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Do you sing from Memory?

PoppaGator 16 Nov 07 - 01:00 PM
Alan Day 16 Nov 07 - 12:19 PM
Marje 16 Nov 07 - 12:05 PM
Amos 16 Nov 07 - 12:03 PM
M.Ted 16 Nov 07 - 11:44 AM
The Villan 16 Nov 07 - 11:42 AM
GUEST,allan s. 16 Nov 07 - 11:32 AM
Louie Roy 16 Nov 07 - 11:24 AM
Bee 16 Nov 07 - 11:21 AM
Seamus Kennedy 16 Nov 07 - 11:18 AM
the button 16 Nov 07 - 11:17 AM
DebC 16 Nov 07 - 11:14 AM
GUEST,strad 16 Nov 07 - 11:06 AM
GUEST,Terry McDonald 16 Nov 07 - 10:58 AM
bigchuck 16 Nov 07 - 10:48 AM
Fred McCormick 16 Nov 07 - 10:41 AM
GUEST,maire aine 16 Nov 07 - 10:37 AM
Hawker 16 Nov 07 - 10:33 AM
MMario 16 Nov 07 - 10:16 AM
RTim 16 Nov 07 - 10:10 AM
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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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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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