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Songs for a limited vocal range

Shalini 27 Apr 09 - 06:17 AM
fogie 27 Apr 09 - 06:24 AM
Shalini 27 Apr 09 - 06:34 AM
peregrina 27 Apr 09 - 06:40 AM
Shalini 27 Apr 09 - 06:44 AM
Shalini 27 Apr 09 - 06:54 AM
Jim Carroll 27 Apr 09 - 06:55 AM
Shalini 27 Apr 09 - 07:03 AM
matt milton 27 Apr 09 - 07:26 AM
jacqui.c 27 Apr 09 - 07:29 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 27 Apr 09 - 07:48 AM
jacqui.c 27 Apr 09 - 08:13 AM
Shalini 27 Apr 09 - 08:31 AM
greg stephens 27 Apr 09 - 10:20 AM
Jim Carroll 27 Apr 09 - 10:31 AM
Stringsinger 27 Apr 09 - 10:41 AM
BobKnight 27 Apr 09 - 10:42 AM
Jim Carroll 27 Apr 09 - 12:08 PM
Shalini 27 Apr 09 - 12:37 PM
Jim Carroll 27 Apr 09 - 01:56 PM
Shalini 27 Apr 09 - 02:05 PM
Jim Carroll 27 Apr 09 - 03:08 PM
Stringsinger 27 Apr 09 - 03:51 PM
Stringsinger 27 Apr 09 - 03:54 PM
Jim Carroll 27 Apr 09 - 03:56 PM
Tootler 27 Apr 09 - 04:26 PM
matt milton 27 Apr 09 - 05:45 PM
Shalini 27 Apr 09 - 11:32 PM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 28 Apr 09 - 02:51 AM
matt milton 28 Apr 09 - 05:08 AM
Jack Campin 28 Apr 09 - 06:03 AM
Jack Campin 28 Apr 09 - 07:47 AM
Stringsinger 28 Apr 09 - 12:20 PM
GUEST,Scorpio 28 Apr 09 - 07:07 PM
jacqui.c 28 Apr 09 - 07:26 PM
Jim Carroll 29 Apr 09 - 03:06 AM
matt milton 29 Apr 09 - 05:43 AM
Marje 29 Apr 09 - 06:34 AM
GUEST,Jack Campin 29 Apr 09 - 07:06 AM
Jim Carroll 29 Apr 09 - 08:05 AM
Stringsinger 29 Apr 09 - 11:55 AM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 29 Apr 09 - 12:08 PM
Shalini 29 Apr 09 - 12:26 PM
Shalini 29 Apr 09 - 12:37 PM
Jim Carroll 29 Apr 09 - 12:47 PM
Jim Carroll 29 Apr 09 - 02:29 PM
Ron Davies 29 Apr 09 - 11:07 PM
Ron Davies 29 Apr 09 - 11:09 PM
Jim Carroll 30 Apr 09 - 02:14 AM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 30 Apr 09 - 02:39 AM
Shalini 30 Apr 09 - 02:52 AM
Stringsinger 30 Apr 09 - 10:43 AM
jacqui.c 30 Apr 09 - 01:14 PM
Ron Davies 30 Apr 09 - 09:24 PM
Ron Davies 02 May 09 - 11:12 AM
Severn 02 May 09 - 01:46 PM
Jim Carroll 03 May 09 - 03:27 AM
Ron Davies 03 May 09 - 08:47 PM
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Subject: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: Shalini
Date: 27 Apr 09 - 06:17 AM

I'm always on the look out for songs to add to my repertoire, and sometimes I really have to hunt because of my limited vocal range. Right now I can comfortably sing only about an octave and a half, which means I cannot sing a lot of lovely songs in public.

To give you some idea about the kind of material I might sing:

I am a young woman and I enjoy singing a lot of the English material chosen by Niamh Parsons, Dolores Keane, the Corries, and the more traditional-sounding songs of Maddy Prior, June Tabor, Mary Black and Maura O'Connell. Also several songs written by Jimmy MacCarthy.

Some songs I love (not necessarily within my range) are: Annie Laurie, Rigs of Rye, Eric Bogle's No Man's Land, And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda, Hori Horo, Teddy O'Neil, The Game of Cards, Four Green Fields, The Water is Wide, Massace of Glencoe, Sonny Boy, Trouble in the Fields, Paul Brady's The Island, Ye Banks and Braes of Bonnie Doon, Will ye No' Come Back Again, Down by the Salley Gardens, Wonderchild and Katie.

Any suggestions?


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: fogie
Date: 27 Apr 09 - 06:24 AM

Archie fisher used to say that his vocal range was akin to a miner digging in a very small seam - and its a long time since I heard him sing in the clubs ,but his repertoir was marvellous -he hears and finds songs from all over the world on his travels. He also has a great radio show on radio scotland -Archie Fisher's travelling folk accessible through the BBC i player and is worth listening to ( I find it more interesting than the English folk progs but there again I've always been a fan )


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: Shalini
Date: 27 Apr 09 - 06:34 AM

This Archie Fisher?


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: peregrina
Date: 27 Apr 09 - 06:40 AM

The very one. And this one   and here


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: Shalini
Date: 27 Apr 09 - 06:44 AM

He's got a wonderful voice. Lovely songs too.

Thank you.


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: Shalini
Date: 27 Apr 09 - 06:54 AM

What is 'Ettrick' about? I searched, and found the words here, but nothing else about the song. What/where is Ettrick?


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 27 Apr 09 - 06:55 AM

You might try extending your vocal range - there are exercises.
In our work with women singers in workshops we found the most common problem was the insistence in singing in head voice. The natural speaking voice tone has a far greater range than that of the somewhat artificially self-imposed 'little-girl' one and, for me at least, is far more attractive and convincing.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: Shalini
Date: 27 Apr 09 - 07:03 AM

Jim, thanks. I'm working constantly at extending my range, but in the meanwhile need to find songs comfortable to sing. I sing entirely in natural speaking tone and have been wondering if the only way to go higher is to develop a sort of head voice!


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: matt milton
Date: 27 Apr 09 - 07:26 AM

Leonard Cohen once said that range is for backing singers.

(I think he meant it as more of a self-deprecating joke than anything imperious)

Anyway, I don't see anything wrong with altering a song to suit your own voice.

I've just been working on a version of 'The Grey Cock', as transcribed in the newly reprinted Penguin Folk Songs book, and I'm "cheating" slightly with the tune. I'm sticking to the notes of the tune as written, but there's a couple of phrases where the melody descends too low for my voice, so I'm instead ascending to sing them an octave higher. I think subtly altering a song because of a practical necessity is a much more organic way to approach it than, say, merely jazzing a song up for the hell of it.


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: jacqui.c
Date: 27 Apr 09 - 07:29 AM

Shalini - keep on singing, wherever you are. Over the past five years I've managed to extend my vocal range simply by singing, to myself, songs that were outside my range. The vocal cords are muscles and exercise can make a lot of difference. Just don't strain too much, but nibble away at the edges of your range and you will see a difference over time.

Five years ago 'John O' Dreams' was way outside what I could sing and not see the pained faces of listeners. I found the Les Barker parody 'Custard Creams', which is funny enough that people will laughed even if I didn't quite reach all the notes. Repeated singing of that brought me to the realisation, one day, that I could hit all the notes well enough to sing the original.


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 27 Apr 09 - 07:48 AM

I have always believed that many people think that they have a smaller range than they actually (or potentially) have. It's a matter of exploring your range (preferably in private!) and practicing.

Try learning a song which you believe to be 'outside' of your range and work at ways of hitting the high notes without strain. Simple things like lowering your chin before the high note can make a big difference - counter-intuitive, I know, but it works!
More importantly, make sure that you have enough breath before the high note, and that it's coming from your diaphragm, NOT your head. This involves working out a breathing 'strategy' for each song that you sing. None of this is particularly difficult - it just requires thought and practice, practice, practice ...


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: jacqui.c
Date: 27 Apr 09 - 08:13 AM

For breath control try singing while exercising. I walk on the beach with the dog most days and, when no-one else is around, sing. That helps me learn new songs and does wonders for breath control.


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: Shalini
Date: 27 Apr 09 - 08:31 AM

Jacqui and Shimrod, that is a lot of useful advice that I'm certainly going to use.


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: greg stephens
Date: 27 Apr 09 - 10:20 AM

Listen to Bessie Smith. She crammed most stuff into a fifth!


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 27 Apr 09 - 10:31 AM

......is to develop a sort of head voice!
No, no, no.
Apart from the aesthetics of a head voice (personal taste I suppose), you introduce more problems than you solve.
1   It takes twice as much air to produce head voice, leaving you with difficulties in singing long lines without having to break.
2   You invariably introduce the dreaded gear-change (shift from head to chest tone), which sounds peculiar, destroys consistency in tone, and, if extreme, can cause you to yodel - if that's what you want - go for it!
Tension quite often restricts the range by wasting the vocal energy. Get yourself a set of decent relaxation exercises, the simpler the better.
Quite often the simple act of dropping your shoulders and unclenching your hands (tension spreads) can do the trick.
Other than that, practice. I totally agree with Shimrod (as usual), take something just out of your range and make it an aim (with me it was Flying Cloud and Sheffield Apprentice), start as low as you can comfortably manage and work away. A pitch pipe is invaluable.
If you tend to rise in pitch - most of us do - find a way of controlling that. Hate to mention it but hand-over-ear works for me.
If you are going to practice at length, choose something you don't want to sing so you don't spoil it for the future. We used a couple of pieces from Wagner, 'By Evil Craft' and ''Tis Ended, The Everlasting Work', which also allows you to practice unusual intervals.
Hated Wagner to begin with so it didn't matter.
Break a leg - but not a vocal cord.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: Stringsinger
Date: 27 Apr 09 - 10:41 AM

It is a matter of aesthetics. I see nothing wrong with enhancing a song with head voice
provided it is done with taste. Long phrases without breathing offer little in the way of emphasizing lyric content and tend to drone. Some of these long ballads done that way
can put an audience to sleep.

I agree that any forceful attempt to create a head voice without proper breath support
or relaxation can be damaging. As to the break in the "passage-way", this is a matter
of vocal training. You don't have to yodel.

Posture becomes important in freeing the voice provided it is not the military stance
but a relaxed lifting of the chest allowing the intercostal muscles freedom to function.

Finding the right balance for your voice so that it sounds pleasant or even intense at times without tension is the goal.


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: BobKnight
Date: 27 Apr 09 - 10:42 AM

Shalini: Ettrick is in Scotland. Not far from Yarrow. "The Dowie Dens O' Yarrow" is another famous Scottish ballad.

I've never heard of the song "Ettrick," but then, I don't know everything. Ettrick is on the Scottish/English border, so it could be one of those songs about the battle of Flodden, where the cream of Scottish nobility, including King James the 4th, met their deaths in a battle against the English in 1513. The song "Flooers O' The Forest" (Flowers of The Forest) is a lament about the occasion.

Google "Ettrick" and you'll get more info.


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 27 Apr 09 - 12:08 PM

Frank, couldn't disagree more - sorry.
The English language song tradition is basically a narrative one, the role of the singer being that of storyteller - we've been told this by every source singer we've ever interviewed. Use any voice other than your own natural one and you are telling your story in a 'funny voice', the way many revival storytellers do. Unless there is something physically at fault, the tonal range of the natural voice is quite capable, when developed, of taking in all the emotions. 'Enhancing' a song with head voice is, IMO a theatrical device which has no real place in the singing of traditional songs.
Similarly with breathing. Listen to most of the field recordings and unless a singer has lost breath control through age or infirmity, he or she will take a short breath with a comma, slightly longer with a semi-colon.... etc - as you would if you were narrating rather than singing, otherwise I believe you are substituting technique for interpretation.
Jm Carroll


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: Shalini
Date: 27 Apr 09 - 12:37 PM

Jim, I'm not sure I'd call the speaking voice the only 'natural tone'. I would agree that imitation of an accent or a style would be telling your story in a 'funny voice', but I do not see why a head voice could not be one way people can express themselves. Isn't singing not merely speaking in a sing-song way, but an entirely different area of storytelling, with sound and tone also creating expression?

When singing these songs, I am not at all interested in just imitating the way people traditionally, in the most rigid sense of the word, sing them. That to me would be as much of a 'funny voice' as putting on an accent. I am more interested in actually telling a story. A head voice doesn't come naturally to me, so it would perhaps be an arduous and artificial development in my case. However, in my opinion, there is no reason to generalise.


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 27 Apr 09 - 01:56 PM

Unless you speak in a head voice it is not your natural one. Why take on board problems you don't need rather than tackle the one you already have?
I am convinced that the head voice came from the idea that HV came from the idea that women should sound 'ladylike' and that the natural voice was coarse and crude - at least that's what I came away with at our school.
"When singing these songs, I am not at all interested in just imitating the way people traditionally, in the most rigid sense of the word, sing them."
Good! I am not interested in listening to such singing. I want to hear and believe whatever conclusion you as an individual want to communicate with your songand I am not going to be able to if you speak in one voice and sing in another.
Tea calls!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: Shalini
Date: 27 Apr 09 - 02:05 PM

That is interesting - the idea that the head voice developed in an attempt to be ladylike. I wonder, though - the traditional music of many cultures seems to rely heavily on the use of the head voice. And what about a male falsetto? If it's a sound that can be humanly made, and especially one that sounds 'musical', I don't see why you wouldn't call it natural to singing. Why connect speaking and singing so much?

I am not speaking in favour of my own developing a head voice here - I do agree that would be taking on 'board problems you don't need rather than tackle the one you already have'. I don't agree with your generalisation about head voices, though.


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 27 Apr 09 - 03:08 PM

".....rely heavily on the use of the head voice."
I'm not sure to which countries you are referring in particular - but I'll bet you that their song culture is not a narrative one.
Some years ago a singer friend nearly drove himself (and the rest of us) barmy trying to conquor 'throat singing' as practiced in Mongolia - ie producing sound through the nose and throat at the same time ("because it was there", he told us). According to your logic, if he had succeeded it would be 'natural'. He failed dismally and returned to being the superb singer he has always been.
Male falsetto is certainly not natural but, I understand, the product of hormonal imbalance - or the surgical removal of a certain piece of equipment.
In the end you will sing as you wish to sing just as I will judge your, or anybody's singing according to my own standards, and that is the way it should be.
Even if you decide on head-voice I am in no way convinced that it will make the slightest difference to your range problem.
Good luck with any way you choose.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: Stringsinger
Date: 27 Apr 09 - 03:51 PM

Jim, sorry, we do disagree. The assumption that a trained voice employing head tones is a "funny" one is not true.

The so-called natural voice is often an affectation indicating a misuse of the voice.

The best of singers always tell the story but the better ones have a good vocal quality as a fine instrument which sounds better than a cheap one. The so-called head voice is not a theatrical device that is unnatural but is quite effective as the full range of the human voice is capable of telling a more complete story. The best singers contain a "natural" voice, one that is expressive and easy to listen to.

The idea that there is a limitation placed on a vocal style for the singing of traditional songs is an academic imposition on the role of a singing artist. The true interpreter never substitutes technique for content as the best of any kind of singer can attest. The notion of a traditional singer has been somehow staged for an audience that accepts a voice that conforms to their stereotype.

Breathing, punctuation and length of tone is an artistic choice made by the singer.
The best singers are those who will choose in their interpretation the full expressive range of their voices without sacrificing content for technique.


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: Stringsinger
Date: 27 Apr 09 - 03:54 PM

To create an interesting song with a llmited vocal range is an art to be prized. There are not many who can do this. Oddly, the composers who have created songs that are complicated,
sophisticated and harmonically interesting have been some who can because of their mastery of the craft create songs of a limited range that are unique.

Frank


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 27 Apr 09 - 03:56 PM

Sorry Frank - as you say, we disagree.
As far as I'm concerned the head voice is technique.
Listen to Harry Cox, Belle and Sheila Stewart, Jesannie Robertson - or the best of your own - Dillard Chandler, Texas Gladden or Nimrod Workman.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: Tootler
Date: 27 Apr 09 - 04:26 PM

Like Shalini, I have a vocal range of about an octave and a half, maybe a tone more. I find that with that range there are indeed very few traditional songs or recently composed songs in the folk idiom that I cannot sing if I wish to. Most songs in the repertoire are within that range.

The main things I have found useful are to know the highest and lowest notes that I can sing comfortably and to then pitch the song so that I stay within that range. Unlike art music, it is not necessary to sing a song in a particular key just because X sings it in that key or because it is in a book written in a particular key. Change the key to suit your voice. I agree wholeheartedly with the advice about relaxing and breathing properly - using the diaphragm. I also agree that telling the story is important and hence I always try to make sure that the words are clear and that I phrase the song properly.

I think the suggestion to sing in your natural voice encapsulates all these things because if you do that, you tend to do much of the above naturally.


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: matt milton
Date: 27 Apr 09 - 05:45 PM

While I do generally prefer singing that is relatively unadorned, and which avoids melodrama, and which sounds colloquial, I think you run into sticky territory starting to use words like 'natural' with regard to singing.


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: Shalini
Date: 27 Apr 09 - 11:32 PM

Tootler, thanks for brnging that up. Somehow, a lot of the songs I've really wanted to sing recently (eg, Annie Laurie, No Man's Land) have seemed difficult to fit into my range, even if I change the key. I just examined Annie Laurie, and the song seems to span just about an octave and a half, or a tone less. I hope that is correct, I may not have been careful enough in checking. So perhaps my range gets more limited when I'm singing a song than when I'm singing scales, and I need to really focus on relaxing and breathing properly.

Jim and Frank, thanks for the interesting discussion and the suggestions. I think I agree with Matt. I must also say I prefer the sound of the speaking tone in general, but I have heard some singers use the head voice very well, and would not generalise.


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 28 Apr 09 - 02:51 AM

This is possibly of little help, as it sounds as though you are already working on such matters, but one of the things I was advised to do some years ago, is to really 'listen' to the sounds you are producing and more importantly when you achieve the note or tone you desire, try to memorise how you 'shaped' that sound physically and then practise reproducing it. And keep singing those songs which challenge your range by increments whilst doing this.


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: matt milton
Date: 28 Apr 09 - 05:08 AM

When you're singing, you're not telling a story. You're singing a story. There's a crucial difference. You're in the realm of art(ifice), whether you like it or not.


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: Jack Campin
Date: 28 Apr 09 - 06:03 AM

It's easier to work out the vocal range of a song from notation. Flip through a whole lot of books and note which ones look okay.

Maybe the melodic shape makes a difference? There seems to be a cultural universal that the oldest songs in any culture are those that start high and descend in scale-like patterns (like "The Trees They Do Grow High"). This is easier for most people than leaping up and down.

There are very few traditional songs that go beyond an octave and a half. "Danny Boy" is one of the rare exceptions.


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: Jack Campin
Date: 28 Apr 09 - 07:47 AM

Male falsetto is certainly not natural but, I understand, the product of hormonal imbalance - or the surgical removal of a certain piece of equipment.

No it isn't. Men vary a lot in the extent to which they can do it without extensive training, but anybody can do it to some extent if they work at it. It's pretty common in rock music.

Look up Roy Hart's work to find out just how far up a biologically unmodified voice can go. Though folk venues are not all that likely to feature the works written for Hart-trained voices in the 70s by Ligeti, Maxwell Davies and Henze. (I once came across a copy of the Roy Hart newsletter, It appeared that it was an essential requirement of the training programme, whatever gender you were, that you went bisexual and slept with everybody else in the Roy Hart commune, starting with Roy).

Meredith Monk's singers do the same sort of thing but she isn't trying to start a religion about it.


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: Stringsinger
Date: 28 Apr 09 - 12:20 PM

Hi Jim,

I am familiar with Texas Gladden (cousin of Hobart Smith) and I knew Nimrod at Highlander Folk School in New Market Tennessee.

You are narrowing the parameters of the singing voice to accommodate misconceptions
about narrative folk singing. African narrative singing uses head voice. Blues shouters have sometimes used it. Even our own Jean Ritchie produces tones that could be said to be reminiscent of head tones. Head tones are used in Asian music as well. Jean Redpath has a mastery of expressive singing that doesn't detract from a narrative quality.

Why limit the expressiveness of the human voice to an academic view of which it is capable?

Surely, there is room for all kinds of expression of a narrative quality using many different
ways of singing.

The notion of "head tones" in general is not particularly precisely defined any way.

What you describe as technique over content is simply bad singing.

Frank


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: GUEST,Scorpio
Date: 28 Apr 09 - 07:07 PM

What's a head voice?


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: jacqui.c
Date: 28 Apr 09 - 07:26 PM

I'm glad you asked that Scorpio - I would like to know as well.

A couple of years ago it was suggested to me that I could improve my vocal ability if I got away from singing from my throat and moved the sound up to my face. I was given an exercise that involved placing my finger and thumb either side of my nose and feeling the vibration that came from saying 'nee nee nee nee'. After a few false starts I got the idea and found that there was a marked improvement in my singing voice - much louder and clearer.

In the past year or so, partially as a result of that change, I have been told, by a number of singers, that my singing voice has improved markedly.


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 29 Apr 09 - 03:06 AM

Frank,
"Why limit the expressiveness of the human voice....."
Of course nobody is suggesting limiting the voice. Head voice can be effective in certain songs once the technical problems it raises have been conquored. Peggy Seeger uses it skilfully and to great effect on occasion, as does Frankie Armstrong.
The problem with it, certainly over here, is that it has become a style, or rather, an affectation, with singers basing their entire way of singing on it - everything in head voice. For a long time it has been known as the 'little girl' voice.
Tonally it is extremely limiting, the soft, airy sound militating against the singing of certain types of songs.
The breathing problems it causes are major ones; it takes something like twice as much air to produce, so quite often it dictates where the singer can take her breath. Sorry, can't agree with your earlier statement about this being an artistic choice. For me the puntuation is (breath) part of the (breath) text and if you ignore (breath) it, you make (breath) garbage of the sense of the (breath) narrative flow. I attended a talk a few years ago where the speaker played a very skilful Irish singer singing Barbara Allen in head voice, The speed with which she sang it, combined with the restrictions imposed by her chosen method of voice production forced her to take a breath after every fourth word (to my eternal shame I counted); it made total nonsense of the narrative.
The problem was brought home to me fully when a member of a singing workshop I was part of asked that we might work on her breathing - respiratory problems had let to her having to have one of her lungs collapsed. Despite the fact that she had an attractively deep speaking voice, she chose to sing everything in head voice. The simple act of getting her to use chest voice - problem solved.
Sorry - going on far too long. I wanted to discuss the dreaded gear-change, also brought about by the use of head voice - maybe another time.
Just to say that because two of the singers you mentioned are your own personal favourites doesn't automatically make them good singers. One I have been listening to for many years and, while I agree with your assessment of her, I find her a limited singer because of the way she produces her voice. The other I find a totally indifferent singer - personal taste again.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: matt milton
Date: 29 Apr 09 - 05:43 AM

"I wanted to discuss the dreaded gear-change, also brought about by the use of head voice - maybe another time"

Even the "gear change" (if you're referring to what I think you're referring to) can be effective. Country, bluegrass, blues and some trad Irish singing make good use of it. The yodel is predicated on it.


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: Marje
Date: 29 Apr 09 - 06:34 AM

Joni Mitchell uses the "gear change" effectively too. But she knows exactly what she's doing and is in full control of the sound she makes. It's a bit different when you get a less skillful singer who can't cope with the break in the voice, so the sound simply fades away or becomes wobbly and feeble beyond a certain pitch. It's all about choosing and controlling the sound you make, rather than being taken by surprise at what comes out of your mouth.

I'd also say to the original poster: an octave and a half will go quite a long way if you use all the notes to advantage - in other words, choose the best pitch for each song. Many people seem to run out of their range at the top or the bottom simply because they started too high or too low in the first place. Even if you don't understand keys, all you need is to work out (by trial and error) the best starting note for each song and use a pitch pipe to find that note when you sing it.

It's well worth working to extend your range too, and taking it further than your speaking range, but make things easier for yourself in the meantime by taking a bit of care with the pitch.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: GUEST,Jack Campin
Date: 29 Apr 09 - 07:06 AM

Just to say that because two of the singers you mentioned are your own personal favourites doesn't automatically make them good singers. One I have been listening to for many years and, while I agree with your assessment of her, I find her a limited singer because of the way she produces her voice. The other I find a totally indifferent singer - personal taste again.

But you aren't going to get very far persuading other people to share those personal tastes if you start by dismissing Jean Ritchie and Jean Redpath like that. (They're the two singers more than any others that got me interested in folk music).

Who do you think is better? I know you admire MacColl, who I wouldn't put in anywhere near their league as a singer.


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 29 Apr 09 - 08:05 AM

Matt,
Country, bluegrass and blues maybe, but I can't for the life of me think of the gear-change helpful in any way in Irish singing - but I'm open to suggestions.
Your comment reminded me of a young woman singer who turned up here some years ago for a singing weekend. She had an extremely attractive voice in the lower register with a remarkable feel for her native narrative Scots songs, but insisted on singing in head voice. Similarly to the OP, she had a somewhat limited range and was constantly hitting her gear change, producing a yodeling effect, so much so that she began to constantly clear her throat. It totally spoiled what could have been a superb performance. Had I the confidence to approach her I would have suggested that she concentrated here work in expanding her lower range, which was obviously her natural one - I didn't, so I didn't.
Sorry Jack,
I have always got a great deal of pleasure from Jean Richie's singing and have also been extremely grateful for her pioneering work as a collector, but in context of this discussion I find her singing limited. Jean Redpath has always left me stone cold.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: Stringsinger
Date: 29 Apr 09 - 11:55 AM

Jim, we are expressing personal opinions here and not "facts".

The basic problem is that in limiting the scope of singing to certain examples of traditional folk music, this does not serve those who are interested in participating in it for the following reason. Many who worship at the altar of field recordings might attempt to sound like these sources and as a result might attempt what could be called a vocal affectation which is phony.

It is kind of offensive to hear someone "imitate" a traditional singer with the idea that
they are not part of that tradition as a result, not that person. In the attempt to do this,
the imitator could do physical damage to their voice.

I think a healthy voice follows the principle of good vocal habits. The notion of "head tones" is an aesthetic judgement call based on personal opinions as to how and when it should be employed.

Jim, you are in danger of becoming the traditionalist Simon Cowell when it comes to evaluating folk singing styles. Sorry.


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 29 Apr 09 - 12:08 PM

I agree with Shalini there below (who may I add, having heard an example of her singing in another thread, has a beautiful natural sounding voice) when she say's she doesnt't seek to 'imitate' traditional singers.

Me too.
I have listened to them, but I don't live in a bubble and so my singing (uncless trained otherwise or at least 'consciously' altered) will reflect to a degree the type of singing that I hear in the music I listen to.
I do however feel it is indeed worthwhile exploring and discovering more traditional styles of performance, but whether or not one might wish to attempt to adopt such a style, is IMO another matter.


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: Shalini
Date: 29 Apr 09 - 12:26 PM

Hmm, how does one explain the head voice. Ah, I found this video . Please note, the only purpose of the video is to make it clear what one means by the head voice.

Crow Sister, thank you, both for the compliment and the advice. I have never heard that said before, and though I think one would do that unconsciously anyway, it's good to bring it into consciousness.


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: Shalini
Date: 29 Apr 09 - 12:37 PM

I think what I have learned since starting this thread is that while I sing a song, even within an octave and a half, the highest and lowest notes are strained. I think it depends on the intervals more than the particular note - jumping from a low note to a high one is a strain, and it feels higher than it is. I found today that if I sing some scales and practice the intervals in the song and others, before I sing, it is much easier. I guess what I need most of all is just lots of regular practice, which I will make sure I do. Making sure to breathe fully before a high part also helped me considerably.


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 29 Apr 09 - 12:47 PM

Frank,
I am not sure what your point is.
I have outlined what I think are the technical problems raised by using head voice (breathing and gear-change) - which I believe severely limits the technical capabilities of the voice.
Assuming that the singer is able to overcome these problems, I have stated my main reservation of its use - that of singing exclusively in head-voice hence, I believe, limiting the singers ability to interpret the song (often referred to here as 'milk-and-water singing - there is another term, but modesty forbids my mentioning it), a common practice both in Britain and Ireland - (surely tone is an important feature of interpretation?)
I don't recall ever having said that singers should imitate field singers or, as you so quaintly put it "worship at the altar of field recordings" - it would be strange if I had as I believe the opposite, namely, that singers should sound like nobody but themselves.
If singers naturally speak in head-voice, then certainly, it is right and proper that they should sing in it - if not, use it by all means, but it should be no more than a technique sparingly applied.
It does get a little tiresome when people attribute opinions that have neither been expressed nor even held.
Dare I ask - who's Simon Cowell?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 29 Apr 09 - 02:29 PM

Sorry,
Remembered who Simon Cowell is - that paunchy actor chappie who pontificates on theatre.
Jim Carr


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: Ron Davies
Date: 29 Apr 09 - 11:07 PM

"Male falsetto is certainly not natural, but, I understand, the product of hormonal imbalance--or the surgical removal of a certain piece of equipment"   You" understand" that? Indeed?

Since it seems you actually are serious about it--not just pulling the collective Mudcat leg--your statement bears an amazing resemblance to total drivel.

Surely you wouldn't mind giving us evidence for your assertion. Just where does your "hormonal imbalance," etc. theory come from? It would be appreciated if science and logic were involved in your answer.   

Congratulations, by the way on having your wisdom on falsetto cited on Google--proving just how reliable information on the Net can be.   Caveat lector, indeed.


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: Ron Davies
Date: 29 Apr 09 - 11:09 PM

"by the way,..."


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 30 Apr 09 - 02:14 AM

Ron,
It would appear that it's a piece of folklore I have picked up on the way through life - am happy to be corrected.
"Congratulations, by the way on having your wisdom on falsetto cited on Google"
I appear to be in good company. Had I known it was there I would have double-checked before displaying my ignorance (not the infallable Wikipaedia, surely?).
Thank you for putting me right.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 30 Apr 09 - 02:39 AM

Shalini: "if I sing some scales and practice the intervals in the song and others, before I sing, it is much easier"

I'd completely forgotten about doing practise like this - it's been so long since I did any other form of singing! So, I'll be doing the same as you from now on - regularly working with the scales and intervals! Fortunately for me, my range seems OK for the folk songs I sing - but when the interval is steep, it can sound like I'm scraping a blackboard (or trawling the sea bed) at times...


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: Shalini
Date: 30 Apr 09 - 02:52 AM

I love practising just notes and intervals. I started with the easiest intervals (thirds, fifths) and add new notes to my practice as I get comfortable with the intervals. I sing along with a 'Sruti box' drone keeping the key.

It is amazing how much the preceding note changes the sound of a particular note.


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: Stringsinger
Date: 30 Apr 09 - 10:43 AM

Jim,

My point is this. I also love the traditional singers that you have talked about.
Why limit the human voice to any style? Folk singing is music which means that
there are many different ways to approach it.

Once you place limitations on the creative aspects of singing or using the voice,
you run the danger of setting up some academic principles which can be misused.
You have already said that Jean Ritchie is limited and that Jean Redpath leaves you cold
which is your opinion and that's ok for you.

But it's not ok to make it a dictum for approaching folk music because it limits
the creativity of musical art.

Frank


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: jacqui.c
Date: 30 Apr 09 - 01:14 PM

Shalini - one of the best lessons I ever learned was deep breathing, so that the lower diaphragm fills with air and extends. Our music teacher made us breath that way and was not happy if she could see the rise and fall of the chest of any of the class.

I'm now learning to use that ability to bring out the high notes, which really do need that extra air.


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: Ron Davies
Date: 30 Apr 09 - 09:24 PM

Thanks, Jim for your direct willingness to acknowledge that a particular rumor (re: falsetto in this case) has no basis in fact. Would that all the conspiracy theorists on Mudcat were as well-balanced, reasonable and logical as you.   Not that my view on this is important, but you have soared in my estimation.

It's certainly true, as you note, that the breathy "baby-doll" voice in a woman may not be everybody's cup of tea.   But there is a long list of singers and actresses who have made it pay--including Diana Ross, Marilyn Monroe, Dolly Parton etc. Obviously other factors also play a role.   And as long as it sells, it will be prominent in music--and elsewhere.

I was not aware it would hurt a woman's voice.   I certainly don't claim to be an expert on this. I would think it would just be one of many roles a female singer could play. And the more versatile a voice the better.


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: Ron Davies
Date: 02 May 09 - 11:12 AM

In fact in one of my group's many performances of "Carmina Burana", the sopranos were given the instruction to sing in the style of a flirtatious girl in part of it--I think it was "Kramer, Gip Mir Farve". It was very effective--and very funny. There's a lot of role-playing in music--including "classical music".


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: Severn
Date: 02 May 09 - 01:46 PM

Listen to Townes Van Zandt, Bob Dylan, Ronnie Drew, Leonard Cohen and some others besides who can put over a song without a lot of range and study how some of these people finesse a note, sing around a note without actually hitting it and manage somehow against all odds and logic.

Know that some of the most influential singers like Billie Holliday and Louis Armstrong really had very little range.

Find songs that fit you that you liked. You master those few that fit you now and you can, after you gain confidence, and you will find out that when you gain your confidence that you can add more songs, including ones you thought you'd never be able to do at first. Just start with the easy and comfortable and the rest will come.


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 03 May 09 - 03:27 AM

Ron,
Thanks for putting me right - I see no point in going through life with the wrong information - though it can be fun (and convenient) at times!
"I was not aware it would hurt a woman's voice."
It isn't really a case of hurting the voice (at least, I don't think so) but rather, the amount of air it takes to produce exhausts the supply that can be better used elsewhere.
A friend here (in rural Ireland) uses head voice in all her singing. She suffers from chronic hay-fever which has the effect of preventing her from singing throughout the summer, except for when she joins in choruses, which she does for some reason in her natural speaking chest voice - and has no problem whatever.
Personally I find the 'little girl lost' effect produced by head voice far too limiting to be of any great use, especially when you consider the problems it raises, but as people have rightly pointed out, that's personal taste. What does disturb me (not a little) is when a singers never uses any other tone and it becomes their only way of singing.
Singing and music are very much on the up here in Ireland at present and many singers are setting up as teachers and teaching head voice - as a permanent way of singing - I've been to a couple of classes at singing week-ends and seen them in action.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Songs for a limited vocal range
From: Ron Davies
Date: 03 May 09 - 08:47 PM

Re: head voice: I would think it would be up to the woman herself to decide whether she wants to learn this technique. I can tell you that in my 180-voice choral group, which has performed in various venues, including the Sistine Chapel, Albert Hall, Carnegie Hall, Red Square, Sorbonne, among others, it is considered by the conductor that head voice should be part of the vocal arsenal for women. Falsetto for male voices is also fine--if the transition between full voice and falsetto is smooth--preferably so smooth as to be unnoticeable. That's the key for all voice parts--the transition must be smooth.   As you might imagine, we don't do much yodeling. Though I have nothing against yodeling. I think Elton Britt and Frank Ifield are very impressive. I just can't do it myself.

To return to the thread topic: there are quite a few songs which can be done with a limited range, including a large number of folk songs, as has been noted.. But head voice and falsetto can indeed extend the range.


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