've been to a few late night after hour festival sessions where the singers were great, the songs kept coming each one better than the last till you thought that you were in heaven & it just couldn't get any better but it does then some joker pulls out a book & starts reading off a song & the death bell starts tolling next some one says page 22 in Rise Up Singing, before you know it all the singers just left the bar for a unannounced dark corner of the festival grounds to start another round of songs but this time it's private
& it sucks because they would have rather had been singing for more than just themselves but they'll settle for singing within their own crowd rather than be sung at by those that chose not to put the song in front of themselves, after all it's the song that's of importance, the singer is only important because of what they can do for the song & for the folks that are listening to it or joinging in.

Barry


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: stallion
Date: 18 Nov 07 - 07:03 AM

Whoa Barry, nice piece, immersing oneself in the song is the key. Oh and the "Rise up Singing" bit I found interesting. As you know we have been recently in your company and when I was setting the trip up I tried to get something going with a local (Boston Mass) organisation after twelve months drew a complete blank, but in the spiel for one of their events was "bring your own copy Rise up Singing because there was only a limited amount of spare copies" Seems like we were saved by their inactivity! Oh and if you haven't heard Barry sing I thoroughly recommend the cd "Fathom This" Finn & Haddie or better still go see him live very distinctive style and a real performer of songs not just a singer.

Pete


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: GUEST,Waco Jacko
Date: 18 Nov 07 - 07:25 AM

Memory is best. If I'm watching another performer singing from words on a music stand or crib sheet I always get the impression that I'm sitting watching them practice and I'd rather watch and listen to a performance of a song. If you get some words wrong, it's not crucial, much more important is your interpretaion of the number. We all hit wrong chords and get verses mixed up from time to time but what I want to see is a performance of a song not a paint by numbers tune. The other thing is once you start to rely on crib sheets it's very hard to move away from them. Those comfort zones are very hard to escape from. You can only practice live performance by doing it live, so start as you mean to go on. I've seen performers struggle at outdoor gigs when the wind has blown over their lyrics or poor lighting has left them unable to read or they can't start a number until they find the right page in their folder, which is on the floor underneath some guitar leads! It's really best to learn the song,get the feel of it and let it flow out. It also builds your confidence.It's your decision to go out and play live so I think you owe it to your audience, it also means you can look at them and not stare at a sheet of paper.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 18 Nov 07 - 07:27 AM

We don't seem to get this "Rise up Singing" in the UK. What is it exactly? I know it must be a song-book. It sounds like a hymn book - and I do mean with the emphasis on religious or religious-tinged music (which can usually get me out of a song session faster than a rat up a drainpipe)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Lowden Jameswright
Date: 18 Nov 07 - 07:30 AM

It's an Ad jingle for Viagra


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Dave Roberts
Date: 18 Nov 07 - 08:13 AM

Just a thought - many of the greatest performances by our leading actors have been read from the page.
The definitive example would be Dylan Thomas' 'Under Milk Wood', starring Richard Burton.
I'm referring , of course, to the art of the radio drama (and comedy, come to that) which is read from a script and can lead to undeniably rich and rewarding, sometimes award-winning, performances.
In the case of some classic radio comedy - eg The Goon Show - this was achieved without a great deal of rehearsal or production.
It's nice to see singers doing it all from memory, but I don't personally think the end of civilisation is upon us if a crib sheet is used from time to time.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Mysha
Date: 18 Nov 07 - 12:19 PM

Hi,

Well, I myself, I sing from memory. That's a matter of (in)ability. I've sung both classical and close-harmony, at some times even at the same event, but for classical I can't read notes fast enough and for popular I can't read text fast enough. Folk I only sing at sessions, and out of habit I sing it from memory. If I'd try to do otherwise, I expect I'd be unable to find any given point in the text fast enough for texts to be of any use.

From an audience point of view, I'd say this is about the combination of ability and audience. I've been in the audience of a club in Paris once, one song each, where one of the performers broke a snare while tuning. We had ample time to see how nervous he was while he replaced it, and his performance, once he started playing, wasn't very good either. But I guess we all felt he was courageous for trying anyway. To make matters worse, another snare broke while he was playing, and he had to sort of improvise his chords around that. If there's an absolute scale of performance, his piece can't have been very high up, but we as an audience we considered him playing as well as he was able to at that time, and he got one of the loudest ovations of the evening.

I can't recall whether he had music in front of him - probably not, or he would have knocked it over - but the point is that the audience wants you to perform to what it considers the best of your ability. Folk is an oral tradition, but that's not by choice; it's simply that folk music didn't have the money for writing, where court music did. If you give an audience the best performance when singing from paper then you'll have pleased the audience to the best of your ability. It's only if you do considerably less than that, that you will insult the audience.

Note that I didn't write "sing", but "give performance". Some folk audiences will cling to "tradition" so much that having music in front of you will weigh heavily against your performance, and to them you might in fact be superior when you have no paper and skip a verse you can't recall, or show you're human and gesture to the audience for help. Nor did I write "sing the words". Those in the audience that notice will usually understand an occasional honest slip, but will appreciate that you keep performing, whatever your way of coping. Even restarting a song, though it absolutely degrades your performance, can be forgiven if you redeem yourself in that second try.

Yes, some people sing poorly from paper, but they might sing even worse from memory. Yes, some people set up standards a little late, and a few whispers might go a long way towards speedier future sessions. No, sing-a-longing and folk-song performing don't get along too well, regardless of whether paper is involved. Etc.

But it's a matter of ability and audience. So if you're the artist, think about whether the best you're able to perform for this audience is with paper or without it. And if you're in the audience, consider in what way everyone would appreciates the performance of this artist best.

                                                                Mysha


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Barry Finn
Date: 18 Nov 07 - 01:22 PM

RUS (Rise Up SInging) is a song book that's really swept the US song circle crowd by storm. There are many folk society sings that use these books in mass (hence refered to as the Bible). I've been to sings (which I'll never return to) where someone will take their turn, request that everyone turn to page $#@% and sing. Some places this is the soul (pun intended) source. A few societies that I used to frequent which back in the 70's-80's were fantastic, took up these hymnals & treated them as the only worthy source to sing from & to top it off none has to learn any songs so they forever read to each other.


My musical protest to that (RUS)

Rise Up Screaming by Barry Finn
Tune: Jack In The Green by Martin Graebe

A pub session or a party is a very strange thing
They're all out of fashion no more do they sing
For they read from a book or copy a tape
They imitate sounds no mortal should make

There's no sound in the kitchen, no sound in the hall
There's a murderous screech that plays off the walls
Where is the music, where are the songs
In the mouths of monsters where no sound belongs

Dead pan they look as they sing in your face
They'll spit out the words and the tunes they'll disgrace
A song will be beat o'r and over to death
And in a round robin they'll resurrect it again

No more will be heard a version that's lost
Or a variant that's rare or two songs were crossed
The borrowing or sharing of a tune or a song
Will be according to the Bible all else will be wrong

And now for the future, it's bleak for the song
No young mortal will dare to carry it on
They'll be none around who without books can sing
Or swap without tapes or rise up singing

Copyright Barry Finn 1996

Barry


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Ferrara
Date: 18 Nov 07 - 01:48 PM

Barry, your long post [18 Nov 07 - 01:13 AM ] is fantastic. Somehow you put into words all the magic of a great singing session. Wow. Very, very well written IMO.

I agree that someone trotting out a song sheet in the atmosphere you describe would be the kiss of death. There is nothing like a spontaneous sharing of songs that flows naturally and lets everyone flow with it.

Groups who actually prefer to sing out of RUS are self selecting. Someone wanted to start an official FSGW group like that in the DC area, where song sheets were passed out, etc. I said, "Fine, if you will organize and lead it. No one else I know who has the experience to make it happen would be able to stand sitting through at a sing-around like that every month." Of course it never happened. But. There are groups like that in this area, some are quite nice as I understand it. The people who wanted to spend time like that organized it for themselves.

Also, singers with a big enough repertoire to enjoy the give-and-take kind of session Barry described, tend to have enough knowledge of folk music to get really, really irritated when some jerk with a copy of RUS tells them they "aren't singing the right words." So for the most part the twain don't meet.

Our local FSGW Open Sings are Open. So we encourage people to come and try their wings even if they have to have the words. A couple of people have really grown as singers by taking this approach. But the Open Sing is a "sheltered" environment. It can be very good overall but it's not likely to be magic. First and foremost, it's a sing-around. That kills the kind of give-and-take Barry was describing; each person sings whatever they came to sing. In a specific order. Different purpose, and very different experience from a good spontaneous singing session.

I know which I prefer BTW....
Rita F


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Marje
Date: 18 Nov 07 - 02:08 PM

In (rather late) response to Liz above: I was once in a choir where one elderly woman knew Messiah by heart and used to it without the score. A new conductor came and ordered her to use the score, his argument being that each performance had different nuances (dymanics, tempo, where to breathe, how to enunciate particular words, etc) and if she didn't have this pencilled on her score she'd miss a lot of the interpretation.

So there's a very different tradition in classical music, for all sorts of sound reasons. I'm now in a folksy sort of community choir where everything is leared by ear and we are not allowed word-sheets for performances, only little crib-cards if necessary. I've really enjoyed learning by ear and performing without a score in my hand.

In pop music it's inconceivable that a singer would get up with a word-sheet or music stand - learning your material is just part of your craft. If all those X-factor contestants can do it, I'm sure we can do it to.

Marje


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: lamarca
Date: 18 Nov 07 - 04:16 PM

If a song really grabs me, it starts to "sing me" - spinning around in my head, making me sing the same two lines I can remember over and over until I'm forced to learn the whole thing by heart in self-defense!

I've found that as I get older, the songs that stay in my memory are the ones I learned because they really spoke to me. Songs that I learned to fit the topic for the monthly song-swap or because they were "clever" fade quickly - probably because I don't love them in the same way, and thus don't keep singing them. If I'm sitting around with friends, swapping songs, I'll sometimes try to dip back in the mental archive to retrieve one of these songs if it fits the mood, but frequently will go up on the words, laugh and let someone else sing instead. Or, if I'm in the grips of New Song Fever, but haven't quite got it down yet, I'll tell my friends that this is "a work in progress" and use a cheat sheet.

But when I and my husband are performing, we sing from memory, and have practiced what we're going to sing. Even Yo-yo Ma or Placido Domingo wouldn't dream of going on stage to perform a piece they hadn't rigorously practiced. While many folk performers have a large repertoire, and don't always have a firm set list for a given performance, they'll frequently stick to songs they've run through within recent memory. I've often requested that a performer do a song from his or her "back catalog" in the second set, and been told "I'm sorry, but it's been so long since I've sung that, I don't think I can do it justice..."

That said, I've watched the late, great Helen Schneyer put the booklet from one of her Folk Legacy recordings on the piano, and sing a song she recorded 20 years ago with the same passion and vibrancy. The difference is that she HAD learned those songs by heart, and they had left an imprint in her soul that she remembered and could make the audience feel again, even though she needed help with word retrieval in her later years. I've seen other folk performers do the same thing, and I've also seen some that should have, but didn't bother, and instead showed the audience the disrespect of launching into repertoire they hadn't practiced and couldn't remember, not just for one song, but repeatedly.

My feeling is that if you want to be a performer - that is, get up on a stage and have people pay to hear you (Whether you're getting directly paid or you're performing for free at a festival the audience paid to attend), you owe them three things:

1. A love of your material so great it leads you to learn it and make it your own.

2. A desire to communicate the essence or story of the song to others, so that you learn as much about the song as you can - where did it come from? what is it about (people, place and time period)? why do you love it?

3. Enough respect for your audience to have practiced your material so that you can give them as good a performance as you can.

If you can't do these three things, you're not ready to be an interpreter or communicator of songs to a dedicated listening audience. It's better to sing socially, share songs with friends or at group sing-arounds and enjoy the music. Not everyone has to be a "performer" - making music with friends is what folk music is about!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Don Firth
Date: 18 Nov 07 - 04:23 PM

Lamarca, I'd say you've zinged in on the essence of the matter. Well said.

Don Firth


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 18 Nov 07 - 04:59 PM

Of course there is the argument that folk music is the oral tradition, so if you always sing from a text you are denying the essence of folk music.

Did you know I was going to say that sooner or later?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 18 Nov 07 - 05:15 PM

Ah, but do you mean oral or aural? Both are equally valid. It only ceases to be oral/aural when I just give you the piece of paper with my song on it.

LTS


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Alan Day
Date: 18 Nov 07 - 05:45 PM

If it is the choice of hearing someone sing ,but with a crib sheet or not,I would choose the singing.
Hope the concert goes well LiZ.
Audience participation Liz with The Twelve Days of Xmas is well recommended.
Al


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Ron Davies
Date: 18 Nov 07 - 06:59 PM

Mary and some others have basically covered this topic.

In general the worst possible situation is a "Rise Up Singing" singaround--where there is absolutely no reasonable expectation that the singer will even have seen the song two from the bottom on page 34--but will insist on guessing on the tune and plowing through all 11 verses on the page.

We call the book "Sink Down Moaning".

Anything is better than that.

I certainly understand how people may forget words. But the solution (by Dick?) earlier--is the best--just make them up. Or skip to a verse you remember.

Most people would, I'd think, have a good idea of what they planned to sing--and could make sure they had it memorized in advance. If singing a ballad, it's more important to keep the story moving than to remember every word. And chorus songs--my preference by far--gives you a chance to remember the next verse.

Above all you want to bond with your audience--and it seems to me the best way to do that is to have them sing--a chorus or refrain-- with you. And the bonding will never happen if you are reading off a sheet--with no eye contact with your listeners--or worse, out of a book. Though I'll have to admit, if the song is good enough, even reading out of a book (except RUS) is not a disaster necessarily. There are very few songs or performers it is worth listening to who sing "folk" from a book or off a music stand--but they do exist.

And I would think it no problem for the performer in an informal, non-paid, gig, to hold the lyrics in the hand if necessary--just as a talisman. It would be good however not to look at them while singing.

Classical music, I agree, from singing in choruses for over 20 years, is vastly different--especially since the precision required is extreme--both in words and notes, and in such aspects as duration of note, cutoffs of words, dynamic variation, etc. Totally different kettle of fish.

I belonged to a madrigal group for about 15 years. That's probably between the two worlds. I pushed hard for the group to memorize pieces--and it was wonderful when we did.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: M.Ted
Date: 18 Nov 07 - 11:54 PM

If this is supposed to be all about "the people, singing the people's music, in the people's voices" why are some of you setting ridiculous and arbitrary rules about what is acceptable?

Better singers than any here use crib sheets. Better musicians than any here read from music. Better entertainers than any here break all your "rules".   The thing is that song circles and singing sessions are not about being "better", they are about sharing and having fun. Let's stop excluding people and abusing them because they need a little bit of prompting.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: GUEST,Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Nov 07 - 02:57 AM

"they are about sharing and having fun."
They are that, but they are much, much more; they are certainly far more than reiterating the words.
The best of our older singers were able to re-live the songs each time they sang them, often long after their technical ability had deteriorated. Sam Larner always gives me the impression that he was singing his songs for the first time; don't see how you can do that from a crib-sheet.
Personally, I always find anybody reading their text unconvincing; as if they are reciting something somebody else has written for them.
Jim Carroll


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: eddie1
Date: 19 Nov 07 - 04:04 AM

Try listening to a few concerts/floorspots/singarounds with your eyes closed then decide who was singing from a cribsheet or not. Check with a friend.

Eddie


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: GUEST,Flatpick
Date: 19 Nov 07 - 05:09 AM

If you have to read the words then it's childishly simple:
You don't know the song, go home and practice and learn the damn thing.
Do not go out and inflict your inabilities on others.
You just aren't ready with this song yet, no shame there, just try harder.
I'm 65, been singing and playing 47 years in folk clubs, bars etc.I know about 900 songs at the last count and have never ever used a songsheet, worked with anyone who used one and won't allow them at my monthly gathering.
My opinion...


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: M.Ted
Date: 19 Nov 07 - 07:56 AM

This amazing level of hostility toward people that don't know as much as you do, or think you do, is horrifying. Flatpick, tell us more about your monthly gathering. It sounds like a must to avoid.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: jacqui.c
Date: 19 Nov 07 - 08:49 AM

Agreed M.Ted.

I've only been involved in folk for the last seven years and have got rather greedy over the number of songs I want to sing. There are too many songs, not enough time. I just haven't had the time to commit to memory all the songs I want to sing.

It is possible to use a crib sheet and maintain eye contact with the audience - I try just to flick the eyes down to glance at the next line and then sing it out to the audience. There are certain songs I can do from memory right now, but those I haven't sung for some time can escape me and I do like to try a have some diversity when I'm at a song circle, which is generally the only place I get to sing.

I've certainly never been paid for singing, nor do I ever expect to be. I sing for the love of it and would avoid like the plague any song circle that laid down rules for the use of crib sheets.

That being said, I have been at song circles where someone has been reading the words straight off the page, without any attempt to sing the song or make contact with the audience. In a couple of cases this had been someone who has been singing for many years ans has never got around to learning the songs - that is not really acceptable. There are others who have such a small repertoire of songs that the same ones come out time after time after time after time..............


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: GUEST,Young Buchan
Date: 19 Nov 07 - 09:36 AM

Once upon a time there was an oral tradition. In it the songs evolved because people developed or improvised bits if they couldn't remember exactly what was missing but instead came up with something they could live with. This usually took one of two forms. Either they made up rubbish which sounded like what they remembered hearing: so Queen Jane became our neighbour for six days or more, Sir Hugh found that it rained, it rained American corn, or Johnny Faa cast his grandma in the corner-o; alternatively, and most often, they came up with a sensible seamless correction which passed easily into the tradition. This was much of the charm, and much of the distinguishing quality, of folk music. Then the working class learned to read and everyone said that that tradition would die because the book version would become set in stone. But it didn't happen because even though some people learnt from books, and even though Harry Cox allegedly had a box of broadsides under his bed, no singer (except perhaps the Coppers) would think of taking the written text with them to the pub; and so they all made sure they had learnt their songs inside out before they tried singing them in public, and the adrenalin rush, if they did forget something, helped them use the same strategies as before. Then radio came in; and it was predicted the broadcast versions would drive out all variation; and when it failed to happen the same prognostication was made regarding records and tapes and CDs. And it didn't happen, for the same reason – at the point of performance, singers were still operating on their own. Then one day a folk singer walked into a club with the words of his songs, and used them to sing from. And noone told him to go away and not try again until he'd learnt the song thoroughly. And so every time he sang the song it was exactly the same.
And the tradition died.
And our generation killed it.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: the lemonade lady
Date: 19 Nov 07 - 10:30 AM

Yes I do and with my eyes wide open I hasten to add.

Sal


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: M.Ted
Date: 19 Nov 07 - 11:02 AM

If folk music is being killed off, it is because it has become exclusive, instead of inclusive--which, given the fact that it is supposed to be "The People's Music", is slightly absurd.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: GUEST,Rog Peek
Date: 19 Nov 07 - 11:28 AM

Yes.
Unless I am really sure of the guitar however, I'll sing a cappella (of course, as a man I find multi-tasking difficult). I still make the odd mistake even then. Only once have I gone completely blank, it still haunts me.

Still, a man once said to me "the man who never made a mistake, never made anything". I guess this can be applied to singing a song.

Rog


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Barry Finn
Date: 19 Nov 07 - 01:49 PM

Know your own limitations. If you want to sing from pages go sing where that's exceptable, if you want to sing where they don't do that don't bring your notes or just go to sing along with the choruses or just don't sing until you can do as the Romans do.

Barry


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: M.Ted
Date: 19 Nov 07 - 02:19 PM

I'll tell you what, Barry, I'll stay home. Because I don't go where I am not welcome. But I am as good a singer as most, and can play as well as most. If I'm not welcome, most aren't welcome.
And if most are not welcome, it isn't folk music, is it?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Barry Finn
Date: 20 Nov 07 - 02:55 AM

Stay home then Ted, because if the group/venue is a place where it's been established that they don't tolerate singing from the page
(some trad clubs are like that) then follow what's already been set. If it's exceptable, that's fine too. Doesn't matter if you're a good singer or not. When in Rome do as the Romans do......don't come in & change it on your account.

Barry


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: GUEST,Fall of the Roman Empire
Date: 20 Nov 07 - 04:18 AM

Do you know why the great, world dominating Empire of Rome collapsed?

It failed to change, adapt and move with the times.

Archealogical finds from the beginning of the Roman Empire show great technological advances from bridge building to ballistics, communications to city planning.

Finds from the end of the Roman Empire show that they were using the same equipment as at the beginning, despite there being radical differences in lifestyle and behaviour.

It's all very well saying "if it isn't broken, don't fix it" but the same is also true: Just because something isn't broken, doesn't mean it should never eveolve.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 20 Nov 07 - 04:23 AM

I'm a choir singer. I've sung in choirs since fifth grade, usually twice on Sunday and once or twice during the week. I sing from hymnals, and occasionally from sheet music. I've never been expected to sing choir songs from memory, although I know many of the songs I sing by heart.
So, that's what I'm used to. I don't look at the music all that much, but it does give me a measure of security. I think it makes me a better singer, not to have to worry about screwing up the words.

I've also always sung campfire songs, and you really can't sing from pieces of paper at a campfire. So, I sing those songs by heart, and make up lyrics to fill in what I forget. In my community, a Sacramento suburb with a population of 70,000 people, I was known as "that guy who sings."

But about fifteen years ago, I started going to song circles. The first one used the Rise Up Singing songbook, and I soon became the dominant singer in the group because legend has it that I know all the songs in the book (I think it's more like 3/4 of them).

After I started posting at Mudcat in early 1997, I found out about other song gatherings in my area and in various places in the U.S., and I found myself in an environment of people who looked down on singers who used a book or even a cheat sheet. They were quite tolerant of people who'd forget a song midway and have to start over three times, but they firmly believed their doctrine that a person who uses a book, can't sing well. Well, I have to say I find that doctrine intimidating and unfair - and usually I do my best to ignore it. Out of self defense, I keep my Rise Up Singing book hidden - I've been tempted to conceal it inside a copy of Penthouse or something. Usually, I sing from large-print sheets I keep in a black folder that looks like what I use for choir.

I guess I have to admit that the pressure to sing from memory has made me a better singer, because I've learned to look at my notes only when I really need to - but I'm glad to have the security of those notes.

I do the same thing as a public speaker - I get nervous if I don't have my yellow legal sheets of notes, but I rarely look at them. So, forgive me, but why not judge my singing on how it sounds, and not on whether I'm holding a piece of paper or not? Over ten years, I've learned a lot - thanks in great part to the majority of people who didn't get huffy about my shortcomings as a singer.

-Joe-


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: GerryMc
Date: 20 Nov 07 - 04:32 AM


I know the words to about 70 songs but can't go on stage without a set list!

Gerry :-)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: GUEST,LTS pretending to work
Date: 20 Nov 07 - 06:35 AM

"you really can't sing from pieces of paper at a campfire"

Actually Joe, you can, but it does tend to make the bonfire bigger!

LTS


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 20 Nov 07 - 06:41 AM

I never use a sheet, for all the reasons already given, plus one.
If you are singing from memory, who can complain if your memory plays tricks.
So if you are singing someone elses song, and you think a line might sound better with a slight alteration...


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: jonm
Date: 20 Nov 07 - 07:46 AM

The ring-binder seems to be the most common accessory at sessions now.

I have only twice sung in public from the printed words and hated it (even when I knew the lyric I was drawn to the printed page and lost connection with the performance), although I do prepare cheat-sheets with lyrics and chords for three purposes - 1. to fix in my own mind what I am playing; 2. to act as a reminder when I revisit a song after a few years, and 3. as an aid to anyone who may be joining in with me (there are a number of people I trust to do this without rehearsal, and we NEVER have time to rehearse together). I have a rolling repertoire of about 60 songs from a total list of 200+ which I think are within a couple of hours' practice of being OK.

My method of remembering is practice, and lots of it. It's amazing how many songs my kids know all the words to simply because I've sung them to sleep - should have avoided the rude ones! I do recognise that I have a good memory and am very adaptable musically - it feels like a lot of what I do is being developed "live" as I do it, not just going through the mechanical motions - so I do not wish to criticise those who feel the need for the ring-binder crutch. Does that sound like a piece of bondage equipment?

However, I feel that in order to establish an emotional connection with the lyrics, I need to have them in memory.

If I have been asked to do something special for a particular occasion at short notice, I may use a lyric sheet with just key words, say one per verse plus one from any lines I find I forget, hidden on the floor (in BIG print!) as an aide memoire. Plus, of course, for any gig, I will have a written set list. Not that I ever stick to it....


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Ian
Date: 20 Nov 07 - 07:56 AM

Im sorry but Im a bloke singer. I can not multi task ie read and sing at the same time so I mentally practice the songs I choose to sing prior to singing them. I do usually have a word book to refer to if in doubt of an odd line or verse order.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate
Next Page

  Share Thread:
More...

Reply to Thread
Subject:  Help
From:
Preview   Automatic Linebreaks   Make a link ("blue clicky")


Mudcat time: 25 October 4:10 PM EDT

[ Home ]

All original material is copyright © 1998 by the Mudcat Café Music Foundation, Inc. All photos, music, images, etc. are copyright © by their rightful owners. Every effort is taken to attribute appropriate copyright to images, content, music, etc. We are not a copyright resource.