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Teaching folk singing

Jim Carroll 15 Mar 09 - 04:03 PM
BobKnight 15 Mar 09 - 04:54 PM
Sleepy Rosie 15 Mar 09 - 05:16 PM
Sttaw Legend 15 Mar 09 - 05:25 PM
GUEST,Chris Brownbridge aka Ebor_fiddler 15 Mar 09 - 06:21 PM
curmudgeon 15 Mar 09 - 06:30 PM
Joan from Wigan 15 Mar 09 - 08:01 PM
Suegorgeous 15 Mar 09 - 08:43 PM
Suegorgeous 15 Mar 09 - 08:46 PM
Sleepy Rosie 16 Mar 09 - 03:59 AM
Sleepy Rosie 16 Mar 09 - 04:03 AM
Jim Carroll 16 Mar 09 - 04:23 AM
Fidjit 16 Mar 09 - 05:12 AM
sian, west wales 16 Mar 09 - 06:39 AM
Jim Carroll 16 Mar 09 - 08:07 AM
sian, west wales 16 Mar 09 - 08:10 AM
sian, west wales 16 Mar 09 - 11:08 AM
Suegorgeous 16 Mar 09 - 12:28 PM
Steve Gardham 16 Mar 09 - 12:52 PM
Jim Carroll 16 Mar 09 - 01:32 PM
The Sandman 16 Mar 09 - 01:41 PM
MartinRyan 16 Mar 09 - 01:51 PM
Steve Gardham 16 Mar 09 - 03:23 PM
Jim Carroll 16 Mar 09 - 03:51 PM
andrewq 16 Mar 09 - 04:06 PM
Sleepy Rosie 16 Mar 09 - 04:11 PM
Stringsinger 16 Mar 09 - 06:07 PM
Jim Carroll 18 Mar 09 - 03:22 PM
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Subject: Teaching folk singing
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Mar 09 - 04:03 PM

I would appreciate some input for a project I'm planning.
Does anybody have any experience of classes specifically for teaching folk singing . This could include one-to-one teaching, group classes, seminars, workshops; anything which deals exclusively with folk song.
I would like to find out what methods were/are used, how helpful (or otherwise) they were/are and if they had any influence, good or bad, short term or lasting on your singing.
I would also like to hear of how people think such classes could be organised: format, teaching methods, etc.
I'm not really interested in whether they are necessary or desirable ? have enough input on that to last six lifetimes.
Thanks in advance,
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Teaching folk singing
From: BobKnight
Date: 15 Mar 09 - 04:54 PM

Jim, Scottish Culture and Traditions (SC&T) run classes in Aberdeen. Check out their website at www.scottishculture.org they may be able to pass you on to some of their singing teachers such as Grace Banks or Janice Clark.
Bob


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Subject: RE: Teaching folk singing
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 15 Mar 09 - 05:16 PM

Jim, have you contacted other sites. In particular there is the Trad Song Forum, which houses teachers of err, trad song..

Apart from that, extrapolation from our more succesfull Celtic cousins must be a smart idea. As IMO would be any methods specifically succesfull with a younger audience. Though I'd guess the two things (considering Celtic cultures very succesfull promotion amongst the young) would tend to go hand in glove.


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Subject: RE: Teaching folk singing
From: Sttaw Legend
Date: 15 Mar 09 - 05:25 PM

Have a look here EFDSS


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Subject: RE: Teaching folk singing
From: GUEST,Chris Brownbridge aka Ebor_fiddler
Date: 15 Mar 09 - 06:21 PM

Jim: What sort of person is taching what sort of folk song to what sort of people? This may sound petty, but I think it's an important first question, so we can help more.


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Subject: RE: Teaching folk singing
From: curmudgeon
Date: 15 Mar 09 - 06:30 PM

Perhaps, Jim, it might be beneficial if you could start with a brief overview of the approach/techniques utilised by the Critics Group.

This might get the ball rolling, so to speak. I know that it would help me in focusing more clearly - Tom


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Subject: RE: Teaching folk singing
From: Joan from Wigan
Date: 15 Mar 09 - 08:01 PM

When I was in primary school (50s) all the songs we sang in school were folk songs, although we didn't call them that then, they were just songs. I just knew they felt older than most of the songs that were on the wireless, although didn't think about it much at the time. But thinking about it now, it gave me a good grounding for my current abiding interest in folk music.

Children in school nowadays don't have the same exposure to folk music, but really, that's where it ought to be, to have lasting effect. Cecil Sharp et al managed to convince the education authorities of their time that the songs they collected would die out if they weren't passed on to the youngsters. So our music teachers used collections of folk songs to teach us music. I have very fond memories of the class singing with gusto while the teacher played piano. And of the BBC radio broadcasts for schools (those booklets have been discussed on other threads). All folk music, all good fun, taught as mainstream music lessons to youngsters of an impressionable age.

The education authorities of today probably couldn't care less whether folk songs died out or not - priorities are totally different. And folk song organisations would probably cringe at the thought of trying to convince them (all over again) that tradition is important. And yet I can't think of a better way of passing on the tradition.

Except perhaps for the Irish/Celtic musical tradition (as mentioned by Sleepy Rosie), where the teaching of music begins even before school, within the family. But that's a whole different culture.

And without that culture, either family or school, it's an uphill struggle. I'm not saying it can't be done, but it's so much more difficult without the mainstream grounding.

Singing should be fun, whatever the teaching method(s) used, so that participants want to carry on doing it, after their initial introduction to it, for the rest of their lives. And teaching methods need to be flexible, to be able to address the different learning requirements of students. I am not a qualified teacher, although I have trained adults in certain skills (not musical ones), and have received rudimentary instruction in how to train. So I am speaking primarily as one who has been taught and encouraged to sing, first at school, then various other choirs and groups (which I would never have dreamed of joining had I not had the initial grounding at school).

I suspect, Jim, if your project does take off, that it would attract those who have already had some initial grounding and encouragement, and some contact with and interest in folk song. In which case, there shouldn't be a problem in sticking exclusively to folk songs. On the other hand, if you're aiming to attract primary-school-age youngsters, it would help enormously if the parents were folk-music-friendly, so there'd be back-up encouragement from home as well. You don't say what age group you're aiming at, or what your objectives are. Is there just you, or a group of potential teachers, and is the project short-term or long-term?

Joan


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Subject: RE: Teaching folk singing
From: Suegorgeous
Date: 15 Mar 09 - 08:43 PM

I've already let Jim know about the following, but thought others might be interested too, so I've copied it here.

I've done many voice/singing workshops (both folk and more general) that work more or less using the Critics' ideas, usually called master classes (and I do think that this title is better than one including "critic", which is likely to scare people!). The person in the hot seat brings one or two songs, and gets about 20-30 mins (depending on time, numbers, etc), plus perhaps another turn later if there's time. This works well, and of course you also learn from watching/giving feedback to others.

Folk teachers/courses that use this include Folk Southwest's Easter School, Sandra Kerr's folk courses at Farncombe, Folkworks Summer School, and the Wren Song School (October, Devon); others (not specifically folk) I've done with Helen Porter, Arvon Foundation, Dartington Summer School, and a voice intensive in Italy.

This method has worked incredibly well for me ? it's scary, challenging, but also supportive and a fantastic learning method, both for singing and performance skills. And now I mostly only do workshops that are run in this way; group singing doesn't really do it for me any more, except as a bit of relaxation as part of a group course.

I think my singing and confidence have benefited and improved a great deal from such methods. But there's also nothing to beat learning from the experience of standing up in clubs, singarounds, open mics, etc. Courses are great, if you put what you learn into practice.


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Subject: RE: Teaching folk singing
From: Suegorgeous
Date: 15 Mar 09 - 08:46 PM

Rosie - do you have a link to the Trad Song Forum?

Thanks
Sue


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Subject: RE: Teaching folk singing
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 03:59 AM

Hi Sue,

Sure, here it is:

click here

It's run by Johnny Adams, and there are a few members here at Mudcat who are also members there.

---------------- Link fixed. Mudelf.


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Subject: RE: Teaching folk singing
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 04:03 AM

Sorry, usually do a clicky. Just cut and paste that.
It's a nice group of folk, quite serious naturally due to the specific nature of the subject.
And much more 'grown up' than a lot of the playground stuff that goes on round here ;-)


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Subject: RE: Teaching folk singing
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 04:23 AM

All,
Thanks for the input so far.
A brief explanation. I have been involved in singing workshops since the late sixties. They have tended to be of a 'group' nature, largely without a 'teacher' but operating on the 'everybody having a say in the proceedings' principle. It is a formula I have seen work over and over again, and one I feel I have benefited from myself when I was singing.
Over the last few years I have encountered an odd approach to teaching singing, whereby a singer/teacher will hand a song text out to the 'class', teach them the tune and get them to sing the song over and over again until they (in my case anyway) are heartily sick of it.
Here in West Clare there has recently been established a heritage organisation (Oidreacht An Chláir - OAC) which has a web-site, has issued one CD to date and will eventually include a visitors centre (already purchased and in the process of being adapted for future use) and a public archive (at present being established - one objective being to put the material on-line).
The main feature of the organisation at present is instrumental music, but I am hoping that it will eventually become involved in all aspects of traditional singing.
It is largely because of this, coupled with some of the mind-numbing arguments we have had on this forum as to whether it is necessary to be able to sing in order to be a singer(!!!) that has prompted me to seek a 'worms-eye-view' of singing classes; not so much how they are organised, but more how they work from the on-the-spot point of view of those participating.
I am extremely grateful for the input so far, particularly that from Joan From Wigan (does Jeff Lowe still sing there Joan?) and Suegorgeous.
I will be more than happy to swap information on how we worked in the groups I was involved in, but at this stage I don't really want to pre-empt the subject with my own experiences and opinions - and above all, I would hate to see this turn into another vacuous and destructive argument.
Thanks a million,
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Teaching folk singing
From: Fidjit
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 05:12 AM

Thought they did that sort of thing up at Newcastle on Tyne.
Vic Gammon and co.

Don't know where you can buy a smock and clay pipe though.

Chas


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Subject: RE: Teaching folk singing
From: sian, west wales
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 06:39 AM

Jim, we at trac run some projects which include trad singing workshops. The techniques vary from teacher to teacher - some depend on dots more than others - but the one thing they all have in common is that they a) encourage the students to sing in their natural voices, singing as they speak, b) ensure that the words are heard (words being very important in Welsh song - but I bet that holds true across the board) and c) that the singer understands the 'back story' (social context or any other important history) of the songs.

Because we work in Welsh language song, we have also started experimenting with running a preliminary session to workshops for non-Welsh speakers where they learn the phonetics and are 'walked through' some verses by a language tutor.

It's working fairly well for us so far. We experiment and adapt as necessary.

You also might want to look into the methods of Natural Voice Practioners.

sian


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Subject: RE: Teaching folk singing
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 08:07 AM

Sian,
Thanks for that; sorry to be a pest,but can't get your link to work.
Your a,b,c, points are exactly what we have always aimed for - would be interested to learn more,
Jim Carroll

-_____________________________________

Link fixed. Mudelf


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Subject: RE: Teaching folk singing
From: sian, west wales
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 08:10 AM

Sorry, Jim. For cut-and-paste, then: www.trac-cymru.org

Feel free to get in touch with us.

sian

--------------------------------- Original link fixed. Mudelf


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Subject: RE: Teaching folk singing
From: sian, west wales
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 11:08 AM

Thank you, elf.

sian


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Subject: RE: Teaching folk singing
From: Suegorgeous
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 12:28 PM

I just want to amend slightly what I said above re group singing! Paradoxically, I'm now thinking about seeking out a local group or choir or something, to help me with harmony singing. I've just recently realised that, while I'm mostly good with pitch, holding key, etc when singing solo, I'm not as good as I'd thought I was at holding a harmony part dead on pitch!

I've just started singing close harmony with another woman, and I'm drifting slightly on certain notes in a particular song. Could be that this song (or harmony) is particularly challenging, but I'm rather shocked to hear myself recorded slipping on notes (usually the same notes!).

Slight thread drift, perhaps, but if anyone's got any tips on this, would be most grateful.

Thanks.


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Subject: RE: Teaching folk singing
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 12:52 PM

Jim,

Singing of our sort is a natural phenomenon. I go into schools regularly to sing to and with pupils. I've been a teacher for 40 years, but not of music. Sorry to be a little skeptical here but I can't visualise a situation where you actually need to teach people to sing, give them the confidence to perhaps!

Steve Gardham,
Northern Chairman of TSF
Chairman, The Yorkshire Garland Group.


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Subject: RE: Teaching folk singing
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 01:32 PM

"Singing of our sort is a natural phenomenon."
"Like birdsong" as Sharp and his contemporaries would have it?
Singing well isn't Steve - or is it?
Not advocating 'teaching people to sing' or anything else at the moment; just listening to what people have to say, but I do wonder where, say Joe Heaney or Sean McDonagh lie in all this as both of them described going to their uncle, Colm Keane, specifically to 'learn to sing'.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Teaching folk singing
From: The Sandman
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 01:41 PM

jim,I think it is something you should do,you have a wealth of knowledge,you have first hand experience of collecting from traditional singers,and with your experience with the[manchester?] critics group,and your involvement with MacColl,Iam sure you could offer a constructive criticism and helpful advice to those who wish to be helped.


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Subject: RE: Teaching folk singing
From: MartinRyan
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 01:51 PM

Jim

... but I do wonder where, say Joe Heaney or Sean McDonagh lie in all this as both of them described going to their uncle, Colm Keane, specifically to 'learn to sing'.

Yes but - did the uncle realise he was "teaching"? I'm only half-joking, of course - but not all learning involves a (conscious)teacher. Indeed, the more I think about it....

Regards


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Subject: RE: Teaching folk singing
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 03:23 PM

Jim,
Yes, I almost forgot, things are very different over there, there are a few specific styles of singing, and in that case if you want to be part of that then I suppose it is a technique that can be taught and learnt. As far as I know in folk music this side there is no such beast. You can teach people to improve things like breathing, projection, but I've never heard of anyone tone deaf being taught to overcome this. Other than that everybody can sing! Having the confidence or will to do so in public is another matter.


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Subject: RE: Teaching folk singing
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 03:51 PM

Steve;
"I've never heard of anyone tone deaf being taught to overcome this"
I've never actually met anybody who is tone deaf, but I have met plenty who claim to have been - don't know what the vocal version of hypochondria is.
The only difference between here and there is that the song tradition fell off the twig much later here and there were still plenty of singers around thirty years ago to give us an idea of how it worked.
It was fairly common here for an aspiring singer to go to somebody to learn to sing, and it's fairly logical that this was also the case in the UK when the tradition was in good nick.
Walter Pardon was very particular when he spoke of how the songs should be sung - I see no reason why other singers from similar background should not feel the same and articulate those feelings.
However - all beside the point - we're not traditional singers and there is no reason why we can't pass on our own ideas and experiences on to others - just like instumentalists do.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Teaching folk singing
From: andrewq
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 04:06 PM

Steve Gardham: "As far as I know in folk music this side there is no such beast. You can teach people to improve things like breathing, projection, but I've never heard of anyone tone deaf being taught to overcome this."

You can teach most people relative pitch... even those who have been branded "tone deaf" by parents or teachers many decades previously.

I've seen several "can't hold a note" people transformed into capable and enthusiastic singers - but that's with the attention of a dedicated and skilled singing teacher working with the victim and he or she being prepared to work on daily exercises to overcome the problem. I've only witnessed this with a classical voice teacher (in a local Find Your Voice group) as there sadly doesn't seem to be much attention paid to the technicalities of singing on the 'folk scene' in general. Most folk song workshops seem to be about interpretation or performance but some people need help with the very basics of sound production before they can get to that.

Many people have their singing derided in childhood and just need the opportunity to rebuild their confidence and actually learn the skills. The nuts and bolts can be taught to just about anybody and at any age - though, sadly, they'll probably have to look outside the folk scene for expertise. A bit of formal training needn't mean that they are doomed to sing posh stuff - just that the a singaround at the local folk club is finally made truly accessible to them for the first time.

Andrew


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Subject: RE: Teaching folk singing
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 04:11 PM

Captain Birdseye: "jim,I think it is something you should do,you have a wealth of knowledge,you have first hand experience"

Ditto that thought.
I've become aware of some of the 'debate' about what constitutes 'traditional singing' or proper folk form or whatnot, I believe that it is highly worthy of some focus and form via which to communicate it to those who are inerested.

I dunno, with the increased interest in all things English (albeit partly fueled by the murkier undercurrents of Nationalism) and with the upsurge of young vibrant folk artists, I see a real opportunity (if utilised well, for Traditional English Singing to gain a much sounder footing in the awareness and interest of a broader spectrum of people. As indeed it aught to.


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Subject: RE: Teaching folk singing
From: Stringsinger
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 06:07 PM

Jim,

Some suggestions I hope you would find helpful.

1.At first, pick songs that are accessible and easier to sing. The accessible part is
picking songs that are more familiar and less esoteric. The easier to sing part is to
watch the tessitura (vocal range) so that it isn't too wide at first.

2. Supply notes that accompany the song that explains the text from a historical frame
of reference or interpretive. It's important for the singer to know what the song is about.

3. Encourage people to sing in duos or trios at first. If they can harmonize, so much the
better. This takes the onus off of the student having to sing solo right away.

4. Call and response songs are useful because it gives the student a chance to sing solo
with support from the group. Sea chanteys, American chain gang songs, some spirituals that have a response such as the familiar "Micheal Row The Boat Ashore" or some songs
that require others to clap along in rhythms such as African rounds or Island music.

5. Encourage singers to trade verses as soloists. One idea is to have each student
learn one verse of a song and another the next and so forth.

6. If you can introduce simple harmonies to a song, this always meets with enthusiasm.

7. Try to determine the vocal range of your students. This way in group singing, they
can hit a happy "mean" when singing in unison. (Ex. How many sopranos, tenors, bass or altos) One trick I've employed is at the count of three, have the students sing a familiar song together a pitch reference. What happens is that the pitch is determined by the group (somewhat democratically) as happens when people sing "Happy Birthday".

8. On some songs, if you can find a good musician to work with who can just concentrate on supplying an appropriate accompaniment for selected songs, this
will help support the student.

9. There are songs that rely on accompaniment to make them work and others which
don't. As you know, many of the more contemporary songs are gleaned from recording productions and they may or may not stand on their own.

Hope this helps, somewhat.

Frank


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Subject: RE: Teaching folk singing
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 Mar 09 - 03:22 PM

Thanks for all the replies - would have responded earlier but my computer went belly-up and am working on a clunky old borrowed one at present.
Hope to get around to it tomorrow.
Frank - thanks for that; have you used your ideas yourself, or seen them put into practice?
in the meantike klunk, klunk, klunk.
Jim Carroll


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