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What Makes a Folk Voice?

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Sleepy Rosie 16 Nov 08 - 11:32 AM
VirginiaTam 16 Nov 08 - 11:41 AM
Dave the Gnome 16 Nov 08 - 11:42 AM
SPB-Cooperator 16 Nov 08 - 11:43 AM
Alice 16 Nov 08 - 11:50 AM
Leadfingers 16 Nov 08 - 11:50 AM
Marje 16 Nov 08 - 11:51 AM
Sleepy Rosie 16 Nov 08 - 12:11 PM
Dave the Gnome 16 Nov 08 - 12:16 PM
Alice 16 Nov 08 - 12:18 PM
SPB-Cooperator 16 Nov 08 - 12:19 PM
The Sandman 16 Nov 08 - 12:26 PM
Sleepy Rosie 16 Nov 08 - 12:32 PM
Alice 16 Nov 08 - 12:32 PM
The Sandman 16 Nov 08 - 12:41 PM
Jim Carroll 16 Nov 08 - 12:44 PM
Jim Carroll 16 Nov 08 - 12:48 PM
Alice 16 Nov 08 - 12:57 PM
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McGrath of Harlow 16 Nov 08 - 01:27 PM
Piers Plowman 16 Nov 08 - 01:34 PM
SPB-Cooperator 16 Nov 08 - 01:39 PM
Dave the Gnome 16 Nov 08 - 01:40 PM
Piers Plowman 16 Nov 08 - 01:45 PM
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Subject: What Makes a Good Folk Voice?
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 11:32 AM

I hope this doesn't sound nuts as a question, but I've heard much strongly felt opinion about the performance of folk music (esp. in Folk Manners) but so little explicit illistration of those felt opinions, that the newbie in me is starting to feel a bit confuddled!

I've heard much genuinely interesting, and yet, contradictory on occassion, sounding opinion.

I'd really like to understand exactly what it is that performers and punters alike, feel (in particular *vocally*) makes for a decent performance?


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 11:41 AM

I am going to hang on the coat tails of this question, cuz I wanna know too.

Sign me trying to lose my church choir voice.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 11:42 AM

I think the best explanation was one I saw quite recently on another thread - Singing in the voice that you speak in! Just my opinion of course.

Cheers

DeG


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: SPB-Cooperator
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 11:43 AM

In my view, for folk the individual should develop their natural voice rather than develop an artificial or contrived sound - though I would make an exception for Music Hall where the performer is playing a character, but that is only for part of the genre.

For me part of the pleasure of listening to folk music lies in the diversity of sound/dialect depending where the singer comes from, and as such defining a 'folk voice' could lead to a homogenised sound.

It can be easier said than done. When I started singing hrmphh years ago, I had a tendency to imitate the singer from which I learned the song, and unless I stop myself I still lapse into this from time to time. However characterisation of a song can be fun - not sure if it is the same for the listener though.....


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Alice
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 11:50 AM

I agree that singers should not imitate, and use your natural born range. It does help to learn what can damage your voice, what to do or not do with your voice to keep it healthy and singing your life long.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 11:50 AM

There is such a wide variety of 'Successful' singers on the scene , and all have different qualities to their voices , from the Ronnie Drew (Gargling with Industrial Diamonds) to Dave Burland !
I have the same problem as SPB - I learn a song from another singer and so often find I AM imitating ! OK - The song goes on the back burner for a while until I can sing it out as 'Me' , not Them !


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Marje
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 11:51 AM

This is one of those subjects that are hard to discuss because we can't actually hear each other...

But to throw something in for people to think about: recently I heard a radio discussion about singing, in which a (classical) singer said that having a big range was nothing to get hung up about, and she gave the example of Shirley Collins as good folk voice because her songs are pitched close to her natural speaking voice, which highlights the purity and truth of the songs she sings.

I think I agree that one feature of a pleasing folk voice is the choice of a natural pitch - this suits the material and makes the words more audible than if the voice is pushed up as high as possible. Having said that, the "growlers" who insist that they have a low voice but can actually reach only about half an octave could do with some encouragement to stretch their voices upwards a bit.

Marje


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 12:11 PM

As an amatuer singer, I've been told that my voice is "very pure, beautiful and clear", which of course is jolly nice to hear an awl that.

Objectively however, I can hear both the qualities of my voice alongside it's limitations: meaning I can see that I have plenty of 'prettiness/light' but lack enough 'dirt/earth' for my own taste.

I dunno wht I can do about that, except possibly run with what stregths I may have...

But then I've read on this same forum, that pure and lovely voices, just aint interesting for folk song. They are dull. And as a listener, though I probably sit somewhere in the middle, I do well understand that complaint.

For as a listener, I'd probably be more interested in a more rough yet innovative vocal expression, than a classically 'lovely' one.

Errgh! Thorticles? What's it awl abart?


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 12:16 PM

As a singer I have told I sound very much like a hammer chewer...

I agree about the occasion lapse from your own voice in the right cirmstances as well, btw.

How can I sing Kiplings wonderful line 'If sometimes our cunduc' isn't what your fancy paints' without lapsing into Dick van Dyke cockney:-)

DeG


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Alice
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 12:18 PM

Sleepy Rose, the shape and size of your vocal folds you were born with are like the natural color of your eyes. The sound made by our vocal folds are physically what we have to work with - if they vibrate at a higher frequency, then that is natural. If you have a natural high, light sounding voice (as I was born with, also) don't try to change it into another person's voice - you would probably damage the vocal folds if you do. You can end up losing your voice or creating nodes or cancer if you stress or push the sound into something it isn't shaped to be.
Sing the songs that feel right for you. There are plenty of them.

Alice


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: SPB-Cooperator
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 12:19 PM

That would then be characterisation.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: The Sandman
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 12:26 PM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iEKVeI_VD3E
well this is afolk voice ,it may not be to everyones liking,but it couldnt be confused with an opera singers voice


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 12:32 PM

Alice, I must say I really like your 'eye colour' simile. It's probably one I should keep in mind.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Alice
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 12:32 PM

"Opera singer's voice" is really just technique added to a clear sounding voice.

A person who has a natural clear tone to their voice can sing folk music, too. It should not be called "opera" just because the natural tone is clear. Good example, Odetta.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nI8NqrqPWkI


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: The Sandman
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 12:41 PM

Alice ,no,it is not a simple as that.
opera singers use excess vibrato,which [imo]is not stylistically appropriate for folk music.
many folk singers have good technique,but they sometimes use two different voices the head voice and the chest voice.
[imo] good singing technique requires singing from the diaphragm,something that I do,but something that opera singers also do.
however I still sound like a folk singer,and Opera singers dont they sound like opera singers.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 12:44 PM

Taking our traditional singers as a guide, the folk voice is the one you speak in, as is the folk style of narrative - i.e. singing in speech patterns (taking the breath on the punctuation).
Without wishing to be critical of the lady, Shirley Collins does not use a natural voice for singing - she constantly sings in head-voice.
Head voice, which appears to be confined to women singers, creates a number of problems:
a. It takes twice as much air to produce, making it difficult to sing a full line without taking a breath in the middle.
b. Invariably, if a song has a largish range a singer can often have difficulty in maintaining a single tone and will move from head voice into chest voice as the pitch moves up or down.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 12:48 PM

Cross-posted with the Cap'n and repeated what he said.
I agree with 'im
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Alice
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 12:57 PM

Captain, I don't think you understood my point.

Opera singers sound like opera singers when they are using the bel canto technique they are trained in.

The voice does not have to sound like that when the singer isn't using that technique. I've studied classical voice technique. It's a matter of when to use it and when not to use it.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Alice
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 01:01 PM

When you are criticizing a high voice as not being natural, you have to realize that the vocal folds dictate the frequency range, just like a low D whistle compared to a high D whistle.. the space and size of the vocal folds are different in a body that is a bass voice compared to a body that produces a high range voice.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: The Sandman
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 01:11 PM

yes ,but it a is a question of understanding style.
an opera singer may have a good technique,and not enmploy excess vibrato when singing a folk song,but if the repertoire is unfamilar and he has a .lack of understanding of other aspects of folk style,he will sound like an opera singer trying to sing folk songs.
all styles be they jazz,or whatever, require an absorption,before they can be sung convincingly or stylistically accurately.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Alice
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 01:17 PM

You underestimate some of the people who sing opera if you think they don't know about or appreciate or understand folk music. There are plenty of singers who grew up in families singing folk songs who later go on to study music academically. And when they sit around the kitchen table and just sing folk songs with family, they don't have to use classical technique like they are on a stage.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Amos
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 01:19 PM

Folds, shmolds. SIng where you feel right. The critical quality of a really good folk voice has little to do with the technical details of the instrument, but the clarity of the connection the singer makes with his song and the bridge he makes between the song and the listener.

The critical measurement of success is the degree to which the experience and feeling of the song itself actually comes into the performance.

This is why, initially, many "roots" oriented folkies despised the Kingston Trio. They sang about a long, black rifle in the same voices we heard advertising toothpaste and Chevrolets for Madison Avenue, and the experience of the song itself never go across the bridge.

The critical thing is what you communicate. Every song is full of viewpoints--the actual participants in the story, the narrator as a feeling member of the time and place, or an abstract performer from far away in space and time filtering the whole thing through a completely different set of realities.

An honest singer, using his natural voice and speaking/singing the piece as a genuine communication, does wonders in bringing across the story--and it doesn't matter whether we are talking about maids being drowned in a millstream, or blood on the highway. It is the degree of communication of the song that matters.

Kendall Morse wows his audiences, because he completely himself and completely delivers the song with a natural clarity of intent--he doesn't try to sound like a bosn'n, but because of the directness of his delivery, it is wonderful easy to see the bosn's voice in what he sings.

IMHO, therein is the entire art of delivering a song to a listener.


A


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Alice
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 01:22 PM

Amos, that was my point, too, Say the Song, as Joe Heaney advised.

My point of bringing up vocal folds is in response to Sleepy Rosie, to appreciate that if you are born with a light high voice, don't feel like you have to NOT BE YOURSELF to fit into folk music.

Alice


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Marje
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 01:23 PM

I don't think anyone has said a high voice isn't natural. If you have a naturally high speaking voice, your singing voice will be high too. But classical singers are often trained to extend their range as high as possible, which isn't a useful or appropriate thing to do for folk singing.
Singing with the head-voice (see Jim's post above) also makes the song sound higher in pitch than if the same notes are sung with chest voice. If you want an "earthier", less girlish sound, you don't have to lower the pitch or sing below your comfortable range, you just have to use chest-voice more.

Marje


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 01:27 PM

"How can I sing Kipling's wonderful line 'If sometimes our cunduc' isn't what your fancy paints' without lapsing into Dick van Dyke cockney"

George Orwell gave good advice on this when he wrote "One can often improve Kiplin's poems...by simply going through them and transplanting them from cockney into standard speech."   Write that "conduc" as "conduct" and sing it in whatever accent you feel at home in.

"Head voice, which appears to be confined to women singers, I don't think it is. And it shouldn't be disparaged, for it can be very effective. Doesn't suit some voices, doesn't suit some songs, but so what.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Piers Plowman
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 01:34 PM

From: Sleepy Rosie - PM
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 11:32 AM

"What Makes a Folk Voice?"

If I had to answer this standing on one foot, I would say: un-self-consciousness. This strikes me as being an important characteristic shared by the performers I've heard in recordings of folk music that had been collected or performed by people who seemed to me to sing in an authentic way.

I can't recommend listening to recordings that were collected strongly enough. They are often not entertaining, but it's the real thing. Perhaps not superficially as tasty, but more filling.

On the other hand, what do _you_ like? Some people like Ewan MacColl, some people like Peter, Paul and Mary, some like both. I prefer people who sound like themselves, rather than those who try to sound like somebody or something else. If one is a middle-class, urban intellectual, then it's phoniness to try to sing like some other kind of person. A very, very difficult question, when it comes to performance.

I don't think Kathleen Ferrier had a "folk voice", but I love her versions of folk songs. There isn't just one right way to sing a song.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: SPB-Cooperator
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 01:39 PM

Two things always well worth learning are breathing and projection, both techniques help the singer to carry the song without distorting their voices.

Another tip is to imagine you are talking to a member of your family. A combination of the two can help the singer to develop a style that doesn't sound false. Also, work with material that suits the range of your voice.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 01:40 PM

Ah, but what does Orwell know, Kevin. he said there ws no pier at Wigan!

:D (eG)


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Piers Plowman
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 01:45 PM

"[...] some people like Peter, Paul and Mary"

I think I was unclear here; I was _not_ comparing Ewan MacColl and PPM with each other and finding the latter wanting, or the other way around. I think, in fact, that PPM sang using their natural voices and were very good at what they did (not sure how they sound nowadays). I find it a bit prettified and slick now, but I don't think they were pretending to do anything other than what they did or be anything other than what they were.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Little Robyn
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 01:46 PM

Sleepy Rosie, if you want to try lowering your range a little, have a go at a blues or two - try 'Walking to Chicago' and have fun belting it out, but not in a head voice - get the feel of a gutsy, raunchy blues Mama.
Then try something in between - maybe copy Judy Collins or PP&M or even Judy Durham from the Seekers, if you can find recordings of them. Or in the UK, try recordings of the Watersons and Eliza Carthy for a strong natural voice - a diaphram voice.
As SPB and Leadfingers said, most of my songs were 'copied' from recordings of others and, at first, were sung in a voice as close to the original as I could get. (I never did sound like Judy Collins - more like Shirley Collins but I had fun trying all the styles).
Robyn


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: SPB-Cooperator
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 01:46 PM

I'm sure that Orwell could have had a distopian view of folk-singing as opposed to Huxley having a utopia where the individual's singing style is determined at birth :)


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: The Sandman
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 01:46 PM

Alice,I.dont underestimate anyone.
I am saying to have a folk voice[to be able to sing and communicate folk songs]requires that the singer has listened to alot of folk singers and absorbed the appropriate style.
the same applies to opera,to sing it effectively you have to love the music ,listened to a lot of it,and want to sing it.
a traditional /folk singer like myself would probably not make a good job of it[regardless of technique]because Idont like it, have not bothered to absorb the style,and dont want to sing it.
an opera singer who loved folk music could sing it,if he/she had listened to it a lot and was conscious that it required different treatment.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Alice
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 01:52 PM

Sleepy Rosie, I'll send you a PM.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Don Firth
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 01:58 PM

Rosie, it grieves me to say it, but there is some fairly standard folk forum misinformation on this thread.

Use good breath support, stay relaxed (especially mouth and throat) and sing in your comfortable range and in your own natural voice. Don't try to sound "folk" or assume any vocal characteristics other than what comes naturally. Just sing.

And heed what Alice says. She knows what she's talking about.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 02:12 PM

I don't/didn't like the voices of Bert Lloyd, Ewan MacColl, Shirley Collins, Burl Ives, Louis Killen or Peggy Seeger.

I did like, of the revival greats, Johhny Silvo (still alive) and Lal Waterson (sadly not). Martin Carthy had a great voice and it is still good but it is starting to age.

The individual voice in harmony bands are often not too great - take the Spinners, the Young Tradition, the Coppers - but the overall effect can be fine or better than fine. Peter Bellamy varied between inspired and unlistenable.

Ian Bruce is almost too good. Other current great voices: -
June Tabor
Norma Waterson (again, perhaps not what it once was)
Eliza Carthy
Peter Collins
Mike Nicholson
Tom Lewis
Both of Capella (but best together)
John Barden (on the soothing rather than fiery side)

I really do not approve of the breathy fey voices so much in fashion (both male and female). For me they are not great folk voices.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: bankley
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 02:29 PM

'Folk-al Chords' ?


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Terry McDonald
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 03:27 PM

Richard - what have you got against one of the the best voices of all, John Tams? You've not mentioned him!


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 05:52 PM

I think he's a great narrator and storyteller, but while still a very good singer, not a "great" singer.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Barry Finn
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 07:02 PM

Rosie, Jim Carrol had posted to a thread that gave in depth & wonderful insight by him & others into the 'traditional singer's voice' involving his time with the Critics Club & comments by other posters.
Try this thread, long but chock full of great advice, you should read it all the way through.
Stylstic quirks in folk music

Good luck

Barry


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Ref
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 08:00 PM

ALL VOICES are "folk" voices. The beauty of folk music is that it doesn't require any particular quality.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Alice
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 08:09 PM

Amen, Ref.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 17 Nov 08 - 03:04 AM


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Richie
Date: 17 Nov 08 - 03:40 AM

Hi,

The voice needs to fit the style of folk music. You have singers from Germany that don't speak English singing hillbilly music, imitating the accent, it sort of works.

A hillbilly singer singing Irish folk songs won't work. You have many styles of folk music and there are certain characteristics of that style. Zydeco, blues, hillbilly, Irish, English, Newfoundland and Labrador folk songs, Austrialian etc. etc. Each style has certain things that make it authentic sounding.

Also vibrato in general is bad. IMHO less vigrato is good. Singing with your full voice usually doesn't sound as natural although it's a good vocal technique.

Richie


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 17 Nov 08 - 04:15 AM

Ref:
"ALL VOICES are "folk" voices. The beauty of folk music is that it doesn't require any particular quality."
Not necessarily true - any more than 'all songs are folk songs'.
The English language song tradition is, by and large a narrative one and for me, the songs work best when the the singer takes on the role of a storyteller whose stories come with a tune.
Traditional singers have told us again and again that the most important thing about their songs is the story - in some cases we have recorded singers whose tunes hardly vary, but whose songs cover the whole spectrum of human experience. In Ireland, the older singers refer to 'telling' a song and not 'singing' it. The tune is the means by which a story is delivered, not an end in itself. I don't think this can be said of any other singing form, certainly not opera (please don't regard this as a critical comment, it isn't, I enjoy opera as music, not narrative, that's why I can listen to singers singing in a language I don't understand).
As for quality - there's a Mount Everest of a thread going on at the moment discussing this, and other related subjects without needing to spread the fighting onto this one.
Jim Carroll
PS Thank you Barry Finn for those kind words.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 17 Nov 08 - 04:28 AM

I don't know what happened to my post this morning. Disappeared into the ether.

My Mom (still a church soloist at 82) and assorted aunts and cousins all sopranos were my early influence. So I have/had (jury still out)that very high very light polished baptist hymn singing voice.

First real introduction to folk was well over decade ago, by daughter singing with friends in Medieval SCA and Chapel NC with band called Piper Doon. Follow that with exposure to Graham and Eileen Pratt (thanks to my current partner) and Kate Rusby (thanks to WRN - listener supported radio in Charlotteville VA) I have been working at scuffing the "polish" by mimicking any and every folk and blues voice that appeals to me ever since.

I tend to start every song down low in a nearly uncomfortable range, for fear of ending up stuck to the ceiling by the end of the piece. I am probably doing damage. Ah well, hopefully the damage will contribute to a decent folk quality. In any case I am enjoying myself and in the end that should be what it is about.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Spleen Cringe
Date: 17 Nov 08 - 08:07 AM

But then I've read on this same forum, that pure and lovely voices, just aint interesting for folk song

Depends on whether it's an interesting or dull pure and lovely voice...


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: GUEST,Working Radish
Date: 17 Nov 08 - 08:44 AM

As far as I'm concerned, it's a combination of three things:

a) does it sound like your speaking voice, to the extent that someone who knew your speaking voice would recognise your singing voice?
b) can you hit the back wall with it?
c) are you singing something you really want to sing?

Tick all those boxes and you're away. I don't even think it matters what your speaking voice sounds like - I mean, it's hard to imagine someone with the speaking voice of Brian Sewell or Sister Wendy Beckett giving a good account of Haul Away Joe, but if it was a song they really wanted to sing I think that would carry them through. The expression that someone who cares about a song can put in is far more important than being able to imitate the 'right' accent.

The discussion of head vs chest is interesting. I don't know if that's what it is, but I know I've got two quite distinct singing styles. If I'm doing Out of the Window or She Moved Through the Fair or When I was in my Prime, what comes out is noticeably thinner, cleaner and higher-sounding than when I'm doing Jones's Ale or the Bonnie Bunch of Roses. (It's not really any higher, I've only got one vocal range.)


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: GUEST
Date: 17 Nov 08 - 11:24 AM

Someone once told me, as an aspiring singer in the late 1950's, that the key to a "folk voice" was a "folk soul." To me, that simply meant feeling and being true to the music you select to perform. I've heard singers with great range and those who could barely negotiate one octave. Others have a naturally clear, pure sound, while others sound gravelly or "muddy" voices. Pick what makes sense with what you have and continue to work on expanding your possibilities.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 17 Nov 08 - 11:25 AM

Sorry; that last one got away from me before I could catch it.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Alice
Date: 17 Nov 08 - 11:33 AM

Do you think a woman singing a lullaby 100 years ago would have the town telling her, you can't do that, you don't have the right kind of voice to sing!
Or a boy picking cotton would have the rest of the family yell at him, you can't sing that song, you don't have the right kind of voice!
It's fucking stupid to be so judgmental about people's voices.
If you want to sing, then SING!


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 17 Nov 08 - 11:40 AM

No, Alice, Jim might not let you.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Don Firth
Date: 17 Nov 08 - 12:01 PM

I've heard people who have tried to assume a "folk voice," and in addition to sounding phonier than a three-dollar bill, they frequently wind up with severe vocal problems (chronic laryngitis, permanent hoarseness, loss of range, and a host of other vocal infirmities). Just sing in your natural voice. That's all there is too it.

If you have a natural vibrato, then just let it happen. Don't worry about it. If you don't, then fine. No problem. Sing in your comfortable range no matter where it is. Otherwise, you're asking for trouble down the line. Jean Ritchie sings in her natural voice. So does Margaret Barry. And Jeannie Robertson. And Frank Proffitt. And Lead Belly.

Why make hard work of it?

Like I said above, heed what Alice says. She knows what she's talking about.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: The Sandman
Date: 17 Nov 08 - 12:58 PM

It is not just the voice that makes the folk singer,it is the understanding of style,blues is an example of this,so is traditional unaccompanied singing,it is about listening and absorbing style it is about interpretation,it is not about having a pure sounding voice,although that is fine too,if the singer can also interpret.
it is not the voice that makes the singer but what they do with their voice.
the fiddle is often compared to the human voice ,and while a beautiful tone is a desirable goal ,it is not the tone of the fiddle that is exclusively responsible for wonderful music,it is what the fiddler does with the bow,that brings the music out of the fiddle[Interpretation]
Don,your constant assertion that Alice knows what she is talking about,reminds me of a stuck record needle,it also suggests others, dont.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 17 Nov 08 - 01:04 PM

To me, "soul" (personal expressiveness) is the essential ingredient.

I don't think it's necessary to be so very "natural" that you can't use a different approach for songs from different traditions. I think it's entirely acceptable to sing songs with different origins ~ say, hillbilly songs, blues songs, and Irish ballads ~ and to utilize a different style and even a different "accent" for each. What's important is to convey genuine feeling in each context without being primarily concerned with play-acting, that is, without trying to be someone other than yourself.

The human self can be pretty complex, and you shouldn't feel overly restricted to maintaining your ordinary workaday indentity as the single overly-obvious feature of your singing voice. I feel quite sure that my blues-singer self is an entirely valid aspect of my real self, just as much as my country-voice personna and even my not-entirely-authentic "stage-Oirish"-accented balladeer self. They're all perfectly valid "flavors" of a single complex musical personality.

Now, I'm not saying that all of these "voices" of mine are of the best quality, and certainly not that they're equally good. But they're valid as "folk voices": sincere and actually quite unaffected. I regard the different "accents" ~ actually, different sets of pronunciations and of vowel and consonant sounds ~ as aspects of the various folk subgenres, intrinsic to the songs themselves.

I would also argue that various aspects of vocal quality (head vs chest, nasal-ness,. etc.) are features of different folk traditions in exactly the same way as different approaches to English pronunciation (i.e., different accents).

I will use different vocal styles to sing Mississippi John Hurt songs, Gershwin tunes, Royal Navy sea shanties, and Hank Williams classics. But I try not to let those incidental differences stand in the way of expressing my feelings about each song and its subject matter.

I suppose the first step is to develop a way to achieve vocal self-expression however you can, within whatever style or tradition you feel most comfortable. Once you feel coinfident that you have a voice of your own, then (I think) you can branch out and bring your manner of interpretation to different kinds of songs of different styles, and all of your performances will retain an element of natural self-expression.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Don Firth
Date: 17 Nov 08 - 01:11 PM

I'm sorry if this bothers you, Captain, but it just happens to be the case. And I have read a number of pieces of "advice" here that are just bloody misleading.

I agree that style of singing is important. But if, by trying to imitate the style of traditional singers, the neophyte develops mannerisms and characteristics that are not natural to their own voices, they are running the danger of doing irreparable damage to their vocal mechanism.

Listen and understand, yes. But let the voice go its own way.

That's what real (traditional) folk singers do.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 17 Nov 08 - 01:12 PM

"No, Alice, Jim might not let you. "
Rather unpleasant and totally unnecessary - still, it takes all kinds.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Alice
Date: 17 Nov 08 - 01:31 PM

LOL

I am imagining someone collecting folk songs, and tape recorder in hand, asking my grandfather, "Now, are you sure you know all the history of this song and have a real folk delivery so we can call this recording folk music?"

The question of the thread was about voice, not whether someone knows all the history of a song, etc. Be that at is it may, imitating a style or another singer's sound is not what I would recommend. Folks singing songs were just being themselves. Relax and be yourself.

I love to learn all I can about the history of a song, but I would not demand that of someone else if they just wanted to sing a folk song.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Suegorgeous
Date: 17 Nov 08 - 02:09 PM

Alice

Can't see that anyone here has said one needs to know the whole history of a song before singing it?! research can no doubt add hugely to one's understanding of a song, but to me it's far more relevant and effective to get inside a song through practising it, feeling it, making and developing your own connection with it as much as you can before performing it.

Sue


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 17 Nov 08 - 02:13 PM

Good to see a variety of opinions, just shows that like so many things, there's never an objectively or uniformly correct answer to any question involving aesthetics!

Jim Caroll, thanks for your responses. I'm a little perplexed as to what you mean regards "spreading the fighting" to this thread, for happily I haven't witnessed any "fighting" here whatever thus far. Merely a reasoned debate between individuals exchanging different views in response to the question that I initially posted. A good thing IMO :-)

I do think it's a valid question for an interested beginner such as myself, and I appreciate the variety of informed feedback that has been offered from the experienced individuals amongst you.

Overall, the more uncertain I've gotten over the last few months about my possible (in)ability as a singer in this particular area, the more I've also realised that though I may never be a typically *good* folk singer in terms of some of the possible preferred qualities, I can nevertheless do the best with those qualities that I do have: I have a naturally clear, 'pretty' sounding voice, with a fairly classically "English" (ie: home counties - please note quotes!!) accent, a little light natural vibrato, and a complete love of singing - that verges on a compulsive habit!

I suspect overall the only thing that really matters is that I gain as much pleasure as I can from my own experience of singing. Because irrespective of whatever 'art' one is engaged in, if the 'artist' isn't having a ball doing it, nobody else is going to either! Though I have a funny feeling that that statement could be a highly contentious one... >Poster refers herself to fabled 'Everest-like' Manners thread!<


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: The Sandman
Date: 17 Nov 08 - 02:14 PM

I did not recommend it either,the point is that,
a folksinger by having listened a lot,has unconsciously absorbed other peoples styles,your grand father was not an island unto himself,he must have heard other singers,and without thinking[UNCONSCIOUSLY] about it absorbed style.
this is why Kentucky banjo players sounded different to Texas,Donegal fiddlers different to Kerry.
your remark about collectors is silly,if you knew anything about Jim Carroll,or heard any of the programmes of his collected singers,you would know he was too sensitive/sympathetic to say anything,as stupid as that.
youare also clouding issues by introducing traditional singers[and their environment; your grandfather]with the original poster who almost certainly is in a revival situation.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: The Sandman
Date: 17 Nov 08 - 02:15 PM

Above post, response to Alice


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 17 Nov 08 - 02:38 PM

Alice,
We're all 'judgmental' about people's voices - whether we express our opinions to their faces or otherwise. It's call having 'taste' or 'preference'.
"Do you think a woman singing a lullaby 100 years ago would have the town telling her, you can't do that, you don't have the right kind of voice to sing!"
The singers we've recorded were not backward in expressing their opinions about the singing of others - or the 'right and wrong' way to sing - read the bits of interview we did with Walter Pardon in the Musical Traditions 'Enthusiasm' response I wrote under the title 'By Any Other Name'.
Richard's snide comments aside, surely there's no harm in giving your opinion on what is or is not 'folk', 'classical' or whatever - that's surely what we do all the time.
It is more often than not left to the listener or even posterity to decide which is what - I wonder if Beethoven called himself a 'classical' composer.
Rosie
""spreading the fighting"
Sorry - not the best turn of phrase - meant to be flippant; I was responding to Ref's comment on 'quality' of singing.
Best,
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Don Firth
Date: 17 Nov 08 - 03:11 PM

Rosie, it sounds to me like you have a pretty good idea of how to go about it. Don't worry about it, just have fun! Enjoy!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Genie
Date: 17 Nov 08 - 04:00 PM

Well, I'd say that Joan Baez, Loreena McKinnett, Leadbelly, Steve Earle, Odetta, Buffy St. Marie, Tom Rush, Iris DeMent, Greg Brown, Mary Travers, Gordon Lightfoot, Miriam Makeba, Elizabeth LaPrelle, Amos Jessup, Mick Lane, Kendall Morse, Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton (when she does folk songs), Mary Black and Leonard Cohen ALL "sound folk." On the other hand, Ethel Merman (a totally untrained singer, Julie Andrews (even when she sang folk songs), Elvis Presley, Eric Clapton, Julio Iglesias, Rod Stewart, Mick Jagger, Joan Sutherland, Josh Groban, Aretha Franklin, Norah Jones and Celine Dion do not.
What do those on the first list have in common that separates them from those on the second list?

(Oh, and I'm sure we could think of still more names to fit into either list that would expand the diversity within that list.)

"Folk" music encompasses so many subcategories and sounds, as does "non-folk" music, that I'm not sure there's anything that clearly defines a vocal sound as "not folk" unless maybe it's the uber-trained, full-throated, round-tone, "pure vowel" sound of an opera singer. Almost anything else, including "soul," "jazz," "blues," "rock," "country," and "r & b" might overlap with some "folk" sounds.

Then again, what do I know?

*g*


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: GUEST,Val
Date: 17 Nov 08 - 04:03 PM

A couple of posters touched on the need (or advantage) of using techniques to help projection and avoid injury. Singing is an athletic activity which uses various muscles. Whether you're self-taught or take some sort of lessons or coaching, every singer "learns" to sing. It is a skill and activity beyond mere talking. How you learn, and what you learn, will affect how you sound.

Some techniques and singing styles were developed for particular purposes. For example, I believe "operatic" singing includes vibrato in part to help differentiate the singer's voice from the instruments in the orchestra. I also suspect that some sea chanteys are to be sung in a very rhythmic way to help the crew hear the beat & work together. Then there are ornaments that might be unique to various countries/regions/time periods (I can't think of vocal examples, but the "snap" of Scottish fiddle music is one such).

When a person is learning to sing a song from a particular culture, is it not appropriate to at least consider using the stylings or ornamentation of that culture? I'm not talking about "accent" per se, but melodic interpretation.

Of course, you can have great fun taking a tune from one culture and applying the stylings from another - such as adding an Irish lilt to "Die Lorelei".

By the way, if you want an example of someone who intentionally chose to sing in an unornamented style, listen to early Suzanne Vega - esp. "My Name Is Luka". She could/can sing in different styles, but decided a bare-bones unadorned voice to separate herself from the "pop" crowd. Is that a "folk voice"? Or is it not, because it's not a "folk song" and the vocal styling was a decision rather than an accident?

Val


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 17 Nov 08 - 04:06 PM

Quoth Alice "If you want to sing, then SING!"

Sorry Jim, but that is EXACTLY (yes, I am shouting) what you have been saying on the other thread is not enough.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 17 Nov 08 - 04:38 PM

I feared this thread might fall prey to an inevitable downward spiral of argument. Sigh.

Rosie - There is some very good advice here the best of which is to do it because you enjoy it.

What I have also learned is to put more thought into the story I tell.   Think about how the story unfolds, what I can do vocally and physically to express appropriately and in such a way that it draws the listener in.   I need to pay as much attention to what I am saying as to how I sound.

This advice has been most helpful. Now can I actually put it into practice? Ah there's the rub!


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 17 Nov 08 - 04:40 PM

This is a minor aside in relation to a comment above regarding possible forced and conscious affectation of 'accent'.

With the (very few!) Scottish ballads I've learned so far, I've spent some time considering this question. For I neither wish to artificially fake an accent, *or* completely ignore the dialect within which the song is very naturally buried, and from which its words and meaning are forged.

So with those I've learned, I've looked at different (Anglo/Scots) versions, and tried for a middle way. That is singing the song naturally with my own voice/accent, in accordance with what I've got it writ on the page (or cobbled from other singers versions), while simultaniously heeding the specific peculiarities of dialect (rather than 'accent' as such).

Of course, whatever I do or don't do, to a Scottish person it'll always sound like an English person singing a Scottish song. But IMO that's OK, 'cos very simply, that's the honest fact of the matter!


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Don Firth
Date: 17 Nov 08 - 04:46 PM

There seems to be a great deal of misconception about vibrato. It is not a unique and essential characteristic of the operatic voice, and classical voice teachers do not teach someone to sing with vibrato. It generally just happens.

Although some singing voices are very "straight," the vast majority of voices have at least a touch of vibrato. And it often happens that one day a singer may sing with quite a bit of vibrato, and the following day, not so much. It's an unconscious thing and seems to depend more on one's physical state at the time that anything else. This holds true for opera singers as well. There's almost always some vibrato there, but it seems to vary in width and intensity form day to day.

In fact, there are a number of well-known folk singers, including some traditional or "source" singers, whose voices have a fairly wide and fast vibrato. It seems most peculiar to me that so many folkies can hear it in classical voices and find it objectionable, but fail to hear it in the voices of singers they like.

One should neither try or try not to sing with vibrato. To do either one or the other introduces undue and unhealthy tension into one's vocal mechanism. Just leave it alone.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 17 Nov 08 - 04:47 PM

I forgot to ask as there are apparent professionals in da house. How does one lose vibrato? Especially if it was just picked up by listening to and imitating family members who were classically trained.

Sorry Rosie - don't mean to step on your thread, but seems the best place to ask without opening another thread of worms.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 17 Nov 08 - 05:08 PM

Regards vibrato, interesting... Both my very ancient Irish Great Granny and my Birkenhead Nanna (both now dead) would sing with the most full-throttled, yet butterfly-winged vibrato. Both were extremely ordinary untrained women who simply sang a lot. In fact I think I inherited my own love of singing from Birkenhead Nan. Of course, like most poor people of their generations, they probably visited a few 'picture houses' during their younger years and unwittingly gained some 'aspirational' vocal artiices!?


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 17 Nov 08 - 05:22 PM

Richard,
You are not only shouting - you are becoming inarticulate - can you please explain that last sentence so I can respond.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 17 Nov 08 - 05:41 PM

singing the song naturally with my own voice/accent, in accordance with what I've got it writ on the page (or cobbled from other singers versions), while simultaniously heeding the specific peculiarities of dialect (rather than 'accent' as such)

Yes, it's a tough one. When I've sung Jenny's Complaint I've sung it in more or less standard English, because if I attempted the dialect it's written in I'd sound ridiculous. But the last verse begins

What can I dee? I naught can dee
But pine and whinge about him


...and then rhymes 'dee' with 'me', so I can't switch it to 'do'. Now, if I sang "What can I dee?" in my own accent it would sound stupid - as if I'd suddenly decided 'do' was pronounced 'dee' off my own bat. But if I suddenly dropped into my half-formed idea of what a Geordie accent should sound like -

THINKS: Why aye Newkie broon howay the lads
SINGS: What can I dee
THINKS:bonnie lad...

it would sound even worse. So I just try and make the 'dee' sound Geordie-ish and lean a bit on the vowels either side -
What can ah dee? Ah naught can dee
- and beat it back to the safety of my own accent as quickly as I can.

In next week's folk accent masterclass: Ee Bah Gum Is It Me Or Is It Getting A Bit Chilly?


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Herga Kitty
Date: 17 Nov 08 - 06:35 PM

Before I went to a folk club, I'd been singing in school choirs, so may have picked up the voice projection and breathing from that...

Kitty


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: the lemonade lady
Date: 17 Nov 08 - 06:54 PM

What makes a folk voice? A finger so long that when shuvved in the ear it blocks the nose and firmly closes the eye lids!

ok i'm off

Sal


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Azizi
Date: 17 Nov 08 - 09:15 PM

This may be tangential to the original question, but if people are discussing what types of folk voices are pleasing to them, it seems to me that that discussion should at least mention the factor of cultural preferences.

For instance, it seems to me that smokey, deep voices and dirty sounds are much more preferred to pure voices and clean sounds in the traditional and contemporary African Disapora cultures of African Americans and Afro-Caribbean people. Maybe this applies to some traditional and some contemporary African cultures and other traditional & contemporary African diaspora cultures. But since I don't know these cultures that well, I didn't include them.

What I mean by the phrase "dirty sound" is the inclusion of laughing, moaning, clapping, stomping, whistles and other sounds
as well as the "rasps, yelps, growls, and other colorful voice modifications" that are mentioned in this quote from
http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761569475/singing.html

"Among the world's many singing styles, cultural choices are observable in the variations in tone, color, physical tension, and acoustical intensity. Cultural differences also exist in preferences for high- or low-pitched ranges, solo or choral singing, extensive or sparse melodic ornamentation, and the use or avoidance of rasps, yelps, growls, and other colorful voice modifications".

That article continues by indicating that:
The rich variety of vocal styles found in the U.S. includes the trained, resonant, well-projected tone of operatic singers; the relaxed, intimate sound of popular crooners; the tensely sung, high, ornamented melodic style of Appalachian folk singers; the relaxed, subtly ornamented, rubato singing of black folk musicians, sometimes augmented with rough, guttural effects; and the tense, electronically distorted sound of much rock singing. Where ancient Mediterranean and Asian civilizations once flourished, singing tends to be high-pitched, tense, and ornamented, and solo singing predominates; within this broad geographical area, however, sounds vary from the moderate-range, highly ornamented style of Indian classical singing to the thin, extremely high, well-projected tone found in Chinese opera. In sub-Saharan Africa, where an abundance of choral music is found, low voices for women and high, penetrating voices for men are favored. Many agricultural regions in central Europe also have strong choral traditions, characterized by a straightforward, open vocal tone".

-snip-

To share an example of how my cultural preferences {or should I say cultural expectations} cause me to prefer certain voice pitches over others, as an African American, I find some Nigerian singing {for instance, the women singing on the Olatunji "Drums of Passion" recordings, and recordings of Ethiopian singing that I have heard, to name two widely separated African cultures, to be too high pitched for my liking. I think this may be because of the Middle Eastern influence on these culture's vocal music...

And with regard to cultural auditory preferences in singing voices, read this excerpt of an article on a "Chinese Opera Experience":

"Did you see the file Farewell to My Concubine and wonder about the "squeaky" voice produced by that beautiful female character who was actually a man? Answering in the affirmative, this writer, a classically trained musician, was curious to learn why a style which appears to violate the principles of "correct" singing in Western music is considered aesthetically desirable in the Orient. Attending a three-hour performance by the China Peking Opera Theater raised more questions than it answered, since no program notes were available in English"...

http://www.sinica.edu.tw/tit/culture/0895_cu2.html

-snip-

The article never answered the writer's inital question...a question, like my comments, which may not have much to do with the core question of this thread, but might be of interest to some here anyway.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 04:50 AM

Snort! Evidently Don Firth and I were coming from antipodal points at the same time. We posted within seconds of each other.

So I have to just live with that trembly sound in my voice, which as Don correctly states varies from day to day and song to song.

Sigh. So be it then. Grumble grumble.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 05:00 AM

BTW...

The argument which has escalated to personal level is annoying.

Please stop it or take it to PM. Those who want to learn and share knowledge and experience will thank you for not exposing us to it.

Sorry Rosie... your thread, I know, but it needed to be said.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 05:12 AM

*Smile* This talk of vibrato and whether it's natural or learned or whatnot, just refreshed a memory.
My Birkenhead Nan used to call that vibrato like tremor her "Woggle"!
I think I'll store that little bit of highly technical terminology away in my brainbox, for fuddling people who may dissaprove of vibrato in future... ;-D


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 05:14 AM

I like that.... Woggle. That is beautiful bit of personal folk memory. Lucky you.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 05:48 AM

Sigh.

I am suggesting - indeed agreeing - that the desire to sing suffices. One does the best with what on has got. What one has got is the "folk voice" and some are better than others. That is "on-thread".

On the other thread Jim expressly says that the desire to sing is not enough.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 06:23 AM

Not judging RB or JC.

I understood what was said and what it meant. It is just tone was getting a bit hot between you. The interchange is not contributing positively to the thread.

That is all.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: GUEST,Val
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 11:58 AM

Re: Vibrato
I didn't used to think much about vibrato until I listened to a recording of my singing played a double speed. That made my vibrato VERY obvious & easier to analyze.

I was starting a note with vibrato, then that tapered into a more pure tone as the note was sustained. I realized I was not "hitting" the note correctly right at first, and used vibrato like a hunting dog to eventually sniff out the true pitch.

After realizing that, I made a point of practicing hitting the correct pitch right off, and only bringing in vibrato when I want to on sustained notes rather than using it as a crutch for sloppy singing.

Maybe I'm the only person thus afflicted, but I thought I'd share.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 12:13 PM

You can turn vibrato off and on like a tap? Somebody teach me how.
Vibrato for me is uncontrollable trembling. Maybe I have it wrong and what I am suffering is something else.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 01:01 PM

Val, yeah, I kinda know what you mean and I do think there are possibly *some* singers that may use a forcible stylistic excess of vibrato as a lazy way of basically evading hitting, or sustaining the correct note. Local amateur operatic productions do spring to mind. Sorry to anyone who loves these...!

For me it's definitely harder to sustain a *long* clear note, without moving very naturally into a little vibrato. It's not something that happens automatically all the time, but I would have to work to consciously repress it. And I can think of ladies that I've heard where it sounds like just a natural thing all of the time.

But I think from some of the helpful feedback I've gained from this thread in particular, to try to forcibly inhibit my vioce's natural tendancies, wouldn't gain me anything other than a sore throat or possibly worse.

As I'm not a professional with a vocal coach. A bit of moderate self awareness guided by attempts at an objective critical ear, is the best I'm going to aspire to, for now.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 01:43 PM

I almost think we could be more productive discussing phrasing, diction, storytelling, relaxing and having some fun with the material rather than vocal quality, per se. Most people I have heard who used altered voices for different material sound contrived and false anyway.

I know I'm not a Scot, nor an Irishman, but I have enjoyed doing many songs of those lands. I just try to deliver the essense of the song, have a little fun with it and not worry too much about sounding "authentic."


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Piers Plowman
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 01:47 PM

From: Sleepy Rosie - PM
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 01:01 PM
"But I think from some of the helpful feedback I've gained from this thread in particular, to try to forcibly inhibit my vioce's natural tendancies, wouldn't gain me anything other than a sore throat or possibly worse."

I used to take singing lessons and during that time I had repeated bouts of tonsilitis, which was very debilitating. My teacher finally told me I should concentrate on playing the guitar, because my voice wasn't improving. My doctor prescribed speech therapy for me and the therapist, who was also a singing teacher, was willing to use singing exercises for the therapy, and I kept it up for a while paying for it myself, when the insurance no longer covered. Eventually, I stopped, and also stopped practicing singing.

Part of the problem was the kind of repertoire I wanted to sing, mostly German, American and British popular music of the 1920s through the 1940s. Sitting and playing the guitar is also not ideal for singing.

Some people can sing in strenuous ways and it doesn't seem to do them any harm. I can't. If I tried to sing like Jacques Brel, it would kill me.

The point of this, if it has a point, is that it's really a good idea to take care of one's voice, and if one abuses it, the consequences may be serious.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Don Firth
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 02:33 PM

A question you might want resolve here:   is it a true vibrato, or is it an uncontrolled wobbling? The latter usually means a lack of good breath support, or possibly a bit of uncertainty as to the precise pitch you're trying to sing.

A normal vibrato, which most of the time and in most styles of singing, is desirable and is something that most people don't even notice, either in their own voices or in others—unless, of course, someone makes a fetish of it, and then it can become an obsession.

Just for kicks, I have just spent a most interesting hour bouncing all over YouTube, listening to opera singers such as soprano Anna Netrebko (!! She ain't no "fat lady," she's gorgeous!!), baritones Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Bryn Terfel (couple of pretty handsome dudes), and folk singers Ewan MacColl, Mary Black, Jean Ritchie, Pete Seeger, and a whole bunch of others. And they all exhibited vibrato in their singing! Surprise, surprise!

The idea that folk singers don't use vibrato is simply not true. What may mask this to many peoples' ears is that in short notes, vibrato doesn't have time to establish itself. But if a singer—folk or opera—sings a long, sustained note, it is most definitely there. What may make it more noticeable in the voices of opera singers is that the music they sing tends to have many more long, sustained notes.

Go to YouTube and listen for yourself. You'll hear it.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: GUEST,Val
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 06:26 PM

From: VirginiaTam
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 12:13 PM

"You can turn vibrato off and on like a tap? Somebody teach me how.
Vibrato for me is uncontrollable trembling."

I'm no voice coach, so take any advice with a BIG grain of salt...

Remember that all the control of your voice involves muscles - tensioning the vocal chords, pushing air through them from your lungs (diaphragm and/or ribcage muscles), shaping your mouth & throat, etc. So what causes "uncontrolled trembling" in certain muscles? (I'm assuming this only happens when you're singing and is not due to a neurological condition).

Try this experiment: put your palms together in front of your chest then PRESS hard - as hard as you can. Do your arms start trembling? It's a normal reaction to muscles that are overly stressed but can't move.

OK, how do you apply this lesson to singing? If your voice quivers, it might be because some muscles are excessively tensed and working against each other. Try relaxing as much as possible - thinking about every muscle in your face, neck, throat, and chest (good posture is necessary so you can relax with your head balanced on your spine). Now, when relaxed, try to sing a note. Don't worry about tone, or which note, or projection - just get a constant sound. Do you still have the uncontrollable quivering? If so, can you feel what muscles are twitching? Can you focus your attention on them and "will" them to relax? If you don't have the quiver, try tightening up various muscles in your neck or chest one-at-a-time (or as close to that as you can manage) until you find the quiver again - then you'll know what part of your body you need to focus on relaxing to avoid the quiver during performance.

Once you have the issue identified, you can practice increasing volume, changing tone, singing on pitch, etc while keeping in mind how to prevent the quiver (it'll take practice to get your body out of its current habit patterns).

As for turning vibrator or tremelo "on & off", most people control vibrato with the throat muscles that control pitch from the vocal chords, but you can also use the back of the tongue or the overall mouth shape to change the tone somewhat. Tremelo (variation in volume, not pitch) is controlled mainly by the diaphragm.

As I said - singing is an athletic activity that requires use of various muscle groups. One really big key to better results is to work on conditioning those muscles for strength and endurance, to use the muscles you need in an efficient manner, and to relax the parts of your body that are not being used so they don't interfere with the parts that are working. (Yeah, I know... that's a straight line for some snarky comments - fire away!)

Then again, I could be full of BS. Play around with some ideas & see if they work for you, and feel free to ignore my idiocy if it doesn't work.

Val


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Joybell
Date: 18 Nov 08 - 07:19 PM

Came here a bit late. Me too Sleepy Rosie. I'm 63 though. Been singing all my life. All sorts of songs -- whether they suit my voice or not. Funny effects at times. Tried a lot of things. My voice is one of those clear, pure ones. Not light though. I'm a throw-back to the musichalls. I never have fitted in with what has come to be the fashionable "folk-style" -- and that's the music I really love. Doesn't matter really. In my case a high singing voice does not mean a high speaking one. My speaking voice is quite low. I'm able to sing in that low range but it doesn't work for me.
I understand the problem of a voice like this getting in the way of the song. I dislike the use of "style" and the use of vocal tricks. When people compliment me on my voice, I'm gracious but a little disappointed. I know they've been distracted. I myself get distracted when I become conscious of trying to change my style. I don't want that. I want to sing songs because I love the songs. Have to keep singing the only way I always have. What a rave. Anyway I understand. Good luck. I'd love to meet you. Love to hear you sing and sing for you. Love to share a song or two.
Cheers, Joy


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Derby Ram
Date: 19 Nov 08 - 12:16 AM

Hmmmmm, If John Tams is a great narrator and storyteller_and_a very good singer...then in my book...that makes him a GREAT Singer!


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: GUEST,Staines Norris
Date: 19 Nov 08 - 08:43 AM

Dear Mudcat,

I have no experience of singer-songwriting, so what follows is directed at singers of Traditional Song - would-be or otherwise. Smoking, as I'm sure we all agree, is essential - since the smoking ban the folk voice is going soft, so make sure you smoke plenty of strong, unfiltered, hand-rolled snout, especially first thing in the morning. Beer is essential too, to obliterate all sense of self-consciousness thus enabling the subjective self to melt into the objective whole in a communion which is essential to becoming a truly successful folk singer*. Similarly, I recommend taking up Fox Hunting - or whatever passes for Fox Hunting in this day and age - the celebratory chase and Tally-Ho! over hedges, ditches, brooks and bridges without the first hand experience of which no singer should ever attempt to sing a hunting song - in fact, as in literature, only sing about what you know. It is also pretty essential to become a Medium, as each time we sing a traditional song we are conducting a seance with the ancestors, so some sort of Shamanic training is very important - if not, an injection of Liquid Ecstasy into the soft pink flesh just above the front teeth should do the trick**. Whilst on the subject of drugs - a big NO FECKING WAY! to cocaine, but a very definite YES PLEASE, MR LAWRENCE! to speed; and if you must use heroin, then for God's sake chase rather than mainline - how many singarounds have I been to where some poor old bastard has OD'd during the chorus of Dido, Bendigo... thus ruining it for everyone? Three this year - two last year - four the year before - one the year before that; 1996 was a particularly bad year, thanks to Danny Boyle (Oh Danny Boyle, the pipes and bongs are calling...). Remember - you don't have to do drugs to be a Folk Singer, but as a short cut to the personal & cultural paranoia so essential to being a folky they're hard to beat.

Your pal,

Mr Staines Norris.

* By which I don't mean famous, as most famous folk singers aren't successful in the slightest - just as most successful folk singers aren't in the slightest bit famous.

** Which is, of course, E-by-gum.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 19 Nov 08 - 09:21 AM

Dear Staines Norris, I think you've just roughed up my voice most nicely. Still coughing and wheezing in fact. Cheers for the best laff I've had for a good while. Though I think you may have your wires crossed regards the fox hunting thing. Us poor common folk prefer such fun traditional village pastimes as 'badger baiting', 'cock fighting', 'dog fighting' and of course the ever popular 'badger in the bag'.
E by gum!


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: GUEST,John from Kemsing
Date: 19 Nov 08 - 10:54 AM

Over years of hearing many different people singing, "folk songs" in particular sung by adolescents and men, I have heard so many who sing through the nose, not always giving the most pleasing result.
Is it:-
a) Something to do with our physical make up?
b) Aping someone we heard?
c) Believing it is traditional "folk voice"?
d) Nasal air passage constrictions?
e) What some early posters referred to as head voice?
f) Is it possible to overcome it?
g) Do you hear many examples in the U.S.?


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: jimslass
Date: 19 Nov 08 - 11:50 AM

Had in mind what I wanted to say then read Azizi's post which expanded upon it much more articulately and knowledgably than I could ever attempt.

However, 'does the team think' that it's not just the type of voice, but WHAT you're singing that counts. At our folk club we have two girls with very sweet, pure voices, and they kind of stick to a certain type of song - I can't imagine them doing something 'down and dirty' if you get me. They don't sing operatically, but it's a very smooth, pretty sound; when they join in with, oh, something like whiskey in the jar or last thing on my mind,etc etc, they sound as if they are singing out of their range, yet it isn't that they are ACTUALLY out of their range.
Sorry, as a non-singer, I don't have the vocabulary but I hope you know what I mean.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: GUEST,Faye
Date: 19 Nov 08 - 12:54 PM

For me any voice that sounds good is a folk voice, a classical voice, a jazz voice, or any kind of voice. I don't differentiate between styles; either a singer does it for me or (s)he doesn't.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Joybell
Date: 19 Nov 08 - 04:09 PM

Down and dirty can work for those of us with sweet voices. The contrast can be interesting. There were a few sweet-voiced singers among the old blues singers. There've always been some among the traditional singers too. Jean Ritchie for example. Country music has some. We've always been around even when we weren't fashionable. If I like a song there's nothing I won't try.
Cheers, Joy


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Sue Allan
Date: 19 Nov 08 - 05:11 PM

Very belated response to Pip Radish on 17 November: why are you trying (or not) to sing Jenny's Complaint in Geordie? It's Cumbrian.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 19 Nov 08 - 06:08 PM

You see my problem! Being ignorant but prudent, I try not to sing songs 'in' anything other than the English I speak. Which rules out a lot of songs of Scottish origin, in particular - I did do Twa Corbies once, but I was hideously embarrassed by my own performance & never wanted to repeat the experience.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 19 Nov 08 - 07:00 PM

Oooh, 100.


And I get really pissed off with people who criticise singing as "nasal".

Go away and join your local opera society.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 20 Nov 08 - 10:15 AM

Pip,
Most songs (few exceptions where dialect words are part of the structure) adapt to most accents - I've found that out with stacks of Irish songs.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Piers Plowman
Date: 20 Nov 08 - 01:15 PM

From: GUEST,John from Kemsing - PM
Date: 19 Nov 08 - 10:54 AM

"Over years of hearing many different people singing, "folk songs" in particular sung by adolescents and men, I have heard so many who sing through the nose, not always giving the most pleasing result.
Is it:-
a) Something to do with our physical make up?"

I don't think so.

"b) Aping someone we heard?"

Often, yes, I believe it is.

"c) Believing it is traditional "folk voice"?"

Possibly.

"d) Nasal air passage constrictions?"

Possibly.

"e) What some early posters referred to as head voice?"

No. I believe "head voice" is the same as falsetto. At any rate, my singing teacher (in Germany) called it "Kopfstimme", which literally means "head voice" and that's the same as falsetto. It's singing above "the break", which is something I can feel but can't explain. I'm sure someone here can. She told me not to worry about it too much, because there is always or almost always some element of "head voice" when we sing. I don't remember exactly what she said. I needed to go above the break to sing high notes. I can just about hit a D, but Eb is already a bit high for me (I have a rubbish range).

Just last weekend I was listening to a radio program about Swedish choirs and a prominent choir director was talking about "breast voice" being unhealthy. This makes some sense to me.

"f) Is it possible to overcome it?"

Yes.

"g) Do you hear many examples in the U.S.?"

I think so. I think it's the same problem.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Piers Plowman
Date: 20 Nov 08 - 01:20 PM

'"f) Is it possible to overcome it?"

Yes.'

Sorry, this wasn't very helpful. I think it's possible to overcome it with the help of a good singing teacher, preferably one who's sympathetic to the kind of music one wants to sing. There is a kind of music that is favored by singing teachers because it's good for the voice and good for developing the voice, namely Italian bel canto. My teacher also wanted me to sing simple German art songs and arrangements of folksongs from the 19th century.

There's a lot of vocal music that's beautiful, but puts a great deal of strain on a voice. If one doesn't have much of a voice in the first place, take it from me, it's not a good idea.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 20 Nov 08 - 01:30 PM

Richard, you get little lift from being post number 100? I get the same charge when the digital clock hits 11:11.

RE nasal singing. Many folk singers have a nasal voice. In my opinion in every experience this has enhanced the songs.

Who wants the run of the mill disneyesque "perfectly" formed sound? Not me. I like character, and unusualness.

Yep. Could someone plese recommend me to the peculiar voice club? I understand you have to have a reference.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Piers Plowman
Date: 20 Nov 08 - 01:35 PM

From: Pip Radish - PM
Date: 19 Nov 08 - 06:08 PM

"You see my problem! Being ignorant but prudent, I try not to sing songs 'in' anything other than the English I speak. Which rules out a lot of songs of Scottish origin, in particular - I did do Twa Corbies once, but I was hideously embarrassed by my own performance & never wanted to repeat the experience."


I can understand this, but from my point of view, learning about accents and regional dialects is one of the most interesting aspects of folksong. The problem is unsolvable, for you, for me, for everyone. It would be a shame if nobody sang the songs, though. I love George Formby, but my Midwestern American accent isn't really quite right for his songs.

A great voice makes up for a multitude of sins. If one really devotes the effort to it, I'm sure one can make a reasonable stab at singing a song in a dialect not one's own. It also depends on the audience; not every situation demands the utmost in authenticity.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Piers Plowman
Date: 20 Nov 08 - 01:44 PM

Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: VirginiaTam - PM
Date: 20 Nov 08 - 01:30 PM

"RE nasal singing. Many folk singers have a nasal voice. In my opinion in every experience this has enhanced the songs."

Sorry, what I wrote was a bit one-sided. I think you have a point. B.F. Shelton had a nasal voice and I love his singing. Too bad so little was recorded.

I don't recall whether Azizi addressed nasality in her very interesting posting, but I believe a nasal sound is often used in some non-Western singing. There's not just one right way to sing.

On the other hand, people who don't grow up in an environment where people sing a lot and it's just considered a normal thing to do have certain problems. Learning to sing "properly" (taking this term with a grain of salt) does have a value and doesn't necessarily lead to Disneyfication (something I dislike, too). It's not much good having an "interesting" voice if one damages it so much that one can't sing anymore after the age of, say, 40.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 20 Nov 08 - 02:57 PM

The idea that anybody should sing using only one tone seems odd to me - you certainly don't speak in one tone; it changes with the circumstances. If you have a wide repertoire which covers different types of song you need a repertoire of tones.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 20 Nov 08 - 03:57 PM

Joybell, casting my eye over the thread here just now, I realised I'd failed to respond to your ever such nice words!

Yeah, here's raising a glass to singing songs we enjoy: for ourselves, and for likeminded others to enjoy too.

'What a rave' you say. Are you American, and do you get Raves there? A Trad Folk Rave, now there's a thought I'd be interested to spend all night in a Ford Sierra driving around trying to find some muddy farmers field in Essex at 3am for. Pure folk culture at it's rootsy best ;-)


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Joybell
Date: 20 Nov 08 - 04:10 PM

Hello Rosie. I'm Australian married to an American. If you ever find yourself in the south-eastern area of Aus. Come stay with us. We could have some fun. True-love was born and raised in Iowa and I'm from Melbourne Australia -- raised in a home where we sang 19th century songs -- often American ones.
Cheers, Joy


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Penny S.
Date: 20 Nov 08 - 05:04 PM

Re accents. I have an odd problem there. I can do spoken accents - not sure how well, but I do hear a voice as a mouth shape (back inside, that is) and can mimic it. There's a sort of brain bypass direct from sound to making my mouth the shape that will reproduce the voice. However, I cannot do sung accents. It just doesn't work.

Penny


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 20 Nov 08 - 06:59 PM

I can hear accents pretty well - usually to within about 30 miles in the UK (once lost a bet identifying an accent as a bit south of Oban when it was NE Ireland - about 40 miles from Oban!).

I can do accents tolerably. One of my tricks is to fascinate my law students by reading Lord Denning's judgments in a Mummerset accent. But I would not dream of taking the piss out of people or a culture by trying to do their songs in their local accent.

I really think MacColl was (for once) right (OK, his politics were right, by which I mean left) as were the critics group in saying that we should sing our own traditions (maybe "race memories" - oops here comes the BNP, and no my name is not on their membership list).

If you want to take the song of another and put it into your own tradition - sing it in your voice and accent. Otherwise you are a cuckoo.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Penny S.
Date: 21 Nov 08 - 04:03 AM

It's a tricky thing finding the boundary between mocking and respecting. I used to read stories at school and do voices, and sometimes there were regional variations in characters which needed to be suggested, so I did. But I had an argument once with another member of staff who was adamant that I shouldn't read "Albert and the Lion", which I believe was performed by Stanley Holloway who was not from the north, in the way it was written. she was of the opinion that it shouldn't be read at all except by native speakers, as it just doesn't sound right in Received Pronounciation, or Dartford Estuarine. But we are supposed to expose children to poems from other cultures, eg those written in West Indian patois - how do we do that if we can't read it as written?

The issue of singing in an accent doesn't affect me, as stated above. Though I have performed carols in Dartford Estuarine, to show the children that they do sound better if they put in the "t"s instead of glo''al stops, and use "th", unvoiced or voiced, instead of "f" or "v". That's not so much an accent, though. I do stress that the Kentish people in Anglo Saxon times spoke with the latter version, so they aren't wrong in their speech, but that singing performance needs to match what the writer intended. Wouldn't want to knock their heritage.

Penny


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Genie
Date: 21 Nov 08 - 06:32 AM

Penny S, I seem to be just the other way around from you.   I find it a lot easier to 'do' accents when singing than when talking.
Of course, maybe that's mostly because when I sing I have a set 'script', as opposed to just speaking spontaneously with a consistent accent other than my own.   (I tend to naturally "pick up" accents of those around me whenever I spend any time in another country or region, without either trying to or realizing that it's happening.)

I hear some folks decrying the attempts of people who are not from their country/region to imitate their accents when doing their songs, because it's not "authentic."   I can sort of relate to that, I guess, in that when I hear a "bad" German or French accent, e.g., on TV or in a movie, I kind of cringe, chuckle, or groan.   But, being a Yank from, mostly, the US midwest and west coast (areas without easily identified strong regional accents), I must say it doesn't bother me in the least when singers from other parts of the world sing "American" songs and do a credible job of losing their own accents while doing so.   The Beatles, for instance, seldom sounded anywhere near as "Liverpudlian" when they sang as when they talked, and it gave their music a much wider appeal, I think. On some songs I don't think they even sounded especially "British."   I never thought of it as their "trying to imitate" someone else's accent, but I suppose in a way they were -- and it worked.
They are far from the only example.   

I think there are many singers who adapt their pronunciations and sound patterns to fit particular songs and do it well, even if the resulting "accents" are not fully believable (to someone from the region in question).


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 21 Nov 08 - 02:14 PM

My experience is the opposite of Penny S's too, in that I believe I can sing in different "accents" or voices much more easily, and much better, than I can speak in them.

The topic of singing-in-an-accent seems to be much more controversial in the UK than in the US. It may have something to do with there being more different local and regional accents, and more clearly defined ones, over there than in the states, which is rapidly becoming a completely homogenized society.

But, there are so many good examples of British blues/rock singers who do a great job singing in American/African-American accents that are appropriate to their material.

A white singer, whether British or American or whatever, can sing in a "blues voice" that is both appropriate to the form and genuine for the person, and can do so without incorporating any of the falsity seen in unsympathetic "blackface-minstrel" performance. For example, consider Brits like Winwood, Clapton and Mayall, Americans like Butterfield, Musselwhite, Mose Allison, Greg Allman, etc., etc., etc.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Joybell
Date: 21 Nov 08 - 04:12 PM

There's a difference, I believe, between singing a song as it was written -- if it uses regional words and accents -- and singing all songs in a "folk-voice". Whatever that may be according to fashion.
For example -- here in Australia I've heard the fashionable "folk-voice" change over the years. In the 60s it was an A. L. Lloyd voice. Now it's fake Irish.
I've often been asked why True-love sings with a "fake American voice". To which I say, "Because he's American". Strangly enough I've sometimes got the answer, "Well he's Australian now and he should sing like one!" By which they mean he should sound Irish with a few good old Aussie words thrown in.
Funny thing performing.
Cheers, Joy


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: GUEST,meself
Date: 22 Nov 08 - 01:25 PM

Bit of a drift I suppose, but - it never occurred to me that at least Charlie Musselwhite's and Mose Allison's singing accents were any different from their speaking accents. Don't know about the other Americans mentioned, since I've never heard them speak.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 22 Nov 08 - 01:28 PM

Guess I am bit of a cuckoo then.   I don't mind.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: GUEST,Jack Warshaw
Date: 14 Jul 18 - 08:05 AM

Hey, nothing wrong with the voice you were born with, or singing what you've heard from another singer, or, nowadays, from recordings which have moved you in some way, the way folksongs have always been passed on. You can hold infuse your interpretation with respect for your source or informant without impersonating him/her. The job of an artist is to touch the listener's senses and emotions as nothing else can. This applies whether it's a song for work, fun, love, discontent, awareness or any other function. It should be clear, unambiguous and, preferably, singable by others. It helps to believe or find truth in what you're singing. True, some vocal qualities sell, and innate talent can be nurtured, but why enter a 'rough' 'rustic' 'inferior' 'working class' artform in the first place if not to be part of the unique sounds and feelings of authentic, home-made music free of pretension, manipulation and profit-driven choices?
www.jackwarshaw.com


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: GUEST,Jack Warshaw
Date: 14 Jul 18 - 08:13 AM

Both men and women have head and chest voices


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 Jul 18 - 08:43 AM

Traditional singers mainly pitched their voice around where they spoke (age and physical condition allowing) - their physically 'natural' voice)
THe easiest way to develop your voice for traditional singing is to find your natural voice and learn to control and extend it
"Both men and women have head and chest voices"
Hi Jack
Men's 'head voice' tends to be falsetto
Head voice (unless it is 'natural' to yo) takes twice as much air to produce and can make singing long lines a problem
In women, it tends to produce the dreaded 'gear change' - a tonal shift from head to chest aaand vice versa, which can sound odd if not controlled
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: The Sandman
Date: 14 Jul 18 - 10:02 AM

good technique and a lot of listening to folk styles


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: GUEST,DTM
Date: 14 Jul 18 - 06:25 PM

Honesty.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Tootler
Date: 17 Jul 18 - 04:33 PM

Men's 'head voice' tends to be falsetto

I'm not sure I entirely agree, I'm aware when I'm using head voice, I can feel it (in my head, oddly enough :)) and it's not usually falsetto. I do tend to use it more at the upper end of my range, though and falsetto does need the head voice.

In the choir I belong to, the choirmaster sometimes suggests we use falsetto to sing high notes quietly. However, if I want to really get that final top G or A out for the dramatic ending of a song, it has to be from the diaphragm to get the volume without straining the voice.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: GUEST,ripov
Date: 17 Jul 18 - 09:01 PM

Have you ever sat in a "repro" pub and looked at the woodwork? No self respecting tradesman would ever have hacked the wooden beams in that fashion. No plasterer would leave so many lumps and bumps and scrapes. Even an "amateur" would try to to avoid making such a mess. And so it is with every trade. Why, as musicians, or singers, do we think we need to be out of tune, out of time, or produce an unpleasant tone; surely in the past those who loved their trades would have given them their best?? And so should we, whatever our best is. As Guest DTM says, our HONEST best.
Sometimes, at the time, it doesn't seem to work. I remember a lady singing about the "blows of the blacksmiths hammer" with a purity that suggested she had no idea of the inuendo. But I shall always remember that performance!


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 Jul 18 - 02:27 AM

"I'm not sure I entirely agree, I"
Nor am I Tootler, though that's what I've been told
I do know that falsetto is not natural to men and in order to produce it in young boys to make them choristers (or to train them for opera) it was once practice to castrate them
THE LAST CASTRATO, ALLESSANDRO MORESCHI, DIED IN IN 1922

I think the point about traditional singing, certainly among the older generation of English language singers (England, Scotland, Ireland, US etc), was that they regarded their songs an narratives and the function of the voice was to pass on the information the song contained, so the more 'natural' the better
In Ireland they talked about 'telling' a song and I've read about Scots singers "saying" a song
The more natural the voice, the better the song is carried
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 18 Jul 18 - 05:28 PM

Listen to the early cylinder recordings. The high vocal register was actually preferred THEN. The main reason was The lack of amplification, so the voice could carry and command attention in noisy places (pubs, on board ships, market places, etc.)

This first came to my attention when I heard that during WWI prisoners of war from many lands were recorded speaking and singing by students from Heidelberg University in Germany. Those recordings have only recently been studied and those singers in the main sang in a high register well above their natural voice. This then made me think of Grainger's recordings, particularly of people like Joseph Taylor. Since this time however technology has allowed us other means of amplification and we no longer are forced to sing regularly in noisy places on a regular basis. I am not advocating castration! Though I do know some people who would be happy to practise on me!


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Jul 18 - 04:26 AM

"The high vocal register was actually preferred THEN. "
In Joseph Taylor and those around his age maybe - overpitching can be a feaure of old age
The tension produced by nervousness is also a feature of sending the voice soaring (Maccoll developed a whole series of relaxation exercises to tackle it)
Singing your songs in recordable fragments into a strange machine for a very eccentric foreign visitor like Grainger can't have been easy for farmworkers
One aspect of discussion has been whether Taylor's vibrato was natural or produced tension
Walter pardon once commented on how high he'd pitched his singing on a radio interview - it was evr a problem for him while singing to an audience, where he was always completely relaxed

"be happy to practise on me!"
Damn - why didn't I think of that earlier? (-:
Jim


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 19 Jul 18 - 09:07 AM

Jim,
The people being recorded in Germany in WWI were mainly young men sent out to be cannon fodder.

Joseph Taylor was certainly not nervous. He was a confident, well-respected member of the community, a churchwarden if I remember rightly, an estate manager? He certainly wouldn't have been fazed by Grainger. Apart from that Grainger would have heard him sing the songs before recording them as they were part of a competition, and would have acted accordingly.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Jul 18 - 10:24 AM

I think you will find that WW1 was a cakewalk compared to singing into a machime to some people
We have attempted to record deep sea fishermen who would rather have their arms cut off than sing into a microphone
Singing to an audience (in a concert hall or to neighbours) is totally different to singing to strangers
Granger was a pioneer in the field of collecting - recording techniques and manners didn't exist in 1908
Like a lot of things connected with folk songs "nobody knows"
All this is somewhat irrelevant anyway
The tendency of most traditional singers was to pitch their voice around where they spoke - Harry Cox and Sam Larner being perfect examples of this
Not coincidentally, they usually sang using speech patterns, putting the punctuation and natrural pauses where they belonged (unlike far too many of today's singers of folk songs)
Jim


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: GUEST,Guest Eoin Buadhaigh
Date: 19 Jul 18 - 11:02 AM

As guest DTM said above 'Honestly and don't try and copy someone else you admire or think is a 'great' singer, sing in your own voice, in your own dialect. (lots of practice)


Eoin


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: The Sandman
Date: 19 Jul 18 - 11:17 AM

"The tendency of most traditional singers was to pitch their voice around where they spoke - Harry Cox and Sam Larner being perfect examples of this
Not coincidentally, they usually sang using speech patterns, putting the punctuation and natrural pauses where they belonged"
very good
Jim,TRADTIONAL SINGERS unlike folk song singers in clubs, did not have to do 40 minute spots in folk clubs, so for example .I try to sing naturally,however I have to give some thought to planned changes of keys for one song after another [something that a trad singer did not have to do]
I think it is reasonable advice to say that if a singer wants to use a folk voice for 40 minutes at a time , that good breathing technique, plus thought about using different keys, as well as singing natrually enters in to the equation.
jIM manners did exist in 1908, collectors varied in their use of good manners.And Taylor being a competition singer would have been used tosingning in competitions and unlikely to have been intimidated or nervous of Grainger
Finally, the OP is in a revival situation., but probably not having to do more than one song at atime


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Jul 18 - 11:49 AM

None of what you say makes sense Dick
Hving sat in front of traditional singers for over thirty years I've gained a modicum of understanding of the problems arising, even among singers who aare familiar with modern technology
"Grannie - eggs" etc
Jim


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: The Sandman
Date: 19 Jul 18 - 12:18 PM

if it does not make sense Jim, try this ,i was referring to joseph taylor a singer who entered in competions, since he entered in competitions his situation was different from say walter pardon.
the OP is in a folk revival situation she is asking about a folk voice , not about nervousness of trad singers, my post makes absolute sense. here it is again in a REVIVAL CONTEXT
   Jim,TRADTIONAL SINGERS unlike folk song singers in clubs, did not have to do 40 minute spots in folk clubs, so for example. .I try to sing naturally,however I have to give some thought to planned changes of keys for one song after another [something that a trad singer did not have to do]
I think it is reasonable advice to say that if a singer wants to use a folk voice for 40 minutes at a time , that good breathing technique, plus thought about using different keys, as well as singing natrually enters in to the equation.
Finally, the OP is in a revival situation. the oOP does not state that she wants to sing like a tradtional singer she talks about a folk voice , this could mean a folk revival voice , you choose to interpret it as singing like a tradtional singer, I interpret as a meaning in a folk revival voice, but not a classical voice, or opera voice or jazz voice , Do you understand that?


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Jul 18 - 01:01 PM

"Do you understand that?"
If you are going to revert to your old-usual bad-mannered self you can go pee up your Kilt Dick, I'm not interested
I understand you perfectly - what I understand most of all is you are not responding to a blind word I've written
I have a little more to say about 'the folk voice' (which basically is a misnomer - there ae as many 'folk voices' as there are different types of 'folk song'
After dinner perhaps
Jim


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: The Sandman
Date: 19 Jul 18 - 04:37 PM

Jim you appear to be on a different wave length.
I am responding to the OP who clearyis involved in the folk revival, at no point does she state that the folk voice, she is referring to, is the voice as used by tradtional singers, she might mean the voice associated with revival singers, it is not clear.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 19 Jul 18 - 05:13 PM

As a newcomer to this thread, who (I admit) has not had time to read every post, could I offer the opinion that a 'folk voice' should just be 'your voice'.

Some of the more embarrassing vocal sounds I've heard in my time were made by people who were trying to produce what they imagined to be a 'folk voice'. I had an interesting conversation with Will Noble on the subject a little while ago.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Jul 18 - 08:32 PM

"'folk voice'"
I agree with that Brian, but it's not that simple
Your voice has a repertoire of sounds which are evoked to respond to certain situaltions
You don't use the same tones to a fractious child as you do when you are persuading a woman to....
The same with singing (if you work at it)
In speech your tones are evoked by your feeling' what you are saying (you don't even have to think about it if you 'feel' the song you sing - it comes naturally - certain emotions produce certain tones - hard, soft, narrow, broad.... I believe that is the case with singing

If you regard you voice as a box of tools that first need mastering until you can do whatever you want with them, then keep then in good condition, you can re-create any type of song you want - the whole repertoire becomes accessible to you (if you wish)

Then comes interpretation, which is far more individual - in our workshops we used to ask our singers to sum up in as few words as possible (one is perfect and sometimes sufficient) what the main emotional objective of the song was - why was it first created?
THere are excercises for both of these aspects

Sure - Traditional singers didn't do this but they didn't need to - the songs were part of their culture - often real 'mothers milk' stuff

The one sing a 'performer' has to do is to choose their songs carefully so they don't all sound the same
If they don't do that, the audience's ears 'go to sleep' and you lose their attention (Charles Parker once researched this using schoolkids)
One of the litmus tests of this is to listen to a solo singer on an album and see how long your attention span lasts - more problematical with longer one-sided CDs compared to the old vinyl LPs
Jim


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: The Sandman
Date: 20 Jul 18 - 01:19 AM

To clarify my point Jim
There are were certain folk revival singers, Lloyd, .Armstrong, who used or advocated particular styles which were not based on tradtional singers styles and who did not sing in their natural voice.
I sing in my natural voice and prefer traditional singers like Bob Lewis who sing, that is merely my taste, that is what I prefer to think is how a folk voice should sound. I hope that is clear, we seem to be in agreement that we prefer singers who use their natural voice much as tradtional singers did


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: The Sandman
Date: 20 Jul 18 - 01:33 AM

"The one sing a 'performer' has to do is to choose their songs carefully so they don't all sound the same"
that was my point about revival singers singing for 40 minutes and having to think about different keys and different tempos, which tradtional singers did not have to do, yet you claimed not to undernd my point.
your quote, also raise another interesting point, how to run successful singarounds, this can be down to a good MC who knows his singers likely repertoires and styles and arranges his singers so that the night consists of songs that follow each other to some extent in contrasting tempos and styles.That is my opinion of how to run a good singaround
If an MC relys upon going round the room, in strict clockwise or anti clockwise fashion the chances of this happening are down to luck,and the singaround could consist of four long slow songs one after another, which imo can reduce the effectiveness of the songs


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 20 Jul 18 - 04:01 AM

"There are were certain folk revival singers, Lloyd, .Armstrong, who used or advocated particular styles which were not based on traditional singers styles and who did not sing in their natural voice."
Are there - the two you mentioned certainly don't fit that description ?
Frankie actually ran voice workshops based on the idea that you first 'found' your natural voice, then extended it to its full potential
The human voice is much like the brain - most people use only a fraction of its capacity (I'll refrain from the joke that springs to mind :-)

Frankie used some of the exercises MacColl devised for the critics group and added more she got from listening to Eastern European singing - they were all based on traditional singing and no other styles
I never attended her workshops but I'm pretty sure they were aimed at women singers

Bert did little other than use the famous Bert Lloyd 'grin' to harden his tone, he was aware of the necessity to do so for certain songs, but had difficulty in achieving it
It was, I believe, a technique he picked up from observing Eastern European singers
There was never an example of non-tradition in his singing in my experience - that sort of thing came with the log gappy guitar breaks and the gappy breaking up of lines and hiccough phrasing or vibrao of the singers you appear to admire
As for the the unlistenable non-narrative musical mish-mash of 'Electric Soup Folk....

Bert, Frankie, and all the singers I remember enjoying drew directly from the tradition - they interpreted their songs and appeared to enjoy them as expressions of emotions rather than music with words added, as is so often the case elsewhere
Their methods of work may not have come from the tradition (any more than did your techniques of choosing your songs by speed or key) but their aim was to reproduce the songs traditionally

You say Bob Lewis has a 'folk' voice - so does Harry Cox and Sam Lerner and John Strachan and Jimmy McBeath ands Sheila Stewart and Brigid Tunney and Tom Moran and Joe Heaney.... and dozens of others I listened to (and still do)
What distinguishes them all is they are all different - miles apart in some cases - they sang like themselves
In most cases they had a way of singing that wasn't particularly varied - as you say, that is not the case with the 'performer'
When the scene was at its healthiest most revival singers weren't 'performers' and didn't want to be - we sang unpaid at clubs and we aimed to please ourselves while at the same time being aware that we had a responsibility to both the songs and the listeners to make a reasonable job of them
Our pleasure came from our having done so
This is from an intreview we did with MacColl - it sims up perfectly my feelings about public singing

“Now you might say that working and training to develop your voice to sing Nine Maidens A-milking Did Go or Lord Randall is calculated to destroy your original joy in singing, at least that’s the argument that’s put to me from time to time, or has been put to me from time to time by singers who should know better.
The better you can do a thing the more you enjoy it. Anybody who’s ever tried to sing and got up in front of an audience and made a bloody mess of it knows that you’re not enjoying it when you’re making a balls of it, but you are enjoying it when it’s working, when all the things you want to happen are happening. And that can happen without training, sure it can, but it’s hit or miss. If you’re training it can happen more, that’s the difference. It can’t happen every time, not with anybody, although your training can stand you in good stead, it’s something to fall back on, a technique, you know. It’s something that will at least make sure that you’re not absolutely diabolical         
The objective, really for the singer is to create a situation where when he starts to sing he’s no longer worried about technique; he’s done all that, and he can give the whole of his or her attention to the song itself, she can give her or he can give his whole attention to the sheer act of enjoying the song”.
(Interview tape 3).

That says it all for me
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: The Sandman
Date: 20 Jul 18 - 04:31 AM

" that sort of thing came with the log gappy guitar breaks and the gappy breaking up of lines and hiccough phrasing or vibrao of the singers you appear to admire."
bollocks, i have never said anything to that affec
I said i admired the singing of Bob Lewis.To my knowledge Bob has never played long guitar breaks of any kind, he is an unaccompanied singer
   Llyod and his grin had nothing to do with tradtional singing styles of singers from the geographical british isles.
His fixed grin It was an affectation and altered his natural voice.
2. your quote"(any more than did your techniques of choosing your songs by speed or key"
I never claimed they did, they are used to deal with a situation tradtional singers would not have encountered, however choice of speed of songs is not connected with altering the style that tradtional singers used in their songs or the sound of the natural voice. It is more a question of presentation than alteration of style
As usual you are muddying the waters.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 20 Jul 18 - 05:00 AM

".To my knowledge Bob has never played long guitar breaks of any kind, he is an unaccompanied singer"
You have often expressed your admiration for guitar gymnast singers and lashed out at those who criticise them
Lloyd's 'grin' was not a 'stle' it was a technique for producing a sound in order to sing traditional songs
"they are used to deal with a situation tradtional singers would not have encountered, "
So you reserve the right to use non traditional devices while at the same tim critcising Lloyd fro doing the same thin
Somewhat Dick double-standards' don't you think
Bert was singing in exactly the same situation as you and faced a problem which he cured
Traditional singers have used all sorts of odd techniques to produce difficult effects - I was told last week of Irish singers singing into corners to keep in pitch - singing with the hand cupped over the ear is millenia old for singers
A street singer in Newry was recorded by the BBC singing through a megaphone... there are a myriad of devices that have been used and now lost
Let's leave this Dick before this thread disappears up its own jaxi eh
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 20 Jul 18 - 07:21 AM

Jim: In speech your tones are evoked by your feeling' what you are saying (you don't even have to think about it if you 'feel' the song you sing)... Then comes interpretation, which is far more individual

I agree with all of that, Jim. Of course putting too much feeling into a song might become histrionic, but I've never been a believer in the 'deadpan' theory of authentic traditional singing, and a bit of expression does no harm IMO.

Harry Cox and Sam Lerner and John Strachan and Jimmy McBeath and Sheila Stewart and Brigid Tunney and Tom Moran and Joe Heaney.... and dozens of others I listened to (and still do)... What distinguishes them all is they are all different - miles apart in some cases - they sang like themselves

This is true as well - Sam Larner's style had evolved to enable him to win fishermen's singing competitions; Phil Tanner was a pub singer; Walter Pardon didn't sing 'out' at all until in later life. Those performance environments, and the personalities of the individuals, are of course reflected in the way they sang.

Singing 'like yourself' was exactly the point I was trying to make before, possibly a bit simplistically. When I hear the phrase 'folk voice' I think about that odd amalgam of country yokel and Oirish that was fashionable amongst the traddy elements of the folk scene in the 1970s / 80s, and which you can still hear occasionally today. It's that style that Will Noble found so amusing.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 20 Jul 18 - 07:48 AM

"Sam Larner's style had evolved to enable him to win fishermen's singing competitions; "
I don't believe that is the case - Sam sang for locals every week of his life - that is where his stle evolved
He in fact retired from the sea quite early because he'd torn his insides up pulling wet nets
As far as 'feeling' goes you don't need to add it if you feel it, it's already there
It's the putting it in for effect that leads to histrionics and 'acting out

I find Phil Tanner's singing moving because of it's contained exhumerance - a recreation of the situation each time
There's a magnificent photograh of him singing to a group of old people, many of whom apear not to be listening
Rather than attempting to win them over, he appears to be singing for himself - for me, the sign of great singing
Jim


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 20 Jul 18 - 07:57 AM

I find Phil Tanner's singing moving because of it's contained exhumerance - a recreation of the situation each time
There's a magnificent photograh of him singing to a group of old people, many of whom apear not to be listening
Rather than attempting to win them over, he appears to be singing for himself - for me, the sign of great singing


I always like to imagine he was singing 'Henry Martin' when that Picture Post photo was taken in the old people's home - you're right, he certainly is generating his own excitement there. 'The Parson and the Clerk', on the other hand, is a well-crafted piece of comic singing.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 20 Jul 18 - 01:13 PM

"Yes please."
I have been slated by Dick for criticising Martin Carthy's somewhat idiosyncratic phrasing and his intrusive (in my opinion) accompaniment
Also for suggesting that Ales Campbell's being sick over the front row of a concert I once attended was not the way a highly paid performer should behave
I was also shouted down by Dick (and another) for condemning Bob Davenport's behaviour when he pointly and loudly talked over a woman Irish singers's attempts to explain her Irish language songs to a non-Irish speaking audience at the Musical Traditions Club
When asked to desist, Bob, in his charming way, said loudly, "I thought we'd left this talking shit back in the sixties"
My comments on Martin, who I have met and like, were an opinion I am entitled to offer as a listener
The other two are, I think, in no need of an explanation or apology
Jim


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: The Sandman
Date: 20 Jul 18 - 02:58 PM

Jim talking rubbish as usual. he mentions alex campbell being sick ,what has that go to do with singing , margaret barry was also sick over people while performing that has nothing to do with her singing, neither does his comments about BobDavenport have anything to do with singing.
I have stated who my favourite singers are PhilTanner, Jeannie robertson BobLewis, Harry Cox. none of whom play long guitar breaks.
Jim you are making yourself look foolish


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 20 Jul 18 - 04:15 PM

Polly Bolton had a superb voice.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: GUEST,Martin Carthy fan
Date: 21 Jul 18 - 06:10 AM

Listen to Martin.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 21 Jul 18 - 06:32 AM

High voices are best, nothing worse than a woman singing with a man's voice. Another super voice is that of Olivia Chaney.

What is worse is the folk snob dictating how a folky voice should sound!!!!!!


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 21 Jul 18 - 07:02 AM

THE LAST CASTRATO, ALLESSANDRO MORESCHI, DIED IN IN 1922

There are thousands of castrati alive and singing right now.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hijra_(South_Asia)


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: The Sandman
Date: 21 Jul 18 - 07:28 AM

THE LAST CASTRATO, ALLESSANDRO MORESCHI, DIED IN IN 1922, quote jim carroll.
Jim,it would help,if you got facts right


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 21 Jul 18 - 09:01 AM

I ws referring to Western Castrati Dick and you know it
Stop trying to score points
The link I gave clearly states that
"What is worse is the folk snob dictating how a folky voice should sound!!!!!!"
Thanks for your support Bozo
Exactly what I said - there is no such thing as one folk voice
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 21 Jul 18 - 09:12 AM

I've no idea why Jim mentioned castrati at all, and if there was any reason why Western-trained ones should be more relevant it was lost in that mass of unreadably formatted verbiage.

The point about the hijras is that they're around now, easy to locate, and sing in a wide range of styles with varying levels and types of training. If you want to find out what the capabilities of the castrato voice are, they're a far more informative resource than Moreschi's 78s.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 21 Jul 18 - 09:41 AM

I mentioned them in connection with men's unnatural falsetto and how it was achieved
It was a passing comment
Jim


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: The Sandman
Date: 21 Jul 18 - 11:14 AM

a pssing comment and an incorrect one


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: GUEST
Date: 21 Jul 18 - 07:09 PM

What you actually said, Jim was:

I do know that falsetto is not natural to men and in order to produce it in young boys to make them choristers (or to train them for opera) it was once practice to castrate them

And that's not entirely true. It's perfectly possible for most, if not all men to produce a falsetto voice. Some high tenors cultivate it as their regular singing voices as it enables them to sing in the female alto range. Yodelling involves alternating between falstto and regular voice. I can produce a falsetto without straining my voice but it only has a range of a major third. It's still occasionally useful to make singing at the top of my range easier in certain circumstances.

Of course it's often used for comic effect.

In the past castration was used to preserve the voices of boy trebles with particularly fine voices at a time when women didn't sing professionally. Given the risk of infection at the time it was very risky and only a minority actually then had a succesful singing career.

They wanted to castrate Haydn but his parents refused. It's as well they did refuse.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: GUEST,Tootler
Date: 21 Jul 18 - 07:12 PM

That Guest was me. I put my name in the box but it must have gone when I previewed the post.

I was going to add that most of that previous post has very little to do with folk song as I've rarely heard falsetto used except for occasional comic effect.


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 21 Jul 18 - 07:29 PM

I stand corrected Tootler, though I do believe that in most men, falsetto is unnatural and has to be achieved artificially
It is actually used in some traditions - tralalere singers in Genoa docker singer entitled 'La Dama' - as a vocal feature to their polyphonic singing rather than for comic effect
I remember hearing a Spanish 'Canto Hondo' singer and believing I was listening to a woman when it was, in fact, a man
I can't think of any English language traditional singing which uses the technique
You are right of course that thi has been a thread drift - it was my old friend, Jack Warshaw, who brought it up - I thought it worthwhile to use it as an excuse to emphasise the tendency of the older generation of singers to use their natural voice.
Considering the somewhat unfriendly reception from some fanzines, I hesitate to bring up the dreaded 'little-girl head voice favoured by many women singers again and all the problems that particular idiosyncrasy that causes
Jim


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 21 Jul 18 - 07:55 PM

Sould read Genoa dockers featured a singer entitled 'La Dama'
Jim


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 21 Jul 18 - 10:37 PM

I suppose people choose to sing folk songs in all sorts of different ways. There used to be a bloke called Owen Brannigan who went around singing The Blaydon Races in a very fruity voice. Came to our teacher training college once.

Then theres all those Irish tenors, my Dad was so fond of.

Its all folk music, innit? At least, they were singing folksongs. I'm sure they gave a lot of pleasure to a lot of people.

Folk music isn't just source singers - otherwise we none source singers wouldn't have a role.

Its a bit like the old parable of the man juggling before the altar - because it made him feel God's pleasure in his work. We all bring different stuff to the party,


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: The Sandman
Date: 22 Jul 18 - 03:10 AM

I was going to add that most of that previous post has very little to do with folk song as I've rarely heard falsetto used except for occasional comic effect. .'
American singer Jimmy Rodgers used it all the time so did the texas drifter gobell reeves Jimmie Rodgers, was an American country, blues and folk ... Rodgers was also known as "The Singing Brakeman".
Yodelling has a lot to do with Swiss folk song


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 22 Jul 18 - 04:00 AM

The original poster asked 'What makes a good folk voice' - she didn't specify what folk voice so naturally we all assumed she meant 'our' folk voice - the voice we use to present 'our' folk songs - English language songs in the main.
It's an interesting and important question which, if you wish, can cover the whole International spread of Traditional singing
Some people, including me, are interested in all traditional singing - we get a gret deal of enjoyment from listening to the sound of it, even when we don't understand the words - though knowing what is happening is always a bonus

Apart from that, as singers, it's a useful exercise in discovering how the voice can be produced if you put your mind to it - listening to a wide range of styles and techniques can be an aid to developing your own abilities (and a guide to what to avoid, of course).
For instance, if you understand how vibrato is produced you can learn how to avoid it or get rid of it, assuming you want to.
The voice is a musical instrument for (in our case) passing on ideas, emotions and events - our song traditions are largely narrative or 'word-based)

I believe Bert Lloyd, above all people, made the greatest contribution to making a wide variety of styles and techniques available to us folkies
His programmes, 'Voice of the Gods', 'The Lament', the magnificent 13 part series (for schools), 'The Songs of the People' and, in my opinion, best of all, 'Folk Song Virtuoso', covered a vast range of traditions, styles and techniques in World Music - a wonderful journey through the possibilities of the human voice - both the technique and the uses it was put to.
If you haven't heard them, you should try to - if you have, they're always worth a re-visit.

I have a long standing mate who is, in my opinion, one of the most skilful singers of folk songs not (any longer) on the folk song scene - an irritating shrinking violet of a singer.
It frustrated him no end when he failed to manage the art of the Mongolian 'Throat Singer'
Perhaps he should have bought himself a horse !!
Jim Caarroll


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: The Sandman
Date: 22 Jul 18 - 06:46 AM

but Jim, you and I like tradtional singers but we do not know if the OP was interested in more commercial aspects of the folk voice she mght be after JOAN BAEZ sound


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 22 Jul 18 - 07:03 AM

When someone open a thread you can't assume what they want so you put your own point of view - nobody has to respond to it if it doesn't interest them - including youI if it were notthat simple, nobody would as anything
That's the beauty of these discussions - they constantly expand our interests and knowledge
The problem is, if you're not careful you might relax your guard and actually learn something !
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 22 Jul 18 - 10:03 AM

Thread drift

Jim, you're my sort of age - do you remember the Wilfred Pickles radio show, Have a Go!

Every couple of weeks - wherever they were some old boy would step and sing a song called Hey Ho! Come to the Fair!

Was that a folk song?

Predictable as the clog dancer and the pre pubertal boy sing If I Were a Blackbird, I'd Whistle and Sing, along with the Percy Edwards type bird whistle impressions. Oh the fun we had!


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Subject: RE: What Makes a Folk Voice?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 22 Jul 18 - 10:31 AM

"Jim, you're my sort of age - do you remember the Wilfred Pickles radio show, Have a Go!"
Don't I just - that foxy Violet Carson woman ruined my adolescence
She went on to play Ena Sharples in the early days of 'Corrie'
I remember the song (I think that was Owen Brannigan)
It was written by a Helen Taylor in 1917 and was issued on sheet music - I think it was sung then by her husband
Not a folk song
Jim


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