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the importance of diction when singing

The Sandman 02 Feb 10 - 08:04 AM
Richard Bridge 02 Feb 10 - 08:20 AM
Young Buchan 02 Feb 10 - 08:43 AM
kendall 02 Feb 10 - 08:48 AM
GUEST,Silas 02 Feb 10 - 09:05 AM
The Sandman 02 Feb 10 - 09:19 AM
The Sandman 02 Feb 10 - 09:23 AM
GUEST,Silas 02 Feb 10 - 09:23 AM
GUEST,Silas 02 Feb 10 - 09:25 AM
kendall 02 Feb 10 - 09:31 AM
Deckman 02 Feb 10 - 10:29 AM
Maryrrf 02 Feb 10 - 10:30 AM
Leadfingers 02 Feb 10 - 10:36 AM
breezy 02 Feb 10 - 10:37 AM
GUEST,Silas 02 Feb 10 - 10:39 AM
GUEST,matt milton 02 Feb 10 - 10:49 AM
Hamish 02 Feb 10 - 11:19 AM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 02 Feb 10 - 11:47 AM
Maryrrf 02 Feb 10 - 11:53 AM
kendall 02 Feb 10 - 12:04 PM
Amos 02 Feb 10 - 12:11 PM
GUEST,matt milton 02 Feb 10 - 12:50 PM
blogward 02 Feb 10 - 12:51 PM
Spleen Cringe 02 Feb 10 - 01:29 PM
Maryrrf 02 Feb 10 - 01:51 PM
zozimus 02 Feb 10 - 02:59 PM
oggie 02 Feb 10 - 05:47 PM
Acme 02 Feb 10 - 05:53 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 02 Feb 10 - 06:19 PM
Art Thieme 02 Feb 10 - 08:39 PM
The Sandman 03 Feb 10 - 11:20 AM
GUEST,Silas 03 Feb 10 - 12:09 PM
MGM·Lion 03 Feb 10 - 12:19 PM
GUEST,Silas 03 Feb 10 - 12:24 PM
GUEST,leeneia 03 Feb 10 - 01:04 PM
GUEST,999 03 Feb 10 - 01:08 PM
Paul Burke 03 Feb 10 - 01:22 PM
Maryrrf 03 Feb 10 - 02:10 PM
Art Thieme 03 Feb 10 - 02:32 PM
Jim Carroll 03 Feb 10 - 03:23 PM
Bonzo3legs 03 Feb 10 - 04:10 PM
GUEST 03 Feb 10 - 10:08 PM
DeborahVK 03 Feb 10 - 10:53 PM
GUEST 03 Feb 10 - 11:51 PM
wysiwyg 04 Feb 10 - 12:45 AM
Gurney 04 Feb 10 - 01:58 AM
Dave MacKenzie 04 Feb 10 - 05:58 AM
GUEST,Tunesmith 04 Feb 10 - 06:11 AM
GUEST,Kendall 04 Feb 10 - 06:29 AM
Deckman 04 Feb 10 - 06:53 AM
kendall 04 Feb 10 - 06:56 AM
Silas 04 Feb 10 - 07:19 AM
kendall 04 Feb 10 - 08:42 AM
GUEST,matt milton 04 Feb 10 - 09:14 AM
Jim Carroll 04 Feb 10 - 10:09 AM
MGM·Lion 04 Feb 10 - 10:22 AM
The Sandman 04 Feb 10 - 11:30 AM
Ebbie 04 Feb 10 - 11:43 AM
Brian Peters 04 Feb 10 - 12:20 PM
kendall 04 Feb 10 - 12:24 PM
GUEST,surreysinger (sans cookie) 04 Feb 10 - 07:44 PM
Don Firth 04 Feb 10 - 08:29 PM
Jim Carroll 05 Feb 10 - 08:06 AM
GUEST,matt milton 05 Feb 10 - 08:57 AM
GUEST,matt milton 05 Feb 10 - 09:02 AM
John MacKenzie 05 Feb 10 - 09:15 AM
MikeL2 05 Feb 10 - 10:46 AM
The Sandman 05 Feb 10 - 12:42 PM
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Subject: the importance of diction when singing
From: The Sandman
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 08:04 AM

there has been much criticism of singers in folk clubs , and much talk about floor singers needing to improve their standards.
However I recently heard a professional singer deliver a song[this singer makes most of his /her livelihood not in folk clubs but at festivals and art centres],I did not understand one word the singer sang.
This performer is considered to be one of the leading uk revival performers,and has been promted heavily by the folk music industry.
I just wonder what the hell is going on in the uk folk music industry, when a performer who has not got the most fundamental singing technique sorted out,is promoted heavily and is able to command big fees at art centres,and yet his /her diction means that the lyrics are inaudible.
God help the foLk revival,if lyrics no longer have any importance.
furthermore I have to question ,the direction of the uk folk revival,and the motives of the people manipulating the uk folk scene,and promoting performers who may have potential,but are clearly not up to florr singer standard.
I have to say that in 40 years of going to folk clubs,I have never encountered a floor singer whose diction was so bad that I could not understand a word.
yet regularly here on mudcat,people criticise the standard of amateur folk club floor singers,but seem to accept everything the folk music industry promotes regardless.
no names no pack drill.


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 08:20 AM

Now glueman would have us believe that if you speak well and clearly you should not sing folk songs.

There are quite a lot of singers from other parts of the UK and indeed other places that speak variants of English who I can find quite hard to understand because they speak with local norms not RP, Kent, Sarf Lunnon or Estuarine, and I think that is a shortcoming in me not them.


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: Young Buchan
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 08:43 AM

I think we need to separate diction (what Dick is talking about) from accent/dialect (what Richard is talking about).

It was, when they were alive, possible to go to hear Willie Scott or Davy Stewart, to take a couple of examples, and to be deeply puzzled by what they were singing. That is a clear case of what Richard calls a shortcoming in the listener. Performers like this had no diction problem - they were singing naturally and were wholly comprehensible to their natural audience, and if the sassenach wanted to listen in that was their problem. Certainly none of them were being promoted heavily by the music industry to force themselves on unsuspecting southern audiences.

Bad diction on the other hand, consists of wilfully adopting styles or failing to learn basic techniques or (in my experience this is most frequent) overuse/poor use of amplification in such a way as to make themselves incomprehensible to their intended audience.


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: kendall
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 08:48 AM

Anyone who imitates Dylan doesn't have my attention for long.

One of the best compliments I have ever gotten was this: "I have the feeling that when you sing you could be singing in Greek and I would understand every word."

I have always put diction above all else in the delivery. Now, you can go too far in that direction, Hank Snow did that. His affectations were a bit irritating, but you never had to wonder what he was saying.


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: GUEST,Silas
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 09:05 AM

Well, you need to tell us who you are talking about otherwise your comments are pretty worthless.


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: The Sandman
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 09:19 AM

Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: GUEST,Silas - PM
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 09:05 AM

Well, you need to tell us who you are talking about otherwise your comments are pretty worthless.
[quote]perhaps you could explain,why I need to tell you who they are and why my comments are worthless,if I do not explain.
yes, the singing had nothing to do with dialect but to do with poor diction,the dialect is one I am very familiar with.


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: The Sandman
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 09:23 AM

of course Silas if you joined mudcat,I could pm you and tell you who I am talking about in the strictest confidence.


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: GUEST,Silas
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 09:23 AM

What is the problem with telling us who you mean? One of my favourite performers, Dick Gaughan used to be almost impossible to understand (he is better now, or maybe I have just got used to him). Kate Rusby can also be difficult, but it may just be that the combination of accents and singing styles make it hard to hear the words properly. Not folk I know, but Elton John is very very difficult in some of his songs.


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: GUEST,Silas
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 09:25 AM

"f course Silas if you joined mudcat,I could pm you and tell you who I am talking about in the strictest confidence."

I AM a member, I am using my work PC and don't want to set up the cookie on it!


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: kendall
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 09:31 AM

Why do you need an example? Poor diction is poor diction no matter who has it.


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: Deckman
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 10:29 AM

WHAT .... WHAT .... what was that you said Kendall ... I didn't understand you .... speak clearer, will you please!

I do some serious coaching in "performance techniques" and DICTION is the first I emphise. If you can't be easily understood by the audience, you soon will NOT have an audience. And audience doesn't come to a performance to "work." They come to relax and enjoy you. CHEERS, Bob(deckman)Nelson


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: Maryrrf
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 10:30 AM

I heartily agree about diction and it is one of the things that really, really irritates and annoys me. The voice can be beautiful but if the diction isn't clear, in my opinion they've messed up the song. (Dick - who is it? Now I'm curious. There are a couple of female singers I could think of but not male - but then again I'm not in the UK so it may be somebody not on my radar.) That's one thing I always appreciated about Joan Baez - her diction was impeccable.


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: Leadfingers
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 10:36 AM

Most Mondegreens seem to come about simply because of bad diction !
Learn a song from a recording and a LOT of the time you have to guess what the 'correct' word or phrase is !


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: breezy
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 10:37 AM

Lets leave out those North of the border though let them not all be tarnished with the same brush

Hands up all of us who can understand Vin Garbutt, at least I can but many of my fellow folkies find him ever so hard to follow.

As long as I can see his lips I'm O K and isnt he just hilarious

I agree, if you cant make out the lyric then it helps if what you're looking at has its attractions !!!

Ah well, thank goodness for CDs with enclosed lyrics, but they do sometimes print them very small


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: GUEST,Silas
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 10:39 AM

Well, sometimes I really don't think it matters. I can listen to someone singing in Gaelic or French without understanding a bloody word!


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 10:49 AM

I couldn't care less about a singer's diction. I can't understand plenty of my favourite blues singers - Sleepy John Estes for one. It leads to some brilliant mondegreens, which I'm confident are much more interesting than what the singer is actually saying.

Some singers over-enunciate so much they sound like BBC newsreaders of the 1940s.


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: Hamish
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 11:19 AM

Depends on the song. John Martyn featured slurred vocals but was brilliant. But his songs weren't dependent on following a long, intricate narrative.


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 11:47 AM

I can't imagine anyone wanting to hear a folk singer present a piece with "gravitas" and perfect diction, as a television news anchor might - unless for comic effect. That said, sloppy diction, slurs and mumbling can obscure the meaning of a song and set one's teeth on edge. There's a happy medium, I think, where you keep to the flavor, style and language inherent in a folk song while honoring your audience by making it reasonably understandable.


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: Maryrrf
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 11:53 AM

A regional accent doesn't preclude good diction. Listen to Tommy Makem, or Hank Williams. And good diction doesn't mean exaggerated, stilted pronunciation, either.


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: kendall
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 12:04 PM

It all boils down to what's important to you.


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: Amos
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 12:11 PM

There is no reason good projection and articulation need to sound like an artifice or an affectation. They are natural concomitants of intending to communicate. They make a song a delight instead of a mystery or an emotional self-indulgent bouillabaise. They make listeners a lot happier than swallowed, mumbled terms. Dylan cuts usually have very understandable words even when the singing is terrible, and he makes out all right.




A


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 12:50 PM

"an emotional self-indulgent bouillabaise"

mmmm, you're making me hungry! sounds precisely like my cup of gumbo!


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: blogward
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 12:51 PM

The tip of the tongue and the teeth and the lips, as my singing tutor used to make me say, over andd over again.


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: Spleen Cringe
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 01:29 PM

I find addiction tends to make performers slur the words...


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: Maryrrf
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 01:51 PM

In some cases it can be attributed to drink some other substance, in other cases it is just lack of effort, lack of awareness, or something the singer has affected because they think it sounds good. There are a few female Irish singers who seem not to pronounce their consonants. I find it very distracting and annoying.


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: zozimus
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 02:59 PM

Poor diction has also crept in films over the last few years, but at least watching a DVD there is often the option to turn on sub-titles. Pity we can't do the same for some of these singers. I suppose as long as people tolerate it, and don't let the artist know they'd like to know what he/she is singing about, we will always have it


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: oggie
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 05:47 PM

Dick Gaughan ennunciates his words clearly and you can tune in to them quite easily. Where a singer sings with glottal stops "wha's in yer bo'ull" and slurs then its a whole new ball game.

Steve


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: Acme
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 05:53 PM

I'll jump to the bottom here and give an example of difficulties I have had in understanding the words. I have in mind a singer I know who for whatever reason always sings with his mouth right on the mic. I can't understand anything that way because it comes out distorted, like the words haven't had enough time between his mouth and the mic to take shape. At a concert a couple of summers ago, for one song, he departed from the norm and stood several inches back, so the amplified song was perfectly clear. But I haven't known how to walk up to this person and say "I wish you'd back away from the mic. I can't understand a word you sing when you're on top of it."

SRS


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 06:19 PM

Sir Harry Lauder, many years ago, introduced North Americans to many Scottish words in his songs and routines. He used an accent, but carefully, never forgetting his audience; his diction was excellent.

People remembered his songs because they could understand him, accent or no. The accent was doctored, admittedly, but his "Wee Deoch and Doris, just a wee drap, that's a'," and similar songs became favorites of people who knew nothing about Scotland.


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: Art Thieme
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 08:39 PM

I never took diction seriously until, one day, on stage, it fell out of my pants.
Now I do strive to do better.

Art


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: The Sandman
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 11:20 AM

no it was not dick gaughan.
the identity of the person is not important.
what is important[to me anyway],is that this person is heavily promoted on the uk folk scene,and yet I could not understand one word of the song that was sung,due not to dialect but poor diction.
   are the magazines and critics and the promoters who promote this performer not concerned with understanding lyrics,are they concerned with just promoting a sound?


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: GUEST,Silas
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 12:09 PM

Not Cleo Lane then? (Naah, nothing could be that bad)


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 12:19 PM

You mention critics, GSS. You know that, as a critic, I was always particularly concerned with diction as one of the most vital aspects of what I was reviewing.. I just don't think that a song can communicate at all if the words are not clearly and immediately understood during the performance.


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: GUEST,Silas
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 12:24 PM

Rubbish.


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 01:04 PM

I've been to many folk concerts where I couldn't understand a word. My theory is that they are amplified so much that the syllables hit the walls, echo off and mix with the new syllables coming out.

The singer may think his diction is fine. The sound man has heard all the songs, knows the words, and thinks they are fine. Most audience members think that if it's loud enough, it's fine.

I'm the odd one out.   

It's not just folkies. To please a friend, I attended Phantom of the Opera, and the only lyrics I understood in the entire show were 'tum ty tum ty tum ty OF THE NIGHT.' But everybody else was happy because they owned the album and had learned the lyrics at home, so they could follow them.


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: GUEST,999
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 01:08 PM

"I never took diction seriously until, one day, on stage, it fell out of my pants."


Always take one of these with you, Art.


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: Paul Burke
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 01:22 PM

I once (in fact several times) went to a play where I couldn't understand a word. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was in France, and my French is un peu moins than parfait.

What's the difference between that and a song with undecipherable words? Can you never enjoy listening to a song in Rumanian, Russian, Chinese? Is it all a matter of expectations, or perhaps even one- size - fits- all attitude to song?


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: Maryrrf
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 02:10 PM

Of course it is possible to enjoy listening to a song in another language, and I often do. In most cases, however, unless the lyrics are just absolute nonsense, the song is enhanced if you can understand the lyrics. Whenever possible I try to find the lyrics and the translation if the song is in a language I don't understand. Without the lyrics you can appreciate the melody, the beat, the instrumentation, the inflections, the 'sound' of the language (Spanish is especially lovely)but you can't really savour the meaning of the lyrics or follow the story. An important element is left out. So, whenever possible, I think the singer should try to make the lyrics understandable. It's possible to enjoy a play and not understand the words, but you'd probably get a lot more out if it if you could follow the nuances of the story.


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: Art Thieme
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 02:32 PM

"It is all about a red wheelbarrow..."---William Carlos Williams

Art


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 03:23 PM

As far as accent or dialect is concerned an audience should be prepared to make an effort to understand unfamiliar speech, but, as Young Buchan said earlier, diction is a different matter.
It is essential that, if the song is to be communicated, the disction is clear, otherwise the singer might as well be singing in another language (a different thing altogether and a bit of a red herring as far as this subject is concerned).
This doesn't mean that singers shouldn't sing in 'Henry Higgins' English by over-enunciating (as is often the cese with classical singing); that can be equally a barrier to communication, just that it should be clearly delivered.
If there are unfamiliar dialect words, I can't see anything wrong with explaining them, as long as you don't take too much time doing so.
Jim Caroll
Red Wheelbarrow - please explain Art - the one I looked at was blue.


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 04:10 PM

Just ignore the word "should" and you'll be fine.


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 10:08 PM

Today I was telling kids that an instrument they were looking at was a dulcimer, and one kid asked, "Why would they name an instrument adult swimmer?" And I thought my diction was pretty good...


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: DeborahVK
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 10:53 PM

"So much depends upon a red wheelbarrow..."

I've heard some particularly egregious examples of poor diction from performers who have spent a lot of time listening to old blues recordings and tried to mimic them a little too closely. Not only do they fail to take into account the poor quality of some recordings; they also mistake a thick regional accent for slurred pronunciation. Mumbling supposed to be a sign of authenticity. Very annoying.


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 11:51 PM

Here is my favorite example of the importance of good diction while singing:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-ZnPE3G_YY


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: wysiwyg
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 12:45 AM

I recently heard a professional singer deliver a song[this singer makes most of his /her livelihood not in folk clubs but at festivals and art centres]...

If this is just another one of those threads where people who probably cruise in here will see themselves hoist on a petard, I'm not interested.


OTOH, if this is a thread about general singing technique, I can mention two well-known folks who sing lovely tunes.... with words I often cannot make out at all.

A famous example is that since Emmylou Harris so often sings consonant-free vowels, people can be said to have "Emmylou'd" a lyric.

Last night I tried to enjoy Townes VanZandt songs as sung by VanZandt-loving Steve Earle-- who Emmylou'd every damn Van Zandt song I sat thru, till I finally erased the whole Austin City Limits episode off of the DVR.

I don't want to have to refer to liner notes, or MudSearch every song, just to hear a damned song!!!


It's hard work to sing consonants! In choir we were taught proper technique. But I'm bested week in and week out: I got a real ear-opener one Sunday when a regular Lector was reading right above my head-- I was sitting in as guest muso and the lectern was immediately over my playing position. You could hear every consonant spit right out, CLEARLY being deliberately over-exaggerated.

I had heard this man read hundreds of times, and had never realized how hard he had to work to produce such a clean sound.

Up close it sounded awful, but heard from the pew it was perfectly clear! I was so stunned that I even recorded him from two positions, just so new lectors could hear how it's done!

Singers, likewise, cannot learn it simply from being TOLD. They need to hear it done well from CLOSE UP to really "get" exactly how much to enunciate the consonants to any make sense out of the lovely, rounded vowels that feel so good in the throat.

~Susan


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: Gurney
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 01:58 AM

I prefer understandable diction, and I understand what GSSchweik is talking about.
I'll also agree with Susan. It is always an eye-opener when I hear a recording of myself. My Nuneaton slur sounds as if there are no spaces between the words, particularly when I've had a drink. If I'm sober-ish and singing something not well-known, I'll take some care to include the spaces!


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: Dave MacKenzie
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 05:58 AM

I've never had any trouble with Emmylou Harris's diction, or Dick Gaughan's, though my wife can't understand him. Glottal stops are an integral part of some dialects and accents, so if you take them away, you're changing the accent, and you'll be damned for that instead!


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 06:11 AM

I'm reminded of a tv program I saw years ago. A woman was teaching children how to sing and she was using "Blowin' in the Vind" as a vehicle to highlight certain points. The teacher was most insistent that the child pronouce the word "blowing" with a distinct "ing" sound at the end. Now this is interesting because the correct title of the song contains the word "blowin'"


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: GUEST,Kendall
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 06:29 AM

I keep losing my cookie.

Anyway, an opinion is just that. An opinion, nothing more, and all opinions are valid. To call another persons opinion "Rubbish" is displaying considerable ego. You may have a different opinion, but it is no more valid than that other persons opinion.

Facts is another matter. If someone states a fact and you know, and can prove it is not true then you may argue the point, but you have no right to say someone is wrong if you simply have another opinion.

I have a friend who plays the Saxophone. I told her that in my ears, a Sax sounds like a giant Kazoo.That is an opinion, not a fact. The only wind instrument I like the sound of is the French horn, the Andean pipes and sometimes the trumpet in the right hands. Herb Alpert for instance.


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: Deckman
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 06:53 AM

Kendall ... I always thought that a Kazoo sounds like a cheap Saxophone! bob


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: kendall
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 06:56 AM

hehehe


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: Silas
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 07:19 AM

If I think someone is talking rubbish, I am quite happy to tell them so. He was talking rubbish and I was happy to point this out to him - you have a problem with that?


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: kendall
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 08:42 AM

Yes I do. You have no right to call another person's opinion rubbish. The most you can say without sounding like some kind of authority is, I disagree, or I have a different opinion.


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 09:14 AM

I recently heard a folk singer for the first time that has been described as 'wonderful', 'magnificent' etc

He sounded, to me, absurd. He was singing in a way that suggested he had taken on board strictures about diction - like the ones expressed in this thread - far too literally. Not BBC newsreader levels of it, just an unnatural degree.

A singing teacher would have applauded and given him top marks. I just thought he sounded like a fool.

Harry Cox did not have good diction - nothing to do with regional accents - he simply didn't. He was a great singer. He sang how he spoke, to the extent that you can.


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 10:09 AM

"Harry Cox did not have good diction"
Not sure I agree with you Matt - met Harry a couple of times, have spent a long time listening to him talking as well as singing, and have visited the area many times, and I'm not sure they all talk like Harry.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 10:22 AM

I had several conversations with Harry Cox and understood with no difficulty every word of what he said. I have heard him sing countless times: as Jim says above, he sang as he spoke, with complete clarity as to the actual words. How can that be described as bad diction?


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: The Sandman
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 11:30 AM

the point is that none of the singers mentioned so far had such bad diction,that not a single word could be understood.
I have never had a problem undertstanding harry cox.


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: Ebbie
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 11:43 AM

I wonder what makes the difference? I have heard many performers sing clearly who seemed not to make an effort to do so. And others who slide through the lines as though the words were of little importance.

I agree with those who want to know what a song is about. Otherwise I want to hear an instrumental.

:)

That, of course, is not cast in stone. My favorite "sound" is an operatic duet, especially in a language I don't know.


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: Brian Peters
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 12:20 PM

Interesting comment from WYSIWYG about Steve Earle. I love his music, his songwriting and his singing (from the point of view that it's a terrific vocal noise), but I constantly find myself having to search the web for his lyrics because it's impossible to understand his diction. How many people realise that the (clearly understandable) line in 'Copperhead Road': "I volunteered for the Army on my birthday" is followed by: "They draft the white trash first round here, anyway". A good line, but you'd never know it from simply listening. Since Earle writes songs that tell good stories or make tough political points, surely they'd be even more effective if you could understand the words first time.

Yes, John Martyn slurred, but then who cared about the words to 'Solid Air' anyway?

If you're singing, say, a traditional ballad, it loses its point and the audience's attention if you fail to get the words across. Go and listen to Phil Tanner. Or Ray Fisher.


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: kendall
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 12:24 PM

These last few comments make my point. It's all a matter of opinion, and there is no right or wrong.


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: GUEST,surreysinger (sans cookie)
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 07:44 PM

If somebody is mumbling, it's difficult to understand the content of what they are saying. Mumbling is down to poor diction.It's not unknown for mumblers to be asked to speak more clearly!

If somebody is singing, the combination of vowel sounds, and pitched notes make it even more difficult to understand words (listen to an operatic soprano - normally the vowel sounds are mutated in order to make the top notes easier to sing ... words are quite often indistinct ... and infuriating).Therefore clear diction is a necessity if the listener is going to be able to understand what words you are actually singing.

The major, if not whole, point of singing a song is to tell a story. To do that effectively, your words have to be heard. So yes, good diction is an essential. I'd repeat Brian's final sentence at this juncture "If you're singing,say, a traditional ballad, it loses its point and the audience's attention if you fail to get the words across." I have known occasions when I have "switched off" and wondered what the point of being present was if the performer couldn't have the courtesy to address a little care and attention to trying to communicate to his/her audience.

As to whether one needs to know who the OP was referring to ... probably not (although I can think of at least one candidate for the vacancy),as the principle is a constant.


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: Don Firth
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 08:29 PM

"The value lies inherent in the song, not in the regional mannerisms or colloquialisms. No song is ever harmed by being articulated clearly, on pitch, with sufficient control of phrase and dynamics to make the most of the poetry and melody, and with an instrumental accompaniment designed to enrich the whole effect."
                                                                                     —Richard Dyer-Bennet

If a singer's diction is so clipped and precise that you notice it, that's too much.

If you can't understand the words of the song, that's not enough.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 08:06 AM

When I joined the Critics Group I was given a number of singing exercises to learn to help with different technical problems - Wagner for small and unusual intervals, Galway Races (1 verse and 1 chorus sung in 1 breath) for breath control and a Gilbert and Sullivan piece, The Duties of the Minister of State (or a piece of mouth music), for articulation.
It took very little effort to learn them, and a little longer to master them so I could sing them well enough for the purpose they were intended.
The G and S sorted out my somewhat sloppy diction almost immediately and 40 years later all of them are still of use.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 08:57 AM

well i've never had a problem understanding what Harry Cox was singing either.

I mentioned him because I was actively [i]trying[/i] to think of someone with a rough and ready voice, who has the odd slur or waver here or there.

The more I think about this, I suspect this bugbear might be a chimera.

Now, on the other hand, I have heard one or two floorsingers who are tone deaf. But even then, it's kind of 1 in 20.


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 09:02 AM

that's to say, my experience of folk music in general – whether live or on record - is that actually people tend to sing rather better than elsewhere...


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 09:15 AM

Were it not for poor diction, Lady Mondegreen would still be alive!


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: MikeL2
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 10:46 AM

Hi

I hope that this is not diverting too much from the thread topic.

Some years ago I bought a place in Spain and then set about trying to learn the language ( wrong way round !!!).

I could not make formal lessons for business and music reasons so I resorted to learning Spanish using the same methods that I had done for years learning song lyrics.

Much of this entailed listening carefully and many times over to tapes as I was driving and in what-ever other free time I might have.

So I bought a selection of Spanish instruction tapes and some Spanish albums by spanish speaking performers.

I found it very difficult because the diction of most of the stuff I bought was untelligeable to me as a novice. Then I found some Julio Iglesias tapes. Almost overnight I could understand the words he was singing....if I first I couldn't translate them. But replaying them by listening to each track several times until I could translate helped me with learning the language.

I am not a Julio fan per se but I do believe that for his clarity of words in his performance he beats most singers I have heard for diction.

Cheers

Mike


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Subject: RE: the importance of diction when singing
From: The Sandman
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 12:42 PM

thanks Jim,those are very useful exercises.


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