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Is it Ok to sing from a song book?

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Subject: Is it OK to sing from a song book?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 09:40 PM

I'm approaching this question in a kind of apologetic and nervous/fearful manner because I worry about the response I might get!

I love the folk scene and have, over many years, found so many folkie friends who make my life so much richer; more than they may ever imagine.

I love a good singaround with these friends and many others and until recent years I used to stay in the background and just join in the popular choruses with all my heart.

But in the last two or three Years I have raised my head over the parapet and started to actually sing a song; usually in informal singarounds in a pub etc or in M.C directed singarounds where they go round the room and ask you if you want to do a song. Usually in "fringe" sessions at folk festivals in the UK.

I am not a good or a confident singer but I kind of get by and no one has yet said I was rubbish.

But the point of this thread is that I find it very hard to commit a song to memory and have to resort to my trusted old song book (To which I am adding songs all the time) to read from when I am delivering a song.

In some circles this seems to be OK but in others people have told me that it is frowned upon/ looked down upon because if I was really serious about singing I should learn the song by heart so I can lift my head and my voice and sing to the audience and not down to the book.

I do understand where thy are coming from in terms of giving the full effect to the volume of your voice and 'engaging' with your audience but is it really such a sin and frowned upon to sing from a song book?

I'm still pretty much a 'virgin' in the singing community and find this whole thing a bit bewildering and frankly intimidating.

So any advice and guidance here from 'old hands' and anybody else on the folk scene would be very much welcomed.

Thank you.

Chris


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Beer
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 10:00 PM

Chris.
This has been discussed before and I wish I could remember the thread. However your question is one that has bothered me over the years for I do the same thing. It started out innocently enough where by I thought it would be a great idea to start writing down words to songs. Only to realize that I stopped memorizing them. It is something I wish I had never done. However I am now in my early sixties and don't give a shit if someone is upset because I didn't memorize a number. I play in festivals, coffee house and pubs with my words and no one has complained. I do agree that it would be great not to use the paper stuff but many many musicians use them. Even the accomplished ones use karaoke machines on the stage pointing at then like monitors.

Bottom line. Just enjoy yourself. You can still pour your heart out in a song even if you are reading the lyrics.
Beer (adrien)


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Artful Codger
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 10:29 PM

I semi-know tons more songs than I could possibly commit fully to memory, and of the hundreds I've learned by heart, if I don't keep actively singing them, I space on large chunks. I see nothing wrong with using a book--it's about singing the song, not testing your memory skills. As others have said (quoting Martin Carthy?), the only way to dishonor a song is not to sing it. (I think there are plenty of other ways, but you get my point.) As long as you are otherwise prepared to do the song justice, have at it! Those who would snub their noses have their priorities screwed up. And probably keep singing the same songs ad nauseum.

On the other hand, "poor memory" often means that one just hasn't learned a good approach for memorizing songs, or hasn't applied it systematically. I'll bet there are lots of songs you do know by heart, putting the lie to "poor memory". (Which is not to say that because there are tried-and-true methods for memorizing, you should have to memorize every song before you perform it informally--that's just hogwash.)

There are multiple threads here giving tips on how to memorize lyrics, so we needn't digress into that here, though some kinds souls might refresh those threads, or link them here.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Artful Codger
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 10:45 PM

On the third hand, song books don't hold up well in the shower, and it's hard to read lyrics while driving, walking the dog, grocery shopping or weeding the gardens. So I find it's well worth the bother to memorize the good songs, and be free to sing them wherever the feeling strikes.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Janie
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 10:54 PM

Hi Chris,

Don't know if you have looked at other threads on the topic, but boy, is this one a controversial issue!

I have the same problem with remembering lyrics -have had it for several years now. If you love sharing the music and participating in song circles, I hope you do not let the distaste some have for those of us who need the lyrics in front of us from stopping you. Every voice that yearns to be raised in song deserves to be raised in song, in my opinion.

Having said that, I read about some song circles here on Mudcat where I would never be welcomed or valued because of my need for printed lyrics. If I knew in advance that needing the lyrics is anathema, that is not a song circle I would attend.    However, from what I can discern, most of these circles are composed of serious musicians interested only in playing and singing with other accomplished musicians. That is fine, and I understand that. I am grateful, though, for the number of fine musicians and singers in the world of folk music who value and encourage participation of us lesser mortals. My own singing has come a long way as the result of their encouragement and respect for the authenticity of my voice and desire to participate and sing, even though I am clearly not trained or professional. I'm like Auntie Bertha with the the guiless natural and spontaneous voice, singing on the front porch to keep myself company while stringing beans.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Dave Swan
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 10:56 PM

If you respect the tradition and the song, even if it's only one song, learn it and put the paper down. If you need more time to learn the song, take it.

D


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Neil D
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 10:57 PM

It's easier than singing from a math book.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Melissa
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 11:00 PM

It seems like the easiest way to tell whether books are welcome at various places would be to pay attention to whether others bring books (and keep an eye on the rest of the group to see how many rolling eyeballs).
I would think a place that provided a stand would probably have it for using..not purely decorative.

IF you're using a book, be sure to remember that they baffle sound. In front of your face, your voice is murfled and it's not much better when it's in front of an instrument.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: JohnB
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 11:11 PM

NO definitely NOT in some circles.
YES no problem in others.
And nair the twain shall meet.
Personally I don't, have many songs tucked away back there, which liberal applications of alcohol occasionally free up and they pour forth.
If you HAVE to, I would suggest that you go more for a "card" system, just write the first few words of each verse on a card and keep it hidden under the table or such for when you need it.
If you can't do anything without a book, use it, BUT do not let it affect the quality of performance by sticking your head into it and not interacting with your audience.
I have a friend who is a bit "techy" he uses an "i" thing which gives a wierd illumination to his face in darkened song circles.
JohnB


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: katlaughing
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 11:16 PM

Choirs use books all of the time and have been trained to project their voices, not hold the book up too high, and engage with their audience. If you know the song fairly well, have practised it enough, you will only have to glance at the book every once in awhile and can do the same.

Janie, that's been my take on some of what I've read here, too. Me, I just love to hear the music...I don't care if someone is using a book.

kat


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Songbob
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 11:16 PM

What I think is most frowned on is "singing from THE book," especially when THE book is a commonly-available book and no OTHER book is considered "correct." That is, some song circles use Rise Up Singing or The Folksinger's Wordbook (an earlier version of same, I think), and they treat it like a hymnal. If you want to sing a version that is different from the book's, you'll get pushback, if not actual argument.

Now, singing from a memory-aid, to me is different. I don't always recall the songs I want to do, and have been known to use a print-out (or to "look it up on my fingers" during a break, to make sure I can recall the thing), and don't get too worked up if someone has a sheet for their own use.

Part of it is the group dynamic; I'm used to the FSGW open sing "manual," which says you don't chide someone for using a book, but we're resistant to following the book if the song is one of our well-known ones where we differ from the book. I haven't been to too many sings where a book -- any book -- is used as an "authority," but I have been to at least one or two. I usually don't go back.

Actually, I just remembered that with the Civil War Comrades, the reenactment trio I'm in, we often use lyric sheets onstage, to avoid the dreaded "version creep," where one of us knows a different word or two in the choruses, where we're supposed to be singing together.

Bob


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Janie
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 11:45 PM

I don't know what the "scene" is in Folk Clubs, or at the Press Room or Shanty Sings in New England. I've been attending the FSGW Getaway for several years, and it was the experience of my first few years at the Getaway that gave my music BS voice back to me after it had been silenced for almost 20 years.   Especially at Ramblewood, the sing around in the "Mudcat Cabin," where every one was encouraged and not judged, where we went pretty strictly around the circle, and willingness to share was valued over the ability to carry a tune, much less performance quality. No one was judged because of lack of scholarly knowledge or voice training, and pretty much what anyone wanted to sing was accepted. So encouraging and validating, and powerful.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Acorn4
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 09:32 AM

Personally I would prefer someone to use words rather than try to bumble through a song from memory and end up forgetting the last verse or leaving one out.

I do actually try to learn words and have sort of accepted it as a challenge being now post 60. The first few times use words to establish key/check audience response.

The one thing I can't do is use words and try to sing through a mike - I have to do that from memory - the "bear of little brain" can't handle that aspect on multi-tasking.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 09:35 AM

I am no fan of using books but I have no problem if someone else does - As long as they can still sing the song as if they mean it and understand what it is all about - lyrically and musicaly. There is nothing worse than seeing someone just going through the motions parrot fasion. Not accusing anyone here, of course, but I have seem it often enough.

Have you tried just with prompts of key words on a card? First line of each verse or first couple of words of each line? If you still find you need a book make sure you don't make some basic mistakes like -

- Singing into the book instead of for your audience
- Not knowing what you are going to sing and pending time going though your book 'live'
- Forgetting the tune
- Loosing where you are up to

I only do about a dozen songs and could probably do with using a book to get more but I would rather repeat myself every few weeks than use a book. The club may not, but I would:-)

Good luck anyway

Dave


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Raggytash
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 09:39 AM

Chris

I think there is a vast difference from singing "from" the book, i.e reading the words and then singing them, which means that someone has made little attempt to learn the words and having a book there as a crutch to lean on. The former normally means that little or no emphasis can be placed on the nuances of the song, which an audienec quickly picks up on and tend not to enjoy the rendition. The latter is merely there as a reminder of first lines etc, I try not to use a book but do so occasionally with a new song, and place the book discreetly on the seat besides me.
I find one way to learn new songs is to write the words long-hand and then type them, but the only way really is to sing them at home over and over again until they're indelibly written in the old grey matter, it has been known for me to sing a song 200 times at home before taking it before an audience. (ask Christine about Red Velvet Steering Wheel Cover Driver, it sends her daft)

chhers

Nick


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 09:43 AM

Chris-

It's a good question to ask before doing it in any singing session/circle.

When I'm learning a new song, I often bring a song sheet along as a reminder, but in the group I sing with, the Press Room sea music sessions, the emphasis is to know what you're singing without such aids. I'd be embarrassed if I couldn't deliver the song without the sheet the second time around.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 09:43 AM

Well now, if you just want to get there and experience the effect of singing with your peers, of course it is OK. Folkies are nothing if not tolerant.

However - if you want to get the maximum from yourself, put all the expression, physicality, artistry and sheer pizzaz into a performance - well the world is your oyster - if you can maximise the mindspace by having the words/tune memorised. Visual duties require huge amounts of brainpower that could be released, hence the tendency to close one's eyes when singing. If you point your head downwards the sound doesn't project in the right direction, it alters the larynx and muscles around the neck.

As a singist - the choice is yours, but it is not easy weaning yourself off the page, but the rewards are more than worth it. Make it your goal rather than the starting point.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: MikeL2
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 09:44 AM

hi

This is a thread that has been ( sorta) covered before.

I have never had any difficulty in memorising the words to sings that I want to sing......and many others that I didn't deliberately memorise....they just stick.

However what sometimes I did find difficult was remembering how to start to song off. eg the first line. So I used to carry a book with all the first lines of the songs that I had painstakingly recorded and filed over the years.

When I had decided what I was going to sing on any particular night I made out a card with the first lines of the songs that I wanted to sing.
I made a see-through pouch that I attached to the back of my guitar and I had no problems with consulting it if I had a problem. I would just twitter ( not computer ) away while I found what I wanted.

With regards to your question. If the difference is that without the book you wouldn't get up to sing then by all means use it. If it were me I would get a telescopic music stand ( I have one ) and would make it obvious that I was going to use the book. Use it as part of your props. Don't be guilty about it - just give it your best and most of all ENJOY IT. That way you will find that most of the audience will enjoy it too.

Regards

Mike


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Tug the Cox
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 09:51 AM

I'm no fan of the practice, and would personnally avoid it. I see little merit in doing it as anm 'act' at a club, but if it is the only way someone can join inn an informal or semi formal singaround, then its better than excluding people.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Will Fly
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 10:00 AM

Could I offer a middle way here, SB - which is to memorise as much as you can of the songs that you want to sing for a floor spot. In many clubs it's around than 2 or 3 songs. Take the words with you and place them on a music stand where you can see them if you have to, i.e. if the words start to desert you. That way, you can train your memory but have a fallback if age really is taking its toll.

I'm blessed, most of the time, with an excellent memory (for 65) and can still learn a song fairly quickly and remember it in performance. I would never use a word sheet in a performance, but I can understand if some people have genuine difficulty without one. What I dislike - and I'm sure you don't count in this respect - is singers who just can't be arsed to learn the stuff, and sing from a folder of songs out of sheer laziness.

My own memory for people's names is, however, getting worse. This is very common, I'm told, and doesn't mean any loss of... of... oh, you knwo what I mean...


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 10:12 AM

As Mr Gnome pointed out , there is a VAST difference in having the words (Or Cue Cards) handy , than Singing AT the book , holding it between you and the audience !There are two local to me clubs I have stopped going to because so many of the 'floor singers' did just that the last time I visited .
Personally , I think that you cant do a song full justice unless you KNOW the song , though I accept that a lot of people dont have as good a memory for lyrics as some of us .


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Nancy King
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 10:12 AM

I would always prefer to sing from memory and not from a book or notes, but I have difficulty memorizing, so often need help. In a "performance" situation, I would NEVER use such a crutch, but in an informal sing-around, I often bring along a page from my own song notebook. Our Open Sing group is quite tolerant of this, fortunately. I think it's a lot better to have the words available to refer to if needed than to stop, mumble, gaze at the ceiling, etc.

BUT the important thing here is that one should basically know the song in the first place. Just picking something that seems like it might fit in, and then trying to sing it out of the book when you don't really know how it goes is quite dreadful. And it happens all too often.

I agree with Bob that The Book (Rise Up Singing or the equivalent) should NOT be used as a hymnal ("I'm going to sing Thingamajig, on page whatever..."). One of the most interesting aspects of traditional music is that there ARE different versions of songs, and insisting on using the one in The Book seems counter-productive. Who decided which version went into the book, anyway?

Just my two cents' worth...

Nancy


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Bernard
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 10:14 AM

I would agree that 'reading' a song rather than using the words as a 'crutch' is an insult to the song and to your audience.

However, it's worse to get part way through a song, forget where you are and either make a vain attempt to get back into it, or to switch to a completely different song.

Too often the performer's 'needs' seem to be given priority over the needs of the audience. Admittedly, the nature of the session does play a part, but we often hear people whingeing on about encouraging new singers without considering that there is possibly a new audience who also needs encouragement.

My gripe is with singers who should know better - they've been singing for years, yet haven't the manners to learn a single song!!

If you're going to sing a song in public you owe it to yourself to be adequately prepared... don't attempt a song you haven't learned unless your abilities will carry you through.

I'm not suggesting that every singer should be a polished professional, just that they should appreciate the audience's perspective and prepare accordingly.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Hamish
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 10:24 AM

Go and see a choir at a posh recital and they'll all have their songbooks. Duncan Mcfarlane who is a pretty big name in the UK folk scene these days has a little unobtrusive ring binder with the words attached to his mic stand - and he wrote more than half of the songs! (The give away is the fact that he wears his reading glasses on the end of his nose.) I think that says it's okay.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Marje
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 10:25 AM

Luckily, "The Book" isn't an issue in the UK - there is no set text that people all use. Songbooks tend to be personal notebooks or files where people complie or write out their own versions of the songs.

I'll add my support to those who say by all means use a cue-card or a few notes that you can have handy if necessary, but don't sing FROM the book. I don't like it when a singer stands holding a book as if they were singing in church, reading every word, including repeats and choruses. That's just lazy, and almost never leads to a good delivery of the song. On the other hand, having a few notes (beginning of lines/verses; tricky words like place-names that you keep forgetting, etc) could get you out of trouble. You may not have to look at it, just keep it handy. And the act of creating those notes - asking yourself "Which bits do I know, and which do I tend to forget?" actually helps you learn the song, and perhaps realise that you do actually know big chunks of it.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Maryrrf
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 10:28 AM

I would second what one poster above said i.e. it's okay in some sessions but frowned on in others - try to find out in advance which type you're going to and take your cue from that. I do think if you're going to sing in public you should work at the song, even if you need to use your book to help you, until you only need to glance at the lyrics, and not have your eyes glued to the book while singing. I always have a songbook with me when I do pub gigs, so I can do requests. I used to be able to retain at any given point well over 100 songs in my repertoire - enough to do a 4 hour stint without repeating a song. Now I find my memory doesn't hold as much, or maybe I just have accumulated too much information over the years and I'm running out of space! So the "pub songs book" comes in handy.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 10:37 AM

I would venture to suggest that the reason you have difficulty committing words to memory is because you are used to resorting to the song book. You have no incentive to learn the words.

I find the best way to learn a song is to sing it. Make sure you know and understand the story the song is telling. Sing it through a few times with the words and then try it without. You won't remember it all, so go back to the book to fill in the gaps, and try again. Repeat as necessary until you've got it all. Then keep singing it - in the car, in the shower - until it's fixed.

I find the worst way is to try to learn a line at a time, like we learned poetry at school. Learn it as a story, as a whole, rather than thinking of it as a succession of words you have to learn.

Don't worry about getting it word-perfect, either. As long as you're telling the story right, and have got any key words and phrased right, it usually doesn't matter too much if you begin a line with "and" or "but".

I'm with those who believe you have a responsibility to the song, to the audience, and to yourself to be properly prepared. That means learning the song. If you're properly prepared, you'll be more confident and less likely to make mistakes. If you need a few prompt cards, fine, but use them discreetly.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: RTim
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 10:38 AM

What about musicians that often play from sheet music, and they only have to play the same tune over and over!

I use a book containing first lines of verses, as an aid to remembering - but I do know around 300 songs, and as I get older (now 63) I find it more difficult to learn songs, but there are some I have known for 40 years but seldom sing and always remember.
I would however, NEVER do a paid gig singing from my notes - but I will certainly put the songs first lines on my gig list - and Practice before the gig until I am tired of the songs!!
Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 10:51 AM

Wow guys and gals! Thank you so much for all your comments
and sound wisdom and also your very polite and well considered suggestions.

I was kind of expecting a hail of bullets and some caustic and negative over-intellectualized verbal personal attacks like you sometimes see here on Mudcat from a few poisonous individuals.
(Or am I tempting fate - and should I duck now?!!)

Anyway I hope they stay away. You have all (or very nearly all so far) been incredibly understanding and encouraging and as I said, very polite. So thank you very much indeed.


I do very much take on board that using a book can become a crutch that you feel you cannot do without (like cigarettes!) and that kicking the habit can become harder and harder the more you rely on it.
I currently have 55 songs and a few monologues in my song book and a wish list that just keeps on growing. So I think I really should try very very hard to make the effort and set myself an initial goal of learning say just 2 favourite songs and then see how it goes once I have got the hang of it.
Here's hoping my 55 year old brain can stir up the old grey cells again!

Thanks everyone.

Chris


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Backwoodsman
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 11:00 AM

I used to claim that I 'Can't learn lyrics' and I used to work from a book (a ring-binder actually), but I realised after a while that:-

1) It's difficult enough to multitask with two elements - playing and singing. Adding a third element - reading - made it all too much like bloody hard work.

2) Making eye-contact with the audience, a very important part of performing IMHO, is impossible while your eyes are fixed on words from a book.

3) In subdued light, reading becomes very difficult.

So I started to record myself 'doing' the song, put it on a CD, play it in the car, singing along to it over and over. EUREKA! I remembered the lyrics after maybe a dozen runs through the song.

So now, until a song is engraved indelibly on my memory, I have a cue-card, like others have mentioned, with first lines of verses. Once it's stored in memory, I put the cards away.

I do believe it's made me a better and more confident performer.

But I don't object to others reading the words (except those who still stumble over the words even when reading them, or those who 'do' the same three or four 60's pop songs every time, and still have to read the words).


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: doncatterall
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 11:08 AM

When I revived the local folk club 18 months ago several performers turned up with folders/books which they sang from. One person had a vast repertoire of excellent self penned songs that he needed the words for. I made the point ( in a light hearted way) that if a song's worth singing then it's worth learning.
There is now only the odd occasion when a crib sheet comes out, usually with an apology from the performer.
If the words are forgotten (and it happens to us all) we are very forgiving and make a joke of it without any disrespect to the song or the singer.
Last week I sang a song for the first time in public that I liked and had wanted to sing for many years but had trouble remembering. I spent a few days determined to learn by constant repetition around the house and at the club had the words printed on a piece of paper folded in the palm of my hand which I did not need - SUCCESS!!
I have about 60 songs committed to memory but will always run through the ones I intend to perform before leaving home.
I agree that to sing a song with feeling putting your own stamp on it will vastly improve your performance and only comes once you know it by heart.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Blackcatter
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 11:25 AM

I do gigs on a semi-regular basis - 2-3 times a month. all paid and usually with a partner. We always have our lead sheets in front of us on music stands. The stands are low and the print is large so our heads aren't buried in the books.

If I did this as a living and did a regular set list that was unchanged from gig to gig, the aid of the lead sheets would not be needed, BUT we need the lead sheets to remind us occasionally of:

lyrics
starting a song
key & capo position
additional instruments (tin whistle, harmonica, drum, spoons, jews harp, etc.
key for the additional instruments
tempo
parts for each of us
notes about the songs in case people ask


We've got some 60 songs that we regularly pull from and probably another 60 that we can do if someone requests. There is no way with everything else in our busy lives that we can keep all that info in our heads. sorry - if you can, bully for you, but it's not possible for everyone.

As for informal song circle and open-mic nights. These are places for amateurs to have a chance to enjoy what it feels like to perform in public. Telling people they have to do everything YOU do is insensitive and is one of the reasons why amateurs don't come out as often as they could.

I've been co-running a monthly open mic for 16 years and we get all sorts of people up on stage. The last thing we would ever do is tell them they can't have the 'safety' or 'aid' of the words. We are well know for being a safe place for very good performers to try new material. Sometimes they use music and words to aid them.


People here might have forgotten that just performing in public is a huge step for some people in the first place. Anything that can be done to make them comfortable should be done.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Bernard
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 11:27 AM

Playing a recording over and over, whether in the car or at home, is an extremely sound (sorry!!) method of learning reinforcment. Either singing along to someone else, or a recording of yourself, both work really well.

Everyone has 'blanks' sometime or another, and how you deal with it is very important, I believe. Stuttering back and forth trying to remember a line is uncomfortable for both you and your audience, so covering up by an impromptu instrumental verse (tricky if you're singing unaccompanied!), or repeating a chorus are both methods I use to try to jog the memory.

I have occasionally had a problem with songs I may have been singing for forty years - my mind wanders and I forget where I am! However, it's usually precipitated by an outside influence such as someone very noisy near the door... so I can divert attention from my failing by directing a gentle rebuke to the miscreant, then saying 'Now where was I?'...!

It's better to make light of a memory lapse rather than show you're really embarrassed... easier said than done, though.

Learning a song from scratch does take time and effort, and you should never attempt it in public until you've allowed it to percolate through your mind for a while.

Harvey Andrews finds he has to read his new songs for the first few public airings nowadays, which he works in as part of the act - he explains how he used to write a song, read it before going to sleep, then it would sink in overnight and he'd wake up in the morning to find he'd completely memorised it.

Then he explains that he still uses the same method, but finds his brain crashes overnight, so he wakes to find he has even forgotten what he was trying to remember...!

Been there!


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 11:38 AM

Hi Soldier Boy,
With 55 songs in your songbook, I think you are more into collecting songs than learning them. I know, I'm like that too. Chances are you only get to sing one or two at the club. Pick those two and leave the rest behind. If they are songs no-one else sings or knows, repeat them week after week until they are well bedded in, then add another. The more the song means something to you personally, or that you can identify with, the easier it is to learn. Comic songs are probably easier to learn as they are like telling a long joke.
Another trick is to sit beside a mate that knows your songs nad can give you a prompt when things get rough.
I've seen some people use books where it is accepted. However, the spend as much time selecting a song from it as they do singing. Be decisive it what you plan to sing and go for it


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,muppett
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 11:52 AM

Chris if you want to use a book, use a book, I've been doing it for years and folk (including you ) have often pulled me leg when I've turned up without them. One point though, I hand write all my songs into them, so I'm a bit choosy as to which ones I sing in public as the handwriting is sometimes bad, depending when and where I wrote them.

My books are only A5 size as well so they are too small to hide behind.

Finally if using a book means more folk can participate in the joys of singing, whether they are good or bad then bring them on, rather that then listening to piped wanabe pop idols

Go for it Chris


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Joe Nicholson
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 11:54 AM

Is it ok to sing from a book? Yes if you must but much better if you don't.You can do better with the tune and express the meaning of the song if you have learned it.I hear some people boast about how many songs they know and yet rarely get through a song without a stumble sometimes even using a book. So the trick is to learn the bloody song.If necsassery limit the number of somgs in your repetoire to the quantity within your learning capacity.You do not have to sing a new song evey session. I am getting on a bit now and stuggle to remember songs so I do have all mine in a folder. I know what I am going to sing and some times If it's one I havn't sung for a while I give it a quick read through before I start. But that's all

Joe Nicholson


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 12:02 PM

Ey up Muppett me owld mucca. Cheers.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 12:05 PM

I have a friend who has a problem with folkies anyway, and he often refers to them as "Those fucking book people".

If you have a new song and can't wait to share it, by all means, use a cheat sheet. I have no problem with that; but there are people who know two songs and they sing those same two songs at every gathering. BORING!


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Bert
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 12:09 PM

As Kat says, choirs do it all the time.

Personally I find that I perform worse if I use a book. I am much more likely to lose my place while looking at the audience than I am to forget a song.

If it works for you then go for it, but try to wean yourself from it if you can.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Bill D
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 12:16 PM

one person said:"Have you tried just with prompts of key words on a card?"

That can be a great help. I am not a regular 'performer', so there are sometimes songs I am inspired to do that I have not 'refreshed' recently, and a help sheet is nice.

When listening, I have ONE rule: IF I can close my eyes and not tell whether or not you are using a cheat-sheet, I am happy.So, if you really 'almost' know the song and just want a little crutch in case of verse order, etc., it should be fine...but then, go home and practice.
If you are just reading, it usually shows up as pauses, breaks, corrected words...etc...which don't make for pleasant listening. (Same goes for the tune...if you have to also refer to the tune as well as the words, it just won't work, except as a short demo to explain to someone about a song you are learning.)


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Bernard
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 12:16 PM

What I find REALLY irritating is those people who only sing the same two or three songs week in, week out, yet still have to spend the first minute or so of their turn finding the song in their book... then they forget the tune and take ages getting started, then lose their place in the words... grrrr!!

Isn't it wonderful being perfect?!!


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 12:21 PM

AS Bernard says, some people, myself included, learn songs more easily by singing them over and over again, rather than sitting down with the text of the lyrics, so for me it has to be the car Cd player.
I have used the same method for learning lines from plays, which involves having to record yourself reading ALL the characters and then leaving gaps for your own part!
I would prefer to sing MORE songs, if using the words for some of them, rather than restrict myself only to those I can definitely do from memory: hopefully the former eventually become the latter.
And I prefer the term "comfort zone" for performing within a discreet sight of the words, available if needed, rather than a "crutch" - whether the words are in a neat folder on a music stand or on a crumpled piece of paper in your pocket or behind your back: it removes a lot of the anxiety about forgetting the words........which fear makes you almost certainly forget the words!


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 12:33 PM

Singing from a book is a skill like any other. If you don't practice you won't be able to do it fluently. Since there are far more songs out there than you could possibly memorize, it's worth learning how to carry off a song from a book in case you need a new one in a hurry.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Bill D
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 12:33 PM

One of the reasons a lot of singers close their eyes when singing, is that, even for 'pros', it is easy to get distracted by what the audience is doing. The question is, when you are at home, alone, can you do the whole song without a sheet? If so, then closing your eyes might help...if not, maybe just lots or repetition is in order.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: mg
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 12:44 PM

I have no problem with people using their own books or even the blue book, for themselves. I have a huge problem, unless the group was formed specifically to do this, with people coming into established groups and telling people to go to a song on such and such a page and it being a group reading experience. Then they try to push extra copies on you. That is the problem I have. If a group wants to get together and do that, fine. But don't do it when an established group hates it. Any questions, ask. If it is a group that really hates that, find or form another group. The two schools of thought are basically incompatible. One group will th ink the other is ruining their music, which is why they get together, and the other group will think the others are musical snobs,, not democratic, not supportive. Both sides are right. mg


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,Auld timer
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 12:54 PM

Don't sing from a book or paper. This acts as a barier between you and your audence. Learn the song, learn the difference in the verses, learn how the tune has to alter to fit the words in different verses, learn how your breathing has to change to fit this change, learn the song. That is what the audence is listening to.

NOT how good(or otherwise)you can read, they want to hear you sing. Honest they realy do, want to hear you sing.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: jacqui.c
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 01:24 PM

When I started singing in public, at singarounds, ten years ago I always used a book. It gave me a bit of courage to have the words in front of me and meant that I could concentrate on getting the tune right.

Over the years I have developed more confidence and have been able to remember the words of more songs, but I do still like having the book to hand, just in case.

So far as learning songs - I take the words with me when I take the dog for a walk and find that, over the course of 3/4 hour I can learn a short song, say up to four verses. I start with the first verse and, when I've got that one in, go on to the second verse, learn that and then sing both verses together. I'll do the same with the next two verses and then try putting the whole thing together - that works for me,but we all have different ways of learning.

Like some of the other posters I would rather see someone using a book than to have someone who gets part way through a song and then spends the next ten minutes trying to stumble through the rest of it because they can't remember the words, and that I have seen in the past year an occasion which resulted in other people not getting a chance to sing in an hour's session. Similarly, those who have a very limited repertoire and sing the same few songs week after week for many years or those who sing to the book with no feeling in their voices.

For me there is always the push to do better, to increase the range of my voice and the number of songs that I can sing, with or without the words to hand. I think, for any of us, there is always room for improvement - it just depends how much work you will or can put into the craft.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,zpc
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 01:42 PM

The 'witch' and I pretty much always used songbooks if we had an actual audience - oddly enough, though I'm the one with the chronic memory problems, I was also reliably the one who knew the words! We mostly used the books to a) remind us what songs we knew, and b) sort out what order verses came in & - as others in the thread - make sure we were both on the same version...

But on the other hand, we could (and did) do most of our regular repertoire walking down the street with no aids whatsoever, just with the occasional wrong-verse stumble or 'la la la something' line substituted...


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,Kendall
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 01:49 PM

As far as stumbling around trying to find the song in the book or trying to remember the tune, learn the damn song, then sing it!

Something that bugs me is the performer who waits until he/she gets on stage before tuning. Especially if they are limited to one or two songs. No one wants to listen to you tune and make small talk while you do it.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 01:57 PM

Really damned annoying that I can get through a good number of songs without help when I am singing at home. But let people be around me and I get a severe case of ASHA (Amateur Singer's Hysterical Amnesia).

I guess I can do about 5 or 6 in public without help of cheat sheets. So I use my book of words to ease my sheer terror that I will forget words in mid song.

If anyone wants to complain, I just won't return. No one has so far. I think anyone who would make comment, to be pretty rude and an insufferable snob.

I like that rehearsal tip Jacqui. Think I will try that.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Paul Burke
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 02:19 PM

One advantage of a book, though it's seldom used, is that you can avoid only being able to think of one song- the one you always do- when suddenly it's your turn. Sameness, whether from page or rote, is a dead hand on many folk sessions. Perhaps a compromise- learn your songs, but use the book (with a pitch/ key prompt in it) to ensure that you can choose a fresh song, remember how it goes, and avoid those embarrassing false starts in little Aled Jones pitch.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 02:26 PM

Only very rarely---and only with a good reason that is mentioned rather prominently beforehand.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: eddie1
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 02:32 PM

Having read through this thread, it seems to me that maybe it's right for some people and not right for others.

Eddie


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Maryrrf
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 02:39 PM

If a book is used, have the song you're going to sing bookmarked so you don't waste time shuffling through the pages when it's your turn. It's baffling sometimes at a singaround, when everybody can tell when their turn is coming up, that some people start futzing around with their songbooks or notebooks when it gets around to them instead of having their chosen song ready. I'd rather people refer to the lyrics if it is helpful, and it needn't detract from the song. Sometimes a book or lyric sheet just serves as a 'safety net' and it isn't even necessary - but the security derived from having it helps ward off nervousness.   It's well known that a song one can sing perfectly at home or in the car can fly from memory when you're in front of an audience. And I agree about noting the key, etc. I always have a set list with the keys noted, and sometimes some notes about the songs, as one poster noted - in case someone asks.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: goatfell
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 02:47 PM

I use a songbook, if you feel comfortable about using one then do so if then don't, whatever you find comfortable, you don't have problem, other people do.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: RTim
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 03:00 PM

Before I sing at ANY EVENT - be it gig or sing around, I decide what I am most likely to sing, and write a list on a Post It Note, etc., and if I need to, I reference the page in my 7" x 4 3/4 " notebook where the first lines are. Then I ONLY sing something from that list, having practiced them before hand.

Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 03:04 PM

"Is it OK to sing from a song book?"

No!!!


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 03:20 PM

It doesn't matter whether it's a concert in front of hundreds of people, or a small singaround - it's still a performance. Even if you're inexperienced and nervous - especially if you're inexperienced and nervous - you should prepare beforehand. That means deciding what you're going to sing, plus a couple of reserves in case someone else gets in first, or in case you're asked for another with little warning. Learn them and practice them. If you need prompt cards to remind you of the key, or starting lines, have them ready and in order, and keep their use as brief as possible.

Of course inexperienced singers are nervous, but they're probably in supportive surroundings. Everyone, even experienced performers, gets nervous, it's what keeps you on your toes. The better prepared and rehearsed you are, the more confident you'll be and less likely to make mistakes.

However, part of learning to be a singer is learning how to cope with mistakes. Everyone makes them from time to time, even the pros. You could laugh it off, stop and start again, or even carry on regardless - a strategic mumble can get you past a forgotten word, or just make them up. If you play an instrument, an instrumental break can buy you time while you calm down and remember the next verse. Audiences are generally forgiving, and will soon forget you made an error, assuming they even noticed it.

Things like this are as much a part of being a singer as learning the words and the tune. They're skills which any would-be singer should aspire to. If you're going to do something, surely you should want do it properly and to the best of your ability.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: catspaw49
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 03:30 PM

SOLDIER BOY........As has been previously mentioned this is one of the oldest and sometimes most contentious subject on the forum. Let me show you what I mean. THIS THREAD is 12 years old and you'll see some familiar names. At the top of that thread is a list of others pertaining to RUS (Rise Up Singing) in particular and "book singing" in general. Read throughsome of them and you'll find the same things are being said on every one!

Buut one voice on the subject that was probably the best and most vocal is now gone from us. So let me repost here the words of our friend and 'Catter, Barry Finn:

There was a time when people came to sing, sometimes because they couldn't read & othertimes because they just enjoyed it, then others came along to listen & join in & add to the the merryment or just to listen because it's a pleasure, & hell, without the new blood what's the use of keeping such a loving thing alive if it's so sad to see it dying. My ideal singing party starts at daybreak, I'd go for roasting a pig, by noon every one's ready to eat, drink & sing, nobody misses out on singing & beginners or the shy always have the floor & the rest are in there for the coaxing & the crack, just no RUS bibles around. Usually most keep going on till evening when the heat gets turned on & that works out nicely for those that don't have a lot of songs to draw from, this is when some of the odd gems get thrown around (& everyone's joining in) along with the diamond in the rough that's hardly been heard but when you hear it you can't forget where it came from. Still no books but everybodys singing & the beginners want more & those that have been around longer are looking to swap & give more. My ideal festival is not the stages but the campsites where you can find all kinds of people singing all kinds of songs and telling all kinds of stories. I'll leave you with that image, if you want to learn a song or a tune don't try & learn it at a session or party, learn it at home, from a book if need be then leave the book there & take the music to the party. Barry, who loves it when it's wild.

And if you thought that made sense, read the following rant from Barry:

You don't teach bad singers to get better by having them sing with their peers (you have a sucky sing, it'll stay that way or get worst), you put them in with a good group, you won't get an infusion of new, fresh or young blood by exposing them to a medicore sing, you won't get anyone one to liven up the dead, the dead will bring the rest down to the lowest common denominator. If you have a great sing going throw out any bastard that wants to bring in a book, if they multiply they'll kill it! You can't kill a good sing when you've got good & strong core of singers leading it. When I lived in San Francisco 30 odd yrs ago they had some of the best singing parties I ever went to (God I miss those days), there were new people, young & old, great singers & bad singers, they all sang a varity of genres, there was a great flow of songs but when they crowded a room the roof lifted & not a piece of paper could be seen. The front room was packed, the side room was packed, the kitchen was jammed. The side room started off with newbies & beginners, as the night wore on the kitchen would start getting louder & the volume & harmony would rise above the rest. The other rooms would start to leave for the kitchen, the strong singers held court & the rest supported them. Eventually the weaker singers grew to become part of the strong core & got to lead on their own. It was magic, a few yrs later the good/strong singers left to form their own Way, the books had taken over & a good thing died an awful death. Today that sing still exists & it still sucks (I visited it the last time I was out there & the one attended by the core that left is smaller but it's good but not nearly as great as it once was. See, I also believe that with out those weaker singers, the newbies & them that don't have such a good voice we all lose something of the spirit & lust, we don't sing as well for ourselves as we do when we're singing for others. It's a wonderful thing to watch singers as they grow but they'll never grow in an enviorment where the level of singing is just a step above the gutter, in 5 yurs time they'll find that they've only sunk into the sewer.
You teach the newbies by setting your own good example. If you've got a wonderful singing club they won't jump in with a book & drag it down, they'll wait until they've been encourged by their betters & that happens as they start to join in with the rest, they get pulled along until they're ready to get their feet wet. They learn as they go! You enjoy listening to a good singer who sings their song well & has the crowd joining in or at a whisper, well they didn't learn their craft overnight, someone pulled them along too or they put in an awful lot of time & effort on their own & no one does it better alone!
An old Cape Horner told me that there was harmony on board ships, where they sang while they worked, even though a good number of the singers sucked at singing, he called it natural harmony among so many, they followed & learned their way by being with those that knew better & were around longer. I believe that every singer that thinks/knows they're bad can be better if they're exposed & surrounded by good singers (or have a voice teacher, which is more fun?), the tone deaf can be corrected to hear what works with others provided they get to sing with others that are good, they'll know with the help of the others & they'll come by some of it on their own too. We can all help to make it better but it can go the other way too, as we've seen & heard about in this thread. RUS, sucks when it's brought into a group sing, keep it at home, on the shelf with the rest of your reference books. Do you bring the whole fucking library to each sing you go to?
You need a cheat sheet? The best cheat sheet I ever saw was when I looked at our own treaties1/Theresa. She had in her hand a small index card with just a couple lead words for each verse, to give her a jolt if she needed it. Now there's a woman with a voice & a spirit to match, what a singer, what a passion & spirit but you'd never know she had any thing to back her up "just in case" & I think that was just for her shaky songs which I can't see that she'd have to many of but she's a wonder to behold. There are ways to get past the need for a note book & library. You don't do yourself any favors & you certinally aren't furthering the group singing at all, you're only dumbing it down.


Barry may be gone but thanks to the 'Cat we have his words of wisdom and experience still here.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Susan of DT
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 03:59 PM

I am pleased at the supportive tone of this thread.

I use a book - a small subset of the Digital Tradition - and feel funny about using it. I am not a performer - I'm talking about song circles. I try to keep a large repertoire going - I made a rule to myself not to sing the same song to the same group within a year. I sing mostly Child ballads and have about 60 of them going in various levels of "knowing" them. I need my safety net to have the courage to sing.

In some song circles almost everyone uses a book or notes of some variety and in others almost no one does. I have been afraid to sing at some groups where books seemed unwelcome.

Know your song so that you can put it over well, but don't worry about using a book.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 04:07 PM

It's tragic that someone feels the need to ask such a question. It is of no consequence what other people think, it's what you feel comfortable doing that counts. Ignore the anorak folkies they are all mad!!


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: RWJ
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 04:14 PM

I have trouble remembering the words but i rarely use a book. I tend to forget to take it.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 04:23 PM

Bernard, I agree that it's better to use a memory aid than to go blank on a lyric in the middle of a song and then either hem and haw — or, sometimes, even improvise.

Yes, I know, the latter is a lot of where "the folk process" comes from, and it may even be a good thing with trad. songs that have many versions. But if you're singing a song in which the lyricist composed not only specific lyrics but damned good ones, your spur-of-the moment improvisation probably won't be as good, and it's likely to make it HARDER for you to sing the correct lyrics next time.

Nancy, and others, I agree there's a difference between a performing "singaround" and a sing-along-type song circle.    You can't get much singing along unless people know the lyrics. Without lyric sheets of some sort, you're limited to very simple, repetitive songs or very, very familiar ones.
Personally, sometimes I'd even like to provide sheet music, to encourage others to harmonize; if my song is new to most other participants and I go into harmony, the others do too, so no one is carrying melody, and if the song's harmony isn't a simple 3rd above or below, it's rare for anyone else to spontaneously come up with one.    IMO, there are songs that are pretty much MADE by harmonies, and I don't like them to be excluded from sing-alongs because of some rule against using printed materials.

Chris, as for people telling you you "should" learn a song by heart, let me say this:   From early childhood I was blessed with a superior talent for memorizing things like song lyrics, poems, play scripts, etc.   (Too bad it wasn't a very marketable skill!)   It's not as easy for me as it was up to about age 50, but it's still easier for me than for others.   But many others of equal or greater "intelligence" don't have that particular talent, and I think it's pretty presumptive of those of us who CAN memorize lyrics easily to expect everyone else to be able to do it. If you don't yet know the lyrics to your favorite songs by heart, it's not necessarily because you're stupid or lazy.   A rule that nobody can use a book or lyric sheet is kind of like telling people they can't come on the hike if they need a cane or their asthma inhaler.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Joybell
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 04:35 PM

No Bonzo3legs, it's not tragic that someone needs to ask this question. It does matter what other people think when you are performing. That's why we perform. It's to share songs and to make contact with other minds through them. How we do this is not just about ourselves.
I think there are many wise and well-considered opinions on this thread from all kinds of performers. I think it's a valid question and a wise decision to ask it.
Cheers, Joy


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 04:51 PM

As Kat pointed out, choirs use music folders or books too, but they don't bury their heads in them. They know the songs but the printed sheet is there as an aid, as needed. Being able to glance at the sheet can prevent brain farts and their consequences.

I find if I have a song sheet in front of me and I know the song, I often don't even need to look at it. Just knowing it's there tends to make me less likely to go blank on a lyric.


Songbob, I agree about the tyranny of everyone having to stick to one particular printed version of a song.   Especially when your preferred version isn't the one in the book or, worse, when the book has some lyrics or chords WRONG. (I'm talking about you, RUS, for one.) "Version creep" can really throw a monkey wrench into a group sing when lyric sheets aren't used.

Acorn, I too prefer someone to use a lyric sheet or crib note than to leave out verses or mix up the order (in songs where that matters) or just bumble through.    And a book can be distracting if people are flipping through it when others are singing or when it comes their turn to lead a song.


Nick, the easiest and fastest way for me to learn a new song - to perform it in front of an audience w/o notes - is to have the lyrics (and maybe chords) in front of me in very large type the first 2 or 3 times I do it in public.    All I do is glance occasionally and briefly at that sheet while I'm playing and singing the song, and by about the 3rd time I don't need the cheat sheet anymore.   (If I don't sing the song again for a while - e.g., a song I do only at Christmas time - I may need to use the cheat sheet one more time to refresh my memory.)   
I think one reason people who use RUS tend to bury their heads in the book is that the type is so small and the format isn't easy to read (with lyrics jumping from the bottom left to the upper right of the page, for example).   If the print on a song sheet is really large, it's easy to read at a glance.
When I use RUS as a song sheet, I do NOT tend to automatically memorize the song the way I do when I use really big print song sheets - probably because so much of my attention is required to follow the format of RUS and read the mice type.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 04:52 PM

I've been a choir singer all my life, so I ordinarily use a hymnal. I suppose I have to go through a song ten times before I can sing it well from a hymnal (although I often have to get by with going through it once or twice when it's new material). After I've sung it a hundred times, I pretty-much know it by heart, and I'll glance at the hymnal once or twice during a verse - usually just at the beginning. Still, it helps to have the hymnal open for those spots where my mind goes blank.

I've sung from the Rise Up Singing songbook for almost twenty years, and I know most of the songs in that book that I'd want to know. So again, I merely glance at the book once a verse or so, and look at my audience most of the time. But the songs in Rise Up Singing are very well-known, to the point of being worn out. So, I like to learn new stuff. I keep a black folder of song lyrics, one song per page, printed in 16-point type or larger. You can see me singing from that folder here (click). I know this may be hard for some of you to believe, but I've come to the point where people actually request me to sing "Key of R," and I no longer need my lyrics page.

I refrain from using the Rise Up Singing songbook in many situations, because so many people speak of it so disdainfully; but I rarely get negative comments about my lyrics folder. I'm sorry, but I just don't have the time or patience to sing a song a hundred times to myself before I sing it for somebody else. Besides, I've found that I learn a song much better and much faster when I have an audience to interact with.

I try to sing so I'm not a slave to my songbook or lyrics sheet, but I think I sing better without the fear of forgetting lyrics.

One thing I enjoy very much is spending time with a friend or two and singing our way through a songbook, seeing how many songs we know or can learn.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Bill D
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 05:05 PM

The late, great Barry Finn would sing with anyone- I've watched him!....but as you see, he would 'enjoy' singing more with those who mostly knew their songs..

Record yourself singing...then ask yourself if YOU would enjoy listening to someone singing in the same manner, If not, work on it! Ask people to critique you away from a song circle. Think about the song and what it means and try to put the 'feel' of it into your singing--humor or pathos need different treatment. (Just reciting the words to a vague tune is not fun to listen to.)

I am reminded of a thing I read once about writing... the guy said to ask yourself, "Do I really have something inside me that needs saying, or do I just 'want to have written a book'?" Ask yourself if you really enjoy singing, or you just 'want to have done a song in a group'. It's not always an easy question to answer, but it may help form your approach.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Songbob
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 05:11 PM

On memorizing, a trick I heard from Michael Cooney:

Learn the song backwards!

Start with the last verse, then sing the last two, then the last three, etc.

The part that gets repeated the most gets remembered the easiest.

Make the later verses the most-repeated, so when you get "into" the song, the parts you usually would have trouble with -- the later verses -- will be the easy verses, since you've repeated them the most.

It's artificial as hell, and hard to stick to as a practice, but it works.

Bob


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: artbrooks
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 05:14 PM

You know, I remember when that quote from Barry Finn was first made and, with all possible respect to the guy, I didn't agree then either. There are all kinds of singing venues, and I think they are all represented here in one way or another. A gig, especially a paid gig, to me means that the performer knows his material and memory aids should be limited to a cue sheet with the song order - doesn't always work for everyone, of course. A group sing is a different critter entirely and, as has been said several times, local custom governs.

The term "singaround" used by the OP means different things in different places, and stating that such-and-such is permissible at a song circle or a group singalong but not at a singaround is essentially meaningless. There is a great mix of styles where I "sing"; some participants are confident enough to sing without aids, some like immensely complicated 87-verse ballads for which lyric sheets are essential and some like to sing as part of a group, in which everyone is singing the same thing in the same way. We take turns. Some of the purists out there will certainly say that one or more of those is wrong...and I suppose it is - for them. Some of us do not have the advantage of living where there is another group singing in a different way on another night at a different pub ten miles in the other direction or living in a major metroplex where there is something to fit every taste.

BTW, "Rise Up Singing" and "The Folksingers Wordbook" are very different publications, both are in print, and neither is a precursor of the other.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 05:58 PM

Good points, Bill D.

But what I enjoy LISTENING to and what I enjoy by way of sing-alongs are kind of two different things. It can be great fun, and great physical and emotional therapy, to sing with other people, even if nobody has a great voice.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 06:06 PM

Bob, that "backwards learning" trick is a good one.

But no matter how well you've learned a song, your mind can still go blank momentarily during a song. (Or at least mine can.)   If you're jamming with a few folks, it's usually no biggie. You just go oobie-doobie-doo or someone else provides the line or you just laugh it off. But when you're kind of performing, even if just in a sing-around, performance anxiety can turn that momentary lapse into a full mental block.   That's where cue cards or cheat sheets can be very helpful

Oh, and another very good memorization technique is "errorless learning." Every time you make a mistake, that error kind of gets "learned" in a way, so the more often you practice something with NO errors, the more solid your learning of the correct way will be. This is another reason why it's helpful to use big-print song sheets (I recommend 20-pt or more) as helpers until you have really, really learned a song.

And are you really supposed to sing a song 100 times in private before you ever share it in a song circle or singaround, just so you won't need the 'training wheels' that first time?


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Joybell
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 06:14 PM

The key point here, and the one Soldier Boy already understands and accepts, is that all social gatherings have rules. Many of the ideas on this thread are helpful in understanding why this is so. Also they're helpful in suggesting ways of working within the rules.
That gatherings have rules is allowable, and even necessary, in Human society. Nobody questions that say -- a football club -- has certain rules for playing the game.
Cheers, Joy


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,Roger Knowles
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 06:22 PM

No.
Learn the song you want to sing at home.
Don't practice in public, do it at home and then come out and sing the song when you know the words and music.
Age is no excuse. I'm 68, still know about 800 songs from memory and don't want to endure venues where people don't know the song well enough to sing it from memory.
That's why I rarely go to folk clubs any more, though I used to love them.
My opinion.It was asked for.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: le cheffie
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 06:47 PM

I sing in pub sessions, I sing and play with my eyes closed, when I sing though I always have the words in front of me, I f people don't like it then tough shit, I go to a session to sing and enjoy my self. If people want to spoil my enjoyment of singing folk songs from a book then that is there look out. I am not a proffesional singer, I'm a bloke with a crap voice who enjoys singing and sod anyone who has a problem with it


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,999
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 06:53 PM

"Is it Ok to sing from a song book?"


So, ya wanna sing from a cook book?


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,Rod
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 06:57 PM

Use a book by all means - it's a good signal for people to go to the bar...


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: mg
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 06:58 PM

It is OK if you sing in the nude. The key is to figure out what the culture of the session is and act accordingly and state your preferences clearly and nip things in the bud if you can. If runners of something don't speak up, there it goes and you have no one to blame. mg


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Bill D
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 07:18 PM

If *I* sing in the nude, no one will remember if I sang well or not. Stunned minds will retreat into amnesia.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: mg
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 07:21 PM

If only I shall ever be so lucky. mg


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: mousethief
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 07:27 PM

It's okay if you sing in the nude, as long as you stand out.

O..O
=o=


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: DonMeixner
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 07:30 PM

The answer is yes and no.

If you are doing a stage performance that you want people to remember you by then pick your set, learn it and make it work for you. I have used a song sheet very few times in my life on stage and because I relied on the written word I tended to screw it up because I couldn't it well enough. Better to go commando and have to bluff it.

If you are leading a sing along for old folks( That would be people 15 years older than Kendall Morse)then use a note book full of copies and pass out the sheets to the front row. Everyone of those octogenarian babes will remember how considerate you were. (Women tend to octogenate while men barely septugenize if ever)

Don


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 07:32 PM

I suppose these things are dictated by culture. The culture of folk music seems to demand singing without notes. I come from the Wisconsin summer camp culture, and I absolutely detest having song lyrics sheets at campfires - and had frequent battles with Cub Scout den mothers who demanded that I provide song sheets for their children. Choir singers almost universally use hymnals, and classical singers usually use sheet music. Pop singers are generally expected to know their lyrics, although it seems some of them use TelePrompters or lip-sync.

So, it seems that different styles have different expectations. Still, some of us choir singers who would like to sing folk music, don't feel comfortable with our ability to memorize songs - and we feel excluded by those who demand that we do just that. And some of us camp song singers would like to begin to sing something more adult - and we need help.

So, I dunno. I guess absolutism is the mark of our culture nowadays. People are convinced that there's only one way to do things - their way. But give me a break, hey? Don't look at me when I'm singing, and then decide whether you like how I sing. Lots of people think my singing style is kinda crazy, but they grow to like it. And if you really don't want to see me with a lyrics sheet, I hope you like camp songs.

You put your left foot in, you put your left foot out....

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Artful Codger
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 07:44 PM

Hey, we're talking about a song circle, not a recital or talent show. The important thing is to share SONGS, not set silly performance standards. If "quality" and "presentation" were so important, you'd have to bar half the singers at the outset--including those who "come prepared". I'll tolerate a lot of dross to hear just a handful of interesting songs. An uncommon song sung from a crib is worth ten of the usual suspects sung prettily from memory.

People have vastly different capacities for memorization, so those to whom it comes relatively easy unjustly look down upon those for whom it's a real challenge--even if the latter can sing better than the former! It's not necessarily "laziness"; it may be more a matter of limitation and assurance.

Singing in a group (particularly if you're the newbie) is daunting and distracting enough without such high-flown expectations. It is no insult to me if a person uses a lyrics sheet to give me his best rendering. The sheet may be his way to quell nervousness, avoid probable blanking and keep focused on the music. Most importantly, he's sharing in the way he feels comfortable, and sharing is supposed to be the main purpose of these gatherings.

I don't judge whether a song is worth singing--or whether a person is fit to sing it, or whether they are "honoring" the song--by whether they can reel it off from memory. After all, not every folksinger is a song-circle diva with stage aspirations, some are actual folk--remember them?

There are many songs I've worked up to the point that I could perform them expressively with a crib, but I don't feel like totally memorizing and actively reviewing them. (Consider Christmas carols and Civil War songs, as easy examples). Nevertheless, they'd be refreshing songs to share at song circles--if people weren't so snooty about song sheets. So the snoots end up depriving themselves and everyone else.

Time to reassess your priorities. Stop making hasty judgments about what it "means" if a person sings from a sheet. Have you grown too accustomed to musical performances pasteurized like Cheez-Whiz? Are you embarrassed by the reminder that your singers mostly learned their songs from Mudcat transcriptions taken from CDs? Does everyone have to be a Kate Rusby wannabe in order to grace your circle or sing in public? Why erect artificial barriers to people just singing and sharing?


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,999
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 07:48 PM

Bien dit!


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: mousethief
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 07:49 PM

The important thing, as has been noted above (time to go to the bar) is by our actions and attitudes to make neophytes as uncomfortable as possible, and as turned off from actually making (as opposed to experiencing) folk music as we can. The practical upshot of which, which I am sure we can all agree is the important thing, is that once the current generation of singers dies out, nobody will take their place, having been turned off by judgmental and rude attitudes. The death of live folk music, that's what matters.

That's what I'm hearing.

O..O
=o=


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 07:55 PM

By now we all realize that there is no one answer. I doubt that there is a consensus, so just play it by ear. If you can sing in public without a book, do so. If people leave it's probably because you can't sing.
If you need a book or you are ill prepared, or you suck as a singer people may leave. That should be your cue.
We all sing because we want to if we are at home or in a club. However, if we sing in public we should be singing for others as well as ourselves, and "Fuck 'em" is an attitude that will get you labeled "Persona non grata"


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 08:47 PM

Yeah, but too often, the judgment is made because the singer uses a book - not because of the quality of the singing.
(although I have to admit that the people without books generally are the better singers)
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Ron Davies
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 09:42 PM

Most people on this thread seem to have at least some tolerance for some memory-aiding devices in a singaround--which is in fact the topic here, not paid performance.

I would also say that there's no problem with most types of assistance.

But, a few observations:

"Is it OK to sing from a book?" is the topic.   That seems to me different than just glancing at a cue card if necessary--or even holding a sheet with the words to your song.   I'd have no problem with somebody holding a sheet with words--as long as he or she did not have to read every word off the sheet.

Also, if you sing from a book, you set the bar very high for yourself. The song will have to flow, it's best if it has a chorus--and you will have to make eye contact with your audience often--or at least make it clear you are not just reading out of the book.   All this can happen--but it's rare.

If you don't sing from a book , I find audiences are far more forgiving on all these points. What counts is not perfection, but that you have made an effort to learn your song before coming to the venue.

As I noted, I think it's fine for folkies (amateurs) to hold a sheet with words--(not reading the words off the page).   In fact as a talisman it may well ward off stage fright just to know the words are there. Even better if the sheet is folded up and you don't look at it--and that can also serve the purpose.

UK folkies, and the original poster is in the UK, have it much better than US folkies--- in tbe UK there is no chance of Rise Up Singing ever appearing at a session.   Every other book or aid is just fine--but RUS is just the kiss of death to a good session.

Reason:   it makes it just too easy to never even bother to learn a song--and too many people take advantage of this feature.   And if there is one, there is likely to be more than one--which kills spontaneity stone dead and virtually always turns the session into a secular hymn sing. If people would not use RUS as a hymnal, it could be useful. But there is zero chance of that.

As Sandy Paton put it in an earlier thread on this topic:   "Use a crutch continuously and the leg you are taking the weight off will eventually weaken." RUS is a crutch--a strong one--and far too tempting for some people. It's great to learn some songs--at home. And that's where it should stay.   Unless you are leading a group of children.

Any other book or aid is much less of a problem.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Beer
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 09:48 PM

Correct me if I am wrong, but i am sure i have seen on T.V.when the camera was roaming around on some professional big time band the main singer looking at a karaoke type of screen (on the floor like a monitor that he could see the words to his songs. Damn I wish I could remember the artist.
Adrien


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Ron Davies
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 10:18 PM

Beer--

That happens a lot--annoyingly enough.

For the 4th of July in Washington DC my chorus sings backup to various singers at the big concert on the Mall.   Some relatively big names can't seem to either learn their songs or read the teleprompter.   It's amazing.

And, while rehearsing for the Kennedy Center Honors I saw James Taylor ream out a stage hand since he couldn't see the words he was reading.   Why he hadn't learned the song I don't know.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 10:48 PM

I want to clear up one first point. When I refer to 'a song book' I am not refering to the book "Rise up Singing" or any other "hymnal" sort of song book.
I apologise profusely to my American friends of folk but until now I've never heard of this song book (but I will now look it up).

My song book is well worn and tattered with beer stains and tears, but for me it contains a treasured collection of folk songs I have noted down as I have heard them sung in sessions or have tediously written them down from listening to cassett tapes and CDs over and over or I've lovingly copied from similar 'informal' song books of fellow songsters and friends over many years (with their gracious permission of course).

I've even got some from LP's, older relatives and nowadays; the brilliant and priceless folk knowledge contained in this exeptional site - MUDCAT!

It's been a labour of love and very painstaking at times but it has been worth all the effort to 'capture' my favourite songs and ones that I know others enjoy as well (but often can't remember all the words).

To me, and I am sure for many songsters out there; I have an innate desire to please and that is what guides me in my journey (albeit not all that well travelled so far) to seek out and find songs that I and others will enjoy - especially good, strong and often emotional and meaningful songs as well as humourous songs with a powerful and familiar chorus that everyone can join in with.

I do feel that I can sing from a book and yet still inject the feeling/emotion/meaning/life into the song that it really deserves without coming across as seemingly reading from rote or being deadpan/lifeless/parrot fashion/boring.

Thankfully I have a a very good memory for the music and every note of a song ( I can't read music and haven't a clue what the chords E,G,B,D,F means - except 'Every good boy deserves favour' - which I remember from Junior School!) - so why is it that I can be note perfect (and friends have commented on this being so) but be absolutely useless about remembering the all important lyrics?

Is it something about how the different hemispheres of the brain works or am I just stupidly dsylexic when it comes to words?

Aaaaaaaargh!

Chris


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: DonMeixner
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 10:59 PM

Look at De Dannan and friends doing Hard Times on Youtube. There is at least one person reading lyrics from a page on the floor. Maura O'Connell I believe.

I don't perform with a song sheet unless I absolutely can't help it. People pay for a performance. If you are paid for that time you are a professional and a pro is supposed to show up prepared.

Don


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 11:31 PM

DonMeixner, I don't understand what you mean when when you mix the terms performance, professional and prepared!

Perhaps, like me, Maura O'Connell was ok with the tune but not so confident with the lyrics; so what's so wrong with having a page on the floor to make sure she didn't stumble?

That's being professional and prepared to ensure they gave a good performance.

Come on bud, give her a break.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Sandy Mc Lean
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 11:32 PM

Interesting discussion! I almost always sing from memory and I know a lot of songs, but I have suffered lapses even with some that I have written myself. The rare time that I will use a songsheet is when I would choose a song to fill a request or for some special occasion where the song is not one that I usually do. I practice constantly by singing to myself at home, but then again I am retired and have the time to waste. As for nude singing I sometimes do sing in the shower, but I take advice from a song often sung by a good friend,"I Don't Look Good Naked Anymore." :-}


I Don't


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Sandy Mc Lean
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 11:41 PM

Sorry, link failed. Try this:
I Don't Look Good


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 11:50 PM

Bob & Ron Copper used sometimes, as part of their tradition, to sing from Jim Copper's book. But I don't think they ever really relied on it.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 03:12 AM

Chris, I have no doubt that what you say is true, that you - like many other fine folk singers I know - can and do use your own lyric sheets, very effectively, in singarounds and song circles.

And, as I mentioned before, the ability to memorize lyrics is but one aspect of skill/intelligence and probably rather independent of others (such as vocal quality, interpretive skill, instrumental skill, etc.).



Mousethief,

You have hit the nail on the proverbial head, as is your wont.   
In the furor over [shudder] the use of books or lyric sheets, or [double shudder] any form of amplification, I often hear both rigidity and elitism.   I don't think we need either.


Don M,
Being professional and being prepared does not automatically exclude the use of sheet music or a lyric sheet or cue card.

As has been mentioned several times in this thread, no matter how many times you have practiced a song in private — perhaps doing it perfectly many times — it is still all too possible to go blank during a performance before an audience. Especially your first time. Using a song sheet does NOT imply that you have not done your homework.

Also, as some of us have mentioned, the book or song sheet is often used for the benefit of the REST of the group, not for the lead singer.   It helps the group be able to sing along.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 03:49 AM

Is it ok for a singer to sing from a song book?
Yes - as long as he/she doesn't mind if this particular audience member leaves the room while he/she is singing.
The need to read the text while singing indicates that the song isn't ready for public performance and the singer hasn't yet made it his/her own - I can honestly say that I have never been moved by a song that has been read from a book.
It is insulting to the maker of the song and to the listener and it suggests, rightly or wrongly, that the singer believes the song not to be worth any great effort.
Put the work in beforehand and don't sing it in public until you have done so.
Would you attempt to sing a song in public if you hadn't learned the tune?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Marje
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 04:58 AM

It's true that some other genres of music do rely on books a lot more, but we're talking about much longer and more complicated works than a 4-verse song. If you're singing Bach's St Matthew Passion, you've got a big fat score that will take a couple of hours or more to get through, and no one expects choirs to do that from memory. Even the parts where you don't sing need to be followed in the score so that you know where to come in again (there's probably only been one run-through with orchestra and soloists). Even church choirs may have several different hymns/anthems for every church service. Another reason that choirs have scores is that they all have to sing it exactly as written - not only the words and the notes, but the dynamics and speed-changes, breathing points, etc, some of which will have been pencilled in for this particular performance. Some conductors won't let choirs sing from memory, as they want everyone to have the last-minute notes on the interpretation in front of them.

Classical soloists often sing from memory, or without much reliance on a book. Pop singers don't sing from books, and neither do country, blues or jazz singers, adn our material is no more difficlut thah theirs.

One final point to consider: you say your memory isn't what it was, but your eyesight is probably diminishing at a similar rate. If you rely on books of words, you may soon find you can't read them in certain lights - it's much safer to put in a bit of work and get the song in your head!

Marje


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Valmai Goodyear
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 05:55 AM

Books in evidence but not interfering with the performance


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,LTS on the sofa
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 06:00 AM

Soddit... if Elvis can do it on stage in Las Vegas BEFORE he got ill and Roy Bailey and Martin Carthy have both used crib sheets in concert, then it shouldn't matter a tinkers cuss who else takes the words in wherever. No one walked out on Roy Bailey to my knowledge.. but if that's your habit - to exit as soon as someone takes out a book or notes, then all I can say is you are very rude and have probably missed some damned fine singing.

As for choral works - I've sung in a choir of some sort or another for 35 years, both as a chorister and as a soloist.   I have sung pieces as diverse in size as the Messiah Oratorio and the Vicar of Dibley theme - using a score each time. Even as soloist, I have the score in front of me, be it a 200page tome or a single sheet, so the size argument just doesn't fly.

We have also performed pieces from memory - Mozart's Ave Verum Corpus springs to mind - in several locations, both formal and informal, with and without a conductor. Without a doubt, the worst rendition was the one without a conductor - our 'crutch'.. You see, crutches come in all sorts of shapes. Some are book shaped, some are guitar shaped, some are melodeon shaped, some are tankard or pint glass shaped and some are conductor or friend shaped. Whichever crutch you use, you should never be ashamed of it, and even more importantly, you should never make anyone else feel ashamed of theirs.

LTS


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Dave MacKenzie
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 06:10 AM

"I never asked for your crutch
Now don't ask for mine"


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,muppett
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 06:10 AM

I was in a singaround t'other week and someone was using a lap top as an aid, so what's the take on that !


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 06:11 AM

"Books in evidence but not interfering with the performance"
Do you honestly believe that using a songbook doesn't influence the way the Copper's sing - sorry, don't agree.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Valmai Goodyear
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 06:19 AM

The Coppers don't bury their faces in their books, but use them to keep their words tidy when a lot of them are singing together. When a smaller number is singing they generally don't use them.

I feel that none of us is in a position to criticise the Coppers: they are source singers. Their way is not the only way, but it is a genuinely traditional one.

Valmai


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Acorn4
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 06:32 AM

I agree that it is preferable to have learned the words and we both do that nowadays - however, we always like to give a song a trial run or two with the words usually in a small gathering where we know everyone.

This is to do things like establishing capo position - when you sing a song in public the key sometimes needs adjusting to something different to what it was running through it at home - also I write my own stuff and sometimes it will take me up to 3 weeks to learn the words if it's a wordy song due to advancing years, and a run through with words will gauge reaction and lead to a decision whether it's going to go down OK and sometimes leads to alterations- sometimes problems don't manifest themselves until you try out something in public.

As many of us are now in the Saga generation the rate of forgetfulness is increasing:-

"ask the audience?"

"phone a friend"

What does annoy me is when people spend the whole of the time when others are performing flicking through their folders of words. This is bad manners surely.

Learning the words enables you to really get inside a song and perform it rather than just sing it. Having said that I wouldn't ever walk out on someone just because they were using a prompt.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: goatfell
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 07:03 AM

where in the folk club/singers 'rulebok' does it say that you shouldn.t sing from a songbook. What might be right for you, might be wrong for someone else.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: kendall
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 07:09 AM

I'd rather sing for them than at them.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 07:24 AM

"I feel that none of us is in a position to criticise the Coppers:"
Me too - I didn't think I was criticising them, certainly didn't intend to. I was just observing that the fact that their singing from a book, when they do it, produces a number of effects in their final output.
From what I have read and learned in discussion, their manner of performance is far more than 'just keeping the words tidy", but a long established family custom.
The only other singers who consistently produce a similar sound on all their songs are those revival performers who have set out to borow from their style.
"where in the folk club/singers 'rulebok'"
Who mentioned rules - I was under the impression that people were giving opinions, albeit strongly held ones.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 07:26 AM

"I sing in pub sessions, I sing and play with my eyes closed, when I sing though I always have the words in front of me, I f people don't like it then tough shit, I go to a session to sing and enjoy my self. If people want to spoil my enjoyment of singing folk songs from a book then that is there look out. I am not a proffesional singer, I'm a bloke with a crap voice who enjoys singing and sod anyone who has a problem with it"

Me, me, me! What about the audience? Oh yes, "sod" them!


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 07:57 AM

I don't agree with those who say "I'm not a performer, I just want to sing". Any time you lead a song, whether it's on stage in front of an audience or taking your turn in a singaround, you are a performer. You're not simply singing for your own pleasure, you're there to entertain, even if only to a small degree, the people around you. Audiences are generally sympathetic and supportive, but in return you have to make an effort.

Singing is a art, and a craft. There are skills and techniques which need to be learned. Remembering words is one of them. It's a skill which comes with practice, like any other. Unless you suffer from some neurological disorder you should be perfectly capable of remembering vast amounts of information. Unfortunately we live in a culture where we don't need to rely on our memory, because it is so easy to look up information we require in books or online, so our memory gets lazy. We are all capable of much more, it just requires practice and finding a memorising technique which works for you.

I don't have an especially retentive memory, but I am capable of remembering a lot of songs and tunes, including long ballads, because I've practised them. If I'm intending to perform them in public, I rehearse them beforehand, even if that just means singing in the car on the way there.

As for the person who asked if he is expected to practice a song 100 times before performing it in public - why not, if that's what it takes? No one said it should be easy.

Someone said an amateur practices until he gets it right, a professional practices until he can't get it wrong. Amateur or professional, if you're going to inflict your singing on other people in public then you should be prepared to put in the work, the study and the practice to do it to the best of your ability. Why should it be "good enough for folk"?


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 08:16 AM

Excellent Howard - that really is what it should be about, and until it is folk music will never be taken seriously and will only survive on bookshelves and in archives.
Anybody can sing (our sadly, now demised cat, could give it a fair try) but it takes work to become a singer.
MacColl, (who, admittedly, was porone to exaggeration) said that it took three months from the finding of a new song to his performing it in public. I have no way of verifying the accuracy of his claim, but I do know several of us were singing his 'Alan Tyne of Harrow' in public before he did.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: RamblinStu
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 08:43 AM

I agree with the last two posts

Like it or not when you lead a song you are performing, so be as good as you can be, practice practice practice and then practice some more. If this gets boring, remember it will be boring for your audience as well. However at some point the song will "click" and you will be happy with it.

This is the time to start to sing it in public, you will enjoy it and the audience will enjoy it too, and this will increase your enjoyment

Strive for perfection, avoid mediocrity

So for me it's no books, but loads of practice

I'm off now to practice……

Stuart Pendrill


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,muppett
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 09:14 AM

Well said Shimrod, I agree,

So Chris, look forward to seeing you and your book in the coming months.

BOOKS R US.

What's everybod's take on sticking a finger in yer ear when singing, whilst reading from a book?


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 09:19 AM

Down Muppett, sit !

You naughty boy you !!


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 09:54 AM

When I saw this topic on the list of threads, and saw the huge number of posts, I naturally assumed that one of the old threads on this question had been ressurrected, and figured I'd scroll to the bottom to read two or three recent additions.

Boy was I wrong ~ all these many comments have been made within the last couple of days! Which goes to show just how controversial a topic this seems to be (at least to some folks, or to some communities).

My answer: It's OK in some places, not at all OK in others. Suss out the venue first!

If you play an instrument to accompany yourself, of course, you can't hold a songbook at the same time. If the venue provides a music stand, it's probably OK to put your notes, book, binder, etc. on the stand.

Personally, as a performer, I resort to my cheat-sheets on some numbers but don't need 'em on many others. It's a way to expand one's repertoire more quickly, right? I do try to be subtle about it, just glancing down occasionally.

As an audience member, I am not at all offended by a singer referring to notes, but I do not enjoy watching someone read every line from a book. It's disconnects singers from listeners and looks at best awkward and at worst offensive.

If you are too obviously reading an entire lyric, not even trying to look up and engage your listeners, they are going to become uncomfortable. At best, they'll feel sorry for you; they are not likely to feel that they're being entertained.

When you find it necessary to use notes, perhaps you should try to get the crowd on your side with some kind of good-humored self-deprecating introductory remarks about not yet having the song entirely memorized, etc., and then proceed to REFER to your songsheet, trying not to focus on it constantly to the exclusion of your listeners.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: ossonflags
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 10:43 AM

No one came out the womb with a collection of songs perfectly honed.If it gets you going use a crib sheet or two, but always remember learning a song is like learning to drive a car.Pass your test and you are learning to drive; learn the words and you are starting to learn the song.

What I canott accept are professional musicians( whoever they are) using books/ monitors/ crib sheets.This is an insult to the people who have paid to see them. Would you go and see a play and the actors read from the script?

Keep at it Chris, I always enjoy your company in singaround or drinkaround and we all realise and respect the amount of guts it takes to get up and sing for the first time - or any time - to a crowd of people. Respect my man, keep doing it and more to the point keep enjoying it!!!


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 11:58 AM

At risk of appearing to contradict myself, I accept that crib sheets are sometimes necessary, even for professional performers. Sometimes you simply need a prompt for something which refuses to sink in, or sometimes you might get asked to perform something new (or long dropped from your repertoire) without sufficient time to rehearse properly. And not just singers - even professional actors invariably have a prompter in the wings.

For example, my band was booked to play for a dance, and we were asked to learn a number of tunes which were for specific dances. We didn't have much time, and they weren't in our usual style so we wouldn't be keeping them in the repertoire. We learned the tunes, but not as thoroughly as we normally would before playing them out, so we kept sheet music handy, just in case.

On another occasion I was asked to sing two specific songs during a gig. Again, I learned them specially for the occasion, but kept a prompt handy. In this case I had no opportunity to give the songs a "trial run" in a less formal setting, which I usually like to do with new material.

The important thing is, prompts should be used only when necessary, for prompting not reading off, and in such a way that the audience won't be aware of it - on the floor or against the monitor are good options.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Dave MacKenzie
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 12:00 PM

"Would you go and see a play and the actors read from the script?"

Possibly yes. I think the term's something like a "staged reading".

Classical musicians usually play from music and get paid. Possibly the origin of folk musicians not using words and music lies in roots in pre-literate societies.

There are times when your mind goes blank, no matter how well prepared you are - I went through a phase many years ago when I couldn't remember choruses - so if I'm doing a singing gig I'll usually have the words with me just in case. When I played in a ceilidh band we never used music - just a tune list with keys, but for an RSCDC dance I'd always use music, as the custom there is for the dancers to stipulate the dances and hence the tunes.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 01:23 PM

Thank you Ossonflafs for your stout support Sir. That means a lot to me.

I never thought I would stir up such a hornet's nest with my question, but I am thrilled that I did because the standard of contributions and debate on here is fantastic!

I asked the question in all innocence and with no intention to be contentious or contraversial but I knew that I might have to duck behind the parapet occasionally!

"There are many wise and well considered opinions on this thread from all kinds of performers.I think it's a valid question and a wise decision to ask it" (thanks 'Joybell'),
And as 'Susan of DT' said: "I am pleased at the supportive tone on this thread"
I agree with Joybell and Susan 100%. I am learning so much from people who know the folk scene inside out and live it and breathe it every day of their lives.
The tone has indeed been mostly supportive and I am delighted by the generosity of encouragement and the many ideas and duggestions received on ways to learn songs, use prompt cards,how to sing from and not to a song book , use of repetition etc etc etc.

Thankyou everyone for your contributions to this thread.

You have doubly enforced im my mind what a brilliant bunch of people folk people are!!

Chris


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,Jack Campin
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 01:30 PM

One group of performers who nearly always use sheet music is Scottish dance bands. Particularly when playing for country dance - the programme will usually include dances calling for specific tune sets, and there are hundreds of dances involving thousands of tunes.

This usually involves folders far too heavy for any music stand, sitting flat on an accordion case.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 01:51 PM

If you are going to insist that nobody ever perform a song in public until they have learned it so well and practiced so many times in private that they can guarantee they will not flub the lyrics or forget verses when they do take it public, there's going to be one helluva lot less public singing done, from the best singers as well as the lesser ones.

Some of us would much rather not take a chance on having a momentary brain fart (to use a technical term) mess up the flow of a song than take the chance that someone will walk out because we have a lyric sheet in front of us as a cue card in case of such an event.

And for group singing, especially when it's a sing-along, not a rehearsed choir, having at least a lyric sheet -- and maybe even the "dots" too -- can be absolutely necessary if the lyrics or tune is not really simple, repetitive, and/or predictable.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 01:52 PM

Word to this post, Liz.

Liz The Squeak, on using "crutches"


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 01:53 PM

Word to this post, Liz:

LizTheSqueak, on "crutches"


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: artbrooks
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 02:04 PM

I get the impression that to some people, in the UK at least, a song-circle/singaround is a fairly large group in some sort of commercial venue (such as a pub), in which each person takes a turn singing a song while everyone else listens more or less attentively...that is, there is a performer (who is a moving target) and an audience. In the ones in which I have participated in the US - in several different locations - the locale is usually somebody's living room and it is much more likely to involve group singing than a single singer and a bunch of listeners. Perhaps this is one of the reasons for the very diverse set of opinions.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 02:09 PM

Howard,

"Unless you suffer from some neurological disorder you should be perfectly capable of remembering vast amounts of information."
This is true. But having something stored in your memory does not guarantee it will be immediately retrievable when you need it.   It is not that uncommon for someone to "blank out" on the lyrics of a song that they've not only learned and overlearned but may have performed before audiences many, many times.
Perfection is not guaranteed, no matter how long you've taken to memorize something.   Most artists use song sheets or the like in the recording studio; not having to be searching their memory for the next line frees up your attention to focus on things like your interpretation, sound, etc.

I can see practicing a song 100 times in private before you perform it in concert, but before you share it with a few friends at a small, informal song circle? Why??

The hardest lyrics for me to recall perfectly are often my own songs. That's because I've often revised some of them a number of times before arriving at my (currently) final version, so there's a lot of interference.   And if I want others to sing along with me, it's almost guaranteed that they won't be able to if I don't pass out lyric sheets (or even sheet music, if the tune or harmony is unusual).

"Someone said an amateur practices until he gets it right, a professional practices until he can't get it wrong."
Whoever said that is wrong.   There are few, if any, professionals who never make mistakes — whether they are doctors, teachers, mechanics, journalists, or musicians.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: RTim
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 02:16 PM

I was singing a song in a Dress Rehearsal last night - one that I have been singing for more years than I care to remember - and then, in the middle of the 3rd chorus - I totally blanked out.
It was because I was concentrating more on where I was on stage, than on the song!!!
It can happen anywhere, any time and with no warning - even when you know the song.

Tim radford


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: MikeL2
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 03:05 PM

Hi genie

< " "Someone said an amateur practices until he gets it right, a professional practices until he can't get it wrong."
Whoever said that is wrong.   There are few, if any, professionals who never make mistakes ">

True true.....but the professional knows how to cover up the boobs much more than an amateur.

This thread is very interesting but as often happens here we are not always comparing apples with apples.

Some comments are made about relaxed sing-a-longs and are then argued as if it were a paid guest at a concert and vice-versa.

I don't mind song books in relaxed surroundings but I don't particularly like to see them employed by professionals......although I know it is done.

But I wouldn't get up and walk out if someone did it. !!!

cheers

Mike


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Deckman
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 03:56 PM

NO


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,DonMeixner
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 03:59 PM

I think the true professional is the person whose mistakes appear to be a part of the arrangement. I'd better say the professional quality because I know there are many armatures that are so good that they could be pros if they chose to live the life. The life ain't easy because like it or not it is a very competitive life. And it takes every edge you can develop to be a success as a touring performing musician and singer. The bar is awfully high.
        In the 20 some years that I have been going to Old Songs I remember only one single stage performance where sheets were pulled. These were shape note singers working from The Sacred Harp.   In the work shops for instrumental playing and shape note and ballad singing every one worked from the same sheets because it was efficient as a learning tool. Song sheets and books were used in the sing a round's at The Dutch Barn and in the group sings in the camps. But on the stage I can't recall a single individual, duo, trio, quartet who relied on sheets other than the Shape Noters .
        I'm sure you have seen Martin Carthy and The Copper Family and Elvis Presley using song sheets on rare occasions. At their level of performance no one is gonna tell them they can't. I am not at that level of the business and probably never will be.
        I'm still scrumming for gigs in the locals with the locals so I'm after every edge I can get. When I'm set up in a saloon and singing with Two Feet Short it is just Jim and I. We know the others moves so well we make the same mistakes at the same time. We don't use sheets because we don't need to. We can second guess the others next move. If I'm looking at a book I'm not flirting with the girls at the bar. I want to be remembered as the Dirty Old Man with nice voice and easy smile, not the bald head only seen over the top of a book. In my case competing with the young guys with the Dave Mathews style I need all the help I can get.
       I'm not trying to explain why people shouldn't use note books and sheets, I am explaining why I don't.

Don


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 04:01 PM

Whatever works.
But, having said this, it's a helluva lot easier to reach your audience when you don't have a book in the way..


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Bill D
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 04:14 PM

I repeat... *IF* I can close my eyes and not tell whether you are using a help sheet or book, I have no problem. If it flows and sounds good, I'll be fine. I'd hope you can eventually do without a crutch, but just....PLEASE.. be able to sing it WITH the book.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 04:34 PM

Mike2,
I think you summarized the issues pretty well.

This discussion has gotten long, and I think we may have forgotten
SongBob's original post and query.

It was pretty clear to me that he was talking people singing in informal or at least unpaid settings, not professional gigs.

I agree with Bill D that if I can close my eyes and not tell whether a book or lyric sheet is being used, its presence is no more disruptive than teleprompters are when used by skillful professionals delivering the news or a speech.

And, Don M, I like the way you think! LOL

You're right, of course, that a true professional doesn't let the audience know it when they flub their lines or lyrics.
But, as I said earlier, every time you improvise, increase the likelihood of flubbing the line again. If the original script (lyric) was really good, this "folk process" will probably make the song (or play) worse, not better. That is one reason for using some sort of cue card. But if you use it right, it will hardly be noticeable or lessen the impact of your song.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 06:26 PM

You are right Genie, I was talking about people singing in informal or at least unpaid settings, not professional gigs.
I am just a lowly folkie layman who enjoys a sing in fairly informal sessions, often on the 'fringe' of folk festivals in a more informal setting of a pub or a club room etc. So I guess the key word here is 'informal'!

I've only started to do a song or few myself in the past two years so I am still very much a novice at it.
But having said that I am fascinated by the view point and sage comments of all the professional and semi-professional performers here on this thread.
They have a lot of wisdom and years of hard fought experience which is invaluable and I think that even some of the old hands themselves are learning something from each other here in the many suggestions and techniques that have been discussed.

Hey, it's all good stuff folks!

And Genie, - who is SongBob ?


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 06:37 PM

The original post was about singarounds in the UK folk scene. And yes, these are usually round-the-room with each person taking a turn to sing. The rest of the audience will join in the choruses, and sometimes if a song is well-known they may join in the verses as well (not always desirable if you're trying to sing a different version). Group singing as such is less usual at these events, in my experience, but at that type of event then shared songsheets are probably acceptable, even necessary. However I interpreted the OP to mean a solo singer taking their turn.

I still fail to understand why it should be regarded as too difficult to prepare two or three songs ready to be sung without the need for the words in front of you. Most folk songs are quite short, after all. In most cases you go to the event expecting to sing, and you should prepare and rehearse beforehand. Or is that too much to ask?

As for the longer songs, if you can't sing, say, Tam Lin without the words in front of you then imo you shouldn't be singing it at all.

I wonder if some of the singers who rely on books are setting the bar too high. If you expect to have 50 or so songs ready to performance standards the whole time, or not ever to repeat a song over a 12 month period, that's asking a lot. Most performers, amateur or professional, will have (I would guess) not more than a couple of dozen songs at most worked up to performance standard at any one time. They will know many more, and they'll be learning new ones, but they'll be resting those and they won't be ready to perform. Some they probably could nevertheless perform with little or no rehearsal, while others will require more work before they're ready to take out.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: dwditty
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 06:43 PM

nope


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Dave MacKenzie
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 07:11 PM

If you asked me to perform at this minute, I'd say I had at least 138 songs I could do at the drop of a hat, and as I've said elsewhere I try to have 6 songs a week without repeating myself.

In the good old days, of course, I'd just ask the audience for a subject, and improvise a blues.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 10:49 PM

Dang it, Soldier Boy! I knew I should've gone back 3 pages one more time to check on your name. I remembered the S B - and I think maybe someone in another thread had used a name like "SongBob" - but I just guessed.
Wrong, obviously.   
My bad.    (blush)

Genie


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 07:55 AM

"learning a song is like learning to drive a car."
This evoked a wonderful picture of somebody driving a car with a copy of the highway code propped in front of them!
In a way, the two things aren't that different - the objective of the driver is to get from A to B: the objective of a singer is (or should be) twofold; to recreate the song in order that you (the singer) get the maximum enjoyment out of is, and to communicate that enjoyment to the listener.
As a singer (at one time) I cannot conceive of being able to enjoy a song while being so worried about remembering the words, I need a crib sheet in front of me, (remembering words is a technicality, not part of the re-creation).
As a member of the audience, if I see a singer has to have a prop in order to get through the song my attention will be diverted to "willhe/she, won't he/she", thus preventing me from enjoying it.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 08:47 AM

Coming back to the Coppers' "Sweet Lovely Nancy" video above, which I've only just found after a day or two away from this thread: I don't think I saw one of them so much as glance at the book he was holding. The books themselves looked rather like replicas of old Jim Copper's book that Bob & Ron used to hold between them as they sang — I suspect as a sort of family tradition rather than as an aide-memoire: don't think I ever saw either of them actually look down at it either. I suspect likewise that the present-day Coppers generation hold the books as a sort of 'family-tradition' prop, rather than to help in their singing.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Valmai Goodyear
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 09:21 AM

I've seen the present generation live quite a few times (living about eight miles away) and the books are definitely used, but not allowed to interfere.

Valmai


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,OldNicKilby
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 09:22 AM

NO it is not. Learn the songs and when they are a part of you then sing them out.
If you want to do that then stick to Shape Note as it is O K there.
It is not O K to sing from a lap top or a palm top scrolling at the "right" speed
The songs that you sing should mean something to you as it is the songs that have credence not the singer. As one of my favourite trad singers put it"Some people stand in front of the song whilst others stand behind it"


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 09:34 AM

Valmai - interested in what you say of the Coppers. Do you agree with my suggested reason, a couple of posts back, as to why they carry them but do not let them interfere?

Michael


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Bernard
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 09:38 AM

Don says: "I think the true professional is the person whose mistakes appear to be a part of the arrangement."

I'd go one further... sometimes my mistakes DO become part of the arrangement!


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Valmai Goodyear
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 09:41 AM

Not entirely, because they do glance at the books as they sing, although not for every song. The very important thing is that the books are by no means allowed to act as a barrier between the singers and the listeners.

Valmai


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: RTim
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 09:53 AM

>>>> Not entirely, because they do glance at the books as they sing, although not for every   song. The very important thing is that the books are by no means allowed to act as a barrier between the singers and the listeners.

Valmai

But - isn't just as important for the listeners to be ignorant of the books as a barrier?
It can all depend upon the pre-conceived notions of the Listeners.

Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: RTim
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 10:05 AM

I forgot to add the following.

I was at the Fo'c's'le Folk Club way back in 1972 'ish for a gig by The Copper Family, well just Bob & John together.
At the interval I asked Bob if they would sing a particular song in the 2nd half.
The conversation went thus:

Bob: "John, this young gentleman asked if we would sing.......(A Song)"

John: "Sorry Dad, we can't sing that tonight, because we don't have that book."

Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: MikeL2
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 11:00 AM

hi

A thought just struck me as we were debating this thread.

Is this reading from a book/sheets thing in folk clubs a new new phenomena??

Due to illness I have not been around folk clubs for some time. Before that I was involved with it for some/many years in one way or another.

I can hardly remember any singer at what-ever kind of session resorting to reading as they sang.

Could it be that in our time we either couldn't read or were too poor to be able to afford to buy books???

Or is this some form of recent explotation and pressure selling to we gullible folk performers??

just a thought.

Regards

Mike


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Seamus Kennedy
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 11:04 AM

I don't. But the older, the more I sometimes see where a crib-sheet mightn't be a bad idea.

A small crib-sheet is not a book; and no music stands.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 11:33 AM

No worries Genie, you're forgiven.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Will Fly
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 11:51 AM

One of the things that surprised me, when I started going to folk clubs, singarounds and sessions again after a break of over 25 years, was seeing the use of song books and music stands. I just cannot recall them ever being used in the period when I first went to such clubs in the mid-60s. You just learned the stuff you wanted to do.

In my previous response to this thread, I said:

I would never use a word sheet in a performance, but I can understand if some people have genuine difficulty without one. What I dislike... is singers who just can't be arsed to learn the stuff, and sing from a folder of songs out of sheer laziness.

I still hold to that opinion, but I'm just curious as to why there's been such a change in custom and practice in these intervening years. When I played in a 1950s-style rock'n roll trio - for around 13 years - we had a repertoire of 150 or so songs, and never used music. We had a total list of numbers and organised the set list on the night from watching the reaction to what we played. You may think that 1950's rock'n roll tunes are trivial stuff compared with folk songs - but the Teds in the audience, young or old, would soon tell us if we got a song wrong!

So, what's changed in 25 years?


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 11:59 AM

Tim - your experience seems to have occurred at that period when Ron (who lived until 1979) was not always able to appear with his cousin Bob as he had done for so many years, & Bob's son John was occasionally replacing him on gigs — hence perhaps his reliance on The Book. But Bob & Ron continued singing as a duo well after that - I distinctly remember long conversations with them both at intervals of the first Brighton Folk Festival in 1977. They certainly had the book with them then — I was allowed to hold it and turn the pages — it felt a bit like being lent the Koh-i-Noor diamond for a few minutes!


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: John Routledge
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 12:00 PM

In the olden days everyone learnt the songs and sang without "Books"

In those days one did not feel comfortable putting 50 peoples lives on hold for 5 minutes without at least 50x5 minutes effort to learn a song :0)


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,LTS on the sfoa
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 12:04 PM

"I still fail to understand why it should be regarded as too difficult to prepare two or three songs ready to be sung without the need for the words in front of you."

All too often I've spent months learning a new song, only to have someone just ahead of me in the singaround sing it, in which case I'd rather flick through my book for an appropriate one than sing the same song again, where I may not be so familiar with it if I've spent all my time practicing the others; or else I miss a turn which in big singarounds means not getting a go until the next session. In fact, it happened so often one year that I started to write my own thinking 'sing that one, you buggers!'

And as for the driving a car analogy - the Highway Code is updated frequently with new laws, by-lawas and recommendations - it should be refreshed and read several times, no matter how good driver you think you are and how many accidents you've seen.

LTS = whose crutches are both book and conductor shaped!


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 12:36 PM

So, what's changed in 25 years?

The policemen have definitely got younger.

I've only witnessed the last seven or eight years of this, but I think there's been a cumulative process of "amateurisation", helped along both by the decline in folk clubs and (paradoxically) by the more recent revival. Smaller audiences meant that professionals couldn't make a living out of folk, and the drop in the number of pro and semi-pro acts meant that audiences got even smaller. In the clubs that hung on, folkies who were playing to the same six people they played to last week stopped bothering to polish their act and start turning up with half-written songs on crib sheets, because they knew nobody would mind (like doing the shopping in your pyjamas). Then when there was an upturn MCs were only too pleased to welcome new acts, however unpolished, and audiences had lived with shambolic performances for so long that they'd stopped expecting anything else.

I'm a bit Jekyll-and-Hyde about songbooks myself. The nasty side of me says that if you haven't learnt the song you shouldn't be singing it - and if you can't learn songs, maybe singing in public isn't for you. But at this point Nice Pip chips in and points out that I've seen some superb performances given by people who had a sheet of paper or a notebook in front of them, and who presumably didn't actually have the song off by heart - so simply saying No Cribsheets would deprive us all of a lot of good singing.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Acorn4
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 12:47 PM

Are the "folk policemen" getting any younger though?

We share the similar experience as the last few posts in that we had about 15 years out of the clubs, and the use of folders was a new phenomenon which had developed while we were out of things.

On the other hand in the "old days", it seemed quite acceptable for guest artists to appear on stage totally pissed and in some cases scarcely able to sit on the stool. It almost seemed part of the image at times. Most guests these days seem to accept the necessity for a degree of professionalism and you don't have to b e a piss aso there are gains and losses.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Acorn4
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 12:50 PM

...sorry the end got mangled ..and you don't have to be a piss artist to be regarded as "cool" - so there are gains and losses.

Honestly, I haven't started drinking yet; my computer decided it needed to be doing something else while I was typing!


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 12:54 PM

LTYS, that's why in an earlier post I suggested also having a couple of songs in reserve, in case someone gets in ahead of you.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Dave Hunt
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 12:55 PM

Personally I have NEVER neede to use a book/wordsheet/cuecard or whatever when I'm singing. I have a repertoire of at least 160 songs which I can sing from memory and probably know a whole lot more that I don't actualy sing. Perhaps I'm just lucky in having a very good memory, but I always feel that anyone who uses the music hasn't really got to know the song well enough.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,Jon Dudley
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 01:02 PM

Ok chaps I wasn't going to get involved with this, but...

Thanks Jim for being so lenient with us! Thanks Mike for making a telling observation...and thanks Valmai for being the latest possible observer. The facts are these:

I was once quoted (accurately I'm afraid) as saying that being a member of The Copper Family was a bit like being a member of the royal family. Of course I didn't mean that literally, but what I did mean was that it does involve being the inheritor (although not strictly so in my own case) of a remarkable singing tradition. That doesn't necessarily imbue you with an innate sense of performance, although some family members have inherited that as well. It is an intensely precious gift from previous generations however, for which everyone feels a deep gratitude and need to keep the whole thing going. So although we are all 'blessed' with voices which remain roughly in tune we are not in any sense 'performers'...torch bearers might be a better description.

Bear with me I'm laboriously getting to my point...

The act of performance for non-performers varies, but can be absolutely terrifying at times. We are essentially non-performers. People ask us to sing and we do so willingly, sometimes in an almost evangelical way. We get a tremendous amount of fun and sense of family in doing it. The generations are stripped away and we are back with Bob, Ron, Jim, John, Brasser, 'Honest John' and the rest of the crew. The truth is that 'performance' doesn't come easily. We are not professionals, nor do we profess to be, but I hope that the sincerity of what we do is evident.

Now, at last to the point...

The book(s) serve very much as a sort of totem, a touchstone if you like...we have Brasser and Jim's original songbooks which they never used - "watcha want ter roit it down fer? every bugger knows th' words" as Brasser said. And in the midst of 'performance' when some of us is 'poopin' ourselves, the books are a steadying influence. Truth is, with enough Harveys bitter we do get unbelievably emotional about all this stuff and totally forget where we are in a song...the books come in again, although most of us will have difficulty focussing at this point. It's amazing how easily we go wrong even with the books - no ones looking at 'em.

As the Irishman, Brian George at the BBC said to Bob in the early '50s when he'd heard Bob was practising guitar..."I hope you're not going to tart those songs up, there's a million people out there who can do that but there's no other buggers on earth make the same racket as you lot".

We inherit a proud tradition. Let's hope we are living up to it...don't answer that!


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 01:25 PM

Thankou GUEST Jon Dudley, your comments are very poignant and meaningful.

After all; come on folks, we can't all be well-polished, super rehearsed, professional folk singers with a huge ability to memorise hundreds of songs.

The people in such a category are at the very peak of the iceberg, so what about all the rest?
The important thing here is that we are all bonded together by the same thing - our undying love of folk songs, folk people and the whole folk scene in general - whether that is in the U.K or U.S or anywhere else on the planet.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 03:59 PM

Thanks Jon for a wonderful insight into one of the most generously influential families in British folk song - we all owe you.

Regarding using written texts as an aide-memoire: Over thirty years ago we met and began recording a then middle-aged singer with a sizable repertoire of traditional songs, which he sang with great energy on request, never making a slip. Down the years his memory began to fade, so his son wrote out all his songs in a large exercise book, which he carried everywhere and began to rely on more and more. His singing began to lose its spontaneous flow and eventually, some time before his death, became a shadow of its former glory and painfully sad to listen to. While the book helped him remember the songs, it obviously got in the way of his singing them.
A number of singers we have recorded, when asked for songs they didn't know, have gone off to a neighbour and got the songs we had asked about, invariable by having them written down. When giving them to us they have sung them from the page, and as skilful singers as they were, decades later, they stick out like sore thumbs.

This thread is mainly made up of contributions of pros and antis for singing off the page. Perhaps it might have been more positive if it had dealt with how different singers get over the problem of remembering words. Nowadays I can remember things I learned thirty years ago with no difficulty, but find it very difficult to learn new songs.
Recently I was given a magnificent, somewhat long version of The Banks of Newfoundland which I would dearly like to add to my repertoire - HELLLLP
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: mg
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 05:10 PM

We need a decision tree with little triangles etc.

1. Are you setting up this group from scratch. Yes. Do whatever you like.
2. Are you coming into a group with a strong tradition of not using books and most people hate them. No. Use your own book but do not impose books on others or tell them the page numbers etc.
3. Have you been told the group hates them (not individual books but the whole group turning to them)? If yes, then no, do not use them. If group says they don't mind, it is their fault if they do not tell you the truth. Then yes. Use the books.
4. Are compromises possible? Yes. Perhaps one song circle a month can be totally out of books, or totally sans books. A room can be set aside at a camp totally favoring books. Workshops can be set up mg


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 05:16 PM

Don says: "... sometimes my mistakes DO become part of the arrangement!"

This is true. And therein can lie the problem. While some mistakes have wonderfully serendipitous results, I think more often than not the improvised lyric is inferior to the original -- at least if it was a superb lyric to start with.

As for whether one would/should drive a car with a book or printed sheet in front of him/her, hey, lots of drivers have GPS mounted on their dashboards for them to look at while driving -- along with the rest of the instrument panel. ; )


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Dave MacKenzie
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 05:21 PM

Personally, I'd say that if you write a song and want it to be considered "folk", you should be prepared for it to undergo the folk process, for good or ill.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 05:22 PM

Oh, and, Soldier Boy, thanks for forgiving me.
Turns out I'm not crazy after all. (OK, maybe I am, but calling you "SongBob" doesn't prove it.)
There's a reason I had that other S (o?) B's name stuck in my mind: SongBob's post about sitting or standing

Genie

(Excuse the interruption, folks. Now back to your regularly scheduled food fight. *g*)


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: DonMeixner
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 06:18 PM

Don did not say that his mistakes become a part of the arrangement. Bernard did with his tongue in cheek. Don said that it is hard to tell a professionals mistakes from the arrangement. Very different things. I have stood in an audience when Seamus Kennedy has blown a word or two and I'd bet I was the onliest person who noticed. Seamus's playing and singing on stage, (that is performing) is so good that it wouldn't be noticed except by someone who sings those songs.

If you were really reading my posts you'd notice a said "armatures" and not "amateurs."

I don't create new arrangements with my mistakes. If I make a mistake I make sure I don't repeat it next time.

Interestingly the songs I have the hardest time remembering are my own. And rather than use a sheet to ensure I sing them right, I don't sing them unless I know them.

Don


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Sugwash
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 07:08 PM

Bit of a groundhog day feel to this thread.

Is it OK to sing from a song book? Yes, it's OK, if you need to do so, do so. I'd urge you to try and learn songs to the point where the book is no longer necessary, but rather than you not singing, use the book.

I'm not saying that I like people singing from books/paper/lcd screens. I'm worried that what was always an amateur scene is becoming an amateurish scene. Folk fumbling about setting up music stands, the depressing sight of a table full of copy holders at a sing-around. But rather than those people not singing, I'll tolerate the books etc.

Personally I think that you have to learn the song to the extent that the written word is no longer needed to give a good performance of that song. Our songs are, for the most part, story based, try and visualise the story in your head and, I find, the song will lodge in your memory.

This is just my opinion of course, it isn't a mission statement, it isn't a knock at those who do use the written word an an aide memoir. I'll confess that, if a song doesn't have a strong narrative, I struggle to learn it. Stubborn persistence is my only recourse, it's the main reason that I don't sing many shanties, that and the fact that I've been to sea.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: mg
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 07:12 PM

Is it OK for me to go into a highly skilled quilting bee because I do like quilts, pretty colors, want to make new friends etc. But should I expect them to let me quilt on their quilts that they have been doing the same way for dozens of years? Or maybe have a separate quilt for those with less skill?

Should I expect to be able to go into a bike touring group with training wheels on my bike? They might be polite but they are probably going oh shit...


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 07:28 PM

"I'll tolerate the books etc."
If a has to 'tolerate' what a singer does, the question has to be asked, "why is he/she singing in public?".
mg just said it for me.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: TheSnail
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 08:09 PM

"Use what talent you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best."
Henry van Dyke


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 09:01 PM

Wow, 'TheSnail', I do believe that you have just powerfully summed up and encapsulated every thing I have tried to put my finger on and express in this thread (including my previous 'iceberg' analogy).

That is a very powerful and succinct expression.

In fact it is more than that; it is pure poetry and could be the start of a a very good song to explain and diffuse the many different and diverse attitudes and conceptions about the theme of this thread.

God bless Henry van Dyke.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,Ripov(sober this time!
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 09:05 PM

What a lot of thoughts!
As someone who started in classical music, I learned to sing or play anything put in front of me, once through, and then perform it. But never having to memorise it.
Take the book away and all was forgotten.
Coming into folk music later in life, having to make out what notes others were playing (and they didn't all play the same notes), and then remember them, was tremendously difficult at first, and still can be a bit of a struggle. Being able to find the dots in books or on the net was a great help, but committing to memory very difficult.
Others can remember things heard once, but struggle to sing/play from music.
Surely there's room for all of us?
Re ossonflag's comment about actors, many radio shows were produced at short notice and the actors saw their parts for the first time as the show was broadcast. To be able to bring this off convincingly is a trade like any other.
The other big thing is, if we're making music in private then mistakes can be overlooked, but frequently we're in a pub (not many church halls with a bar!) so there are members of the (not very interested) public there. If our singing/playing is so bad or so repetitive, week after week, that the public cease to come in, then we will not be welcome in that establishment. Yes, we are there for our enjoyment, but that shouldn't be at the expense of theirs.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Ron Davies
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 10:06 PM

Seems to me there's a huge difference between those little books some of us put together lovingly over time, and can get possibly get cues from if necessary--and a manufactured folkie hymnal--which is in fact used as such--complete with copies handed out.   So all you in the UK, no matter what books anybody might use, are far better off than us in the US with Rise Up Singing--aka the Blue Book of Death (to singarounds).

There may be all sorts of crutches. But only one crutch is a deadly danger to a good session: RUS.

In fact a RUS session is far worse than a real hymn sing would be.   At least a real hymnbook often has harmonies which have been proven to work. And the leader would be likely to have an actual idea of how the melody goes--something you cannot assume with RUS.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,DonMeixner
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 10:33 PM

Hi Ron,

I have found RUS to be a good book for lyrics but the chords are undependable or as dependable as the person who arranged that song.

I have been to RUS sing arounds. The club I belong to used to have them. I agree they can be deadly dull.

Don


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Janie
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 10:54 PM

Love that last post of your's, Soldier Boy.

I also like that the tone of this debate has remained civil and respectful, even when people are expressing strongly held and rigid opinions.

I recall that some one made a post yesterday or the day before to the effect that we are not necessarily comparing apples to apples and oranges to oranges. I agree. When I read a similar but more rancorous thread a few years ago, at a time when I was just rediscovering the importance of singing to my well-being, and just beginning to develop enough confidence to be able to sing within the hearing range of others, I got so embarrassed and intimidated that I shut down again for awhile.

Several people have moderately noted the importance of being aware of context. I am more aware of context than I was several years ago.

It is clear our individual experiences with music and singing also influence what we are likely to assert is OK or not, as well as what the music and the act of expressing ourselves through music means.

I will occasionally sing a song at the Getaway that I know I can not do any kind of justice to, lyrics in hand, because it is a wonderful song that I have never heard anyone do or refer to and singing it may lead to some one coming up to me later and asking where I got it from so that they can learn it (and do a better job with it.) The Getaway is a venue where there are so many scholars of the assorted areas of folk music, many excellent professional and amateur performers and musicians, and also a very high tolerance for people who are none of the above but who love the music, and whose love of the music is valued. I've posted before on other threads about how empowering the experience of the Getaway has been to me.   I have also observed the improvement in the musicianship of others over time from the very positive and non-judgemental experiences offered at the Getaway and (presumably) song circles and sing arounds that occur under the auspices of FSGW.

What some few of you insist is proper would result in me, and many like me, never, ever risking sharing our voices except very quietly on a song with a big chorus. But without the experience of sharing my voice, I can not develop the confidence to sing around or in front of others.

Barry Finn (Damn, I miss him!) was one of the most encouraging and empowering people I have ever known to people who yearn to give voice to song. I remember reading his posts that 'Spaw copied to this thread. I also remember his praise and encouragement, and "well done" to me and others, and that was forthcoming whether or not we needed lyrics in front of us.

Music is not my life. It is not my only interest, or even my primary interest. But singing is essential to my well-being. I know that my presence and participation at the Getaway is valued, in spite of the fact that in the past few years, I have rarely had a chance to choose and extensively practice a couple of songs that I might want to share at the assorted workshops. I do not have the time or the inclination to practice, practice, practice so that anything I may feel inspired to sing in the late night, informal song circles is rendered as musically perfect as possible. What I have witnessed, however, in those late night song circles, is serious amateur or professional musicians encouraging very shy, nervous, unpracticed people to go ahead and sing a song when their turn comes up, and applauding th risk taking and affirming the willingness of people to share their voices, even when those voices or the renditions were less than perfect. In those song circles and workshops, and at the evening concerts, what was applauded was the willingness to risk exposing one's heart and desire to lift up the voice and share that voice. Granted, the Getaway is so rich in talented and accomplished musicians and singers, professional or not, that it is not diminished by those of us who are less than stellar performers, or do not have the time or exclusive interest to rehearse, rehearse, rehearse before singing a song in front of others.

I am recalling performing at a couple of Getaway concerts. The first I recall is singing with Allen C. He had written a beautiful song after a Mudcat gathering elsewhere, about the what it meant to be together and raise voices together, and then part, and asked me to sing harmony to it at a Getaway concert, and he signed us up to close out the concert. There was no way I was going to memorize the words in less than 4 hours, and we performed it with me holding and reading the lyrics as we sang. We had rehearsed as much as possible for me to get the harmony down. It went over very well. My harmonies were good, but not perfect at times, and I was obviously freguently referring to the lyrics. Our emotion and expressiveness were not harmed at all by that, and folks let us know after the concert that our performance was moving.

I remember another Getaway concert. My sister, Annie, (unlike me, she is an accomplished musician) had written a wonderful and funny song, "Oregon Inlet" that she brought with her. She, Dani and I performed the song at the concert. Dani and I both had the lyrics in hand and needed to read from them - no time to memorize the lengthy song - our rehearsal time focused on the harmonies. We brought down the house!

Related but not exactly on topic, I recently posted a link to some songs I recorded using garage band - furnace blowing, sound of trains or a car going by, the neighbor's dog barking included. It took 8 years for me to do so. I posted them in order to share more of myself than I have done before - to say, this is what I express about who I am musically. It was hard to do because what I posted is not about performance. I am not a performer. I am not a musician. I'm a lower middle class working mom who grew up with my grandfather singing hymns as he gardened, who grew up singing with my sisters and watching my Mom tap dance with a cane to albums of show tunes, and who went to parties and picnics where music just ended up happening, who had a swing in my backyard and spent summers and days after school with other kids in the neighborhood, swinging, and singing, together or trading songs, because it felt good, or felt right, and expressed something about who we were, who we are, or what we longed for. I grew up with the experience of singing as part of everyday life. The notion that singing is performance was introduced to me late. When I began to to think of singing as being about the ability to perform for the pleasure and/or evaluation of others, lacking confidence and self-esteem, I shut up. That was my loss. For those of you who are only interested in listening to those who have the time and inclination to absolutely memorize and polish their performance, I respectfully assert that at least occasionally, it is also your loss.

Jim, I understand and appreciate your posts regarding your experience documenting source singers. Please consider, however, the iatroginic effects of collecting and recording source singers.

I understand there is not room for me, and for the many like me, at all tables. I respectfully assert that there ought be room for us at some tables, and that the music of the people will no longer be the music of the people if those of us who are truly "just folks" are not welcomed at any table where good musicians also sit.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Melissa
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 11:09 PM

Janie, I hope that post is clipped and added to the next several threads on this topic.


This thread has had me thinking the last couple days.
I'm in the US and have never seen one of the dreaded Blue Books.
If there wasn't for books tending to waste so much time, and blocking sound, I'm not sure I'd have the same opinion I have now.

For me, the biggest reason I wouldn't want to tote a book is the hassle of keeping track of it (to be sure it went home with me) and trying to figure out how to open the door with both hands full.

That doesn't really seem like a very strong objection.
I DO resent the time-eating aspect, but that can be eliminated by the Book User being prepared.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Ron Davies
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 11:40 PM

There's nothing wrong with RUS as a source--one among many--for words. According to the authors, it was never meant to have the folkie hymnal status it now has.   In many ways it was just a snapshot--the best guess at a song by the authors at that point--never meant to be folkie Holy Writ.

Main problem with it is that it makes it just too easy to never even have to try to learn a song.   You come to a sing, decide you like the title of the song two from the bottom on page 34--even though you've never heard it before and have no idea how the tune goes.   So you start to guess at it--and in fact insist on singing every blessed verse printed in the hymnal. ( Obviously "you" is not any Mudcatter.)

Life's too short--and music too wonderful-- to even take a chance on that experience more than once--and it has happened.

Ever since RUS started showing up at our local open sing--several years ago--I have not attended.   And I'm not alone.   We go to music parties--and RUS is never seen. In fact books and papers in general are extremely rare. I hope RUS doesn't get brought to a Getaway--unless the book remains closed while the person is singing.

The only way to have a successful RUS session is to warn all attendees in advance that it will in fact be a RUS session.   That way those who enjoy that sort of sing will be there--and the rest will not.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: goatfell
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 08:58 AM

as I have said do what makes you feel comfortable


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Maryrrf
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 09:08 AM

I have seen RUS used at the Getaway, usually with not very good results. But I'm sure even RUS could be used occasionally IF it was only used as a cue for words, and not to drone the lyrics off the page. Here's my succinct opinion, - better not to use a book or lyric sheet, but if you do, use it judiciously and skillfully. And better to sing using a cheat sheet than not to sing at all. I've seen a lot of people refer quietly to a printed lyrics sheet and still do the song admirably.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 09:18 AM

Snail;
"Use what talent you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best."
Correct me if I'm wrong, but as far as I can see you are the only one to suggest (on this thread or anywhere on the forum) that only the best should sing. I really would like an answer to this.
Janie:
"What some few of you insist is proper would result in me, and many like me, never, ever risking sharing our voices except very quietly on a song with a big chorus."
I'm sorry - could you explain, are you incapable of memorising a song? Why would you or anybody stop singing unless you had the text in front of you?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: TheSnail
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 09:58 AM

Jim Carroll

Correct me if I'm wrong, but as far as I can see you are the only one to suggest (on this thread or anywhere on the forum) that only the best should sing.

You're wrong.

I really would like an answer to this.

An answer to what?


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 10:18 AM

My comments are strictly from the perspective of a UK singaround or folk club floorspot. I have very little experience of the US-style group sings, which I think probably require a very different approach.

The thing to bear in mind is that those of us who have hundreds of songs we can sing from memory built up this repertoire over a period of years. You don't need a vast repertoire to start singing at a singaround or club - in many cases you'll only get a chance to do two or three songs in an evening. Half-a-dozen songs should be enough to get you started, and then you can keep adding new ones to your repertoire one or two at a time.

It is not a sin to repeat songs, provided you don't do it too often. If it's a good song (and if it isn't, why sing it?) then your audience may actually welcome the chance to hear it again.

There have been a number of suggestions made during this thread of how best to commit songs to memory, and most of them can be summarised as "repetition". Sing along to a recording. Keep singing the song at every opportunity until you can do it without the words. But remember, that's just the start - keep singing the song until it's a part of you.

Someone earlier in the thread made an important distinction between "amateur" and "amateurish". It may be OK in a fairly private setting, whether it's the back room of a pub or folk festival, to accept poor singing or reading from books in the spirit of encouraging participation, and we all have to start somewhere. However in a more public setting (a singaround in the main bar, for example), and especially when people have paid to get in, then both the audience and the music should be entitled to a more accomplished performance.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 10:24 AM

Snail
Who has ever suggested that only the best should sing - aprt from you?
Isn't it a good job I didn't hold my breath


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Will Fly
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 10:52 AM

Snail is not suggesting that only the best should sing, Jim - you're misinterpreting the quotation. It means that, if only the very best and most perfect of singers were allowed to sing, the world would be a quiet place indeed, because the majority of singers are not perfect. The point of the quotation is just the opposite - that others than the very best should be allowed to sing so that the world will not be a quiet place.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: TheSnail
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 11:01 AM

What are you on about, Jim? I've never suggested anything of the sort. (Produce your evidence. I won't hold my breath.)


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: blogward
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 11:04 AM

Back on topic: yes, it is OK. I do it if I'm trying to add to my repertoire and there hasn't been enough time for me to be confident of the lyric. The only problem is that in order to read the songbook you have to have a stand of some sort, and the print in these is usually not large enough to allow you to stand/sit back from the text. So you put a physical barrier and an 'eye contact' barrier between you and the audience.

One solution is to print the song sheet out large enough so you can read it off the floor in quick glances. This helps no end in maintaining contact with the audience. Can also be a joking point.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 11:14 AM

Sorry Will - that is exactly how I took the quotation.
Nobody has ever suggested that only the best should sing, and the suggestion that somebody has is one of the constant smokescreens used by Bryan and others to avoid the question of applying BASIC standards to singing at clubs. It also avoids the resposibility that I believe should be adopted by all serious clubs to provide assistance to new singers rather than throwing them in at the deep-end by putting them in front of an audience before they have mastered the basics (singing in tune, and remembering and understanding the words enough to be able to share a song).
This is very much a part of "to dumb down or not to dumb down2 argument that Bryan and I have been embroiled in over the last millenium or so; that's how it feels anyway.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 11:28 AM

I get a little irritated with the implied suggestion that "it's too difficult, so I needn't bother".

Singing isn't easy, especially in public, but if you're going to do it you should do it properly. Folk singing doesn't require a perfect voice, or even very much in the way of performing skills, but it should it least involve singing in tune and remembering the words. To do that requires work and effort. I'm afraid I get the impression that some people aren't prepared to put that work and effort in.

No one is surprised that it may take years of study and practice before someone is sufficiently proficient on a musical instrument to play it in public. Why then should singing be any different?


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: artbrooks
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 11:52 AM

Please keep in mind that we are speaking about at least two very different things: singing, or performing, in clubs - which is apparently the UK interpretation of a song circle/singaround - and singing in a private home, which is more typical in the US.

Last night was the "First Friday" sing here in Albuquerque. About the third time around the circle I mentioned this discussion, and the very idea of discouraging the use of books was met with derision. I am not terribly fond of RUS as the be-all and end-all of sources, but some of our participants are elderly and need a memory aid. Should we say, "sorry, David, but you can't take a turn any more because you now need to read the words"? This would be the man who founded the song-circle here some 40 years ago.

It was a typical evening for us. Some people never opened a book at all, some used a book or other notes as a cue (that would be me), and some pretty much read every word. So what? We were gathered to enjoy music and each other's company, and that's exactly what we did.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Janie
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 11:59 AM

Jim, I mispoke. Of course there are songs I can sing without having a prompt in front of me, but not many, and not as many as I could at one time. At the Getaway, which is two days of wall-to-wall workshop sing-arounds and three nights of song circles from after supper until....there is no way I am going to commit enough songs new to me to memory, and I do not want to subject folks to listening to me sing the same songs year after year. I only get to see most of these folks once a year.

I likely have a milder version of a learning disability with which my son has been diagnosed that effects the ability to readily memorize material. It is a dual-process involving rote learning and processing speed, which refers to how long it takes to retrieve information stored in the brain. (Was convinced I was never going to get to go to recess again when memorizing the multiplication tables.) Most of the songs that I can remember entirely without a prompt are songs I learned when I could still play guitar and autoharp, which I have not been able to do for years because of a joint condition. The use of an instrument results in learning happening through multiple sensory imputs and learning pathways that support and assist with rote memorization. Rote learning has always been difficult for me, and has gotten more so in the past few years, which I attribute to the normal processes of aging.

I choose to work on a song, practice it as much as I can, get the lyrics down as best I reasonably can, and then be sure I have them near in the likely event I am going to need to refer to them. I also tend to limit myself to shorter songs, knowing that if there are more than 3 short verses, I end up having to keep my eyes glued to the lyrics sheet.

Most of you have probably have the experience of occasionally blanking on the next verse or line and having to stop until your brain finds and retrieves the information.   It is like that, only it happens with much greater frequency. It is not caused by performance anxiety, but can create or intensify performance anxiety, and then the anxiety itself magnifies the problem.

.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Dave MacKenzie
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 12:01 PM

I remember reading a book, I think it was David Buchan's "The Ballad People" over 30 years ago, where he studied various versions of traditional ballads and came to the conclusion that at that time in Scotland, songs were remembered by use of a narrative skeleton into which "floating" verses could be slotted, so that apparently different versions in the collections of that time were in fact what would have considered the same song by the sources.

That is my main objection to printed sources, in that they remove the ability to vary the performance according to circumstances.

In modern times, I don't think Dylan has ever had definitive versions of his songs - just compare the "Freewheelin'" and Hallowe'en '64 versions of "Don't Think Twice".


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 12:24 PM

Janie,
I apologise if I have misunderstood your situation.
My instinct is to suggest that you sing the songs you know, whether you repeat them or not, and if you are unable to learn more over a time - sure - use a prompt sheet if you have to. But having said that, I still am not convinced that anybody can interpret and enjoy the songs while they are being read from a page, either singer or audience.
But I think the argument here is wider than the situatuion you pose. We are talking about the general use of crib-sheets by people who are able to learn songs, but don't or won't, for one reason or another.
Blogward describes a strange situation of reading from a large sheet of paper so he can can 'keep eye contact with the audience' - sorry, that one lost me altogether.
Can I re-iterate what somebody wrote earlier; the question of singing from a book is a relatively new one; I honestly haven't witnesses it to any great degree in any of the clubs I have been involved in to any great degree, and I believe that the general standard of singing was far higher than it appears to be today, as was the understanding of 'folk' song.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 01:05 PM

Dave MacKenzie;
Would appreciate some clarification on the David Buchan book you quoted from - I know 'The Ballad and The Folk' but 'The Ballad People' is a new one on me.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: SunrayFC
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 01:18 PM

One can not sing AND read at the same time...unless you are as qualified as BBC newsreaders who are very good at it. Like them or not they are good at what they do.

What amazes me are the people who sing a song everyone else knows but they don't.

My advice... spend the time learning the song and make the performance a performance not a reading.

I have seen sessions where everyone gets their ringbinders out.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Janie
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 01:29 PM

I think Art Brooks has well articulated that the setting of UK folk clubs is very different from our informal song circles in living rooms. Very different contexts. It does sound like these are venues that serve to provide many folks with an opportunity to perform.

I think there is also a difference between a song circle where it becomes the norm for everyone to sing out of a standard songbook, be it RUS or any other book, and a song circle, such as Art describes, where some folks need lyrics or prompts for at least some songs, and some use nothing.

I do not particularly enjoy "group sings" where there is the expectation that everyone will sing along with every song, and the use of a standard book, RUS or otherwise, might be common.   For one thing, my voice is very low pitched. Whether it is congregational singing in church or a group sing, chances are it is going to be pitched in a key I can not join in on comfortably, or if it is my turn to lead a song, few people are going to be able to comfortably sing along in a key that works for me. doesn't mean I am opposed to them occurring. Just means I won't be there.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 01:37 PM

"I still am not convinced that anybody can interpret and enjoy the songs while they are being read from a page, either singer or audience."

I've heard *fabulous* personal renditions of songs, given whilst a prompt has been within eyesight of the singer. And I've heard poorly sung songs from out of a folder too. As a listener, I simply cannot come down either way on prompts by others, because I really think that the quality of performance is entirely down to the ability of the singer - prompt or no prompt.

For myself however - I asked here and elewhere for advice on singing traditional songs before I went out to clubs. The advice I received emphasised the importance of setting a song to memory, so that it beds into you and you become intimately familiar with ever one of it's nooks and crannies.
Personally, I've found heeding that advice has been most worthwhile.

Although I started learning last year by memorising, initially I'd still keep my prompt just casually within sight (only resorting to a glance if hitting a blank), but because I determined from get go to memorise my rep. I now comfortably go out to sing without any prompt. I lost my words on one song the other night (and so missed a turn as I completely blanked and couldn't even improvise the verse), but I've found that odd moments like that become rarer, the less you are willing to allow yourself to resort to the security of printed words. And importantly I've found the *real* security comes in feeling safe to mess up ocassionally and be 'imperfect' amongst friends. Even better is to learn to recover through fast thinking and improvising a fitting alternative to the words you've memorised (arguably exactly the way traditional singers might have done, all the time?).

But to return to Jim's point, while I can't speak concerning issues of interpretation with words as a *listener*. I will say that learning to swim without armbands feels very freeing, and so too does walking without crutches, and likewise singing without word-sheets. The *experiential* difference between KNOWING a song through and through and being dependent on a support in order to sing it, feels a pretty substantial one to me. I'm glad I started out by determining to memorise my words, it's been well worth it so far. And now that I'm venturing forth into the 'muckle sangs' (longer narrative ballads), I know it can only get better..


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: TheSnail
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 01:50 PM

Jim Carroll

It also avoids the resposibility that I believe should be adopted by all serious clubs to provide assistance to new singers rather than throwing them in at the deep-end by putting them in front of an audience before they have mastered the basics (singing in tune, and remembering and understanding the words enough to be able to share a song).

How are we supposed to know before we put them on?

This is very much a part of "to dumb down or not to dumb down2 argument that Bryan and I have been embroiled in over the last millenium or so; that's how it feels anyway.

I don't approve of dumbing down. You don't approve of dumbing down.What's the argument?


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Ron Davies
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 01:54 PM

Nobody says RUS shouldn't be used at a sing.   But it should be made clear in advance that it will be used.   And some of us won't be there.

That book is far more pernicious than any other book--especially, as I noted, a book lovingly put together by a singer over a period of years. And I'd be surprised if someone who has sung for 40 years doesn't have such a compendium of songs he or she likes to sing. It doesn't sound as if RUS should be necessary in the situation described.

Even better is no book at all--but we realize that that is a problem for some singers.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: artbrooks
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 02:01 PM

"Far more pernicious"? It's a songbook. I've never met anyone who thought of it as sacred text. And if someone wants to refer to that book rather than another reference, why not?

200, by the way.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Ron Davies
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 02:11 PM

Because, as I said, it's a manufactured book, not one put together by the singer.   And since it has lots of songs, it's easy for somebody to decide on the spur of the moment they'd like to try one--having no idea how it goes.   And everybody else is subjected to that.   Or they stumble through every verse.   And if you sing a song that's in that book, but not the exact words as in the book, or in the same order,   everybody with the book is baffled--and not happy.

There is also no reason on God's green earth that everybody has to sing every word of every song. I'm perfectly happy to just come in on a chorus, and let the leader sing the verses.

Again, if RUS floats your boat, no problem. Just tell us in advance that that book will be there, and those of us who want a different experience will make plans accordingly.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: artbrooks
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 02:28 PM

Well, I have about 15 linear feet of songbooks. I have "manufactured books" by Alan Lomax, Cyril Tawney and Carl Sandberg. I have lyric books by Judy Collins and Joan Biaz. I have hymnals from a variety of religions. I have folios filled with sheets that have been passed out at various places, including the Getaway. I have notebooks with songs transcribed from records. IMHO, a "manufactured book" that was originally overseen by Pete Seeger is a pretty good resource. Are you seriously advocating that, if a person wants to sing a song in RUS (which hasn't been blue for years), they transcribe it and memorize the transcription? Seems dumb to me, but I'm no judge of others.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 03:00 PM

"How are we supposed to know before we put them on?"

I get seriously muddled with some of these discussions.

If Jim is saying that all *amateur session* members need to be vetted, then I say he is wrong. In the same way any amateur club accepts all-comers (be they watercolourists or macrameists).

If Jim is saying folk clubs aught to vet whatever they put up on stage before a *paying audience*, then I agree.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 03:01 PM

Bryan
Your argument, in the context of a discussion on basic standards, was that the only requirement for giving a singer a floor spot was a desire on their part to want to sing, nothing more. You even consulted your committee to confirm that this was club policy. As far Is I am aware, you have never moved from this statement - as far as I am concerned, this is 'dumbing down', as I believe that the ability to hold a tune, and remember and understand a text is a must.
If your stance on this has altered in any way, there is no argument.
Of course you give all singers who wish to a chance to sing, as I've said on several occasions, but should they prove themselves unable to do either or both of the above, you offer them assistance rather than allowing them to continue to practice in public.
I know that Lewes has an enviable programme of workshops, but you have never said how you cater for beginners.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 03:03 PM

I have said throughout that my own comments are directed at the UK setup, which I believe was the context of the OP's question.

A group singaround where everyone is joining in the whole song, verses as well as choruses, is a different matter. Then it clearly makes sense for everyone to be singing the same version, which suggests the use of a book or songsheets. If I'm understanding correctly, the concern is not about using these as such, but that one particular book has become dominant to the point where some people feel it is stifling.

In the pubs where the traditional Sheffield Carols are sung they will often provide songbooks, mainly for the benefit of visitors who are not familiar with the carols, many of which are either local or are local variants. I have no problem with this.

It is very different where an individual singer is taking their turn in a singaround or performing a floorspot. No one expects you to come up to professional standards, but that's no excuse for not putting in the necessary work on the songs. Why should the audience be expected to listen to you if you have not?

If you have a medical condition which affects your memory, then clearly that puts a different light on things. However this only affects a minority. Nevertheless, I would encourage the use of discreet cue cards, to support singing from memory as far as possible, rather than singing from a full set of lyrics.

In case anyone thinks I had it easy, my first public performances were at a folk club held at my school. An audience made up of one's 16-18 year old peers (most of whom are there to meet girls rather than out of any interest in folk music) is a far cry from the caring and supportive atmosphere usually found in adult singarounds. I've had my share of forgetting words or making embarrasing mix-ups. I've learned from them - learned to prepare better, and learned tricks to cope with the occasional blanks. You can't learn this if you rely on having the words in front of you.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Ron Davies
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 03:10 PM

So, is memorization "dumb"?   That would be news.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: MikeL2
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 03:35 PM

Hi howard

I agree with you.

Like you I first performed in school where the pupils had been instructed to go. So they weren't very sympathetic to our fumbling early performances.

Like you I learned how to improve , mainly by practice....bloody practice.

Some time later I joined a rock group as guitarist vocalist. This group was semi-pro and we got paid for every gig. The group had been together for some time but the vocalist moved on.

I was given a list of songs that I would be required to sing. And I just had to learn them !!!! or else.................

Luckily most of the songs were hit songs of the time and I knew many of them but not completely word perfect and certainly not to performance standard.

I got by although the first few dates were a little nerve-racking.

AND NOT A BOOK NOR PIECE OF PAPER DID I HAVE. !!! They wouldn't let me. They did feed me the keys and some of the first lines and I went from there.

Of course I made some mistakes but they covered me. But I never made the same mistake twice as the other members were very fierce critics.
As I got more experience I realised that they had been teaching me to stand on my own two feet.

I soon became confident. Each week when we met for practice we would go through what our content would be for the gigs for that week. There were always new songs to be done and as the vocalist it was my job to learn the lyrics.

Fortunately I found learning words - be they poetry or lyrics of songs easy.

Even now ....and I'm over 21....lol I still find it almost as easy as I did then.

Of course in some ways it is easier now then then - the Internet is a constant and immediate source of lyrics both in written and audio mediums.

I have no objection to others using props but I believe that it would better for all if they did learn the word adequately to perform.

Cheers

MikeL2


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 04:09 PM

Of course I made some mistakes but they covered me. But I never made the same mistake twice as the other members were very fierce critics.
As I got more experience I realised that they had been teaching me to stand on my own two feet.


Getting back to folk clubs, I suspect Mike's put his finger on what's changed. The story might go like this: there used to be a demanding audience for folk music, which rewarded people who made the effort to get it right; performers who put in a slipshod performance would be tolerated, but they'd be left in no doubt that they needed to try harder. Now there's an uncritical audience, which rewards anyone who makes the effort to get out of their seat. (But I wasn't around for part 1, so I've no idea if this is true or not.)


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,Yorky
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 04:13 PM

Loads of excuses for using paper here.

Just LEARN the bloomin' song and dispense with the paper - I despair when I see folk comin' thro' the door into our fortnightly singaround with BIG (ever expanding) A4 files, leafing thro' them and when it's their turn, settlin' on one they've done virtually every time for the last umpteen months and singin' it from the bloomin' sheet. AAAARGH!

Practise at home, not in the assembled company. Nothin' worse than some clown announcin' "This is a new one - I've not got it right yet, but I'll give it a go anyway"


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Paco O'Barmy
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 04:20 PM

two hundred and nine posts on a simple question. Is it any wonder that no one with a pulse goes to 'folk' clubs? Your tolerance level seems to be set at -100.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 04:26 PM

Pip, you may be right. What's more, the uncritical audiences have created an environment which drives the critical ones away.

I used to go to at least a couple of folk clubs a week. One was purely a singers' club, no guests, but the standard was mostly fairly good. The other had booked guests most weeks, and a pretty high standard of floor singers. I don't think that had to be policed, rather that the poorer singers realised they would be out of their depth and didn't put themselves forward. There were other places they could sing.

I was happy to only play a couple of songs myself because I knew I would enjoy listening to the other performers.

Now, guest clubs have more or less disappeared (around here anyway) leaving just the singers clubs. I'm not prepared to go to these, only get to play a couple of songs myself and then have to listen to a load of poorly prepared and under-rehearsed performers. I prefer to go to informal music sessions where I can play all night.

I fear the bad is driving out the good.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 04:34 PM

I think we have an obligation when we enter a group that is new to us not to be an invasive species. We should look around and try to see what others are doing. We should ask and not presume. We should not impose. I would not go to shape note gatherings and try to get them to not use their books. I would not go to choir practice and try to get them to not use books. Likewise, I expect that if a group has functioned without written or spoken rules, but there at least in recent memory no books in sight (I am not talking about for individual use but group use)I should not be the one to force it on the group. Then next week someone else comes and there will be two, and then it spreads. A group can tolerate a bit of flexibility, but then it changes. People who preferred one way are not going to probably scold you..they are just not going to come back to the original group once it reaches its tipping point. We can all think of many groups in many cities that will never tip back. The only hope is to reform a group with strict written and oral guidelines.

To me the main issue is the late night sessions at the camps. That is why I go to the camps. People have all day at the workshops, they have a concert, they have an official song circle with books and tolerance for books. What happens is that after this is all done, some of us find another building..I am now announcing where I will be and that I want no group books and we will not take turns and we will not pontificate between songs and if anyone wants to join lme that is where I will be. Even with announcements before hand, even when people have to move from the main lodge where the default would be it is OK to use books and take turns..they will still come with their books and expect to take turns in a separate room that has been set up for the purpose of exactly not doing that. That is when I think it is invasive species behavior. mg


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 04:35 PM

Don, I agree that most audiences can't tell if you make a mistake if you act like you did it on purpose. But that doesn't mean the mistake lyric is as good as the correct one. Sometimes it just means the audience wasn't paying that much attention to the lyrics or maybe that they'll just be less impressed with the lyrics than they might have been without the error.

"I don't create new arrangements with my mistakes. If I make a mistake I make sure I don't repeat it next time."
Maybe you won't, but other people who heard the mistake might pass it on, without realizing it was a mistake.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 04:38 PM

Mary (mg), who said that a singaround in a pub or a folk song circle is analogous to a "highly skilled" quilting bee?


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Amos
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 04:40 PM

It is okay to sing. Period. From a book, from imagination, from notes written in felt-tip on the back of your hand, from a bouncing ball on a video screen prompter, or from heart-learned songs. Just, sing dammit!


A


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Pierre Le Chapeau
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 04:42 PM

Hi Yorkie no offense taken
In regards to Clowns.
But
Who the more foolish the Fool? or the Fool who follows such self perfection. There is nothing wrong with using pen downed details. What about people like my son who is dyslexic or folk who learn in there own way by the pencil and pad.
The home is not always the place to learn. Playing in front of people/The cat is not half has encouraging has playing with a written paper if you are learning-in front of a singer around audience fore if one does get it right its a buzz that leads to the eventual latter.
Kind regards Pierre


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 04:51 PM

Ron D, I agree about RUS.

It is very hard to use "the blue book of death" as an unobtrusive 'cue card', because the type is small and the format is such that it's very hard to GLANCE occasionally at the page to refresh your memory in case of a brain fart (or when there's a verse you never learned.)

People using RUS do tend to have their head buried in the page.   
Plus RUS has many non-standard versions of lyrics and/or chords, in addition to outright errors.   Aside from all else we've said about the pluses and minuses of printed 'crutches', I hate singing from "the blue hymnal" because my version of the song -- whether "the correct one" or merely one of many variations -- is likely to be different from what's in the book.

Although many people and groups use it, I really don't think RUS was intended to be read from regularly in song circles. It usually has good info on the source of songs and it can be a great aid to adding songs to your repertoire, but it's far better as a research resource than as a hymnal or substitute for big-print lyric sheets or sheet music.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 04:59 PM

"Who the more foolish the Fool?"

Pierre/Pete, what folks need is a *performer*, in my humble, that's about it.
All this talk of crib sheets and banned songs is meaningless without good robust performamnce.

EG: you pull off "Drunken Sailor" in a a way many who strum it never will, because you invest it with a good laugh. It feels like a balsy salty song - it works because you fill it wit character.

Many times I think these discussions on Mudcat are totally meaningless, like studying the suummerz buzz of the bee... ... by sticking it in a glue filled test-tube.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 05:04 PM

I don't think they are meaningless at all. This happened last weekend. It has to come out in the open or other groups will shut down. True, new ones could take their place, and fine. mg


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Pierre Le Chapeau
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 05:07 PM

Thank you very much Crows sister but there are many verses to drunken sailor and I only sang 4 folk were shocked when I stopped so quickly. I f I had the lyrics to the sixteen other verses written in front of me I would have continued in the much same manner has you discribed above except I would have and have mastered the glance tecnhcque


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Pierre Le Chapeau
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 05:09 PM

All Im am saying is give people new to the scene a chance howsoever they achieve it.
Kind regards to all Pierre.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Pierre Le Chapeau
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 05:14 PM

In regards to Drunken Sailor John Barden said to me at the end of the Stoke session.
"Bloody Hell Pete they are going to love you at Sidmouth?


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Pierre Le Chapeau
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 05:25 PM

There is a Link to the above Drunken sailor on the Lower Coke Threads.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 05:36 PM

Jim Carroll: "Janie,
... My instinct is to suggest that you sing the songs you know, whether you repeat them or not, ..."

That may be your instinct, Jim, but some of us, as performers and/or as audience members, would rather have more different songs presented than have everything done excellently with no cheat sheets.

Janie's earlier post is an excellent summary of how the disdain for ever using printed material can suppress people's enjoyment of the process of making music.

I would add that some people cannot get by with just overlearning a few dozen songs.   I, for instance, do music professionally for senior communities such as retirement and nursing homes.   To provide entertainment (for some) and music as therapy (for others) for a wide spectrum of communities, I need to have hundreds of different songs that I can and do use for concerts, parties, sing-alongs, and room-to-room music. I probably have at least 500 songs committed to memory - and many others that I can do upon request with only a brief refresher glance at the lyrics.   If I add the repertoire that I use at folk gatherings - which doesn't overlap a lot with what I get paid to play and sing -- that adds another couple hundred.      And many of the songs I do are somewhat seasonal or audience specific, plus my audiences often make requests.   I'm not a great singer or guitarist, but I do have an exceptionally large and eclectic repertoire, which is important in my work.

Again, we're back to the one-size-does-not-fit-all concept.   
Both for most of my paid gigs and for most folk workshops and song circles I attend, the focus is more on enjoying good songs, having people join in, and performing them decently.   And lyric/chord sheets can be very helpful, especially if they're large enough print to be read from several feet away (and at a glance).   

--

Howard: "Folk singing doesn't require a perfect voice, or even very much in the way of performing skills, but it should it least involve singing in tune and remembering the words. "
Just my opinion, but I'd much rather listen to someone with a good voice and impressive instrumental skills who had sheet music on a stand in front of him/her than to a mediocre musician and singer do a song that's been perfectly memorized.
A soloist using sheet music doesn't bother me any more than it does when orchestras or choirs do.




tBut having said that, I still am not convinced that anybody can interpret and enjoy the songs while they are being read from a page, either singer or audience.
But I think the argument here is wider than the situatuion you pose. We are talking about the general use of crib-sheets by people who are able to learn songs, but don't or won't, for one reason or another.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 05:44 PM

Janie, I can relate to your point about group singing often being uncomfortable for those of use who tend to sing in different keys than most of the group.

But I think some songs are "made" by harmony, especially multi-part harmony, and try as I might, I just cannot pull off harmony as a soloist (without hi-tech help). I'm funny that way.

While I concur in not liking it when everyone is expected to sing along on evrerything, I do think that group singing provides some wonderful music experiences that listening to a series of soloists can't.   While the point has tended to be passed over in this discussion, I think that a primary valid reason for using books or sheet music is to facilitate people singing together "from the same page of the music" and with harmonies added.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 05:50 PM

Jim: "Blogward describes a strange situation of reading from a large sheet of paper so he can can 'keep eye contact with the audience' - sorry, that one lost me altogether."
It's really not that hard. Kind of like keeping your eye on the road when driving yet glancing from time to time in the rear-view mirror.

Just as a skilled speaker or TV journalist use a monitor without it being obvious to the audience, it's possible to use a large-print lyric sheet very unobtrusively, especially if you already know the song pretty well.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 06:04 PM

In case it confused anyone, this paragraph in my recent post wasn't mine and was included by mistake:

"tBut having said that, I still am not convinced that anybody can interpret and enjoy the songs while they are being read from a page, either singer or audience.
But I think the argument here is wider than the situatuion you pose. We are talking about the general use of crib-sheets by people who are able to learn songs, but don't or won't, for one reason or another."


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Dave MacKenzie
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 06:20 PM

Jim.

You're probably right about the book (if that is the one I remember). I borrowed it from Edinburgh Central Library and I left Edinburgh at the end of '74.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Deckman
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 06:33 PM

A few years ago, after years of disgust about the manner in which "rise up singing" has RUINED the Seattle song circle I helped form by supporting it early on, I wrote a song:

"This is the song, on page 17, page 17, page 17,
This is the song on page 17,
And my books better than yours.

2ND VERSE:

"This is the song on page 18, page 18, page 18,
This is the song on page 18,
And my books better than yours.

3rd verse:

This is the song, on page 19" ... you get my drift.

Many years ago, when the late John Dwyer phoned me, and asked if I would help to support a "song circle" in Seattle, I jumped at the chance. Prior to that, we had our occasional hoots, but the thought of having a regular weekly meeting where we could exchange our songs in that free flow of spontaneous music, was exciting to all of us.

After some years, I distanced myself from regular attendance due to raising a family and working two jobs, most of my life. When I finally tried to return to the Seattle "song circle", I was thunderstruck to see that it had become nothing more than a "community sing." Nothing of the spontaneous give and take, and musical repartee was left.

"This is the song on page 20, page 20, page 20 ...... Bob(deckman)Nelson


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Janie
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 07:55 PM

I hear you, Genie, and I enjoy joining in on choruses or with a harmony when I can. I really like singing harmony, but because I rarely have an opportunity to sing with others, my "harmony muscle" gets out of shape. I notice at the Getaway that by the last evening, I can find a harmony much easier than at the beginning. To really do a good job singing harmony, I need to be able to rehearse the part again, again and again. I do not have a great "ear" or great confidence

I know how much I love those wonderful, big, fat harmonies that arise on the choruses of some songs at the Getaway, especially those songs it is obvious have been long beloved and are well-known to a large bunch of the FSGW folks. Having been to a couple of Getaway's yourself, you know just what I am talking about. I'll sing softly and tentatively so that my search for a harmony won't throw off the person next to me, or switch to singing the melody an octave below, which is usually in the basement of my range, and which strains and damages my voice. I might have heard many of these songs enough to be somewhat familiar, but most of them I don't know well. My problems with memorization are very evident in these situations. If I'm lucky (not to mention the person sitting next to me) I will finally have the melody and the words to the chorus down by the last of 10 chorus repetitions. It is hard to sing harmony when one does not have the melody down pat. I sing along as best I can, and very softly.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 08:24 PM

Genie, the point I was trying to make is that folk music is a lot more open than most genres of music. The focus is the song, not the singer. Consequently a wonderful voice is not required to be a great folk singer. As for performance, all a folk singer has to do is stand there and sing. They're not expected to do a dance routine, or wave their arms around in a cloud of dry ice.

All that really leaves is the singing. All I'm asking is that people make the effort learn to sing and learn the song. Again, can I remind you I'm referring to people doing a solo turn, not people singing together as part of a group. I'm referring to people giving performances, even if they may be fairly informal.

I reject the idea, which seems increasingly prevalent, that all that matters is that people sing, regardless of what comes out. Sure, folk allows people to participate, but there's more to it than that. It should be possible to go to a folk club and hear music performed to a reasonable standard.

If people really can't sing, then they shouldn't be inflicting it on an audience, keep it for the shower. If they can sing, then please make an effort to do it properly. Otherwise, it's just self-indulgence - a belief that other people are going to want to hear you sing this song, even though you haven't taken the trouble to learn it.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Janie
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 08:36 PM

Howard, am I correct in thinking you are in the UK?


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 09:49 PM

Janie, I feel that I really must thank you for many of your postings, because they carry so much honesty and deep-felt conviction and sincerity in what you say here.

I particular (and may I encourage others on this thread to scroll back and read this), your posting on 05 Feb 10 at 10.54 PM;
I personally found your words here to be beautiful, honest and heart-renderingly true. You definately hit my nail on the head, moved me deeply and stopped me in my tracks.

I just wish I could express myself and my experience of the whole 'folk experience' anywhere near as good as you.

God bless you.

Chris


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 10:49 PM

FWIW, Bob (Deckman), I go to the Seattle Song Circles fairly often - at least on the 2nd and 3rd Sundays - and while people often do use printed songs in one way or another, most of the songs people do there are not from Rise Up Singing, and even when a song is "in the book," if it's a familiar song, most people don't use the book. Some people do solos (or maybe sing with one or two others who know the song they're doing) but on many songs the group sings along. It's pretty varied and depends on who shows up. It's certainly not an "everybody turn to page 242" routine.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 11:09 PM

Howard,
I don't think you and I disagree that much.

Yes, the focus in folk music is the song, not the singer. To me that's why I'm not crazy about hearing the great singers & instrumentalists "fake it" or leave out key verses when they go blank (as anyone can do) on a well-written song.   And that's why it doesn't bother me if people have some sort of cue-sheet handy.

I like this: ".As for performance, all a folk singer has to do is stand there and sing. They're not expected to do a dance routine, or wave their arms around in a cloud of dry ice."
LOL
Of course, what I mean by "performance" is things like engaging the audience, putting feeling into the song, etc., not doing a tap dance while singing.

Much of the discussion here seems premised on the idea that our songs are short, simple, and/or repetitive.   And I do many songs of that sort, where I'd never feel the need to use song sheets.   But there are other types that are more challenging, especially if you want anyone to sing along.   E.g., one of my "special" songs is the US Civil War song "Lorena." Even if I leave out 2 verses, there are 4 more, and there's nary a repeat in the lyrics except for the name "Lorena."   Plus a few lines in the verses are sort of interchangeable (from one verse to another), which is a problem if you want others to sing with you, which I do.

As for the competence of those who may be playing and singing along, I jam with some folks who are superb instrumentalists and good singers too. They can usually play along without chord sheets if it's "folk" or "country" or "bluegrass" and they can be good at harmonizing too. But if I do a song they haven't practiced singing and it doesn't have a chorus, or I want them to join on the verses, they really need lyric sheets. These jammers usually don't use printed material -- though many fiddlers like to have "the dots" if it's not an old favorite -- but if they do use lyric sheets or music scores it generally makes for a better jam on the new song than would be without the sheets.   The other thing about jams like this is, the way the group often learns a new song is to use song sheets the first few times.   The jam session is, among other things, an opportunity to work up new material as a group.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: *#1 PEASANT*
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 11:40 PM

Worst thing is people who have memorized five songs wont change them and wont learn any more and expect you to turn up at their gigs.

Second worst thing is singing to people who would like to sing along but who do not have the lyrics. Everyone should have lyrics and where possible notation.

It takes time to learn lyrics bring your audience into the tent with assistance.

Then there are people who think they know the lyrics and don't quite....what a mess.

As the priest once said.....one day I went in without a script and buried them instead of marrying them. Lyrics and notation can be helpful to stay on track.

One can improvise better with a few tools.

Conrad


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Janie
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 11:41 PM

Chris,

*blush*

Went back and re-read that post myself. I should add to the remark about understanding that there is not room for people like me at all tables, that I also do not think there ought to be room for folks like me at all tables. However, it is possible, and in my opinion, desirable, to appreciate and validate, rather than devalue, the function of any setting where people come together to sing. I do hope that there will always be room for folks like me at some tables where good musicians and singers also sit. I would also hope that good musicians and singers who do not care for "community sings" (I don't much enjoy them, myself) might at least acknowledge and validate the worth and value of them, and not belittle these music gatherings where people come together to raise their voices in song, even if the quality of the music or personal satisfaction you formerly derived is no longer there, and so you choose not to participate.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,Silas
Date: 07 Feb 10 - 09:24 AM

I was talking to the late and much lamented Jake Thackeray some years ago and I asked him why he never sang 'Isobel makes love on our national monuments' any more. His answer was most illuminating. He told me that the last time he sang it, halfway through he was thinking about replacing the glass in his garage window at home and was thinking to himself if he had enough putty. He realised that the song meant nothing to him any more, he could sing it without thinking about it and as if he was on auto pilot. So he just stopped singing it.

I think the moral is, learn your song, learn it well, but know when to stop singing it.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 07 Feb 10 - 11:34 AM

"Your tolerance level seems to be set at -100."
I think it is as unjust and irrational to describe those of us who find the use of crib sheets inrusive, as being intolerant, as it would be for us to describe those who use them as lazy bastards who can't be bothered.
I'm happy to accept Janie's argument, to a degree, but the 'Linus blanket argument just doesn't work for me at all - unless you have a deficiancy which prevents you from doing so, there is nothing to stop you putting in the necessary work in order to prepare the song for performance.
Genie;
"Just as a skilled speaker or TV journalist...."
Don't accept the analogy at all. A song is a structured piece of work with a set sequence which can (has to be) be learned; a talk is a totally different matter.
Still can't see how glancing down at a script enables a singer maintain eye-contact; it seems to me a singer is dividing his/her attention into three directions; song-script-audience; and if he/she is using accompaniment - that way leads to madness.   
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 07 Feb 10 - 12:17 PM

Janie, yes I am in the UK. Here there are two typical formats. One is the "floorspot", where a performer is given two or three songs, up in front of the audience (who will usually have paid to get in). Often there are a number of floorspots from different singers before the main guest comes on.

The other is the "singaround", which is less formal, but not totally informal. In this setup singers take it in turn, usually going round the room and taking one song each at a time. Usually there is not a main guest.

In both cases these are usually held in pubs, not in private houses which I gather is more common in the US. In the case of singarounds in particular, these may be held in an open bar where they can be heard by other customers (the other type of club is usually in a separate function room where entry can be controlled).

In both formats the songs sung may or may not be intended for joining in. Usually, the audience would be expected to join in only with the chorus, and not with the verses unless invited (indeed, this would usually be disapproved of since the singer may be doing a different version of the song). However etiquette does vary from club to club.

You will therefore understand that these are far more in the nature of individual performances than the type of gathering you are perhaps familiar with.

There is of course a place for venues where people can just sing without feeling under pressure, and where novice singers can gain experience. However in my view these should be private gatherings or workshops, or at least confined to situations such as festivals where passers-by are folkies, rather than a public bar where it will be heard by the general public. Folk music has enough of an image problem, and where events are accessible by the general public some degree of quality control may be appropriate.

Genie said in a post yesterday that he would rather hear a good singer using a book than a mediocre singer without one who forgot the words. Well, given that choice, so would I. However, in my experience it is rare to find a good singer who needs a book. Most singers who rely on books are unconfident singers, but having the words to hand doesn't make them any more confident or competent - instead of forgetting the words they are just as likely to lose their place on the page.

Encouraging people to memorise songs is not just about presentation. The work involved in doing this helps to improve everything about your singing


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 07 Feb 10 - 12:24 PM

mg: I am now announcing where I will be and that I want no group books and we will not take turns and we will not pontificate between songs and if anyone wants to join lme that is where I will be

What's wrong with taking turns? I much prefer it to the "jump in when you're ready" approach - being an unaccompanied singer I don't have the luxury of strumming an intro.

Much of the discussion here seems premised on the idea that our songs are short, simple, and/or repetitive.

Does it? I never use a crib, whether I'm singing four verses of Thousands Or More or twenty-four of Little Musgrave.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Janie
Date: 07 Feb 10 - 12:48 PM

Thanks Howard. That is helpful. From what I have read, the Press Room and Shanty Sing that our New Englanders refer to may be very similar, and I'm sure there are other similar venues in some regions in the USA, but not many. The closest common thing here is probably "Open Mic" nights at some bars and coffee houses. Very different from 5 to 20 people gathered in the privacy of some one's living room.

Janie


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Silas
Date: 07 Feb 10 - 12:54 PM

If a song is worth singing, surely it is worth learning?


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,Bob L
Date: 07 Feb 10 - 02:31 PM

I have to admit, I'm starting to rely on a crib sheet for songs that once upon a time were fixed in my memory... but then I don't sing as often as I used to, and my memory is like a singularly volatile sieve. If it's ever my fate to succumb to Alzheimer's, it will be about 18 months before anyone notices.

However, some useful tips I learned at a dance callers' workshop many years ago:
   Rule 1. Make sure you know the dance thoroughly so you don't need a crib.
   Rule 0. Have the crib handy anyway.
Maybe the same consideration applies.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Bernard
Date: 07 Feb 10 - 02:31 PM

If everyone is singing from the same book, why not just say the page number, everyone take a quick peek and clap. No need to bother singing the songs at all!

(I'll get me coat!)


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Deckman
Date: 07 Feb 10 - 02:51 PM

I see that "Bernard" gets the point of my song! Bob(deckman)Nelson


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 07 Feb 10 - 03:28 PM

Guest Bob,
Your dance caller rules seem to sum it up pretty well for me. I'd adapt them as follows:
1. DO learn your song and rehearse it so you won't have to read it from a book or notes.
(Exception: In some settings you may get requests for songs you didn't specifically rehearse to perform that night, in which case making using your own notebook of songs may not be such a bad thing.)
2. Even if you've performed a song hundreds of times without notes, if it's important to get the lyrics right and it's not a simple, short song, it can be helpful to have some sort of lyric sheet or "cue card" where you can glance at it unobtrusively.

Jim C, you can't maintain eye contact with anyone continuously (that's called staring) -- especially with a whole audience.   Your eyes glance around the room as you're looking at the audience, and a quick glance at a page of music can be hardly more noticeable than blinking.
I just think it's intolerant to dismiss a performer just because there's a music stand or such in front of him/her, even if they obviously know the song and are not just using the song sheet as a substitute for rehearsal.
The analogy to speakers using teleprompters is valid insofar as professionals can often use large-print cue cards or teleprompters without the audience being able to tell that they are using them.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 07 Feb 10 - 04:06 PM

Howard: [[Genie said in a post yesterday that he would rather hear a good singer using a book than a mediocre singer without one who forgot the words. ]]
First, I'm a "she."
But did I really say that? If I did It was a slip of the fingers.
I would rather hear a good singer singing from a book or song sheet than a mediocre one (and I'm not necessarily referring to vocal quality) delivering a song totally from memory.

I'd add that if the song is good, I'd rather hear someone sing the lyrics correctly with the aid of a song sheet than hear some of the best verses made up or mediocre lyric lines improvised because the singer, who really did know the song, had momentary memory lapses.

I think the issue of whether you should prepare, rehearse, and memorize your songs is one issue. (Except for very informal song swaps, that's pretty much a given.)   Whether you should ever have sheet music or cue cards, etc., as a PRN memory aid during a performance is a different issue.   

Lest my earlier posts may have suggested I usually perform using books or lyric sheets, I don't -- though I sometimes hand them out at song circles and workshops, especially when I want others to sing along.   (And I do think there are many songs that are far, far better with harmony all the way through and may not even have a chorus.)
The point is that between my professional music gigs and my participation in unpaid jams and song circles, there are well over 1,000 songs that I know by heart (many more, if you include songs that I don't have to back up with my guitar).    Many of these songs do not have a chorus and some have lyrics that are more easily mixed up than others.   I often have to "shift gears" from one day to the next and do an almost entirely different playlist. (I'm doing some sort of theme program for a few weeks and need to switch to another very quickly.) I also jam and share music with different groups, each group having a kind of different repertoire of shared songs. During the course of a year, I really NEED to perform at least a couple hundred songs and be prepared to do hundreds of others upon request (or - to go back to Mary G's initial point - to participate in a song circle that has a specified or unwritten theme).

Pip, several people have suggested that most folk songs have only a few verses or have choruses for people to sing along with. Obviously there are many that aren't that simple.
You say you'd never use a crib sheet to sing 24 verses of Little Musgrave.   But if you wanted others to sing along with you, would you?   I gave "Lorena" as an example of a song I love to play and sing but would just as soon have others sing along with me.
(In jam sessions it's not unusual to have 8 to 10 instruments playing at once. Even if your voice is strong, it's hard for one voice to be heard over 3 guitars, 2 banjos, 2 fiddles, a stand-up bass, an autoharp, and a mando. Having others sing along may be the only way for the vocals to compete with that.)   No matter whether I need the lyric sheet or not, the others usually do. And when I'm asking others to sing along, I don't have the luxury of ad libbing a lyric and having nobody notice.

I don't think anyone here is a fan of having people bury their heads in books or lyric sheets. I think we pretty much agree that if you have to make much use of your printed page it's probably going to make your delivery less powerful and effective.   But if a symphony orchestra or choir can bring you to tears while using sheet music on stands or in folders and making eye contact with the conductor choir director -- not you, the audience -- how can it be that a solo or duo or trio couldn't thrill you and move you if they happened to use a printed page in similar fashion?


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Don Firth
Date: 07 Feb 10 - 04:28 PM

Warning! Long screed!

One person's viewpoint. Your mileage may vary.

The first live concert of folk music I attended was in 1952. It was sung by Walt Robertson. He had a local television show and had just released a record on Folkways. The concert was in a basement restaurant ironically called "The Chalet," a half-block from the University of Washington campus, and it was quite probably Seattle's first coffeehouse, except that we hadn't yet actually heard of such things as "coffeehouses" yet (other than the places in London where Boswell and Johnson hung out, or the ones in Boston and Philadelphia where Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine talked of the Rights of Man and plotted rebellion against King George III).

Walt sang for nearly three hours. A wide range of songs, all accompanied on the biggest guitar I had ever seen (it was a 12-string), from American railroad songs, to Scottish border ballads, to children's songs, love songs, tragic, comic, and bawdy, to sea chanteys, and back around again. From a somewhat shortened version of "Greensleeves" (three verses), with the 12-string sounding a bit like a harpsichord, on up through history to a couple of songs written by Merle Travis. You get the idea.

All from memory. Nary a song book, song sheet, or crib note in sight.

A month or so later, they held a "hootenanny" at the same restaurant. At the time, a "hootenanny" was not a multi-performer concert as it became later, but a free-for-all. Anyone could sing if they wished, in any order (no circle or drawing numbers). If you had a song in mind and there was a pause, just start singing. Or just sit and listen if you wished.

No song books or song sheets.

From that time, on into the late Seventies, if I didn't have a gig somewhere, I've attended maybe thousands of "hoots," generally in peoples' private homes.

No song books or song sheets.

It was always assumed that one learn—memorize—a song before fielding it before other people. If you blew it, no problem. You had a sympathetic audience (everyone else had been there). You'll probably get it letter-perfect next time. Just keep working on it.

Then, in the late 1970s, a couple of brothers (not new to "hoots" and who should have known better) brought a copy of "The Folksinger's Word Book" to a hoot, and sat there singing together out of the book, often not being real sure of the tune and screwing up the words even though they had them right before them. There was a lot of sighing and eye-rolling, not just from the singers, but from the non-singing listeners as well, until finally someone else jumped in, to everyone's relief.

The Seattle Song Circle started in summer of 1977. We sat in a literal circle, went around the circle and when a person's turn came up, they had the options of singing solo, leading the group in a song, requesting a song from someone else, or passing. We sang all kinds of songs, but a lot of sea chanteys because they are easy for a group to pick up, they sounded good even if, unlike a trained chorus, they were a bit ragged, and we could work up a lot of gusto with them. The group stated sounding pretty darn good. And we got invited to perform at the Moss Bay Sail and Chantey festival on the east side of Lake Washington where the schooner Wawona was moored at the time (at a sort of maritime museum). We sang up a storm during the sail-raising (the Coast Guard wanted to check the tackle from time to time and make sure it still worked). I got a chance to sing a bunch of fo'c'sle chanteys in a real, genuine fo'c'sle! And we did a big concert that night!

Nary a book or song sheet in sight.

It wasn't until the mid-1980s that newcomers started showing up from time to time with an armload of song books. And boring the crap out of the "old-timers" at Song Circle by saying, "I just found this song this afternoon, and I'm not too sure of the tune and I don't know the words yet, but—" And the stumbling and dithering their way through the thing (many sighs and much eye rolling).

When this got to be the rule rather than the exception, my wife, Barbara, and I stopped coming to Song Circle. We haven't been for years now.

Last I heard, you had to have a copy of "Rise Up Singing" as a sort of membership card. I have a copy of it, but it sits on my bookshelf, along with other songbooks that I check from time to time if my memory needs refreshing.   Then I put it back on the bookshelf.

I have seen concerts on television of singers such as Luciano Pavarotti, whose head was stuffed with the full scores of several dozen complete opera roles, along with a whole batch of other art songs and Italian popular songs. A few times (such as during the "Three Tenors" telecasts), there were music stands in front of all three singers (Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, and José Carreras). But during the entire concert, I didn't notice them being briefly glanced at more that a couple of times. I can understand why having the music within quick eye-shot for a national or world-wide telecast might be a desirable "safety net," but obviously these three gentlemen knew the material.

I can also see having a song sheet in front of you for a recording session. Because if you have a momentary memory lapse (which can happen to anyone, no matter how seasoned and professional, even on songs that one has sung hundreds of times), that means a re-take, and unless one is recording in one's own home studio, that can get a bit pricey. I'm planning to start recording soon (home studio), and contrary to my life-long practice, I will have song sheets within eye-shot (taped to the mic?) just in case. They will be songs I've sung hundreds of times. The song sheets will be there merely as a safety net on the off-chance that I find myself on the verge of screwing up an otherwise good take.

But when I give a concert or go for a song fest in someone's living room, I have the songs I plan to sing in my head.

I have always been performance oriented. When I first saw and heard Walt Robertson hold about a hundred people enthralled for nearly three hours that evening, I kept thinking, "I want to do that!"

But, as I said above, your mileage may vary.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Don Firth
Date: 07 Feb 10 - 04:43 PM

Just as a follow-up: I have seen (live) Pete Seeger, Theodore Bikel, and others blow a song and either cover it very quickly so that most people didn't notice, or, if really obvious, just shrug it off, usually with a chuckle, and keep right on going. Audiences are very forgiving and quickly forget it (as long as the performer doesn't make a big deal out of it!).

On one occasion, Segovia blew a piece really badly and covered it so well that the audience wasn't even aware. Bob Flanary (my classic guitar teacher at the time) and I did notice it, undoubtedly because we both played the piece ourselves.

Dealing well with boo-boos when and if they happen is part of a musical performer's art.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: TheSnail
Date: 07 Feb 10 - 06:07 PM

Jim Carroll

Bryan
Your argument, in the context of a discussion on basic standards, was that the only requirement for giving a singer a floor spot was a desire on their part to want to sing, nothing more.


Correct.

You even consulted your committee to confirm that this was club policy.

Correct.

As far Is I am aware, you have never moved from this statement

Correct.

- as far as I am concerned, this is 'dumbing down',

Sorry Jim but that's your problem. If you are implying that we have a deliberate policy of 'dumbing down' then I find that gratuitously offensive. You have never been to our club. You have not seen the results. You have no evidence that our policy causes a lowering of standards. We care deeply about the music we love and put a considerable amount of work into promoting it. We try to create a positive and supportive environment in which people can learn and share. That is why your constant negativity seriously pisses me off.

as I believe that the ability to hold a tune, and remember and understand a text is a must.

Hmmmm. Well. A whole new topic. I've known some terrible singers who could hold an audience in the palm of their hand and some perfect singers who bored their audience rigid. The ability to "perform" is probably more important.

If your stance on this has altered in any way, [No, Not in the slightest.] there is no argument. {Oh yes there is.]

Of course you give all singers who wish to a chance to sing, as I've said on several occasions, [so have I] but should they prove themselves unable to do either or both of the above, you offer them assistance rather than allowing them to continue to practice in public.

I'm sorry Jim but you just aren't getting it. We aren't gurus. We have no authority over the people who choose to pay on the door and come in to our club. We cannot "allow" or "dis-allow" anything (excluding anything obviously illegal). We are part of the audience. We just happen to be that part who have volunteered to book the room, set out the chairs, contact the guest performers, buy the raffle prizes, build the website, sell the tickets, keep the accounts..... We have no right to tell the other members of the audience what they can or cannot do, nor do we have the expertise to tell them how they should do it. All we can do is lead by example and hope that what we do and how we do it conveys the message.

I know that Lewes has an enviable programme of workshops, but you have never said how you cater for beginners.

Frankly, we don't because there isn't sufficient demand to justify organising anything specific.

I just don't understand why you seem to think that wanting to sing equates to not beinga able to sing in face of the fact that your mentor Ewan MacColl said "Anybody who's ever tried to sing and got up in front of an audience and made a bloody mess of it knows that you're not enjoying it when you're making a balls of it, but you are enjoying it when it's working, when all the things you want to happen are happening." and you, in another thread, said "Why do people want to sing in a folk club? - because (they believe) they're worth it, and if you believe that, there's a good chance you are."

Make up your mind.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 07 Feb 10 - 06:32 PM

Genie, I beg your pardon- that's the trouble with internet aliases, you don't know who your talking to. And I apologise if I misquoted you, I wasn't able to check your original post.

However I feel there is a world of difference between providing words to help others participate, and relying on them yourself. I also think there's a difference between a professional using them in specific circumstances, where they judge it necessary, and an inexperienced singer using a songbook as a crutch.

I also think comparisons with orchestras and choirs are misleading. They are usually performing far more complex music. Classical musicians are trained to be able to play what is put in front of them - they are not required or expected to play from memory (apart from a few soloists). The dynamics of a large group of musicians or singers performing in a concert hall are also very different from most folk performances, usually soloists or small groups in more intimate venues.

With folk music, as with most popular music genres, the culture has always been to sing from memory. In recent years, this seems to have broken down. It seems to have been tolerated at first to assist a few inexperienced singers get over their jitters, and others seized their opportunity. The idea has also grown up that the most important thing is for people to sing, whether or not they have any aptitude for it or are prepared to put in the work to learn to do it properly.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 07 Feb 10 - 06:46 PM

Snail, of course you have authority over the people who come through the door of your club. The club is running the evening, and is perfectly entitled to decide who should and should not be invited to sing.

Perhaps you choose to avoid that responsibility, and simply provide a venue and tell the audience to get on with it. Perhaps you are fortunate enough to have a strong enough body of singers for that to work - from your comments on this and other threads that seems to be the case. Many clubs are not so fortunate.

I spent the other evening with a couple of friends, professional musicians with a national, even an international, reputation. Whilst much of their repertoire could be considered "folk", most of their work is now in arts centres and arts festivals rather than in folk clubs. They told me they were embarrassed when people turned up to see them in a folk club and had to sit through poor-quality and amateurish floorspots. This is all too prevalent, does nothing to promote folk music, and risks driving away those people who do want to hear good folk music.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,999
Date: 07 Feb 10 - 07:03 PM

"I've known some terrible singers who could hold an audience in the palm of their hand and some perfect singers who bored their audience rigid. The ability to "perform" is probably more important."

And, imo, the ability to communicate even more important than that. I have known some great singers/guitarists/performers/communicators. When people take to the stage, they tend, through a Darwinian process, to find what works and what doesn't. I think that people who "just show up" with an instrument in hand who have never supported that club before are kinda asking for lots.

Open mikes are what I see as 'training grounds' for young performers. A place to develop some stage skills and to interact with folks who have more experience. Others may perceive that stuff differently as is their right. I ain't lookin' for arguments with anyone because mostly I have a two-word response, no offence intended.

I have worked audiences from one to 30,000. Some with greater success than others. Such is life in the music business.

Best wishes to all of you writers, singers, performers, story tellers, etc. Until people have been there, they usually don't know what you go through. Bless y'all.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Dave MacKenzie
Date: 07 Feb 10 - 07:06 PM

As I said a few years ago, Marianne Faithfull's a much better singer since she lost her voice.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: mg
Date: 07 Feb 10 - 07:20 PM

The situations that I refer to at the music camps are when a person has to leave a song circle where they can take turns and sing from the book and sit under flourescent blazing lights. They leave that group, which is the main lodge with a nice fireplace, which purpotedly is exactly what they want and then they find a group that has left to pursue another form of music, because they by and large hate the books and hate taking turns, and then they IMPOSE their will on the group that has (hopefully) told them in advance what their purpose was in going to anothre building. If they want to take turns with the books, there is a whole building set aside for them. Now, of course the elephant in the room is that the music most likely sounds better in the room with no books and no turns. So? If you like the better music, join in on their terms. Sit on your books. Let the alphas be alphas. If you want to take turns and support each other and read from the books, nobody minds if you do it in the default situation. Just don't come to where people are trying specifically to escape that and then impose it. mg


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: mg
Date: 07 Feb 10 - 07:23 PM

As far as song circles go...I suggest making the first half with books and the second half without and also without taking turns. People who like the books and taking turns (they seem to be positively associated) can go early and the others can finish up. If they like each others' music they can stay for both halves. mg


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 07 Feb 10 - 07:37 PM

Don, I think you summed it up pretty well:
There are times and places where it doesn't matter if you miss a line or two and maybe improvise to cover it up. There are times and places where it doesn't really matter that much if there's a LOT of lyric screws ups or improvs. And there are times and places where it's really important not to have that sort of thing happen.

(In addition to your international prime-time telecast and the pricey recording studio, I could add a few more situations where it's nice to make sure that you and a bunch of other people will all be singing the same lyrics, but the point is the same.)

If you are in any sense "performing," it's pretty important to know your material and not have to rely on reading the lyrics as you sing.   
(As mentioned before, church congregations have been singing from hymnals for centuries, and they sometimes do, indeed, make a joyous noise.)

Has anyone here really suggested that performers shouldn't know their material- well?

The situations you describe where many people sang together over and over with no books, notes, etc., are indeed fun and may even produce some fine new developments via the folk process when - inevitably - someone forgets a line or verse or hears a mondegreen.   But had they been recorded live, the mistakes might have stood out like sore thumbs upon playing and replaying the recording.

What I find it hard to empathize with are the absolute denouncements of any sort of use of printed material whatsoever during a performance. "I-will-not-stay-to-listen-to-anyone-who-has-a-music-stand-or-cue-card."
There is no place for absolutes in folk music! Period! And that's final!
*g*

BTW, Ron Davies, you seemed to have a grand ol' time at the 2008 Getaway Doo-Wop workshop where both the leaders and various "lead singers" such as Jacqui were from time to time using the song books that Ken Schatz and Flawn Williams had brought with them.

Doo Wop workshop Part 1, FSGW Getaway 2008

Doo Wop workshop part 2, FSGW Getaway 2008

Oh, and I seem to recall a certain Mudcatter (who prefers I not mention her name) having everyone rolling on the floor of the Peace Cabin with a song about some guy named "Bob."
(I would share the video with y'all to prove it, but she'd have to kill me.) She had the lyric sheet in hand the whole time and glanced at it a few times between verses.

Don, I think you'd be surprised how relatively infrequent it is at the Seattle Song Circles for everyone to sing from RUS or any other song book.   Depending on who shows up, sometimes hardly anyone uses them.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 07 Feb 10 - 07:55 PM

MaryG, I have no real disagreement with people setting up the kinds of informal song circles you describe -- except that the more rules (spoken or otherwise) you set up, the smaller the group tends to be, and most music camps don't have dozens of spaces that can accommodate song circles. So if a spontaneous song circle moves to one of the 6 cabins available and decides that they won't tolerate anyone using a book or song sheet and won't take turns or otherwise seek to accommodate the shyer persons' contributions and, oh, by the way, we're into sea chanteys, so no blues allowed, etc., there often are no other places for the other 50 people who want to jam & sing to do that.

The huge circle with lots of people getting out the books and wanting the fluorescents on so they can read the mice type and everyone taking turns so if you come in late and happen to sit to the right of the last person who sang you won't get to lead a song for at least an hour -- those aren't much fun and usually don't generate much really nice music.   But sometimes, given the space limitations of the camp, we need to find a middle ground, where some people do use song sheets and the room is brighter than candlelight and there's some sort of "turn" format that keeps two or three people from alternating the lead with just each other.

I find that most of the jams and song circles in the cabins at Singtime are like that. Not a lot of use of books or sheet music but few seem to mind if someone does. Where the turns generally go around in a circle but many people pass and/or perhaps ask if they can do a "piggyback" song out of sequence.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 07 Feb 10 - 07:57 PM

Interesting suggestion, that last one, Mary. But when a song circle starts at midnight in one of the cabins at a getaway - and will last till everyone's gone to bed, how do you know when the first half starts and the second half begins?


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Joe Nicholson
Date: 07 Feb 10 - 08:06 PM

Like I said before if that's the best you can do then use a book but if you want to do it better THEN LEARN THE BLOODY SONG
Joe Nicholson


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 07 Feb 10 - 08:21 PM

Bryan - as I said - dumbing down.
Unless you have basic standards regarding the abilities of singers you are selling out both the singers and the audiences who take the trouble to turn up.
You don't have inexperienced singers turning up at your club - lucky old you; other clubs do and you are advocating no standards and dumbing down on their behalf - well done.
"We have no authority over the people who choose to pay on the door"
You do have the responsibility to provide them with an evening that is not going to fall below a certain standard - opting out of that one too. Howard said what needs to be said.
"We are part of the audience"
Nonsense; you are promoters and organisers of the music that is performed at your club; "Nowt to do wiv me guv", renaging on that responsibility doesn't hack it.
"as I believe that the ability to hold a tune, and remember and understand a text is a must." - "Hmmmm. Well. A whole new topic"
WHAT???? This is what it has been about from the beginning of our argument; I have repeated this suggestion at least a dozen times during the course of it.
How is believing you are 'worth it' the same as being 'worth it'?
"The ability to "perform" is probably more important."
Gibberish - doing handstands, the three card trick, what performance.... - you are a music club; singers and musicians of an acceptible standard (holding a tune and remembering the words are a minimum requirement) is what you are committed to present. Performance is part of it, sure, but the basic requirement should be the ability to sing or play an instrument to an acceptible level.
Please don't quote MacColl out of context out at me - his statement was based entirely on putting in the work beforehand in order that the singer and the audience can enjoy the songs, not just turning up without having tackled the basics - you are well aware of this.
You now appear to be accepting that you said that the basic standard was the desire to sing - on the ballad thread you denied having done so - it is you who should make up your mind.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,999
Date: 07 Feb 10 - 08:47 PM

I agree with Joe, partly. I think one should know the material intimately and well. On occasion that's not possible. On those occasions, use the book or the song typed out so's you CAN do the song.

However, the acrimonious stuff on this thread is just that. The advice is pretty good, but the manner in which it's give will ensure it's not taken--by anyone.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Janie
Date: 07 Feb 10 - 08:51 PM

I suspect that if everyone who has participated in this thread were actually to spend a weekend together at a venue that brought all of us together at times, and offered spaces at other times for numerous different song circles and sing-arounds, that at the end of the weekend we would all be glad we met and came together, would appreciate what each of us offered with regard to our participation, and in conversations after the experience, would be saying, "I see where you are coming from."


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Ron Davies
Date: 07 Feb 10 - 08:58 PM

True, Genie, I love doo-wop--as well as sea songs, Carter Family, gospel, western swing, Sephardic, Klezmir, drinking songs, and a whole host of other categories.   You may have noticed that when I led songs at the Getaway doo-wop workshop in question--Goodnight, Sweetheart, Mr. Blue, etc.-- I did not look at any book or paper while singing.

My rule is that you can look at whatever you want before you lead a song, but when you sing, you should not use either a book or paper.   If I hold a paper and am forced to look at it while singing, I consider that I have failed myself and the listeners. But I am not about to try to impose my requirements on myself on others in a workshop I am not leading. I would have preferred that no books or papers had been used--as you might realize my saying so in somebody else's workshop would be crass in the extreme--as well as guaranteed to be ignored.

I was in fact disappointed that books were used from time to time (not much, thank goodness)--but that does not change the fact that great doo-wop songs are still great--and I still love them. I am convinced that we could have put together the same songs--and more--had there been no books at all brought.   But when you want the group to contribute songs, you have to be realistic--or set out exact guidelines at the start. And you notice that the two leaders of the workshop did not use any books or paper.

If I had been leading the workshop I would have indeed said at the start that when people sing, it would be good if they did not look at a book.   What they did before they sang was fine.

Since part of the charm of doo-wop in my opinion is that we're all trying to remember how the song--or the harmony-- went.   And that's one situation when music by committee can actually work.   Using a book while singing destroys the group-institutional -memory challenge.

Lastly, none of the books in question was Rise Up Singing, as I recall.   That is the only book I feel has actually ruined many a sing--for reasons I've cited. As I've stated more than once, I would not try to ban any other book or aid to a singer.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Ron Davies
Date: 07 Feb 10 - 09:02 PM

That is. Genie, I believe you are incorrect in stating that either Flawn or his co-leader used a book while leading.   Neither one would need to--and both realize the huge downside of doing so as a leader.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Janie
Date: 07 Feb 10 - 11:08 PM

Even so, Ron, I want to note the times you have joined in on a harmony with me on a song that most people did not know, or found a viola part that greatly contributed to a song I was singing. I don't know that any of those times were times when I had lyric sheet in front of me, but I don't think you would have chosen to not do so just because I had a prompt or lyric sheet in front of me.

I point this out, not to attempt to dilute your position, but to point out the clarity with which you express it as your preference, as opposed to asserting those who may rely on prompt or lyric sheets have no business singing around other people. You have your preferences, but you are more tolerant, even supportive of us lesser musicians, than your posts may be interpreted by folks like me who do not have first-hand knowledge of both your musicianship and your encouraging and empowering attitude in 3-D.

Bob Deckman and Don Firth. I have been reading your posts on any number of topics and threads over the past 8 years or so, including your posts on this and similar topics. I can't pretend to know you outside of the context of Mudcat. If I were to go strictly by what you have posted to this thread and the one or two previous and lengthy threads on the same or similar topics, I would be convinced that if I ever make it to the Northwest I should not contact you if I am interested in an opportunity to participate in sharing and making some music while there. Based on what I surmise about both of you from reading more than just this thread and the RUS thread, however, I think you might value and appreciate my participation in a song circle, even if I did have to pull out a lyrics sheet from a notebook. I might not need to do so, but there is no telling in advance. You would not appreciate my participation because of my musicianship. I'm not a musician. I'm not a performer. I might need to pull out a sheet of paper with the lyrics on it to make sure I don't completely flub a song. I'm not even primarily a lover of whatever or however one wants to define "folk." But whatever I sing is about who I am, where I come from, what I believe, and/or my empathy and understanding of the folks and conditions about which a song refers. When I sing, it is from the heart, whether the lyrics are needed for me to get through the song or not. I have reason to think Bob Deckman and Don Firth have the capacity to appreciate and value that.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 07 Feb 10 - 11:19 PM

Ron, I think Flawn and Ken brought the books mainly to help jog our memories of doo wop songs. Most people didn't need to be reminded of more than just the songs (titles) themselves, but a few times the lead singers did use the books as prompts.
My point is that books were inevidence and used by some but everyone, including you, seemed to have a great time and we got some good sounds going.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 07 Feb 10 - 11:19 PM

It seems to me, reading many of the threads here, that there is some sort of big cultural divide or different approach, understanding and mentality between the folk scene in the U.S and the U.K!

If this is so it could explain much about the different and obviously diverse conceptions and attitudes expressed here.

OK, I know I could be tossing a hot potato here, but I don't care, because I am hungry to learn, even if it makes me appear like a naive and ignorant bupmkin or I've had a 'brain fart'.

This topic could have been covered a thousand times over but I have not come across it very much at all in ten years posting on Mudcat.

So I know that I could be accused of diverging or drifting off from the original subject of this thread, or being blind to many previous threads but I also sort of have an instinct or gut feeling that this could be a root cause for many of the many heart-felt ,very well considered and presented; but still conflicting opinions expressed here.

For a start I am intrigued and fascinated by the use in the U.S (mentioned many times on this thread already) of the 'hymnal' book 'Rise Up Singing' (RUS).
It would seem from comments here that it's use is dwindling in the U.S but that it is still considered to be some sort of 'Bible' of collected folk songs by many people.
So how does that work?

I repeat again that I am not wishing to be contentious or contraversial but I am genuinely interested in the very well stated and obvious traditions in the U.S and what we in the U.K should be aware of and understand about your own cultural and unique traditions so that we both understand you better and appreciate your uptake on us when you visit the folk scene in the U.K.

So what does the RUS mean to you and how could we in the U.K undertand it better?

Chris


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 07 Feb 10 - 11:30 PM

Janie, I have no doubt that if you could have the chance to participate in a song circle with Deckman and Don Firth, they would appreciate your contributions and vice-versa.

I really do understand, I think, where some folks are coming from in their aversion to books. There's a song circle I go to sometimes where everyone sings from a big-print song book and everyone is to stick to that arrangement (whether the lyrics & chords are right or not) or provide lyrics and chords if they use a song that's not in the book. People get so hooked on using the books that I literally see people's heads buried in the book while they sing the refrain "What shall we do with a drunken sailor?"   And more often than not, many people jump in too soon on various lines of the song - ahead of whoever is leading it - partly because they are staring at the book and not watching or really listening to the leader.
Lyric/chord sheets can facilitate group participation, even make it possible where it otherwise wouldn't happen. But they can be a real detriment if people rely on them too much, as a substitute for listening and learning, rather than as an aid to those processes.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Ron Davies
Date: 07 Feb 10 - 11:58 PM

I've said more than once that my only strong objection is to RUS.   No other book is remotely as pernicious--for reasons I've stated.

And I do love harmonies--and love just being part of the harmonic texture. And I do love to encourage others to do the same. By the way, Janie, your duet of "No Church Tonight" was definitely one of the highlights of that Getaway.

This is admittedly an amazingly picayune point--but I still say that the leaders of the doo-wop sing did not in fact sing out of a book at all when they led a song.   I bet a nickel that Flawn did not and I believe Ken did not either.   They did bring books, but as a service to others--and it was some others who did lead from a book.

What can I say?--I have a visceral reaction to RUS in a singaround--partly since I have seen how it brings the level of singing down sharply.

Soldier Boy-

I don't think anybody objects to Rise Up Singing as a book--why should they?   It has lots of good songs and is fine as a resource--one among many, as I indicated earlier.

But it's the abuse of it--as the "folkie hymnal" the authors never intended--which is the issue here, and the cause of the strong feelings against it by some of us. Using "RUS" is the opposite of making a song your own--it allows you to never have to learn a song.. You in the UK are lucky not to have to deal with the problem.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 08 Feb 10 - 08:29 AM

mg: People who like the books and taking turns (they seem to be positively associated)

I know I've said this before, but that's not been my experience At All. I love the turn-taking format, because what I do as a singer is the absolute reverse of what I'm like socially. I never impose myself on people - until I start singing, that is! On the other hand, I've seen quite a few arrogant circle-hogging twits regale us with song after song after song, every one of them read off sheets of paper. This used to infuriate me, but I've gone through annoyance into bafflement - "You think what we've all been waiting for is another rendition of The Black Velvet Band? And you haven't even learnt it?"


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: artbrooks
Date: 08 Feb 10 - 08:37 AM

Soldier Boy, RUS is a collection of songs that is, as it states on the cover, intended to be "a group singing songbook". It contains a wide variety of material, including a lot of folk of many genres; everything from trad stuff like "The Broom of the Cowdenknowes" to more contemporary material like "The F-word Song". It has holiday songs, patriotic songs, some religious material, Broadway musical tunes and a limited amount of material in other languages than English. It is used (overused, IMHO) by people who are singing together for personal pleasure - I've never seen it relied upon by someone in a solo presentation, but I suppose that's possible. It's been around for a little over 20 years (original publication date was 1988). There are certainly some groups - or individuals - who use this as their only resource, which is regrettable if only because they are missing out on the vast majority of vocal music, folk or otherwise.

If a professional or semi-professional folk singer (whatever folk is, and we've pretty much agreed that is a question that shall never be answered) gets into a group whose interest is group singing, than he or she will likely be confused and irritated by the presence of, and reliance upon, this book. I guess that person has only two choices at that point: try to introduce other material (and sources) and singing style (i.e., singing from memory) or move on and try to find a group that is more suited to his or her needs. Unfortunately, the US is a big place and, outside of the East and West Coast corridors, it can be hundreds of miles from one group to another. Then there is a different two choices - get along or musical masterbation.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,LTS on the sofa
Date: 08 Feb 10 - 09:35 AM

No real comment, just bookmarking... although I must confess, I am so used to singing with my book, that when I do the two or three songs I can remember without the words, I turn to a blank page so I don't get distracted when I look down out of habit!

LTS


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Ron Davies
Date: 08 Feb 10 - 10:29 AM

I think, Janie, that your duet partner on "No Church" was Dani.   As I said, it was glorious.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Ron Davies
Date: 08 Feb 10 - 10:58 AM

As Art says, the book (RUS) was intended for group singing,   If you interpret that as meaning that every person in attendance would, with the aid of the book, be able to sing every word of every song sung, then it is clear that the authors did in fact intend it as a "folkie hymnal".

And if that sort of experience is what you are looking for, the book would be excellent for that.

Therefore it would be great for kids' camps, and possibly for retirement homes (though the print is small).

However, folkies, by definition are interested in more than just "group singing".   We don't just want to sing a bunch of familiar songs--with the extremely controversial idea of whatever lots of people sing is by definition "folk" (mainly we don't accept that assertion)--or what is in a given book.

We want to go deeper into the music--and in fact make some of it our own--which can only be done by memorizing it.

I also would take issue with the idea that in most of the US, due to distance, you only have two choices--RUS or solo music.   

I go to an annual gathering in the mountains of Pennsylvania (the part which is sometimes called Alabama--as in the saying "Pennsylvania is Pittsburgh on one side and Philadelphia on the other, with Alabama in the middle".)   I was asked years ago to do so, and it's a fun group and a great location.   My primary function is to lead the sea songs--from the middle of the pond, while swimming.   There are remarkably few books in the middle of the pond. And lots of sea songs have plenty for the group to do, while not requiring them to sing every word of every verse. Also the informal sing which takes place after about midnight Saturday night--with no books at all---involves some excellent musicians--vocal and instrumental.)

This gathering uses RUS as its foundation, even though many have been singing the same songs from it for so many years that if they would trust themselves to put the book away, institutional memory would carry them.   When we do get out of the book, the singing is at least as strong as with it.

And people at this gathering do in fact have other musical outlets than RUS sings. Particularly the bluegrass and country traditions are strong.

I suspect that in much of the US there are in fact other options to make music together than RUS.   It depends on how much of a priority it is for a given person. "Where there's a will..."


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: artbrooks
Date: 08 Feb 10 - 11:09 AM

Ron, I'm afraid that, to me, central PA is still part of the Eastern Corridor. Where I live, Phoenix, Dallas and Denver are each a long day's drive away.

My point really wasn't "use RUS or stay home" - it was more that many places only have one established group and the option of walking out and going elsewhere often doesn't exist.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: MikeL2
Date: 08 Feb 10 - 11:15 AM

Hi

As this thread rumbles on I am left asking myself a question.

Are we all heading for !folk Karaoke ?????

Cheers

MikeL2


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Ron Davies
Date: 08 Feb 10 - 11:19 AM

Particularly with the Net, it is much more possible to find out if there are people you can get to who share your interest in a given type of music.    "Where there's a will...."


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: TheSnail
Date: 08 Feb 10 - 11:43 AM

Howard Jones

Snail, of course you have authority over the people who come through the door of your club.

We like to think we are amongst friends.

Perhaps you choose to avoid that responsibility,

Perhaps we have a different idea of what our responsibilities are.

and simply provide a venue and tell the audience to get on with it.

Not quite what I said. Please re-read my last post.

Perhaps you are fortunate enough to have a strong enough body of singers for that to work

Fortunate? Or could it be a consequence of our policy?

I spent the other evening with a couple of friends, professional musicians with a national, even an international, reputation. Whilst much of their repertoire could be considered "folk", most of their work is now in arts centres and arts festivals rather than in folk clubs. They told me they were embarrassed when people turned up to see them in a folk club and had to sit through poor-quality and amateurish floorspots.

I think any performer who starts complaining about the quality of their audience needs to consider why they are doing it. I have fond memories of an occasion a while ago when a floor singer forgot his words and was prompted from the front row...by Martin Carthy.

This is all too prevalent, does nothing to promote folk music, and risks driving away those people who do want to hear good folk music.

Perhaps you'd like to browse our website Lewes Saturday Folk Club and see whether you think we are doing nothing to promote folk music and driving people away. I think you might find a few familiar names on the list of past workshops. You could ask them what they think.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: TheSnail
Date: 08 Feb 10 - 11:47 AM

Jim - as I said - gratuitously offensive.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 08 Feb 10 - 12:13 PM

"Jim - as I said - gratuitously offensive."
Glad you think so - now perhaps you will stop stalking me.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Deckman
Date: 08 Feb 10 - 12:19 PM

"MUSICAL MASTERBATION" ... I love it ... can I have your permission to put that on my guitar case? Bob(nice guy)Nelson


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: TheSnail
Date: 08 Feb 10 - 12:32 PM

Jim, in my first post to this thread, I made no reference to you or anything you had said and you launched into the attack. I'll leave others to judge who is doing the stalking.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 08 Feb 10 - 12:58 PM

Perhaps you are fortunate enough to have a strong enough body of singers for that to work

Fortunate? Or could it be a consequence of our policy?


Fortunate, definitely fortunate - unless there is a lot more to your policy than you're letting on. The consequence of "anyone who wants to sing can sing", in my experience, is an awful lot of mediocre singing (and not very many traditional songs, incidentally).


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: artbrooks
Date: 08 Feb 10 - 01:04 PM

Feel free, Bob...as long as you take it in the intention meant, as in solitary enjoyment, or maybe the pleasure you get from using your own hand(s).   Are you going to be around Folklife this year? We hope to be up that way.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 08 Feb 10 - 01:21 PM

Bob, if yer gonna put Art's "musical masterbation" quip on yer geetar case, ya might wanta spell it rite.

Or does "musical masturbation" become "masterbation" when the really good musicians go off (no pun intended) to play by themselves rather than with us mediocre singers? ; )


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Deckman
Date: 08 Feb 10 - 01:27 PM

Genie ... I LOVE IT ... I wondered if anyone was going to catch it!
Art ... I try to avoid it like the plague ... but this year I might be forced to ... I dunno! bob


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: artbrooks
Date: 08 Feb 10 - 01:51 PM

I'd love to claim it was on purpose, but...


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: TheSnail
Date: 08 Feb 10 - 02:05 PM

Fortunate, definitely fortunate - unless there is a lot more to your policy than you're letting on.

Maybe it's our positive attitude.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 08 Feb 10 - 02:15 PM

Snail, I am reluctant to get too drawn into this discussion, which has been repeated many times in other threads. However I would like to come back on a couple of points.

It is nonsense to say that you don't have authority over what happens at your club - among friends or not. The club is organising the event, and is perfectly entitled to control what goes on, and what is and isn't acceptable or appropriate. It is up to the club to decide who will be invited to perform.

Whether and how you choose to exercise that authority is a different matter. Your club clearly takes a laissez-faire approach, and I don't doubt that it works for your club. However it should be obvious that it won't work for all - I won't name names, but I have been in plenty where the standard of performance was pretty low - unacceptably poor, as far as I am concerned.

The comment about my professional friends was not that they were embarrassed about their audience - they come from a folk background and know what to expect. The point was that people from outside the folk scene were turning up to folk clubs and paying money to hear good music, only to have to sit through some very amateurish performances from the floorsingers. That does not convey a good impression of folk music or of folk clubs. IMO, clubs should exercise some quality control over floorspots on guest nights, and those singers who don't come up to scratch can get their chance at singers nights.

It should have been perfectly obvious that my final comment was about such clubs which allow poor singers to perform, not about your own club.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Don Firth
Date: 08 Feb 10 - 04:55 PM

Janie, I'm sorry you feel that way. But I don't think Bob (Deckman) Nelson and I are the villains here. We've been deeply involve in folk music all our lives, Bob since he was thirteen and me since I was twenty-one. That was right around the late 1940s and early 1950s.

There were only a relatively small number of people around Seattle at the time—or, for that matter, in the entire country—who were interested in folk music, and when you mentioned folk music to most people, they thought you were talking about "Country and Western" or what the Sons of the Pioneers did.

The few folk music enthusiasts there were often got together to sing for each other and swap songs. Such gatherings, usually in private homes, were what were initially called "hootenannies." They were not public performances until music promoters pre-empted the word later on (early 1960s). And right from the very beginning, it was automatically assumed by everyone in Seattle's folk music community, and, for that matter, everywhere else (Berkeley, San Francisco, Portland, Boston, New York. . . .) that one memorize the songs before trying to sing them in front of other people. Including at "hoots," parties, and song fests.

No one ever questioned this. Nobody ever made a big deal about this or argued about it.

Bob and I have spent a goodly portion of our lives singing at get-togethers with other folk music enthusiasts. But we have also spent a great deal of time performing, not primarily for folk groups, but for general audiences. Concerts, television, and other engagements, along with coffeehouses frequented by all kinds of people, not just folk music enthusiasts.

In more than one coffeehouse, later in the evening we would often see people in tuxes and formals coming in:    the "after show" crowd, who had just come from a symphony concert, a recital, or an opera. And opera singers and recitalists do not sing reading from written music or carry song sheets around with them on stage. Professional performers, no matter what genre, are expect to know their material from memory. And since Bob and I were getting paid to do what we did, we were "professionals."

And, I might add, this goes for traditional singers as well. I've seen singers such as Jean Ritchie, Almeda Riddle, Mississippi John Hurt, and many others at folk festivals, and none of them sang from books or paper. They all sang from memory. So—memorizing the songs is part of the tradition.

In a group such as a song circle, where people just want to get together and sing, are not particularly interested in professional performing, and if they want to sing from song books, well, okay. Nobody's trying to stop people from doing this.

So, a lot depends on what you want to do and how far you want to go with it.

But I might suggest this:   when learning a song, sing it a lot at home. Try reciting it like a poem. Try to sing it without looking at the paper. If you blow it, read the line again, put the paper aside, and try singing it again. Keep doing that until you can get through the song without looking at the paper at all. Then, keep singing it without the song sheet until you have it down solid.

If you constantly rely on having the paper in your hand, it can become a psychological crutch.

Take a chance! Try working without a net!

Don Firth

P. S. Both Bob and I have a deep interest in where these songs come from, those who sang them, and what their lives were like, and I don't think anyone could honestly claim that we do not sing these songs with understanding, empathy, and heart.

P. P. S. Let me suggest a little thought experiment:   think of your favorite stand-up comedian. One who really cracks you up!

Now—think of him or her standing there on stage and reading their routine out of a joke book.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Dennis the Elder
Date: 08 Feb 10 - 05:12 PM

When I visit a folk club or a club where folk singing or music is presented to an audience, I need to feel at ease. I am not a good singer and I need the reassurance of a book of songs I have prepared myself. I practice these songs, but find, when in performing I inevitably have problems if the book is absent.   If I had to wait to be invited to a club I probably have to be satisfied with singing in the bath to a plastic duck.
I do not believe that folk and authority particularly go together. I agree that some control may be needed where people are invited to perform. As my favourite format is a sing around I look forward to trying to stretch myself to the level of the other performers. Freedom to sing any song under the very broad umbrella of "folk" is paramount.
I do not mind a singer with a poor voice or even an instrumentalist who gets it wrong now and again, that to me is the essence of a good folk club. I hope, when I sing others at the club feel the same way. I personally do not mind being given a quiet word of advice from another club member, with the emphasis on quiet.
Not all good folk singers have good voices, but they do have a feeling for the song they are singing, I try to have the feeling if I fail with the voice.
I have read both positive and negative comments throughout this thread and one or two comments of a personal nature. I have also noted that some people like nothing better than to find fault with other peoples opinions, please only constructive comments, there are other pressures in life without adding aggression.
Is not folk music a way of presenting subjects such as passion, death, love, war, happiness and sorrow in ways that informs and pleasures the listener?
We all have our views and many of us want different things from the clubs we visit, I myself visit clubs or venues where I find what I want. I hope that on the odd occasion someone likes what I sing and I know for certain that I listen to all other singers and musicians with interest and almost always with enjoyment.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Deckman
Date: 08 Feb 10 - 05:35 PM

Don ... Well said! Why am I not surprised! bob


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Dave MacKenzie
Date: 08 Feb 10 - 05:49 PM

My method of learning a song is to sing it (in my head) while I'm whistling the tune, then if I find bits I can't remember, I check the words when I get home. Obviously I don't do this as a public performance.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 08 Feb 10 - 05:58 PM

Don, I very much sympathise with what you are saying. I have not been around as long as you have, I started singing in UK folk clubs late 1960s/early 1970s, but I recognise much of what you are describing.

At that time standards were self-imposed. People went to a folk club, but only stood up to sing when they felt they were ready and had reached an adequate standard. At the very least, they were expected to have learned the words. No one expected perfection, least of all from novice singers, but there was an unspoken assumption that anyone putting themselves forward for a floorspot should have put in the work beforehand. It was a question of respect for the music and the audience, if not for oneself

More lately, the idea seems to have grown up that the most important thing is for people to sing, whether or not they have any ability. We have had a number of people posting to this thread who admit that they are not good singers, but they nevertheless seem to believe that people should be prepared to listen to them, even though they son't seem to be willing to make the effort to improve.

Folk music shouldn't be about your own self-esteem, or your confidence, or even because you just want to sing. It should be about communicating good music to a willing audience. If you can't do that you're not ready to perform in public. Folk clubs can still offer you plenty of opportunity to sing, but standing up to face an audience when you're not ready to do so is sheer self-indulgence.

Sorry to sound harsh.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 08 Feb 10 - 06:29 PM

Folk music shouldn't be about your own self-esteem, or your confidence, or even because you just want to sing. It should be about communicating good music to a willing audience.

At a folk club I no longer go to, the most entertaining of the regulars only ever sang from sheets. His genre was verbally intricate Victorian music hall. He could communicate them brilliantly, but rarely did the same one twice. Memorizing them wouldn't have made any sense. The whole point of his act was that it was a window into a multifarious culture of the distant past.


If you can't do that you're not ready to perform in public.

This guy certainly was. Can YOU do that? Pick up something with a long, tricky, chromatic tune, wacky rhythm and complicated internal rhymes, and do it fluidly carrying off all the original jokes?


Folk clubs can still offer you plenty of opportunity to sing, but standing up to face an audience when you're not ready to do so is sheer self-indulgence.

The reason I don't go to that club any more is because it got very, very boring with the same word-perfect renditions of rather uninteresting 1980s singer-songwriter stuff. The people who did it never made a mistake. It was exactly the same the tenth time round. If that's what turns you on, maybe you ought to find a venue that makes accountancy a spectator sport.

I'd far rather listen to someone like Dennis the Elder doing his best to get across something that means something to him than patronize a venue that would try to silence him.

(Must try turning up at a singaround with my favourite book sometime - all four volumes of Bronson. Though there is probably somebody local who could trump that by bringing the whole Greig-Duncan).


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Dave MacKenzie
Date: 08 Feb 10 - 06:34 PM

All of Johnson's Musical Museum used to be available to borrow from Edinburgh Public Library.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 08 Feb 10 - 06:35 PM

My comments were directed at those who admit they're poor singers, and use that as an excuse to sing from a book rather than committing their songs to memory. I'm offering the thought that perhaps they should consider whether they're ready to perform in public.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 08 Feb 10 - 07:17 PM

THREE HUNDRED! just goes to show what a lot of opinions there are on this subject, and it's not the first time this subject has been discussed.
I did a song on Saturday without the "comfort zone" of the words lurking on the table or behind me and it went OK: so I can do it osme of the time!


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 08 Feb 10 - 07:19 PM

Oh osme, the singing may have been OK but the typing's gone AWOL!


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,999
Date: 08 Feb 10 - 07:44 PM

I think that singing from a songbook is better'n singing from a telephone book. The telephone book has a great cast of characters, but there's no plot.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Don Firth
Date: 08 Feb 10 - 08:07 PM

Just a historical note:

Not particularly depicted in the movies, but actual working cowboys often led a very lonely and boring lives. Steers, especially when they're behaving themselves, are not particularly stimulating companions. So cowboys had to rely on themselves and each other for entertainment.

Many cowboys were surprisingly literate, especially compared to the way they were usually depicted in the movies.   Many had memorized long passages from books, could recite poetry (not just "cowboy poetry"), and knew entire sections of Shakespeare's plays. They could recite for each other, or if out in the boonies on their own and bored to tears, they could and would recite to themselves. I believe that the Lomaxes go into this matter at some length.

And I don't think they had a whole lot of room for poetry books and volumes of Shakespeare in their saddlebags. Or song books.

They sang as well (see the Lomaxes' Cowboy Songs, which, I believe contains the first printing of many cowboy songs, including "Home on the Range"). And many of the songs they knew must have been traditional songs and ballads. Consider that the anonymous bard who came up with the song, "The Streets of Laredo" had to have been familiar with "The Dying Soldier's Lament" or "The Bad Girl's Lament" because many of the lyrics are obviously derivative. Same with a lot of cowboy songs.

And I believe the same holds true for seamen as well. Those who are into nautical lore can correct me if I'm wrong about that.

While riding the bus, as an alternative to simply people-watching or staring vacantly out the window at the same landscape you've seen pass by every morning for the past twenty-eight years--or sitting in a doctor's waiting room with nothing to do but leaf absently through the latest "People's Magazine" or a fourteen-year-old copy of "National Geographic," one can gaze off thoughtfully into space while singing any number of songs and ballads silently in one's head.

Good practice, by the way. Keeps the songs fresh in your--ahem--memory.

Just a few thoughts.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Janie
Date: 08 Feb 10 - 08:52 PM

Hi Don,

I'm not sure what I have written that leads you to think I am labeling anyone a villian, much less you or Bob.   If I am guilty of having labelled or demeaned anyone or their opinions in my posts to this thread, I sincerely apologize. I am enjoying this thread, and learning alot about what shapes the different viewpoints. I may not entirely share a point a view, but I certainly respect it.    Sorry if I have not made that clear.

I'm also unclear about what you were conveying when you wrote "sorry you feel that way," and am wondering if you perhaps misread my post. Otherwise, it sounds like you are saying you are sorry I think you and Bob might enjoy and appreciate what I might offer in a song circle, should I ever have the opportunity to head up that way. I think I am familiar enough with you to be pretty certain that is not what you mean.

I have no doubt at all that I would thoroughly enjoy listening to you and or Bob, in a song circle as a member of an audience.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 08 Feb 10 - 08:55 PM

Don, I appreciate the perspective on times and places where people pretty much had to rely on oral tradition, even for sharing very sophisticated, lengthy songs, poems, etc.   And I don't think there's much disagreement here about the value of committing songs to memory and even overlearning them to the point where you could "sing them in your sleep," as it were.

Still, several types of situation have been mentioned in this thread where song sheets or even books (other than RUS) can be a real asset.   
One is group singing, where the "sing-along" parts are not short, very commonly known, or repetitive.   

Another is the situation where the performer's ability to memorize long lyric sequences and recall them without error even in the face of distractions, nerves, etc.   (And most people get over their stage fright only as they make themselves get up and perform over and over in spite of the nerves; if everyone waited to perform in public until they had overcome their performance anxiety, a lot of people would never perform.)   

Still another was just mentioned:
"At a folk club I no longer go to, the most entertaining of the regulars only ever sang from sheets. His genre was verbally intricate Victorian music hall. He could communicate them brilliantly, but rarely did the same one twice. Memorizing them wouldn't have made any sense. The whole point of his act was that it was a window into a multifarious culture of the distant past."

It's not all that unusual for someone to want to share a song that they are not likely to perform again soon, if at all.   This could be something shared for a special occasion or theme workshop.   Or it could be that the performer simply likes to present something different most of the time instead of the old standbys.   I'm not sure every one-time presentation at a music camp or singaround warrants weeks and weeks of preparation just to avoid having to glance at a lyric sheet occasionally.


"This guy certainly was [ready to perform]. Can YOU do that? Pick up something with a long, tricky, chromatic tune, wacky rhythm and complicated internal rhymes, and do it fluidly carrying off all the original jokes?"

It's been mentioned before that choirs and orchestras often use sheet music because what they are performing is complex. I've seen jazz jam sessions and even folky fiddle sessions where sheet music was used for similar reasons, with the quality of the music probably benefitting, not suffering, from the use of it.    And "poetry readings" and "dramatic readings" used to be a fairly common and respected type of entertainment.   The ability to interpret lyrics, prose, and music while 'reading' from a page is not an oxymoron.

Are most of us really disagreeing on a lot of points, or are we (in this thread) mainly switching from one subtopic to another?


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Ron Davies
Date: 08 Feb 10 - 09:51 PM

As one who has sung a long time in a big chorus, I'd have to say I think a reference to a chorus or orchestra as justifying reading a song off a page is a red herring.

Composers are extremely precise about exact dynamics, duration of notes, changes in tempo, etc.   And conductors add another layer to this.   You have to be watching the conductor constantly-while also observing every little direction given by the composer in the music.

It's a far cry from singing a song in a singaround--where you are the conductor, free to interpret the song as you see fit, especially on verses--unless you're bound by the straitjacket of "group singing"--every person singing every word.   Yes, in singing a classical piece you need music in front of you--with very few exceptions.   This is vastly different from the situation in a singaround.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 08 Feb 10 - 09:53 PM

Dennis the Elder, respect man,I really respect your comments.


Ok now people. We have heard from every manner of folk singer; from serious professional to semi-professional to just the novice and enthusiastic singer who joins in or has a go in an informal singaround. And God bless you all for keeping the folk tradition alive and for singing your hearts out; either in front of a large audience or just in front of the bathroom mirror!

But, do you know, we haven't heard from the SUBJECT of all this debate! - 'The Song' itself!
How does a song itself feel about how it is sung and the attention it recieves to be sung well as it's composer/master intended?
How does it feel about just being sung lightly from a book or by people who take the time and effort to memorise it by heart and take it into their soul and render it to it's perfection?

This is just a thought, but also a CHALLENGE to all the creative song writers out there ( and I am sure there are many) to consider the view point of a song and think of it as a living entity and how it would feel about how it was delivered into the world and how we could do justice to the master who created it.

Also think of a song as a new creation and a new born baby that you wish to bring into the world and which has been born from your own imagination. As you nurture it and feed it with your loving attention and painstaking detail how would that song wish to be sung and remembered?

So I invite you here to become creative and pen some lyrics from the view point of the song itself and how it would wish to be delivered. I encourage you to write a song on this theme and pen your creative inspirations here.

I have created a few song lines already on this theme and will contribute as we go along!

Chris


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 08 Feb 10 - 09:53 PM

Don Firth ===sitting in a doctor's waiting room with nothing to do but leaf absently through the latest "People's Magazine" or a fourteen-year-old copy of "National Geographic," one can gaze off thoughtfully into space while singing any number of songs and ballads silently in one's head===
Slight thread drift which some might however find useful - I find that technique useful in a painful situation, e.g. when a dentist is drilling. Try it & see how it can reduce the pain.

I agree with Genie's point just above — there are times for books & sheets, & times when best not. The important judgment, as so often, is as to which is which. I am often accused of 'pedantry', a charge I do not invariably deny: a trait which often subsumes 'casuistry'; but I think the Casuist school of philosophy has come in for much undeserved obloquy & disapproval ~ their real point surely being that "every case should be judged on its merits" ~ in principle a Good Thing?; even if, pragmatically, there so often is just not time enough.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 08 Feb 10 - 10:05 PM

Ron, the point I was making about orchestras and choruses using sheet music was not that their music is like most of what's done at singarounds and song circles (though their lyrics are sometimes much more simple and less repetitive than some folk songs).   The point was that they are able to interpret the music and play/sing it with exquisite emotion even while using the printed sheet. That not only can be done with other kinds of music but often is -- though that doesn't happen in any type of music when a book is used as a substitute for learning the piece, rehearsing, etc.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 08 Feb 10 - 10:27 PM

Ron: [... in a singaround ... you are the conductor, free to interpret the song as you see fit, especially on verses--unless you're bound by the straitjacket of "group singing"--every person singing every word.]

As I've said before, there are SOME songs for which harmonies are key to really making the song sound its best; i.e., some songs are far more beautiful in 3 or 4 part harmony than as solos. (These are often songs that were written or arranged specifically with harmonies in mind -- sometimes with no one voice really carrying the tune, but rather, the tune emerging from the combined parts.)    Wanting the whole group to sing the various parts together on, say "Teach Your Children" (just to use an example that I think most people will recognize) is not a case of being bound by a straightjacket.   There are many songs, some clearly "folk" and others less clearly so, which I think sound sort of naked and less than special when sung in unison but give me goosebumps when sung with close harmonies.

One of my own songs, as an example, is on the theme of "harmony" and was deliberately written with 3-part harmony (with other improvisations welcomed). Its "harmonies," in fact, are really "countermelodies."   I've been frustrated when sharing that song at singarounds and song circles, because, the tune being new to people and not that 'generic', people would mainly sing in unison with me. I even added a really unnecessary chorus to the song just so I could get people to sing along, at least on that, without having lyric sheets.   But the one time I really did get a folkie group to join in with their harmonies -- and sing the song as it was meant to be sung -- was when I passed out lyric sheets.    Even if a song is not very complex or difficult, if it's new to most people, you really need to let them have at least a lyric sheet if they are meant to sing along.
(Try as I may, I have not mastered the art of singing live in harmony with myself.)

Beyond that, sometimes having a few voices together on a whole song makes it more powerful and stirring, even when it's in unison. Sea chanteys are examples. And not all such songs have simple, repeated chorus.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 08 Feb 10 - 10:35 PM

Chris, I read your last post after I had made my last one.

Your point about considering the question from the standpoint of the SONG itself is an excellent one. In a way, you're expressing - much more poignantly - what I was trying to say about some songs really needing multiple voices, harmonies, etc.

If someone decided to turn my song "Harmony: One, Out Of Many" into a solo piece, it would be kind of a musical oxymoron, as the theme is unity in diversity and the one repeated line is "let the music be sung, not in unison, but harmony."    Having one person sing that song makes about as much sing as belting out "Silent Night" at the top of your lungs.   There are many songs that really do call for multiple voices -- and not just on the chorus, if one exists.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Don Firth
Date: 09 Feb 10 - 01:15 AM

Janie, I'm sure both Bob and I would appreciate anything you sing and any way you would care to sing it.

What I have trouble with is the person who comes into a song circle and wants to sing a song that they simply don't know and never even encountered until they ran across it in a song book a half-hour before they left home to come to the sing-around. And they drive others screwy by trying to blunder their way through a song whose tune they barely know and some of the words they are actually reading for the first time.

I'm not exaggerating! I've seen that happen. And let's face it, that's pretty self-serving, and downright tacky! All too often, they don't seem to really be all that interested in the songs per se, they just want to be recognized as a full-fledged singer within the group without having to put in the time and work that the other people have.

When more and more people with this attitude showed up, those who had a strong interest in the songs and who had put in the time, work, and study began dropping out—sometimes to form another group.

My point in urging people to memorize the material is that once a song is solidly committed to memory, you can then apply your attention to aspects of the song other than just getting the words and tune out.

For example, most songs and ballads can benefit by the singer doing a bit of subtle and tasteful acting. For example, in dialog songs, say Edward, you have one person demanding to know where the blood on the other's sleeve came from and, dissatisfied with the answers she's getting, she refuses to give up until she gets a believable answer. In the meantime, the man being questioned is being evasive, not wanting to reveal the grizzly truth.

Now, I've seen this sort of thing horribly overdone. Operatic bass-baritone George London was an absolutely brilliant singer, but what he did with Lord Randal—well, it was pretty ghastly! But—a subtle change of voice and inflection as you switch viewpoints can really infuse life into a song and make it downright gripping. After all, you're telling a story. And you would want to tell it well.

There are few things more satisfying that to lay down a song that you have discover and that is new to the group, and do it so well that everybody looks at you wide-eyed and goes, "Wow! Where did you learn that!??"

####

As to orchestras, choirs, and other ensembles working from sheet music, I think there's more to it than meets the eye. Symphony orchestras will often rehearse a particular piece for months before they do it in concert, so it's not as if they aren't thoroughly familiar with it. When you have some ninety or a hundred musicians all working together, you don't want any of them going astray, so they keep the music in front of them just in case.

Church choirs have a very short time to rehearse. Often it's on a Wednesday evening when they begin working on the two or three pieces they'll be singing on the following Sunday, and they spend a couple of hours working on them. Then, they get together again 8:30 Sunday morning and rehearse them again, to be ready to sing them in the service at 11:00. They may not have all of the words memorized, but they are certainly more than just a little familiar with them, having gone over them a good dozen times or so.

####

Once again, if a group of people want to get together and all sing out of the same song book, say "Rise Up Singing," fine and dandy. I, personally, don't particularly enjoy this. What I do enjoy is when I hear someone sing a song I've never heard before, or sing a different version of a song I've heard and/or sing myself. Or a really good verse I've never heard before that appears in a song I've sung for years, and that really fits and enhances the song. And that's simply not going to happen if everybody is singing out of RUS.

Or a new and interesting interpretation of a song I'm very familiar with. And that also is not going to happen if everyone is all singing together out of the same book.

But as I keep saying, your mileage may vary.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Hrothgar
Date: 09 Feb 10 - 01:56 AM

If it is a choice between having the song sung from a book or not sung at all, I'll go for the book every time.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,muppett
Date: 09 Feb 10 - 04:22 AM

What's the feeling about singing from the pub menu, did it at the weekend and it seemed to go down well !


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 09 Feb 10 - 04:29 AM

I accept that there are circumstances when it is helpful to use lyric sheets, especially for group singing. I also accept that there are some good singers who use them, who are capable of not letting it interfere with their performance or interpretation.

Unfortunately, in my experience the singers most likely to need lyrics are also poor performers. OK, everyone has to start somewhere. However evidence has emerged during this discussion of singers, some of whom admit to being poor singers, who are trying to build up a large repertoire (albeit out of a book) or are aiming not to repeat a song. Now these are laudable aims, but to be setting themselves those targets when they have not mastered any of their songs is imo misguided. I believe it would be better for them as singers, and for their audience, if they were to concentrate on learning the basics, and only then to think about expanding their repertoire.

I think Don put his finger on it when he said that in some cases the motivation seems to be more wanting to be part of the group rather than having a genuine desire to sing. I'm sure that's not true in all cases. But even among those who do wish to sing, sometimes there doesn't appear to be the desire to achieve a reasonable standard.

There was a couple who came to a club I used to attend. In the four or five years I knew them, they made no effort to improve. They sang the same few songs, often from a book, more or less in unison with no real attempt at an arrangement. They made no effort to develop either their singing or guitar technique. So far as they were concerned, it was good enough for folk. I think the music deserves better.

Folk audiences are generally sympathetic and forgiving of mistakes, especially by inexperienced singers, so that should reduce the pressure on a nervous performer. However an environment seems to have developed in which a singer will be congratulated merely for having the courage to sing regardless of how well or badly they performed, and which gives them no incentive to develop. That's fine in its place, and novice singers should be encouraged, but it can end up bringing down standards if the idea gets around that all that's required is the mere desire to sing. I certainly don't think there's a place for that where the audience has paid to get in.

Learning a song is difficult, but it's a skill like any other. If you don't do it you won't be able do it. Apart from a small minority with genuine memory problems, most people are capable of learning songs. Do you need a lyric sheet to sing "Happy Birthday", or your national anthem? Do you need one to sing "The Wheels on the Bus" to your kids? If you can remember those, you can remember Tam Lin - the only difference is one of scale. Even the most deluded no-hopers auditioning for the X-Factor have learned their song.

As I said earlier, I don't have a particularly retentive memory - I struggle to remember my own mobile phone number. However I can sing a lot of songs from memory, because I've practiced them. Over the years, it's become easier to learn and to remember songs, because in doing so I've also practiced the skill of learning them by heart.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,LTS on the sofa
Date: 09 Feb 10 - 05:35 AM

Again, just bookmarking really... but a couple of comments to add:

Howard - it must be a brain thing then, because I can remember my mobile phone number which I rarely ring, but can't recall more than three words and half the tune of the song I was singing not half an hour ago, which I'm supposed to be learning.


Don ~ you said "Let me suggest a little thought experiment:   think of your favorite stand-up comedian. One who really cracks you up!
Now—think of him or her standing there on stage and reading their routine out of a joke book."

I don't get to see many stand-up comics but there is one guy who really cracks me and thousands of others up... pants-wettingly, chest-acheingly funny, should have had a knighthood by now.... who uses a book each and every time and wrote everything in them himself. Each time he reads one of his songs, poems or monologues (and I mean read his songs, he admits himself he is not a singer), they are different. Each time I see him, there is something else to find in poems that even I remember by heart. If Les Barker can do it, I don't see why everyone else should be ostracised for doing the same.

LTS


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Dave MacKenzie
Date: 09 Feb 10 - 06:03 AM

I can't remember my mobile phone number, and I can only remember my land line number if nobody asks me for it.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Marje
Date: 09 Feb 10 - 06:03 AM

Thanks, Howard above, for a great post that sums up the main issues without getting abusive or patronising.

And thank you, Art, for telling us (UK members) a bit more about Rise Up Singing and how it's used. That is something quite unfamiliar in the UK and I think discussions like this often get confused because we're talking about different habits and preferences on different sides of the Atlantic.

So, when someone in the UK says they prefer gatherings where people don't sing from books, they're not talking about a group who all sing together from one book. This is (thankfully) not what happens over here. What is under discussion in the UK (and what the original question referred to, I think) is when a solo singer gets up - or sometimes stays put - to sing a song to the group, reading the words from a book. The others won't normally join in or harmonise except in the chorus, unless it's a very well known song.

That's why many of us feel that it's much more enjoyable when the singer/performer has taken the trouble to learn the song first, and isn't totally reliant on a book. Using a crib-card or other subtle prompt is a different matter, and one on which we'll never all agree, but singing the whole thing "from a book", as if it was a hymn book, is what's coming in for most criticism, as it rarely (I'm not saying never) leads to a good, compelling rendering of the song. Very occasionally there are exceptions ( a great song performed well with a song-sheet, or a lazy, careless performance done from memory) but at least 9 times out of 10 the merits are the other way round.

Saying "I have learnt my songs, but I may need a card or something to prompt me sometimes" is very different from saying "Can't learn, won't learn!"

And now I must go and learn a song ...

Marje


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 09 Feb 10 - 06:46 AM

LTS, you're right, it is a "brain thing". It's a skill, which has to be learned. The trouble is, because the mind is such a slippery and poorly-understood thing, it's difficult to explain to someone how to do it. Everyone will have their own method which works for them, but to find it is often a matter of trial and error.

For me, it comes down to repetition, over and over. When a song is new, and has caught my imagination, that's not a problem for me, I enjoy it. I prefer to work on the whole song and go back to fill in the gaps, whereas others may prefer to build it up a line or two at a time until they've memorised it through to the end. Whatever works for you.

Once I've got it, I keep repeating it - in the car, in the shower, as well as more formal practice. This reveals those points where I have particular difficulties - perhaps a similar phrase which keeps getting muddled up, or something which refuses to stick - and I know I have to remember to concentrate at these points. As I usually accompany myself, I will also be working on the instrumental arrangement, which evolves over time so I have to decide when I'm happy with that and to start consolidating the whole thing in my mind.

It may take two or three weeks, perhaps more, of daily practice before I'm ready to perform it in public. I usually try to road-test it in a fairly informal setting where it will matter less if I make a mistake. This is also an opportunity to identify points where nerves (which all performers, however experienced, get from time to time) get in the way - perhaps the arrangement is too difficult and needs to be simplified. Once the bugs are ironed out the song is ready to be performed.

It's a lengthy process, and takes time and effort, but it means I have explored the song in far more detail than would be the case if I were to sing it from a book, no matter how many times I did so. Sometimes I think I only start to do a song justice after I have become bored with it, left it for a while, and then come back to it. Songs need time to mature - again, unlikely to happen if you rely on a book every time.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: MikeL2
Date: 09 Feb 10 - 06:48 AM

hi dave

Snap !!

I can't tell you my mobile number cos I don't remember it.

But I can always remember all seven digits of my RAF number that I have not had reason to use for more than thirty years.

I also can remember all the words of our school hymm - even though as a Catholic I was not allowed ( by my family not the school) into morning prayers.

Now what day is it????....lol

cheers

mmike


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: MikeL2
Date: 09 Feb 10 - 06:54 AM

Hi Howard

I learn songs the way you do.

I always thought it had two separate processes.

1.The first was to learn the words until word perfect.

2. Then for me came the hard bit. How best to perform the song/music.

I always found find that 1 was/is easy.
2. I never felt that to my own satisfaction I achieved this as much as I would have wanted.

Cheers

MikeL2


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 09 Feb 10 - 07:16 AM

Here's an example of the sort of memory trap that can arise in folk songs. "Bold William Taylor" is about a girl who disguises herself as a man and joins the army to seek her own true-lover. She is discovered when a costume malfunction reveals her to be a woman. The following verse begins:

"Then the sergeant stepped up to her
Asking what had brought her here"

Several verses later, after she's found (and shot) her own true-lover, the same formula appears:

"Then the captain stepped up to her
Pleased well at what she'd done"

One time, I got them muddled and sang:

"A silver chain pulled down her waistcoat
Did expose her lily-white breast

Then the sergeant stepped up to her
Pleased well at what she'd done"

I'm sure he was, too!

Now there is a danger that this sort of mistake gets "embedded" so you keep on repeating it. However, I now have it in my mind as a potential problem, so that whenever I sing it I concentrate at those verses to make sure I sing the correct couplets. I've never made that mistake again.

Now perhaps some will say that wouldn't have happened if I'd had the words in front of me. However, I think I perform better without them, even with the occasional mistake. And having the words is no guarantee - it's very easy to glance away and then lose your place on the page.

Besides, I don't think many in the audience noticed that mistake. I don't recall a reaction - no wave of titters going around the room, no outbreak of grinning. People are listening to the story, and by the time a mistake has registered the story has moved on. Mistakes are nearly always worse for the performer than the audience, so it doesn't do to get to hung up about them. Learn from them.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Marje
Date: 09 Feb 10 - 07:51 AM

I think most of us can think of some cringe-making slip-ups we've made, and having a word-sheet there would be no guarantee that this wouldn't happen. Like, for instance, when I sing, "The bird's in the nest, the trout's in the burn ..." the first time, and then at the repeat a few seconds later I can find myself singing "The trout's in the nest..." and I know the bird isn't in the burn but it's too late, and so that's where it ends up - or possibly I'll have two trouts, one in each location.

Anyway, just think how dull it would be if we never had these bloopers, only ever the exact wording that's on the page! IME it tends to happen more when you've stopped concentrating on the song, or are distracted by something happening in the room. If you're really thinking about the words and the story, you're less likely to go wrong. (THINK: What's in the nest, a trout or a bird?) And as you say, the mistake is almost always more noticeable to the performer than to the audience, as long as you can keep going as if nothing was wrong.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 09 Feb 10 - 09:38 AM

I think the reason so many singers cling to their books for support is that they worry too much about making a mistake. They're already nervous, they get something wrong, they wish the floor would open up, and the whole thing comes crashing down. Whereas the audience, assuming they'd even noticed, will usually be sympathetic.

I was once complimented by an audience member at a club where I was a regular floorsinger for never forgetting the words. I thought, "If only you knew". It's just that I'd got good of covering mistakes and carrying on. It's surprising how often mistakes are made, even by professionals (which I'm not). In most cases, if the performer has learned to deal with them, they won't be noticed. Even where it goes badly wrong, it can usually be laughed off and soon forgotten. It's rare for a mistake to ruin a song, even rarer for it to ruin a whole performance.

This may seem to contradict what I am saying about demanding higher standards. It's not, it's about developing the all-round skills needed to be a singer.

One of the things which gives live music its appeal and its edge is the element of risk involved, the knowledge that no matter how well-rehearsed the performer is, this version of the song will be utterly unique. You don't get that by reproducing the same old songs out of the same old book.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,Molly
Date: 09 Feb 10 - 10:11 AM

I have read the original question but have not had the time to read all the responses so forgive me if I am 're-inventing the wheel'.
I think it is better to sing than not to so, if you really cannot remember the song, then use the book. BUT, if the words are coming off the page in through your eyes and out of your mouth then they are not going through your heart! Also, while you are looking at the words your head and neck are not at a good angle for singing.
I find it fairly easy to learn songs so I suppose I'm not a good one to give advice but this is my technique: Write the song out yourself in longhand with the proper verse structure, preferably on a single A4 page. If it doesn't fit use two pages side by side so you can see the whole thing. Put it somewhere you can go and look at it easily (masking tape on the kitchen/garage/workshop/office cupboard door is good!) Then sing it while you go about your work/chores/?. Don't worry about minor mistakes but go and check if you get stuck. Learn it one verse at a time and don't go to the next verse until you've got the first right. Sing the verse(s) you know then the one you are learning and gradually build up the song. And if you inadvertently change a word here and there, as long as you don't destroy the sense/meaning, that's the folk process! Then when you take it out in public, shut your eyes, pretend there's no-one there and let it come from your heart.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Ron Davies
Date: 09 Feb 10 - 10:43 AM

Genie, I agree totally with what you say---(I'm a huge fan of harmony--except possibly on verses)----but it doesn't seem to indicate that it's a good idea for the leader to read his song directly off the page.   Which is the issue.

Orchestras and classical choruses have to pay attention to what's in the sheet music (though conductors are forever trying to get their choruses "out of the music"--i.e. watch the conductor).   A person leading a song however should not need a sheet--or book--to sing from.

So a parallel between a chorus or orchestra performance and a singaround is tenuous.   That's my only point.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,Working Radish
Date: 09 Feb 10 - 10:43 AM

Like, for instance, when I sing, "The bird's in the nest, the trout's in the burn ..."

"Is not your horse upon its perch..."

(Saw it here, but I've also done it myself - only in practice, thankfully.)


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 09 Feb 10 - 12:50 PM

I should also add that national parks in the US are very different from the UK. In the US they are attempts to preserve a purely natural wilderness, with as little human intervention as possible. Indeed, some claim they go too far in seeking to remove all evidence of human occupation or activity.

In the UK a national park is simply a Town & Country Planning device, and recognises that people live and work within its boundaries.

Studies based on US research need to be interpreted in this light.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 09 Feb 10 - 01:18 PM

Very interesting Howard, but what does that have to do with this thread?
Have you surfed from one thread to another whilst still responding to the other thread on a completely different subject to this one.
Thread hopping can really get you confused sometimes.
I've made the same mistake once - but never since.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: TheSnail
Date: 09 Feb 10 - 01:47 PM

Howard Jones

It is up to the club to decide who will be invited to perform.

Very true.

Your club clearly takes a laissez-faire approach

No, it does not. We operate a considered policy of giving everybody the opportunity to perform. We have been doing so for quite a long time. OK, we get the occasional dud but we have not filled up with people singing John Denver songs out tune from a songbook. Most results vary between acceptable and wonderful.

It should have been perfectly obvious that my final comment was about such clubs which allow poor singers to perform, not about your own club.

But you are accusing us of allowing poor singers to perform.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 09 Feb 10 - 06:05 PM

Well, I've been known to sing "Keep you eye upon the throttle and your hand upon the rail" more than once or twice, but that's not for "not knowing" the song, and it's true, if I had a lyric sheet handy I probably would make the same spoonerism for not bothering to glance at it. ; )

Howard, I think you summed it up pretty well 3 posts back. But I might take issue with this:
"...evidence has emerged during this discussion of singers, some of whom admit to being poor singers, who are trying to build up a large repertoire (albeit out of a book) or are aiming not to repeat a song. Now these are laudable aims, but to be setting themselves those targets when they have not mastered any of their songs is imo misguided. I believe it would be better for them as singers, and for their audience, if they were to concentrate on learning the basics, and only then to think about expanding their repertoire."
I honestly can't identify anyone who has posted in this thread who seems to fit such description.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 09 Feb 10 - 06:14 PM

Whoops! Thanks for pointing that out, Soldierboy. Not only the wrong thread but the wrong forum! That should have gone to UKClimbing.com.

Sorry


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 09 Feb 10 - 06:14 PM

Ron, I agree about the leader (generally) not needing the song sheet just because the group may need it to sing along.   But if the song has a lot of lyrics or many verses, it can be helpful for the leader to have the same lyric sheet to glance at as the group is using. This can prevent the leader omitting a verse or mixing up their order - which might be fine for a song such as "The Water Is Wide" as a solo but can be very confusing in a sing-along.
Of course, for the leader, a simple cue card with a sequence of "fist words" or "key words" could serve the same purpose.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Don Firth
Date: 09 Feb 10 - 06:21 PM

Well, Liz, if a comedian, or any other entertainer for that matter, can make reading out of a book an essential part of his or her schtick, that's fine. But that's something different. After all, Victor Borgé's famous routine where he reads out of a book—and puts in his "phonetic punctuation"—is hilarious! But methinks if a comedian had to read out of a notebook because he couldn't remember his routine, that's a jackass of a whole different hue.

####

I agree with Howard Jones about memorization being a skill that has to be learned. And I use essentially the same routine that he outline at 09 Feb 10 - 06:46 a.m.

I find that I'm in the habit of running the words of songs I've learned, both recently and long ago (even songs I've sung a thousand times) through my mind at otherwise unoccupied times such as when waiting for a bus or just before I fall asleep. This little habit keeps songs I may not have sung recently fresh and ready to go at any time. Going over the words of songs you're in the process of learning just before you go to sleep is particularly good. Put the old subconscious to work.

####

And speaking of "memory traps:"   one evening, Walt Robertson was singing "The Fox," a song he could have done in his sleep. That was the problem. He sorta dozed off.

One verse starts, "He ran 'til he came to a great big pen," and further on in the song, "He ran 'til he came to his cozy den." Walt started the song, then went to sleep, putting the song on automatic. Then, when he arrived at "He ran 'til he came to—," suddenly he woke up, and didn't know where he was in the song! "Pen?" "Den?"

He confessed to the audience, "I'm lost, folks! Where the heck am I?" Someone who knew the song fed him the appropriate word or two, and he went ahead with the song.

At the end, he shook his head with a chuckle and said, "And there I was, with the words all dangling down-o!"

Big laugh! And another round of applause!

So screwing up is not a total disaster. It depends on how you handle it.

Like I say:   take a chance! Try working without a net. Life should be an adventure!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 09 Feb 10 - 06:40 PM

Snail,

Your club clearly takes a laissez-faire approach

No, it does not. We operate a considered policy of giving everybody the opportunity to perform.


It sounds like much the same thing to me, but that's just semantics. However you describe it, your policy is to allow anybody the opportunity to perform, so whether or not they are any good is not a consideration.

We have been doing so for quite a long time. OK, we get the occasional dud ... Most results vary between acceptable and wonderful.

Fine, but if your policy is to allow everyone to sing then that outcome is entirely dependent on your good fortune in having a pool of good singers to draw on. Of course, it is possible that this high standard deters poorer singers from asking to perform and so helps to maintain that standard. But what would happen if you were faced with an influx of poor singers who were not deterred? Presumably under your policy you would allow them to sing.

It should have been perfectly obvious that my final comment was about such clubs which allow poor singers to perform, not about your own club.

But you are accusing us of allowing poor singers to perform.


I was accusing you of no such thing - I have no knowledge of your club other than what you have told us, and I have no reason to disbelieve that. My final comment was an entirely separate point - if you took it to refer to your club then I apologise. Perhaps I should have made it in a separate post, ( which would probably ended up on a completely different forum if my recent attempts are anything to go by :) )

Nevertheless, that could be the effect of your policy - if a poor singer were to ask to perform you would let them. Or have I misunderstood?


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 09 Feb 10 - 06:47 PM

Genie, I admit I did not go back through all the posts before making that claim. I was relying on my memory, which I have already admitted is not infallible. Nevertheless I can definitely recall one poster who uses a book who has a repertoire of more than 50 songs. Another justified using a book by saying they would not repeat a song during a year.

However it would be wrong of me to suggest that either of these are poor singers - perhaps they are among those who can sing well from a book. I phrased my original comment poorly - what I should have said is that there are singers who use books who set themselves these targets, and also there are some who admit to being poor singers.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 09 Feb 10 - 07:08 PM

It's OK Howard J. I guess many others have made similar blunders here on the Mudcat forum, including myself.

Perhaps we should combine the two threads and call it: "is it Ok to sing from a 'UK Climbing' song book?"
That would certainly confuse people and perhaps attract them to the thread out of pure intrigue.

I can't, however, imagine people rock climbing and singing from a song book at the same time. That does boggle the imagination and 'Extreme Sports' comes to mind!

Although I do remember once mountain walking with a school party (in my younger days) up the Snowdon Horseshoe in North Wales (three point climbing) and one of our teachers singing "The hole in the elephant's bottom" song whilst we were climbing up the mountain.................!!

But I must confess... he wasn't singing from a song book at the time!


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 09 Feb 10 - 07:21 PM

It is not OK when the original group if they are still in the majority of a session really hate it and express their feelings and put it in writing when they advertise. It is not OK when a main session at a camp or event is set up for book users and they leave that session and impose books on those who really do not like them and are not in the process of using them. It is OK if you set the group up yourself on your own terms..of course it is OK and be firm with people who want to change you if you like it that way. Do not impose the books on people who hate them and you had better assume that alot of people hate them. mg


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 09 Feb 10 - 07:36 PM

In my younger days I did plenty of singing after climbing. I belonged to a university climbing club, and after a day on the hills we would all go to the pub and sing - folk songs as well as specific climbing songs. These were all group singalongs with everyone joining in the whole song, chorus and verse, but there was no book. Many of the climbing songs I've never seen written down. New club members picked up the songs by singing them.

Sadly, this tradition seems to have died out. The pubs we went in have been modernised and now try to attract a less scruffy and better-behaved clientele (for which I can't really blame them). It's a pity that younger climbers don't know the songs, although I do my best to keep them going when the opportunity arises.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Raggytash
Date: 09 Feb 10 - 07:40 PM

Chris, I've learnt something from this thread............. learn the song in front of the mirror............... throw the book away..........end of debate.............and you'll probably be a far better singer for it.

Cheers, hope to see you in March.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 09 Feb 10 - 08:18 PM

Raggytash, you have so far failed to PM me with date, time and venue for the Runswick Boat bash so I was beginning to believe that I had been consigned to one of the 'excluded' list. So please PM me with details.

Howard J, I have been there, done that and got the tea shirt.
And I agree, it's not the same nowadays.
I recall great singarounds in The Dungeon Gill in Upper Langdale in The Lakes, brilliant sessions where everyone joined in, but it doesn't happen today!
But keep on trying anyway Howard.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 09 Feb 10 - 08:28 PM

Howard: "" I can definitely recall one poster who uses a book who has a repertoire of more than 50 songs. Another justified using a book by saying they would not repeat a song during a year."

I'm not sure if any one person said those things as such. I, like some others, have said that some songs I sing are season-specific or situation-specific and not likely to be repeated often or soon.   And like some others, I've said there are occasions where I make use of song sheets. But I don't know that those of us who said we -- or our song circles - sometimes use lyric sheets have, said we are bad singers or don't take the time to learn songs. On the contrary, it can be precisely because you DO know many hundreds of songs by heart -- and perform them often in public, usually without books or lyric sheets -- that it's not feasible to practice all of them hundreds of times every month or even every year.   
But sometimes an occasion arises that calls for a song you didn't expect to want to sing at a particular song circle.*   If you happen to have that song in a notebook (which I've seen many people bring with them to song circles), I think it can be a better contribution to go ahead and do the song, glancing at your song sheet before or even during your performance, than to skip the song just so you can do one that you've practiced more recently.


*This often happens in the "piggybacking" phenomenon that Mary Garvey talks about - where, especially in "chaos mode," a song one person sings brings to mind another that you think would be an especially good fit.   There's a good chance you weren't anticipating performing that song and didn't rehearse it for the spontaneous, informal gathering.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 09 Feb 10 - 08:33 PM

Mary, I don't think it's ever a good idea to impose books on a group.   (When I'm in a group where people are using RUS, I often won't open one even if it's there, and I'm not going to look at the book to sing a song I know by heart just because RUS may have altered the words or the chords.) But I really don't see why some people get bent out of shape because someone in the circle uses notes or a lyric sheet when it's their turn (scheduled or not) to sing a song. How is that "imposing" on the others?


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 10 Feb 10 - 12:59 PM

I don't care either if someone uses notes or a lyric sheet or the book itself. It is when they direct the group to do it, or the group stops a song and says what page is it. That is what is so disruptive. THat is what hijacks a group. mg


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: TheSnail
Date: 10 Feb 10 - 02:37 PM

Thanks for the apology, Howard. I think if you take a considered look at yout posts you will see that it was necessary.

I have no knowledge of your club other than what you have told us

Indeed you don't but it doesn't seem to stop you laying down the law about what we are doing wrong.

I really can't understand why I am coming under attack for being involved with a successful "traditional and written in the tradition" style club.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Don Firth
Date: 10 Feb 10 - 02:40 PM

Scene:   The Place Next Door (a coffeehouse in Seattle's Wallingford District).
Time:   Sometime in the very early 1960s.

I get a request for "The Sloop John B." So I sing it. When I finish, the requester is not totally pleased. Reason? "That's not the way the Kingston Trio does it!"

Back story:   I had been singing "The Sloop John B." for nearly ten years, having learned it from Carl Sandburg's American Songbag and may have inadvertently changed a word or two since I first learned it, since I had also heard it sung live by a few other people and on a record or two, probably recorded well before the members of the Kingston Trio had even met each other. But there could not have been more than a word or two's difference between the way I sang it and the way I had learned it from Sandburg. And comparing the KT's recorded version with the written music in Sandburg, the KT had changed more words than I had, and had also altered the rhythmic structure of the song by quite a bit.

"No," I quipped to my critic. "You see, there are three of them and there's only one of me." (Laugh from the rest of the audience.)

Far more annoying than this sort of thing is when I sing a song that I've known for years and someone tells me, "You're not doing it right! That's not the same words that are in The Blue Book!"

Well—T. bloody S. is my response to that!

That sort of appeal to the "absolute authority" of a phonograph record or a song book can be the death of the folk process if you allow it to go unchallenged.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 10 Feb 10 - 02:54 PM

That is the key. We did not challenge anything. We allowed it to happen, city by city and camp by camp. We certainly should have been accomodating to those with different preferences, perhaps 2 hours on books, 2 hours off; room a with book, room b without; first sunday with, second without..but the two approaches are not compatible. And we did not speak up and say what we saw was miserably wrong..we just one by one quit going to these places. The tipping point was reached long ago in many big cities..

And before it happens at Mystic, and before it spreads to UK...be forewarned and be prepared and be very public with your preferences, in writing if it is an advertised event. mg


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Dave MacKenzie
Date: 10 Feb 10 - 03:03 PM

When I was very, very young, I remember wondering why they always got the words and tunes wrong on BBC Radio's "Listen with Mother". Helps to explain why I always take authority with a pinch of salt.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 10 Feb 10 - 03:29 PM

Mary, I don't think we're in disagreement. It really can be very disruptive when people hold up the song while people look it up in the book.   (If I do a song that's in RUS and it's a group where people have the books, I may tell them "It's in the book" or even give them the page, if I know it, but then go ahead and start the song without waiting till everyone finds it.   I've also been known to say "This song's in the book but I may not use the chords they have."

One thing I really do not like to do is follow someone else's idea of the "right" chords if it's a song I've worked to commit to "muscle memory," because playing those alternative chords will interfere with that.    And in some groups you're expected to use the lyrics and chords in their designated book even when you choose to lead a song you've been doing a bit differently for years.   I can't say I totally stay away from groups like that, but I'm not all that eager to participate in them regularly because of that kind of conformity pressure.

It's like your Sloop John B experience, Don.
I've developed my own arrangement of many songs, sometimes (frankly) because I couldn't copy the guitar work on the recording I first heard and sometimes just because I prefer different chords, different rhythm, different style.    But many of my top-notch guitarist friends have the original (or best-known) artists' licks down pat and react as thought I'm "wrong" when I play the song a little differently, even if I haven't changed the melody or lyrics and when my chords work just fine with the tune and harmonies.   It's as though a song were carved in stone.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Melissa
Date: 10 Feb 10 - 04:03 PM

It took me years to come up with a ladylike response to
"You did that wrong..it's supposed to be in A"


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 10 Feb 10 - 04:05 PM

Snail, I've pm'd you.

I didn't think I was laying down the law, or attacking you, but if that's how it came across then I apologise.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 10 Feb 10 - 04:15 PM

I really can't understand why I am coming under attack for being involved with a successful "traditional and written in the tradition" style club.

You're not. You're being criticised for what you say here. People* think you're saying that all you need for a successful "traditional and written in the tradition" style club is to let anyone sing who wants to. And people* think that in their experience this kind of open-door policy results in anything but.

*Myself included.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Deckman
Date: 10 Feb 10 - 06:05 PM

I'm going to jump in ... again ... and relate a somewhat bewildering conversation I had at a Seattle hoot a couple of years ago. I found myself in conversation with a rather prominant folkie lady from Canada. She was in town for that weekends' events. I was cussing and discussing things with a small group that were talking about the decline of participation in the Seattle Song Circle.

Being the shy person that I am, I expressed my negative opinion about the detrimental effect that RUS has had on the group. When I said this, she got quite upset. She blamed ME for the problem.

Here's where I got confused ... she said that the singers who use "the book" have every right to hear ME SING ... "and just who in the heck was I to deny them my music!"

I just shook my head and headed for the bathroom. bob(deckman)nelson


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 10 Feb 10 - 06:11 PM

But what does the SONG itself think about all this?

To find out, I got out my song book and just turned to a random page.

I then sat down and had a quiet chat with that song; telling it all about this topic and all the many comments,agreements,arguments and suggestions that have appeared on this thread from so very many brilliant postings.

The song said that it was a good question and that it would have to think very hard about it before it replied and that it would also ask the opinion of all the other songs lovingly written down in my song book. Finally it said that it would get back to me with it's reply based on the concensus of ALL the songs in my book .

I thanked it warmly, closed the book and left it on my computer desk.

In the morning when I came back to the computer with my cornflakes I found the song book open at what had been the next available blank page.

And this is what the song had written:


"I don't mind if you hold me and sing me from paper
So long as you sing me and you still honour my Pater,
With each line you caress me and bring me to life
You love me like a daughter or a mother or wife,
But for those that commit me to mind and to heart
With endless repetition from the end to the start
Who consume my very essence through effort and pain,
Mt Pater smiles broadly and thanks you again and again."


Chris


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 10 Feb 10 - 06:17 PM

Sorry! - the last line of the song's reply should read:

"MY Pater smiles broadly and thanks you again and again"


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: mg
Date: 10 Feb 10 - 06:29 PM

I tell you..some of these people are tyrannical and very controlling. And it is us who quietly just leave who are called insensitive, musical snobs, etc. etc. The woman in BC who kept yanking at my chair to pull it back, multiple times...was the last straw for me. I honestly don't know if I will bother going back there. mg


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: TheSnail
Date: 10 Feb 10 - 07:34 PM

Pip Radish

People* think you're saying that all you need for a successful "traditional and written in the tradition" style club is to let anyone sing who wants to.

Then people* should read what I have actually said a little more carefully before leaping to judgement.

And people* think that in their experience this kind of open-door policy results in anything but.

Then perhaps people* should take more notice of the experience of others and consider the possibility that their understanding may be incomplete.

*Yourself included.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 10 Feb 10 - 08:33 PM

LOL, Melissa!


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Ron Davies
Date: 10 Feb 10 - 09:16 PM

I can't imagine somebody saying: "You did that wrong, it's supposed to be in A".   I would think the answer to that is: "It's supposed to be done in the best key for the singer You're welcome to do it in A when you do it. Thanks so much for your concern."

And if RUS or some other written source specifies A, there's another argument, if one were needed, to stop relying on such sources.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Janie
Date: 10 Feb 10 - 10:41 PM

Good job, SB's song book!

As the songs how they ever managed to reach consensus?


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Janie
Date: 11 Feb 10 - 12:20 AM

Uhmm. Make that "ask" the songs....

Genie,

Harking back to a post you made a bit earlier, it does seem that there are many subtopics and conversations and/or arguments among different people posting. Pretty interesting to take a step back and observe that. I'm struck by how differently the thread reads from that perspective.

Your wisdom shines. It is apparent that you speak from a place of interest and are not taking a position to be defended or asserted. Simply observing.

Thanks.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 11 Feb 10 - 03:01 AM

Snail - yes, I understand that your experience is different from mine; that was my starting-point. I also understand that your policy is something other than pure come-all-ye open-door laissez-faire.

What I don't understand is in what way your policy is any different from a pure open-door policy - because whenever you're asked to explain, you seem to maintain that it is a pure open-door policy. Can you clarify, some time, please?


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: TheSnail
Date: 11 Feb 10 - 08:46 AM

Pip Radish

Snail - yes, I understand that your experience is different from mine;

Perhaps I should give some credentials. I first started going to folk clubs in about 1969. I started coming to the present incarnation of the club in the mid-nineties and joined the committee about nine years ago. I think all the other members of the committee have more experience on the organisational side in this and other clubs, some going back forty years or more. Some are still involved with other clubs. One, now retired from the committee, probably started out in the fifties/sixties revival and was for a time an organiser of Bracknell Folk festival. Between us, we have quite a lot of experience.

In case anyone is in any doubt, the policy we operate is that anyone who wishes to perform will be given the opportunity to do so, time allowing. As far as I know, this has always been true long before I appeared on the scene. Will Fly will confirm that any newcomer will be pounced on as soon as they come through the door and asked if they want to sing or play. (Does anyone think we shouldn't have asked him?)

whenever you're asked to explain, you seem to maintain that it is a pure open-door policy

It may seem that way because that is what seems to concern people most. I am constantly on the back foot defending myself against attacks on our floorspot policy. Your own post of 08 Feb 10 - 12:58 PM was somewhat confrontational. My "I really can't understand why I am coming under attack..." was in frustration at the fact that I am saying "Look. We've got a club that operates this policy but remains largely traditional and hasn't vanished under a tide of snigger/snoggers or Dylan wannabes." and the only response I get is people telling me what we are doing wrong.

Can you clarify, some time, please?

Well, here are a couple of extracts from a post in reply to Jim that you may have missed -

We care deeply about the music we love and put a considerable amount of work into promoting it. We try to create a positive and supportive environment in which people can learn and share.

All we can do is lead by example and hope that what we do and how we do it conveys the message.


My seemingly flippant "Maybe it's our positive attitude." contains an element of truth. We try to create a culture of success and hope that it's infectious. It seems to work.

Maybe I don't entirely understand it myself but a civilised dicussion and an atmosphere of enquiry might be more useful than the present situation where I feel I'm being constantly asked to justify myself.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 11 Feb 10 - 09:44 AM

Snail, I've replied more fully in a PM but as it seems to be continuing on the thread I hope you won't mind if I post very briefly here.

We understand that you have a policy which allows anyone a chance to sing.

We also understand that the average standard of singers is high and that the club continues to be largely traditional.

What we have difficulty understanding is that one follows from the other.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: TheSnail
Date: 11 Feb 10 - 10:11 AM

Howard Jones

What we have difficulty understanding is that one follows from the other.

Have I ever said that it did?


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 11 Feb 10 - 10:50 AM

Snail, if you have not said so specifically then you certainly seem to have implied it, if not in this particular thread then in others. Certainly in your post of 08 Feb 10 - 11:43 AM you said in reply to my comment "Perhaps you are fortunate enough to have a strong enough body of singers for that to work" (ie for your policy to allow a high standard)

Fortunate? Or could it be a consequence of our policy?

I'm not going to search through the other threads about standards in folk clubs. My impression is that when the question comes up, you appear to say that your club does not impose standards but nevertheless achieves high standards. You also appear to suggest that this demonstrates that other clubs don't need to exercise quality control over their singers. I have always taken that to mean you see a connection between your door policy and the standard your club achieves. Or have I misunderstood you?


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: TheSnail
Date: 11 Feb 10 - 11:23 AM

Howard Jones (quoting me)

Fortunate? Or could it be a consequence of our policy?

Well it could be. Who knows, but "fortunate" for something like 23 years seems to be stretching it a bit. Our policy doesn't start and end with "give everyone a chance".

you certainly seem to have implied it ... My impression ... You also appear to suggest that ... I have always taken that to mean ...

Sorry but I can't do anything with any of that. If you want to take issue with things I've actually said, please feel free.

From my post a few hours ago (did you read it?) -

Maybe I don't entirely understand it myself but a civilised dicussion and an atmosphere of enquiry might be more useful than the present situation where I feel I'm being constantly asked to justify myself.

Especially when I seem to be being asked to justify what you think I said not what I actually said.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: RTim
Date: 11 Feb 10 - 11:32 AM

OK guys, this should ALL be via PM's, as we are not learning much from what you have to say!!

Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Melissa
Date: 11 Feb 10 - 12:04 PM

"You did it Wrong..it's supposed to be in A"

Most of my responses were go-to-hell looks. I also tried
"..actually, the singer gets to choose the key"
My personal favorite was "that may be, but I'm certainly not interested in prolapsing to sing here!"

After a few years, I did come up with a ladylike response..
"It IS?? Gosh, I bet that's neat..will you do it and show me how it goes?"
He is an awful singer/player and didn't like being put on the spot (heh heh) His commentary stopped.



Snail, it sounds to me like maybe the difference in your club may be that the group simply gets what it expects and knows how to provide strong leadership..

If it's ridiculous for Charlie to tell me I sing wrong because of the key I chose, isn't it equally ridiculous to tell Snail that he is wrong for whatever it is he's supposedly doing to ruffle feathers around here?


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,Spleen Cringe
Date: 11 Feb 10 - 12:30 PM

Tim, I disagree. It's very interesting (though possibly in need of its own thread). Bryan is involved in a successful "traditional and written in the tradition" style club and people* are interested in how his club has managed to develope in the way it has, where others (who think they have the same or similar policies) have largely become bastions of singer-songwriting and pop/rock/singer-songwriter cover versions and also maybe have a problem with very quality when it comes to some of the singing on offer.

Brian, please believe me when I say I'm not attacking you here. I actually believe you and your co-organisers are sitting on some very important knowledge, skills and experience that many of us would benefit from, should you wish to share them with us. Personally, I'm interested in how:

1. You have managed to maintain a reasonably good quality of singing and a "traditional/in-the-style-of" focus, whilst at the same time having a positive and welcoming attitude to all-comers;

2. Whether the club started out with the aim of being the sort of club it became (and managed to maintain focus on this aim through thick and thin over the years) or whether it came to its current situation through a long process of trial and error and testing out different models (or indeed whether the club's success happened by other means entirely);

3. The BIG question: what specific advice you might have for club organisers and potential club organisers who wish to replicate the model your club has so successfully developed;

4. If all else fails, what do they put in the beer in Lewes that we're not getting elsewhere?(!).

I'm sure other people* are equally fascinated by how the Lewes folks have managed to make this happen and may have some supplementary questions.

PS: Sorry to put you on the spot, Bryan. If you're minded to respond, feel free to phone a friend or ask the audience...

*myself included


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 11 Feb 10 - 08:24 PM

Guys, this personal bickering is starting to drag on far too long and has strayed too far from the original thread that I posted.

So please calm down or start a seperate thread where you can continue to argue ad nauseam.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 12 Feb 10 - 12:54 AM

Actually, I've started skipping over certain posts precisely because they do seem to be a tangential argument rather peculiar to a couple of particular clubs and not that germane to the general topic here.   It's not that hard to do.

Janie, thanks for this: "Your wisdom shines. It is apparent that you speak from a place of interest and are not taking a position to be defended or asserted. Simply observing."

I don't know that it's "wisdom" so much as merely the attempt to find common ground among the various posters, where it exists, and claridy where the real disagreements lie.
I think you've made some excellent posts in that regard, and beautifully expressed.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,muppett
Date: 12 Feb 10 - 05:01 AM

Well said Chris, So when can we get together to compare books then and p*ss the folk snobs off.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 12 Feb 10 - 09:19 AM

Ey Muppett, you're a rascal!

I agree with you Genie. I think that Janie has made some excellent posts here, but then again, so have you.

Chris


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 12 Feb 10 - 09:32 AM

Must say, I'm certainly glad that the phenomena of a 'no need to engage brain' special book for everyone to safely all sing the exact same songs together from in the exact same way, hasn't caught on in the UK.. yet.

With the average age of folkies being what it is, sessions would end up looking too much like homes for the aged and infirm for comfort!


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,anti folk sonb
Date: 12 Feb 10 - 09:37 AM

I use a book because I have a terrible memory, and these folk snobs who are against people like me shou allgo away and go and have their own sessions where songbooks are alowed to used and then they will will happy and so will people like me


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: MikeL2
Date: 12 Feb 10 - 09:58 AM

Hi

I had long given up on this thread but masochist that I am I just popped in to see how much more of it I can stand.

Can I say that I have no objection to people wanting to sing with books if they feel they have to. I personally have never used one and I suppose I never will. I am certauinly NOt a filk snob. Come one come all is my motto.

But one thing interests me - if so many people want to get all together and to sing in unison from a book(s), why don't they go to a church??

Just a thought.

cheers

MikeL2


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,Spleen Cringe
Date: 12 Feb 10 - 10:06 AM

Sorry for my part in the thread drift. I've started a new thread about what makes a good traddish folk club. You can all get back the pressing question of books, good or bad...

By the way, I'm not very good at learning the words to songs. And even when I learn them in order to sing them on a particular night, they're invariably gone a few days later. However, I'm not personally prepared to go into a club/singaround with the words in front of me any more (though I have done this in the past). Not sure why, but for me it just doesn't feel right. I wouldn't seek to impose this on others, it's just that for me, if a song's worth singing, it's worth learning. If I want to sing something, I have to practice it (usually in the car) plenty of times first - fort the sake of getting the tune somewhere near right and getting the "feel" of the song right as much as anything else. Inevitably, with repetition, the words seem to rub off on me one way or another. However, if I haven't had the time to learn & practice, I go to the singaround to sit and listen and join in the odd chorus.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 12 Feb 10 - 10:25 AM

Sorry, my last comment was specifically in response to some of the posters here talking about RUS or 'the blue book'. From what I've gleaned it's a 'one size fits all' kind of affair and everyone sings the exact same songs - all together now - in the exact same way 'the book' has got it writ - which sounds thoroughly mind-numbing to me and not far off the sort of thing one might expect to find in an elderly folks home..
As for individuals using a prompt that's their business. But 'the blue book'? I dunno, but I reckon if it were in a novel it'd be subtitled "Joy Joy Nu-Song for Loyal Patriots!" and you'd have to take your blue pills before meeting together at the same time to sing the ministry's socially positive joy joy nu-songs together like good citizens!


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 12 Feb 10 - 10:27 AM

..or something.

Umm.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: RTim
Date: 12 Feb 10 - 10:33 AM

It is a pity that this thread drifted so much, and in it's own way it became three threads in one.
I am against the use of Rise Up Singing - I try and avoid it at all costs.
However, as I say earlier in the thread, I use my own "Aide Memoire" of First Lines - Only when I need to, at sing arounds, but never at paid performance. I will however, have a gig list that may include the First line of each song to get me going.

I also think the new thread about how best to run a Trad. Session/Club is a good thing, but I am so set in my ways I just want the club to be like the ones I used to sing at in England years ago - the Fo'cs'l'e in Southampton being the prime example.

Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Artful Codger
Date: 12 Feb 10 - 10:35 AM

The opponents of song sheets seem to have two basic arguments:

(1) As someone put it: If a song is worth singing, it's worth learning, is it not?

Not. There are thousands of songs I find worth singing and sharing, but I don't have the time to memorize them all. Using a song sheet, I can work up a song to a performance level that well surpasses most soi-disant "prepared" singers I hear in less than an hour. It may take me a few days or a week to get a song down to memory--still falteringly--and refine the expression. For reliable performance entirely from memory, it takes scores of repetitions over weeks or months, and periodic refreshing to keep it; even with all that, lapseless performance is not assured.

So there's a huge effort disparity between performance-ready (with a lyric sheet) and memory-ready. The arbitrary expectations of folk Nazis do not constitute sufficient reason to cross that gulf, nor is a song less sing-worthy just because someone decides for whatever reasons not to memorize it. Other people have lives, and different priorities. With the relative explosion of songs we now encounter, and the fracturing of our dwindling leisure time, limiting oneself to only memorized material isn't as feasible or satisfying an approach as it once may have been.


(2) Reading the words impacts performance.

It can. If a person is obviously unfamiliar with the words, and is reading lifelessly into the page, that's bad. If someone is reliant on RUS as the one true source, that's bad. If someone insists that your rendition conform to RUS, that's unspeakable. Nevertheless, the attitudes I'm seeing here are "baby with the bathwater" reactions that typify congressional legislation: belabor everyone to dissuade some offenders.

Insecurity over wording, verbal dyslexia, lapsing, and conditioned errors also impact performance; song sheet use can improve fluidity and allow you to concentrate more on expression than recall. Remember that we're talking about normal people here, not just die-hard musos accustomed to performing. People also mentioned "flow": if you have your personal songbooks with you, you can "flow" to a song you know well but which is no longer (entirely) in your off-the-cuff repertoire. My notebooks are full of those, as well as musical "one-shots"--curiosities that have to wait for the right audience or occasion.

I bridle when I* hear the term "performance" used in this context, because it likens a song circle more to an "American Idol" tryout or paid gig than to a modern-day equivalent of a back porch gathering. The focus should be on sharing songs and having fun, not judging people's "performances"--the concept of "good enough" applies. If you want only inspired, polished, "engaging" performances, shell out the money to hear professionals, or form a private, invitation-only clique.

* including myself

Singing from a song sheet or book is hardly the worst thing you can do to a song; I hear greater crimes against music from folk divas** all the time. Missed pitches, drifting flat, uncontrolled vibrato, mushy diction, singing from the throat and nose, lackluster phrasing and expression, distracting "vocal effects", shrillness and straining, melodic stolidity, blocklike harmonies, gopher faces and head bobbing, backup that overpowers the singing, ... well, you get the idea. Yet we're expected to accept these forms of unpreparedness as "natural voice" or "personal style". Get some perspective: divert your effort from memorize everything into taking some vocal lessons--the payoff is better, for everyone.

** including those who've posted their opposition in this thread. Glass houses and stones.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,Peter Laban
Date: 12 Feb 10 - 11:43 AM

'Folk Divas', 'Folk Nazis', 'Folk Snobs'. Lovely way to preach tolerance for your own approach.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Amos
Date: 12 Feb 10 - 11:55 AM

I belong to the shut-up-and-sing camp, myself. An excess of judgement, as shown herein, seems to having a chilling effect on hearts and voices.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 12 Feb 10 - 12:44 PM

Excellent analysis and summary, Codger!

Mike, people who like to sing together from books may not find churches to be their favorite venues, not only because they may not be religious (or they're folkies of diverse religions), but because it's hard to get up and get your voice going on Sunday morning after a long night at the folk pub.

Crow Sister, and others, I find the juxtaposition of these two arguments in this thread interesting, if not amusing:
1. Books are bad because they end up lowering the quality of folk music performed in public and contributing to folk music's not being taken seriously.
2. Using a "special book for everyone to safely all sing the exact same songs together from in the exact same way" is less desirable than having the lead singer do it all from memory and others joining in as they can, even if it means sometimes not everyone is singing the same version.

Seems to me that if other pub customers or audiences are listening and quality is important it's better for all the singers to be "on the same page of music" -- both figuratively and literally -- because it makes for a better performance.   
Strictly solo performances are one thing, but where group singing is involved, if excellence is the goal, either stick to very, very familiar songs (that "everyone knows by heart") or maybe it's not such a bad idea to use a lyric sheet.

(Rise Up Singing, as has been said before, does not make a good "hymnal" for sight-reading because of its type size and format. It is not user-friendly as a lyric/chord sheet except for research purposes.)


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 12 Feb 10 - 12:57 PM

"but where group singing is involved,"

I don't think we do that in the UK either. And personally, I'm glad for it too. I want to hear an individual singer. Including the beautifully delicately ornamented Irish song from one lady, which holds the entire pub (including the ba regulars) in silent thrall. The rich hearty shanty, with call and response from the gent (who actually used to be a fisherman). The well crafted harmonies of a couple who regularly play and sing together. I could go on and on. Without this variety and colour, all sessions would seems the same to me. In the sessions I go to, there are chorus songs (I did Alison Gross last time) and people *pick-up* the chorus. And there are old favourites that never fail to get everyone joining in. So all the options are there, but there's no prescription.

It may work for you, but as I say - the notion of a one size fits all book that everyone sings the same songs from all together, reminds me of 'mass-processed' folk music (rather than the more traditionally processed stuff). And for my own part, I'm thoroughly glad that we don't have it here.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: mg
Date: 12 Feb 10 - 01:22 PM

Genie..I know we differ in some areas and agree on others..but I find lyric sheets handed out more disturbing to a traditional (not eclectic) sing than the blue books. I think it is fine to bring them and pass them out at the end of the evening to those who want to learn it. This either makes sense to people or doesn't, depending on their orientation. The key is always what the originators of the group want and have stated..of course if they have not made it clear, then anything goes. mg


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 12 Feb 10 - 02:20 PM

Genie:

if other pub customers or audiences are listening and quality is important it's better for all the singers to be "on the same page of music" -- both figuratively and literally -- because it makes for a better performance.

Codger:

The focus should be on sharing songs and having fun, not judging people's "performances"--the concept of "good enough" applies.

Do you two agree or not?


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 12 Feb 10 - 02:53 PM

"This either makes sense to people or doesn't, depending on their orientation."

Aye, I guess the notion is alien to me and I enjoy the combo of individual turns with a percentage of *spontaneously occuring* group singing. I'm only familiar with group singing in a formal choral setting or seasonal carol singing - both of which are fine of course.

If other people prefer that kind of folk-choral stylee singing thing themselves, that's cool and none of my business! Horses for courses.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 12 Feb 10 - 02:57 PM

"'Folk Divas', 'Folk Nazis', 'Folk Snobs'. Lovely way to preach tolerance for your own approach."
Couldn't agree more Peter - I've just had an extremely educational argument on PM and was told that 'Nazi' was now an accepted term of address.
As far as I'm concerned, it's a coward's way out of putting forward rational argument - all of these infantile invectives belong in the schoolyard and not in adult debate.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 12 Feb 10 - 02:58 PM

Oh, no, CS ~~~ keep that bloody Horse out of it, purrrllllleeeeeeezzzzze ~~~~~


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Spleen Cringe
Date: 12 Feb 10 - 03:08 PM

"folk Nazis"

Am I alone in finding this term - to say the least - in very poor taste?

Am I also alone in thinking that most people* advocating learning the words are speaking for themselves rather than trying to impose this on others?

And I agree entirely with Crowsis (when are you going get your behind up to Manchester, btw?) about individual vs group singing (not withstanding a few good bellowed choruses, of course...

*myself included


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Artful Codger
Date: 12 Feb 10 - 04:23 PM

Pip asked, do Genie and I agree or don't we. To quote mg, "I know we differ in some areas and agree on others."

Your selected quotes, however, seem apples and oranges, since I don't think we used "performance" in the same sense; note my explicit quotes. Also, I've expressed no views on group singing. I certainly have no objection to singing better or more concertedly when it's feasible. She was suggesting a helpful option, not attempting to impose an arbitrary standard on others. I'm too much of a folk diva to pass around song sheets--I prefer to hog the limelight--but I'd use one if offered.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 12 Feb 10 - 04:49 PM

I couldn't agree with you more Jim Carroll in your last posting just above - 12 Feb 10 - 02:57 PM.
Very well expressed sir!


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Artful Codger
Date: 12 Feb 10 - 05:00 PM

Very well, for "Nazis" substitute "martinets", with my apologies.

"Snobs" and "divas" a number have clearly shown themselves to be--it is the glaring intolerance and preposterous musical sensitivities I've seen expressed in this thread which prompted me to finally post again. While you may believe most people* are only speaking for themselves, judging from their self-described reactions they've been a bit more demonstrative in making the hapless feel unwelcome; that does constitute imposition, in my book.

* idem


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: WalkaboutsVerse
Date: 12 Feb 10 - 05:13 PM

I think it's good to encourage the folk tradition of performing by memory, but accept the use of songbooks. And, perhaps, an interesting comparison with another genre, watching the BBC "Young (Classical) Musician of the Year", a couple of years ago, one judge was a tad annoyed that most contestants had committed to memory/didn't have the music in front of them!


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 12 Feb 10 - 05:20 PM

I also fully agree with and support the sentiments of Spleen Cringe (just above).
The term is not only in very poor taste, it is extremely offensive.

I also agree that most people advocating learning the words (on this thread) are speaking for themselves rather than trying to impose this on others.
Indeed most people have debated this topic in a very civilised and dignified manner and have not tried to force their views onto others.

Rather; they have suggested, recommended, proposed , endorsed, commended and politely stated their own preferences.

The polite and respectful great majority have not said this is the way I do it and therefore everyone should do the same or that this way is only one way to do it and therefore anyone not doing it this way is a moron.

So thank you everyone for such respectful, dignified, civilized and 'mature' debate. It is a credit to all of you. God bless.

And we are nearly at the 400 mark - I can't believe it!!

Chris


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 12 Feb 10 - 05:23 PM

"judging from their self-described reactions they've been a bit more demonstrative in making the hapless feel unwelcome;"

In an environment which is focused on the weaker performers and less motivated individual, then the result will be that the more distinctive or motivated individuals will quit such a scene scene for somewhere more characterful and suited to their needs.

So, everyone's happy - or not?


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Don Firth
Date: 12 Feb 10 - 05:24 PM

Interesting observation, David. Do you have any idea as to why the judge would feel that way?

After all, in the two music schools I have attended, it was expected that student recitalists have their material memorized.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 12 Feb 10 - 05:28 PM

"I think it's good to encourage the folk tradition of performing by memory, but accept the use of songbooks."
Why?
Classical music is not folk song.
Some years ago Yehudi Menuin, arguably the world's best classical violinist, presented a television on Scots fiddle-playing.
The climax of the programme was when he joined in one of the great traditional players - half way through the set Menuin laid down his fiddle and confessed he wasn't up to the creative virtuosity of the Scot.
A book is for repetition not creativity - simple as that.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,999
Date: 12 Feb 10 - 05:58 PM

"So, everyone's happy - or not? "

Looks like . . . .


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 12 Feb 10 - 07:24 PM

Crow Sister, I don't think anyone who has posted in this thread has recommended that everyone should sing all the songs together at a song circle or that the songs in a book should be the only ones sung. We have talked about the existence of such groups, but I've said I find them frustrating and I think everyone else who's posted here agrees.

What some of us are saying is that ONE type of song/singing consists of a group of people singing together, preferably with harmonies, and singing the same words (unless someone's doing a canticle or counterpoint).   There are some exquisite songs that call for several or more people singing together all the way through and really lose something when done as solos or the like.   To preclude that type of song and then say all the options are there is just not accurate.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 12 Feb 10 - 07:45 PM

Mary, yes, the key may be what the originators of a group want -- e.g., some song circles specify "bring Rise Up Singing" or have a prefab book of lyrics/chords for everyone to sing from, and others may specify "no books -- but there are many situations where nothing is specified ahead of time and/or people who aren't there at the outset don't know there is a set format.   Most of the song circles at music camps are not very structured and even may evolve as people come and go from the circle. And as I've said before, there often are not enough suitable spaces for a dozen different small groups to do different types of song circles.

I'm not sure why lyric sheets handed out -- especially ones print that can be read from 3 feet away -- would be more objectionable than a book that's hard to read without burying your head in it, but I guess that's just a matter of individual preference.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 12 Feb 10 - 07:58 PM

Pip Radish,
I'm actually not one of those who made a big deal out of the issue of excellence in performance, but several people have done.    My own feeling is that music - especially shared music - has many benefits to body and soul even when it's done very amateurishly and even when some of the singing leaves a lot to be desired in terms of pitch control, lyrics sung without flubs, etc.   It's camaraderie, it's cognitive and emotional stimulation, and it's good for the immune system, etc.

But when a singaround or song circle is done in a commercial establishment and is meant to draw in or keep customers besides the singers & instrumentalists, I very much understand how bad singing or very mediocre renditions of songs why it's important for the singing and playing to be pretty good. It's not just for the regard in which folk music is held but, more immediately, that the group may lose their singaround venue if other paying customers are leaving in droves when the singing starts.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 12 Feb 10 - 08:11 PM

Jim, you say "A book is for repetition not creativity - simple as that."

How so? How does the fact that the lyrics are on a sheet in front of you prevent you from making up your own harmonies or maybe even counterpoints (for some kinds of songs)? If people are playing instruments, how does a lyric sheet prevent musicians from throwing in their own creative licks? And how does it prevent singers from putting a lot of feeling into the song?


(OK, it's hard to read lyrics in Rise Up Singing, much less follow their chords, and pay attention to anything else such as interpreting the song, etc., but if you basically know a song but just need a lyric sheet to glance at to jog your memory occasionally, that's a horse of a different color.)

As for lyrics themselves, I'm not so sure "creative lyric recitation" is always such a good thing - any more than "creative spelling" is.   And I really don't relish "creativity" in the sense of several people making up different lyrics and singing them simultaneously.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 12 Feb 10 - 08:40 PM

the notion of a one size fits all book that everyone sings the same songs from all together, reminds me of 'mass-processed' folk music (rather than the more traditionally processed stuff). And for my own part, I'm thoroughly glad that we don't have it here.

We did, once. The "community singing" movement was huge in the UK before radio became omnipresent, with group singalongs reaching stadium-sized proportions. You must have seen things like the News Chronicle Songbook or the Francis and Day book - archaeological remains of that movement.

And from a much earlier period: broadsides and chapbooks were printed in large enough numbers to be the main source of income for a whole class of people in every large city in the British Isles from the 16th century on. Popular editions of songs by Dibdin and Burns were printed in landfill-choking volume from the middle of the 18th century. People didn't spend their pennies on these for no purpose, they were USED.

There is a very old and very widespread tradition of singing and playing from print, and there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of in being part of it. The numbers of people doing it must have been MANY times greater than the tiny minority of travellers maintaining a purely oral tradition.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 12 Feb 10 - 09:45 PM

As I mentioned before. I like singarounds which are fairly 'informal' where friends and folkies; often on the 'fringe' of a festival, will gather together for a good old sing, long into the night. I am not approaching this subject from the view point of the professional folk singer, although I fully note and respect all their comments and suggestions on this thread.

Such sessions, more often than not, are held in the informal and relaxed atmosphere of a British pub, therefore a fair consumption of alcohol is the norm and as the night wears on alcohol can start to interfere with the memory process and people can start to stumble and forget the words of a song.

Folk people in the U.K are generally fairly sensible drinkers so I am not talking about people getting completely rat a**** but rather about people who just become a little 'addled' and lose their way as the night goes on (bless 'em).

This is when the old song book (U.K style) comes into it's own and can become a saviour (in my own opinion).
At least then people can just glance at the words and get back on track when they forget the words.

In my song book are some songs that I associate with certain individuals as 'their song' and that I would never sing in their company. It's not that they have written it or anything like that; but it is a song that they often sing and are 'known for' it or are associated with and which they usually sing from memory without the aid of a song book.

So I would never, out of courtesy, even think about singing 'their' song when they are present. It's all about some kind of folk 'etiquette' or polite sensitivity which I am sure you are all very well aware of and take careful notice of.

The trouble is that too often now, those certain individuals (especially as they get older) will have a lapse of memory and forget a verse or lose their way completely in a song.

This is often upsetting and embarrasing for them and a source of great frustration to them and their audience when a popular song with everyone in full flow suddenly grinds to a halt, and I find that it happens far too often nowadays.

So it is precisely for this reason that I have faithfully noted 'their' song in my song book so that I can follow their song and 'PROMPT' them when they falter.

This has happened so many times now and on every occasion they have thanked me for my help and are very pleased that I had 'their' song in my book and was able to prompt them so they could continue and save the song. They have never complained or chastised me and they really have been grateful and pleased by my interjection.

It's only, after all, like a 'prompter' in the wings of a theatrical production (as someone said earlier) who is there to prompt the actor when they forgot their lines.

So perhaps song books aren't all that taboo and shouldn't be burnt on the bonfire of some kind of modern day perceived tradional propriety or some kind of misconceived proffesional snobbery.

I am sorry to use the term 'snobbery' but I can't think of a better term at the moment.

Surely the main thing is to sing the song; to breath life into it and bring it alive and deliver it as close as you can to the way it's creator intended, whether it is note and word perfect, or simply pretty close and that will do very well, thankyou.

From my experience when I have observed people singing from a song book (myself included) they have not sung the song like a bland and lifeless recital with their head stuck into the book but have injected life into it and have done the song full justice and their audience has been completely satisfied.

I do actually believe and support the argument that the songs you feel strongly about should be learnt and memorised and I have promised on this thread to make the effort to do this. I also think that the songs themselves deserve such loving and willing attention.

But, finally, I also believe that there is still a role for the song book as a personal prompt and as a valuable and appreciated prompt to friends and close associates on the occasions when they falter and also to be shared so that other (often new songsters) can join in.

So please don't throw the song book out just yet. It could just be a case of throwing out the baby with the bath water!!

Only time will tell.

Chris


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 12 Feb 10 - 11:21 PM

Soldier Boy: [[As I mentioned before. I like singarounds which are fairly 'informal' where friends and folkies; often on the 'fringe' of a festival, will gather together for a good old sing, long into the night. ]]
Speaking of late hours and alcohol, this is a bit OT, but related. Back about 1963 I did my first solo at a "hootenanny." It was in Greenwich Village at Gerde's Folk City. I had signed up for a slot about 7:00 PM, but as the evening wore on, they kept putting the pros (e.g., Josh White's daughter Beverly), who were on break from their paid gigs, into the lineup. So by the time I actually got to go on, it was about 1 AM and I'd had 5 gin and tonics.   To be blunt about it, I sucked!   No, I wasn't nervous after all that hootch. But I slurred my words, messed up the lyrics of whatever song I was singing, and probably botched the guitar chords too.
But the audience was quite sloshed too. So they either didn't notice or didn't care about the multiple flaws in my performance.   Suffice it to say that the experience actually boosted my confidence to the point where I did another "hootenanny" ("open mic" in today's parlance) a week later without any alcohol whatsoever -- and without stage fright.

I guess the point is that whether your audience expects or cares about perfection depends a lot on the venue and various other factors. Sometimes if everyone's having a grand ol' time, that's enough.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 13 Feb 10 - 03:49 AM

"Jim, you say "A book is for repetition not creativity - simple as
that."
Can people interpret while reading from a page? I've never seen it happen.
Harmonies, counterpoint - if that's your choice - surely you emabark on these when you have the technicalities under your belt, not when you are anxious about remembering the words and tune? And don't harmonies and counterpoint imply singing as a group rather than solo singing; It is very much the latter I am referring to.
If we are talking about group singing, you have the added problem of working out the breathing and phrasing, otherwise the end product is a ragged mess.
I was never a great fan of The Watersons, but I was always impressed by the amount of work they must have put in beforehand to produce the sound they did.
The more I read on this thread the more I come to the opinion that we are talking unsatisfactory compromise in place of work.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: WalkaboutsVerse
Date: 13 Feb 10 - 04:41 AM

From: Don Firth - PM
Date: 12 Feb 10 - 05:24 PM

Interesting observation, David. Do you have any idea as to why the judge would feel that way?

After all, in the two music schools I have attended, it was expected that student recitalists have their material memorized.

Don Firth

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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Jim Carroll - PM
Date: 12 Feb 10 - 05:28 PM

"I think it's good to encourage the folk tradition of performing by memory, but accept the use of songbooks."
Why?
Classical music is not folk song.
Some years ago Yehudi Menuin, arguably the world's best classical violinist, presented a television on Scots fiddle-playing.
The climax of the programme was when he joined in one of the great traditional players - half way through the set Menuin laid down his fiddle and confessed he wasn't up to the creative virtuosity of the Scot.
A book is for repetition not creativity - simple as that.
Jim Carroll...I went on to say "ANOTHER genre" (I like the differences), Jim; and Don - it was a while ago, but I think that classical-music judge argued all the time spent committing to memory could have been better used working on the mood/feeling of the piece..?


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Artful Codger
Date: 13 Feb 10 - 08:15 AM

Jim: One of the marked differences between lyrics and tunes is that lyrics are seldom improvised whereas tunes commonly are. And yes, even solo, part of my improvisation or tune variation is to intermix what are essentially "harmony" notes to make the underlying harmonic structure more evident and complete, so it's not amiss to talk about harmony in a solo-voice scenario.

I begin playing with melodic variations as soon as I've got the basic melody in mind. That's a LO-O-O-ONG time before I've done lyrics memorization. And from line to line, verse to verse, I apply variations in melody, phrasing, expression--virtually every musical facet. Some variations are small, some major; some pre-planned, most decided upon the spur of the moment. So your assumption that reading lyrics must inhibit musical creativity and improvisation is, in my experience, flat wrong.

Lyric improvisation I purposefully avoid, since I work out my favored wordings quite carefully beforehand--substitutions tend to detract rather than improve. If a useful wording variant occurs to me while singing, I'll jot it down, and if upon reflection I consider it a desirable improvement, I'll make it a permanent part of my lyrics sheet. I do this even for memorized songs, because when I sing something that sounds weaker than it should, it's often because I've strayed from what I worked out as the "best" wording. Creativity, like "progress", is not reliably forward-moving; one must know the most appropriate times to apply it.

Granted, most people don't expressly work up their own lyric versions; they just learn and parrot some printed source or the version from their favorite recording. Whether they're reading the lyrics or recalling them from memory, the fixity of an "authorized version" is the same (perhaps more now than in the past). Nothing prevents a person from replacing a line or adding another verse--well, nothing but copyrights.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 13 Feb 10 - 08:28 AM

Quote from Mike Waterson, Jim - We don't do harmony, we sing in unison. It's just that occasionaly we all use different tunes. Maybe there was not as much work as you thought:-)

I just want to make clear that although I don't use a songbook and don't like the performance of people using them as much as those that don't - and remember I am talking PERFORMANCE here, not just singing - I am in no way dictationg that people should not use them Fine, use them, go ahead. Some people will think a little less of your performance but is that doesn't matter to you - why worry?

I hate the term folk nazi as well. Godwins law should be enforced and whoever first uses it in any thread should be banned form the Mudcat until they have shown their bum off Blackpool tower in atonement...

Cheers

DeG


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: WalkaboutsVerse
Date: 13 Feb 10 - 09:06 AM

Having read Artful's comment -
"ALL THAT JAZZ
If folkies must test their technique by improvising on/"doing something with" a traditional tune, then, in my opinion, they should begin their performance with a run-through of just the top-line melody – otherwise, there would be no oral-tradition of tunes!" (here).


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 13 Feb 10 - 09:32 AM

A C
"lyrics are seldom improvised...."
May be true nowadays, but certainly wasn't once. That's why we have upward of 200 versions of Barbara Allen.
Ballad scolar David Buchan suggested that there were no set texts, rather plots and commonplaces, and the singers recomposed them each time they sang them.
Point taken re Waterson's Dave, thanks - not my area of knowledge.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 13 Feb 10 - 10:17 AM

"May be true nowadays, but certainly wasn't once."

It only happens when you *don't* use a lyric sheet - I do it at home all the time when I'm going through the process of learning the story behind a song. I sing along to myself, improvisiong verses where my memory for the lyrics is faulty. In public it happens when you need to improvise a lyric to the story, when you've muffed the lyrics you've memorised. It's much easier to do in private than in public thougfh!


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,Jack Campin
Date: 13 Feb 10 - 10:31 AM

Can people interpret while reading from a page? I've never seen it happen.

I can do it. Any singer of classical music can do it. I've seen Cathal McConnell do it. Get out a bit more and listen.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 13 Feb 10 - 11:13 AM

Of course some singers are able to put across a good performance while singing from a book. In my experience it is unusual for good singers to need a book, and there are usually special circumstances why it's being used. And if it's still a good performance, the book doesn't matter.

However, let's be honest, in the majority of cases the people using books are not good performers. All too often the book doesn't actually help their performance - they may not forget their words (assuming they don't lose their place) but by concentrating on reading the lyrics they don't pay sufficient attention to other aspects of their performance.

If they're going to become better performers they need to focus more on their presentation and delivery, which means they should be solid on the words (and chords if they're accompanying themselves). If they continue to rely on the book as a crutch they'll continue to turn out poor performances, which is no good for the audience and probably no good for them.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 13 Feb 10 - 11:36 AM

Jack (C) - not wishing to nitpick or anything, just a genuine question I cannot imagine the answer to. What is the point of reading from a book is you are improvisiing anyway?

DeG


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,Jack Campin
Date: 13 Feb 10 - 11:44 AM

What is the point of reading from a book is you are improvisiing anyway?

Because you're only improvising certain aspects of the song - expressive and melodic details, not the storyline or the bulk of the text.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: RTim
Date: 13 Feb 10 - 11:53 AM

When one is an unaccompanied singer - There is NOTHING worse than suddenly being frozen in silence because the line from the song is just not there!
If you play an instrument while singing, there is always an easy get out, AND you have something to HELP you (the tune) to find the right word or two.

Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 13 Feb 10 - 12:06 PM

When one is an unaccompanied singer - There is NOTHING worse than suddenly being frozen in silence because the line from the song is just not there!

True - and it has happened to me (I suspect it's happened to everyone). And if you keep a crib-sheet handy you'll never have that experience. But you'll never have the experience of getting all the way through a song unaided, either.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 13 Feb 10 - 01:15 PM

And I thought singing was supposed to be fun. I expect to have fun at a folk club, there is always something to laugh at - mainly the oddballs you find there, and even more so the prats waiting to find fault!!!


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: sciencegeek
Date: 13 Feb 10 - 01:26 PM

Fast approaching the end of my fifth decade, I find that I just don't memorize verses as easily as I did twenty years ago... yeesh.

So, I've started printing out lyrics to serve as my "backup". Oldtimers can really suck... lol.

But I guess what you need to do is ask yourself what it is you want to accomplish. If you want to share the experience of singing a song - then do what it takes to get the job done. Use the book, but maybe try to lean on it less and less if you can.

When I'm in performance mode, I like to make eye contact with the audience and make them part of the experience. At sessions I'll tease some of the older folks to get them joining in the chorus... at least to mouth the words. If I spaz on a line - well let's laugh it off together. If I use a sheet - then I let them know the brain ain't what it used to be & try to use it as little a possible.

If you are at a group that frowns on this, then they are the one with the problem, not you... but it still makes things a bit uncomfortable.

It takes all sorts to make the world, but that doesn't mean you have to be like everyone else or hang around where you don't feel good about it.   If the folks you sing with aren't making a fuss, then relax... but see if you can use the aids less and less. It does improve the experience for yourself.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 13 Feb 10 - 01:39 PM

Thanks, Jack. Still don't undertand it but that is my fault - not yours.

Cheers

Dave


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 13 Feb 10 - 06:46 PM

Fast approaching the end of my fifth decade

um, m3 t00...

But I shouldn't really talk on this topic, because I've never had any trouble memorising songs - the words just snag like burrs. I could probably still sing you a good chunk of the Gentle Giant oeuvre if prompted, and I haven't listened to them since about 1976.

Looking through the window can you tell me what you see, you sure you're really seeing what is meant to be, a glass, a mirror to reflect what I conspire, a vision, image, I desire...

(And people wonder where punk came from.)


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 13 Feb 10 - 10:01 PM

Thanks very much sciencegeek, you make a lot of sense.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Artful Codger
Date: 13 Feb 10 - 11:28 PM

sciencegeek: If you want to share the experience of singing a song - then do what it takes to get the job done. Use the book, but maybe try to lean on it less and less if you can.

Yes! That's a wise and reasonable policy. I'd put it a bit more assertively: strive to reduce your dependence.

When learning a song, I mostly refer to the sheet before or after singing, either to get the words in mind, to fill what I totally blanked on or to ensure that what I sang was correct--I seldom sing directly from the page. I maximally exercise my recall, using sheets as a last resort. When "performing", mostly I don't use sheets at all, and when I do, I refer to them as little as I must. Obviously, one has to read line by line when cold-reading, but there should be good reasons (yes, there are some) for choosing such a song to sing. Otherwise, you might need to refer to the lyrics, but you should only do so to prevent lapsing; you shouldn't be reading line by line as a general practice.

And Pip is right (if you ignore the nevers): finding that you actually can sing straight through without the safety net is liberating and builds confidence. Blanking is NOT the worst thing that can happen to a singer: there's also skipping or repeating verses, flubbing the tune, Freudian slips, choking up, sour notes, dropped trays, open flies, hecklers, beer bottles to the forehead.... You survive, you learn to cope--and you learn what to do when it happens again (as it will).


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 02:21 AM

"if you keep a crib-sheet handy you'll never have that experience. But you'll never have the experience of getting all the way through a song unaided, either."

Not necessarily.   Having the crib sheet handy doesn't mean you will use it.

I think I'm not alone in having the experience that, if I am the least bit unsure of my mastery of the lyrics of a song (e.g., in another language) and I have a very large-print lyric sheet or cue card visible where I could easily glance at it with hardly anyone noticing, I often can do the song without actually using that printed page whatsoever -- whereas if I don't have that 'crutch' available the fear of blanking out on a line actually makes that more likely to happen.
It's not unlike the trapeze or tightrope artist working with or without a net. Having the net doesn't mean you'll fall into it, but it may provide the confidence needed to stay aloft.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 03:14 AM

Oh, and BTW, I'm not suggesting that everyone or anyone needs the "safety net" all, or even most, of the time. Just that when one is there it doesn't necessarily mean you're actually falling and letting it catch you.


One aspect of this discussion is especially interesting to me as an instrument player. It's argued that the use of books or lyric sheets interferes with eye contact with the audience.   Leaving aside the case of singing with one's eyes closed, what I find interrupts my audience eye contact is more often my having to look down at the neck of my guitar than my having to glance at a lyric sheet.   It's not so much a matter of whether I know the song or not. It's just that in certain tricky runs or when I play "up the neck," I haven't overlearned the guitar work to the point where I can forgo glancing at my left hand and the guitar.   Some very good instrumentalists look at their hands and instruments a lot while playing; some don't.
To me, what interferes with my performing as an entertainer and breaks my connection with the audience is having to check out where my left hand is.    But I don't see much hue and cry about how amateurish it is to not be able to play all your instrumentals without looking.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 03:48 AM

A question springs into my mind about all this.
How do singers feel about their songs while they are singing them?
The most common experience we got from the field-singers we interviewed was that they saw them; "It's like sitting in the cinema", one singer told us.
Walter Pardon set the songs in his local area and he could provide us with descriptions of all the characters in the songs. We have an amusing recording of him describing what he 'looks at' when he's singing; "Down my nose....."
Irish singer Tom Lenihan the same - and the Travellers.
I know this to be the case with other singers. In the U.S. The Rounder CD of Mrs Texas Gladden has a track where she describes in some detail the step-by-step progress of Mary Hamilton to her execution.
In a number of cases where we've discussed this with singers they have said that they deliberately close their eyes to achieve this effect.
When I was singing regularly it was something I strove for - it didn't always happen, but when it did it stayed with you for a long time. Part of the preparation for singing the song was to create pictures of the songs in your minds-eye.
I am getting the impression here of people who consider it the pinnacle of achievement to arrive at the end of the song without dropping the ball. This surely means that singers are not experiencing their songs; it sounds more like a technical exercise of getting from A to Z rather than an act of enjoyment.
I really don't believe that failing memory is an excuse unless dementia has begun to set in.
Tom Lenihan was not noted by people who knew him as having a great memory - good, but not phenomenal. Yet, when into his eighties, we've recorded him singing a song which he had not thought about for forty years, without a single slip.
On Friday we went to the 100th birthday calebration organised for one of the singers we recorded some years ago. When we left she was still singing, and the love she had for her songs shone through her years.
I asked earlier, can people enjoy and experience their songs while reading them or worrying about remembering them. I never received a reply, so I took the answer to be no - that it was enjoyment enough to get through them; that's the impression I am left with anyway.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 06:03 AM

I asked earlier, can people enjoy and experience their songs while reading them or worrying about remembering them. I never received a reply, so I took the answer to be no

You never got a reply because most of us have given up trying to persuade you. You've taken a position of patronizing arrogance that no experience and no facts could shift. When you implicitly accuse people like me of lying because we have contrary experience, we aren't likely to bother arguing the point with you again. We'll just let you rot in your own fantasy world.

It's massively destructive to insist that everybody has to meet the standards you want to impose before ever opening their to sing in the presence of another human being. You probably believe mothers should have a City & Guilds certificate in balladry before singing a lullaby to their babies. If you're insisting that nobody with lower performance skills than Walter Pardon should ever be allowed to sing (and your postings are loaded with moralistic language about "allowed" and "excused") you are helping consign the corpus of traditional song to oblivion.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 06:15 AM

Jack - as far as I am aware I have not accused anybody of lying.
I have presented my opinion the best I can based on my own experiences as a singer and by passing the information we have recorded from field singers, who I believe are the experts - not the holders of City and Guilds Certificates.
The only 'standards' I have asked for are basic ones required of anybody who chooses to perform the work of others publicly, if they are going to show any respect to that work.
It is your posting that exudes arrogance and insult - have a nice day.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 06:45 AM

As a singer having age, medical conditions and medicines working against my cognition and memory this thread makes me very uncomfortable. I have to rely on printed words, except for a very few songs learned long ago. All the practice in the world now does not help me learn a new song fully. And even when I think I have one down, lack of confidence screws me in a performance situation.

So now I don't want to go out to sing in sessions because I don't have the same functionality as others.   I feel ashamed that I have to either use my song book or bore people to death with the same handful of tired memorised songs. Because of some responses on this thread and others, I feel I have nothing of value to offer.

If I were a paid singer (which I can never be due to reasons stated above) I would not perform from the book. But as an audience member, I have no truck with any performer (paid or not) who does rely on printed words. I am more concerned with whether they and/or the songs they sing are engaging.

Often the content/story of the song itself, though it may be enhanced by a very good performer, is enough to keep me interested, regardless of the skill of said performer.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 07:47 AM

"So now I don't want to go out to sing in sessions because I don't have the same functionality as others.   I feel ashamed that I have to either use my song book or bore people to death with the same handful of tired memorised songs. Because of some responses on this thread and others, I feel I have nothing of value to offer."

Tut tut.. don't be so sensitive you daft banana! ;-)

If you scan through this thread I think you'll find that actually it's only an 'ickle smattering of hard-core traddies who object to other people using prompts. And while they're entitled to express their opinions, their opinions (however 'learned') are no more valid than anyone else's!

As I said before, I've heard both fabulous and poor renditions of songs by people using a prompt (actually rather more of the former than the latter). At an amateur level like the average song session, *no-one* aught to feel they need to be able to perform like a pro'.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 07:53 AM

Anyway, you know how well you sing and how much people love to hear you.. x


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Dennis the Elder
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 08:35 AM

Folk music and singing is alive and beautiful, it needs all who participate, those that need help and those that dont.
If everone starts from perfection where is there to go and what is there to achieve?
Even if perfection has been achieved there is a time in our lives when it deserts us. I never got there, Virginia please keep singing.
Jack you have hit a nail firmly on its head.
If we all had the short sighted view of Jim Carroll folk music would wither and die.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 08:36 AM

VT, I think most people accept there are circumstances when a songbook is necessary, perhaps because of genuine memory problems or because an artist has been called upon to perform a particular song at short notice.

Where it should be discouraged is where there are no good reasons, where a singer has simply said, "Oh, I can't remember songs" when there is no medical reason why they shouldn't, and what they mean is they haven't put in the time and effort required. In my experience, I'm afraid, that's nearly always coupled with a poor performance.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Artful Codger
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 08:45 AM

I posted a rather lengthy reply to Jim, but the Mudgremlins ate it, so more briefly...

Yes, even when I'm reading lyrics, I can and do enjoy both the song (with rich mental imagery), the singing experience and satisfaction of doing a bit particularly well or getting through a shaky spot--all simultaneously. The experience of the song is still so powerful that I not infrequently start to choke up.

I don't contest that source singers build rich mental images; I do contest that that is either all they're doing or that reading prevents that. In fact, when we read, we tend to build images with all sorts of details the author never mentioned (and I often have some background music running through my head at the same time, as well as stray thoughts darting about). We aren't as mentally limited as you seem to believe.

Reading lyrics tends to occur in bursts: a phrase, a line, a sentence gets buffered at a speed much faster than it takes to sing them. And if you've semi-memorized the lyrics, a glance may be all you need to keep you going quite a while.

Most mental processes in singing are reliable and quick--you decide on a note or nuance and your body takes over to produce it. But recall is annoyingly inconstant: sometimes you search and recall is instant, other times it takes a bit of time or extra cues, and other times you just blank.

The memories of source singers are not always impressive, as shown by the fragmentary versions and lapses reflected in the songs that have been collected--one reason collectors often had to collate versions to get a complete one. Collectors are also selective about source singers (they're source singers because they have a facility for remembering songs), and singers are selective about the songs they sing for collectors: they don't sing their shakier ones. So your sampling is not representative of what normal people with normal memories can manage.

Source singers are also not trained to examine their mental processes, so of course when asked they only describe the most notable thing that happens--and the sort of thing they assume you want to hear about. They don't describe the internal dialog or the myriad decisions they're making at the same time. I've trained, as both a Buddhist and a hypnotist, to examine the mental processes of myself and others on a more detailed level, so I'm not just guessing, like you are, at what is and is not possible for the brain to handle. You keep leaping to these grand pronouncements despite us telling you, from our own direct experience, they just ain't so. Open your ears and mind.

Jim: The only 'standards' I have asked for are basic ones required of anybody who chooses to perform the work of others publicly, if they are going to show any respect to that work.

Utter twaddle, and we've repeatedly explained why. The requirements are illusory and failing to adhere to your expectations is no indication of disrespect for these works. If you interpret it as such, that's your problem.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 08:50 AM

OK, let's ignore the negative crap and get to something more useful.

Obviously you can perform effectively using a book. Lots of people do it all the time. So, HOW do you use a book effectively?

* Sightreading a text off the page is a lot harder. Don't try that to start with - get the basics of what the song is about, what rhetorical strategies it's using, and obviously know the tune.

* Don't let the book get between you and the audience. You should be able to take in at least a couple of lines at a time, usually a whole stanza, so glance down and then out at the room.

* Don't be coy about the book. It's a prop. Performance poets (who nearly always use books, even though they're reading their own work) typically brandish them like stage swords. (Cathal McConnell is worth watching in action when he's using a book, he can make it look like a wizard's magic staff radiating en-fun-ment spells). You can move a book a lot more than a guitar, so it has more dramatic potential. Trying to use a book AND a guitar at the same time will usually reduce you to a performing statue, but then guitars have that effect on most amateur self-accompanied singers anyway.

* If your eyesight is any way problematic at arm's length, print out a copy in a typeface you can read fluently. Comic Sans is a good choice for most people.

* If you are expecting accompaniment by yourself or somebody else, or use a pitchpipe/moothie for pitch, write down the key you use at the start.

* Don't use abbreviations or cues written in your own private code. You will forget what they mean. Write the song out in full.

* Never shuffle paper. You should always know what you're going to sing well before you start (or have a couple of alternatives if something intervenes) and you should know where to find it INSTANTLY.

* No crappy apologies in advance like "I haven't sung this for years". The point of your book is precisely to make sure that that doesn't matter. Just go for it with no explanations.

More?


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: RTim
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 09:00 AM

I think everyone should calm down and remember that this Forum is only a means for us to express an opinion, NOT to browbeat every one into agreeing with you.
It seems that some are simply trying to convince with their total volume of mail, but not say anything new!
Some like books - great.
Some hate books - great.
Some don't really care - great.

Lets us just ALL enjoy singing - Great.

Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: doncatterall
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 09:10 AM

Well said Tim

As I, and others, have said previously and in my opinion if a song is worth singing it's worth learning. However I would not walk out of or stop going to sessions because someone relies on a "crutch". At our club singers now apologise to me for singing from the words because they know my opinion but I would rather hear the song than them not singing because they can't get their head round it.

This Thursday I intend singing Mike Waterson's "A Stitch in Time". Its a song I've known and wanted to sing for years but never got the words into my head. I've been working on it for the past week or so and all verses bar one are now pretty secure.

I'll let you know how I get on - wish me luck!!

Don


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 10:59 AM

"If we all had the short sighted view of Jim Carroll folk music would wither and die."
Hate to be the bearer of bad news but the music is withering and dying.
During the last year or so I have read and been part of discussions on whether it is necessary to be able to hold a tune, or whether ballads are too long, how an evening of just folk songs is boooooring, whether audiences should sing along with the main singer without being invited to do so..........
Now we apparently have a discussion on whether it is necessary to commit a song to memory before you sing it.
All of these are comparatively recent 'innovations' to the folk scene and all are part of the process of decay as far as I'm concerned.
The basic standards I have suggested are that a singer has put in enough work to sing in tune and to remember the words enough to communicate them to an audience. If that is too much then the folk scene deserves is worthy of the disrespect that it is given
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 11:20 AM

"If we all had the short sighted view of Jim Carroll folk music would wither and die."

Oh poo! That's an utterly unfair statement.
Jim has a very egalitarian approach to folk song.
Collecting and disseminating material on traditional songs is kind of a key thing to ensuring folk music *doesn't* wither I'd say!
Plus he was one of about three people on this forum, advocating the public benifits of an online sound archive of field recordings.
In fact I think he's one of the few here that recognises (shocking as it may be!) that not everyone has a nice leather bound copy of Bronson handy, or the spare change for a shelf full of 'Voice of the People'.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Jim McLean
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 11:41 AM

A number of years ago I recorded a box player who also sang and requested that his music was displayed in front of him, It required two music stands with the pages cellotaped to make one long sheet. He complained that the paper was shiny and refeflected the studio lights. I photocopied it onto matt paper and when the signal was given to start, he sang and played the whole piece with his eyes closed!


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 01:09 PM

Digressing slightly, I find what works for me when I'm playing tunes is to have the music in front of me & sight-read as far as possible for the first go through, and then shut my eyes so I can concentrate on where I'm putting my fingers. (Obviously this only works if I know the tune reasonably well already.)


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: sciencegeek
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 01:20 PM

Well thank you, Soldierboy. As one Chris to another - and this goes for Virginia Tam as well- think on what brought you to the music in the first place.

If you only wanted perfect renditions - then you could stick to buying recordings - almost dated myself by saying records, lol- and sit in your room and listen to them. But that is pretty lifeless and, while it was my only option for many years, is not what gives me the greatest pleasure. I WANT TO SING!!!!

And not just sing along with the "record". That's karoake. I want to share the experience. Otherwise, why bother with sessions and ceilidhs, picking parties and singarounds? Music comes from people and is meant to be shared with people. I may sing to my critters, but I'm pretty sure they don't really give a hoot about the songs. They care more about whether they get some goodies to eat.

But if I find a grand song that I can share with others; well, that's a whole different ballgame. sometimes they only want to hear the old standards, but just maybe this "new" song will strike that magic chord and practically compell them to fall in love with it - just as you did.

Or maybe I just like listnning to own voice and feel awkward about doing it alone by myself in the room.... :D joke, joke


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 01:27 PM

Jim Carroll - "The only 'standards' I have asked for are basic ones required of anybody who chooses to perform the work of others publicly, if they are going to show any respect to that work."

So you're saying it can be OK for someone to use a lyric sheet -- as long as they're singing their own compositions or nobody's listening?   Otherwise what they're doing is sub-par?

I think Virginia Tam made some excellent rebuttals to that.

VirginiaTam - "... All the practice in the world now does not help me learn a new song fully. And even when I think I have one down, lack of confidence screws me in a performance situation.

So now I don't want to go out to sing in sessions because I don't have the same functionality as others.   I feel ashamed that I have to either use my song book or bore people to death with the same handful of tired memorised songs. Because of some responses on this thread and others, I feel I have nothing of value to offer.

... [A]s an audience member, I have no truck with any performer (paid or not) who does rely on printed words. I am more concerned with whether they and/or the songs they sing are engaging.

Often the content/story of the song itself, though it may be enhanced by a very good performer, is enough to keep me interested, regardless of the skill of said performer."

Main points:
1. needing to use a printed page does not imply lack of rehearsal, failure to connect with the story and feeling of the song, or inability to interpret and deliver the song well
2. not everyone in the audience gives a hoot whether they see a book or page on a music stand or in a singer's hand
3. songs can be appreciated for their melodies, their lyrics, the story, etc., even when they are not sung by a great singer or performer, even when certain "standards" aren't met.

And I'd add that, as a songwriter, I would be delighted to have other people perform my songs with a song sheet in hand.   I'll bet many, if not most, songwriters would rather have their compositions shared by means of books or song sheets than not sung by others. (Bob Dylan may be an exception, but I'll bet "Anon" and that "Trad" guy don't give a hoot.)


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Lizzie Cornish 1
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 01:30 PM

Yes, it's perfectly OK to sing from a songbook, because there are no rules, not even in English Folk Music...and if your audience is filled with pedantic sorts who up and leave, well good riddance to 'em for being so up their own folk songs in the first place.

There ARE no Rules!


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 01:34 PM

Bravo, Artful!


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 01:54 PM

And kudos to you too, Jack C!

Those are excellent points about how to use books or song sheets proudly and effectively (as opposed to writing crib notes on your hand like some politicians).

I'm so glad you brought up poetry and dramatic readings.   I saw and heard Basil Rathbone do a poetry reading once, where he did just as you mentioned: held a book in hand, sometimes waving it about with a flourish, but all so expertly that what stands out in my memory of the 'concert' was his dramatic and/or comic delivery of the poems.   And I've seen whole plays delivered as "dramatic readings," with the actors sitting in a semi-circle, scripts in front of them, acting out the whole dialog, with gestures, relating to each other and the audience -- very professionally and effectively.

Howard, while it's true that a lot of people in singarounds and song circles are hack amateurs and sometimes rely on a book when they could, with a little effort, learn a song,
I can't accept your assertion that "in the majority of cases the people using books are not good performers."
At least in Portland and Seattle, in the jams and song circles I frequent, there are many accomplished, excellent musicians and singers -- some semi-professional (having commercial CDs, doing paid gigs, but having a "day job" too -- who routinely have a loose-leaf binder open in front of them when they are presenting or leading a song.   
The performance -- including the backup singing by the group, who may also have a song sheet in hand -- often sounds so good that it could be included on a live-performance CD.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 02:10 PM

Surely there must be some rules musn't there? If I go to a folk club I would not expect a 20 minute overture from a baroque opera (Is there one?) and conversely when I pay £25 for a ticket to see Status Quo I would not expect Rambling Sid Rumpo. Mind you. they did tour with Steeleye Span! If you want somewhere with no rules at all start a free form Jazz club:-)

But before we are led into yet another flight of fancy, I am not sure what rules have to do with song books or this question anyway though. No-one has suggested that there are any hard and fast rules applied anywhere. Quite the opposite really in as much as everyone, I think, has said they may or may not like song books but leave it to other people whether they use them or not.

DeG


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 02:51 PM

"So you're saying it can be OK for someone to use a lyric sheet -- as long as they're singing their own compositions or nobody's listening?   Otherwise what they're doing is sub-par?"
Nope - nothing like it.
I said that the general acceptance of crib-sheets in public is another step on the road to dumbing down.
"I'll bet "Anon" and that "Trad" guy don't give a hoot."
Oddly enough I never met a source singer of any age who felt the need for a book (we've had The Copper's view on the subject).
If it's a case of giving ground to performers who can't hold a tune, won't put in the necessary work to learn the text, finds folk songs and ballads boring, and don't know if the songs they sing are folk or not - I'd rather rage against the dying of the light - if you don't mind.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 07:22 PM

Genie, it's become apparent on this thread that different localities have very different customs and cultures when it comes to singing groups. All I can say is that in the circles I frequent, the accomplished, excellent musicians and singers (especially the semi-pros and pros) would only use a song book in exceptional circumstances. Those who rely on them are, in almost every case I can think of, the less competent musicians and singers.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 08:09 PM

Look at this bunch of incompetent bozos! ALL of them have got songsheets!

The Wee Magic Stane

I guess we can assume that Jim would never allow any of that lot into his club?


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: olddude
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 08:24 PM

according to the 1954 definition of folk it is not ok to use a song book, nor is it ok to wear anything but blue jeans and a flannel shirt.   Hats are allow but as long as they are not newer than the 1930's style. No electric of any type, even mikes ... If one needs to enhance the performance so people in the back can hear it is recommended that the performer sing inside a barrel so the sound will echo

Alcohol is allowed but if it is hard alcohol it cannot be scotch, moonshine is preferred but bourbon is acceptable

Now any foreign brands of guitars is not allowed, they must be american or canada made. None of these China made brands since the guitar did not exist in china prior to the 1950's.

audience, hay bails for chairs is the only thing authorized to sit on. Anything else and one must stand through the performance

Jokes are permitted as long as they include the line, a farmer had a daughter and a travelling salesman came a calling one day ...

I will enlighten you with the rest as soon as I dig out the rules


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: TheSnail
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 08:35 PM

olddude

Alcohol is allowed but if it is hard alcohol it cannot be scotch, moonshine is preferred but bourbon is acceptable

What!? Folk music runs on beer and nothing else, preferably Harvey's of Lewes.

We 'ad someone turn up with one o' they gittar thingies the other week. Wasn't bad, but not quite what we're used to.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Artful Codger
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 09:14 PM

Jack: Thank you for a nice list of book use tips, using the "constructive criticism" approach you outlined in the recent thread on this topic. We could use more of that.

Very early in this thread (fourth post?) I hinted that some kind souls might refresh or link the threads of memorization tips for those who wanted to get away from the books. In these hundreds of posts, no soul (abashedly including myself) has been so kind. Let me rectify that now, even though this post will be so deeply embedded in the morass of comments that it will be largely overlooked by those who might benefit:

Thread 32781: Tips for Memorizing Songs
Thread 8098: How do you learn/memorize songs?


Any other useful threads? (Please post additional tips to the relevant threads, not to this one, thanks.)


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 09:46 PM

Oh dear me. What monster have I created?

I feel like Pandora who has opened a really big can of worms.

Come on Jim C, are you really such a perfectionist that you cannot tolerate anyone who does not come up to your own perfect standards?

Think about your own humble roots. Have you never, when starting out, had to glance at a song book/crib sheet or fluffed your lines and had to admit you were almost human?

I find it very difficult to accept that the very fact of someone singing from a song book is dumbing down the folk scene or that folk music is withering and dying and is in it's death throes.

From what I have seen in the UK, the folk scene in general is in extremely good health, with an abundance of young musicians and singers having a go and not feeling shackled to some kind of death wish to tie them to an unflexible rule book that would choke them at the outset.

And long may that remain so!

Chris


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: olddude
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 11:57 PM

Hey snail
there was a guy at an open mike here recently that had the audacity to do a train song without completing his mandatory 5 years of hoboing and rail riding first ... I think the folk police picked him up afterwards. LOL


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Artful Codger
Date: 15 Feb 10 - 02:19 AM

Warning: thread creep

Walkabouts Verse quoted: "If folkies must test their technique by improvising on/"doing something with" a traditional tune, then, in my opinion, they should begin their performance with a run-through of just the top-line melody – otherwise, there would be no oral-tradition of tunes!"

More twaddle, unless the writer is discussing folkies stretching tunes as radically as is done in jazz, or singing them flattened out in rock style. Improvisation in the trad singing world refers more to the variation of the common elements of the tune, which may be done either subtly or more noticeably. It is not necessarily pitch-focused (like melodic variation in sean nos); in English trad singing, timing variations are often more pronounced.

A "tune" is just a concensus of the musical elements most common to the many renderings of it; it's an abstract pattern. Audiences quite astutely pick up on common elements in recurring passages, so that by the end of a song they will have formed a mental model of "the tune" even if it has never once been performed in that basic form. The oral tradition has little to fear from this sort of improvisation--it's been going on for centuries.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Feb 10 - 03:37 AM

"Come on Jim C, are you really such a perfectionist that you cannot tolerate anyone who does not come up to your own perfect standards?"
No SB, my standards are far from perfect, and reading what I have to say, here and elsewhere, would show that to be the case. Knowing the words and being able to sing in tune perfection - do you, does anybody really believe that; have things really deteriorated that much???
Suggesting that basic standards be applied when presenting folk songs to the general public is only a start, perfection is the holy grail of all art and seldom, if ever achievable.
Have I ever used a crib-sheet? No I haven't; when I set out on this voyage nearly half a century ago I would have been booed off the stage had I done so. People believed it necessary to do the work before they went public - the songs were worth it and anything less was insulting to the music and to those who made the effort to turn up.
People fought hard to get folk song taken seriously and to some degree they succeeded; now apparently, the game wasn't worth the candle and the music doesn't merit the effort any more, and by old dude's vaccuuous comments are a perfect example of why.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Anne Neilson
Date: 15 Feb 10 - 03:37 AM

To go back to Jack's clip of Robin and Jimmy singing 'The Wee Magic Stane' - this came from a theatre performance to celebrate Scottish protest against the siting of Polaris on the Holy Loch within 30 miles of Glasgow.
Considering that the performers on view include Adam McNaughtan (of 'Hamlet' fame), Bob Blair, Arthur Johnstone, Ewan MacVicar, Ian Davison, Ronnie Alexander - all of whom have performed in folk clubs for many years, without crib sheets - will you take my word for it that the papers they clutch are actually the script for the inserted commentary, and were issued as a running order to provide the cue for whoever was next to perform?
The whole show was scripted by Gordon McCulloch, sitting to the bottom left of the screen.
And a grand night it was too, with lusty participation in all choruses from the audience without benefit of songsheets.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 15 Feb 10 - 04:03 AM

Off on a tangent again...

A few years ago I went to Mountain View, Arkansas. Advertised as 'The folk music capital of the USA'. In fact, on some placards it stated 'Folk music capital of teh world' but lets not get into the US view of the world;-)

Anyhow - It is the state capital of Stone County which is, believe it or not, a dry county! You can be arrested just for having alcohol in the boot of your car. Or should I say trunk? Whatever. So, if one definition of folk music involves alcohol how does Mountain View fit in?

Mind you, there was one fiddle player in one of the outdoor public sessions kept vanshing and then returning, wiping his mouth, with a big grin on his face:-)

Cheers

DeG


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 15 Feb 10 - 04:31 AM

Whoops - should read COUNTY capital of Stone County - Sorry.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 15 Feb 10 - 04:39 AM

Thanks for the links and reminders, Artful C.

But I still don't think the primary issue in this thread is whether to learn (memorize) the songs we perform or how to do that. It's been pointed out over and over that even when you know a song "like the back of your hand" there can still be reasons to have a printed page handy -- for you and/or your participatory audience -- while you're singing.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,muppett
Date: 15 Feb 10 - 04:44 AM

So is it OK to use other props when singing, i.e. musical instruments or does that detract from the performance? (TE HEE HEE!!!)


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 15 Feb 10 - 04:50 AM

Jim Carroll: "Have I ever used a crib-sheet? No I haven't; when I set out on this voyage nearly half a century ago I would have been booed off the stage had I done so. People believed it necessary to do the work before they went public - the songs were worth it and anything less was insulting to the music and to those who made the effort to turn up."

I know we've been over this before, but I'm still a bit confused here.   You say the audiences would have been insulted had anyone used a crib sheet -- thus proving that they had not "done the work before they went public?" But you've also admitted that sometimes people can flub lyrics or go blank even when they've been singing a song flawlessly for years. So I'm wondering what that audience would conclude if they heard such a lyric screw-up from a performer they did not know. Might they not take such a memory lapse as proof that the singer had "not done the work before going public" just as much as they'd interpret the use of a crib sheet that way?


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Feb 10 - 05:08 AM

Genie;
Are you really equating using a crib-sheet with making an occasional fluff? The best performers can have memory lapses, no matter how much work they have put in beforehand, just as they can lose the tune or have their concentration distracted.
My argument is that crib should never be accepted as standard practice or be used as a substitute for preparatory work, no more, no less.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Artful Codger
Date: 15 Feb 10 - 08:37 AM

Genie: I didn't post the links for those who have their reasons to employ books or sheets, but for those who wish to dispense with or rely less on such materials, make their recall as reliable as possible, and make the memorizing process as efficient as possible. The tips may also benefit those with "oldtimer's", since it may help them beef up the approach they are accustomed to use to memorize things. The more cues you build in--and the more types of cues--the more reliable will be your recall. Some of the techniques I found here were entirely new to me and have helped me significantly.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 15 Feb 10 - 04:12 PM

Jim C, am I really "equating using a crib-sheet with making an occasional fluff?"
Yes and no.
I don't think EITHER having a printed page in front of you and perhaps occasionally glancing at it OR making an occasional lyric flub makes your performance seem amateurish.

But we agree that "The best performers can have memory lapses, no matter how much work they have put in beforehand, just as they can lose the tune or have their concentration distracted. " And when that happens, it won't necessarily be a minor flub of the lyrics. Key parts of the lyrics or story could be omitted or twisted.

And, except for very informal song circles where the main aims are to socialize and to introduce new songs, I agree that the crib sheet should not be a substitute for knowing your song. I.e., if you are going to PERFORM, as opposed to just swapping songs with friends, you really should know the song you're performing -- well enough that the printed page, if you use it, is just kind of like the aerial acrobat's safety net.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 15 Feb 10 - 04:14 PM

Artful, any tips on memorization are also useful to those who do sometimes have a book or song sheet in front of them when they sing. The better you know your song, the less likely you are to need to use the printed page and the more easily you can glance at it quickly and unobtrusively if and when you do need to.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 15 Feb 10 - 04:38 PM

"I don't think EITHER having a printed page in front of you and perhaps occasionally glancing at it OR making an occasional lyric flub makes your performance seem amateurish."

It depends what you mean by "amateurish", and that in turn can depend on the genre, the circumstances and the context. For the purposes of this discussion, I think it can be taken to mean behaving in a way a professional would not. For reasons we have already discussed, it would be acceptable in classical music for a professional to have the music and words in front of them, whereas in most forms of popular music it would not (and if they have to be used, performers go to some lengths to hide it from the audience).

In my experience, and in the circles where I listen to and perform folk music, professional folk singers will only use lyrics in exceptional circumstances. In this context therefore, using the lyrics will inevitably appear "amateurish" ie it's the behaviour of amateurs. Now we can't all reach professional standards, but we should at least aspire to, which means working to eliminate amateurish behaviour.

Making a mistake is different - it can happen to both amateur and professional. However the risk element involved in a live performance is part of what gives live music its extra vitality over a recorded one. It's not often a mistake completely ruins a professional's performance - they usually know how to deal with it. Again, this is something an amateur should aspire to.

It's about standards, which Jim Carroll keeps banging on about, and I realise there is a gulf between those who think standards should apply to folk music and those who don't. I'm afraid I'm with Jim on this - I don't expect amateurs to achieve professional standards in all areas, but I do expect them to make some effort to try to do so.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 15 Feb 10 - 04:47 PM

I don't think at all it is a given that the goal of some song circles is to socialize and hear new songs. For some of us it is a chance to sing new or old songs together, hearing the best possible music that we can produce. I personally don't need music to socialize by and I don't need socialability to do musical things. I think if we confuse the two too much we get less great music. There is nothing wrong with socializing aorund music, and I think a lot of this discussion is about that, but for many of us it is about the music and not the socializing, which, say at a camp, we could accomplish by eating meals together, going on walks, washing dishes, sitting around the fire. mg


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: TheSnail
Date: 15 Feb 10 - 05:03 PM

Howard Jones

and I realise there is a gulf between those who think standards should apply to folk music and those who don't.

Really? Who do you think says that standards don't apply?


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Feb 10 - 06:21 PM

Geni;
If you are talking about swapping songs with friends, you may perform them naked while standing in a bucket of custard as far as I'm concerned. Once you let the public - paying or otherwise - through the door then you take responsibility for those songs and how they are performed and received (I'm talking about folk songs, I've no opinion or experience on the presentation of any other forms). As has been pointed out, folk song has a poor enough (sometimes deserved) image without adding to it by it being performed by people who can't sing and can't remember words.
I heard it said not so long ago that the last thing you would do should you wish to introduce somebody to folk song is to take them to a folk club.
"Really? Who do you think says that standards don't apply? "
Unless you consider 'wanting to sing' a standard - you do. It is not; it is an abandoning of standards. Why on earth should anybody who doesn't want to sing ask to? Therefore you are giving your club over to anybody who walks through your door, whether they can sing or not - there really is nowhere else to hide.
Off to the UK for a few days tomorrow; I wonder if I'll find anything worth listening to - no luck so far; here's hoping.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 15 Feb 10 - 06:25 PM

From many recent postings here there seems to be a growing emphasis on how 'professional' singers should behave and conduct themselves.
By 'professional' they mean people who present folk songs to the general public, whether they do that for a fee or not.

All of this is very interesting and informative but please do not lose sight of the fact that when I made my opening thread in this debate I was approaching the question from the viewpoint of a 'social' or 'amateur' singer who enjoys far more informal social singarouns and song circles, far removed from the proffesional circuit.

I reiterate where I was coming from again in the hope that I can nudge the prevailing mindset away from just 'the proffesional's perspective and view-point' and back a little more to the perspective of the average man and woman in the street who enjoys joining in with a song or two in a far more informal singaround and social setting (like a good old British pub).

I do this in the hope that some contributors here might look at this question in a slightly different light and might show a little less arrogance and pomposity and a little more tolerance, humility and patience towards their fellow man; warts and all.

As I said, I never approached this subject from the perspective of the 'professional' but rather from that of the jobbing and interested folkie 'layman'.

In fact, if I was a 'professional' singer, I would never have dared to ask the question in the first place because if I was a true professional and was getting paid to sing and that was how I made my living I do actually hope that I would never, or only very occasionally, have to resort to sing from a song book/crib sheet - unless my memory just got so bad but people still put up with me.

Chris


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Feb 10 - 06:29 PM

Chris,
Most of us are non-professionals and have given our answers as such.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 15 Feb 10 - 06:30 PM

Snail, there are those who argue that the most important aspect of folk music and folk clubs is participation, and that people should sing.

My comment was not aimed at you or your club, and I am not trying to reopen our previous discussion.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 15 Feb 10 - 06:48 PM

Soldier boy, even if you are an amateur social singer should you not aim to do that as well as possible? That is what I meant about aspiring to professional standards.

Actually, I'm not writing from the viewpoint of the performer, professional or amateur, but that of the audience. When I go to a folk club I don't expect professional-quality performances from amateur singers, but I don't think it's unreasonable expect them to make an effort to put on a good performance. If a performer will not put in the effort to learn a song properly why should they expect me to listen to them?

If someone makes that effort, even if they struggle in their performance they will usually get the audience's attention and support.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 15 Feb 10 - 06:54 PM

OK..if it doesn't sound good at all, but people are enjoying themselves...I guess that is the question. Do you want to go to this event or not? The question is not is it good for people of whatever ability to get together in a place and time of their own choosing and sing joyously together, regardless of sound produced. It is a poignant question if the event was well attended and perhaps started by great singers and now it is in great decline. mg


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Nick
Date: 15 Feb 10 - 07:13 PM

Well Jim, seeing as you are in the UK, if you are in Yorkshire on Wednesday pop in and have a sing and a listen :)


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 15 Feb 10 - 07:13 PM

Mary, what I meant by saying some song circles are mainly about "socializing" and learning new songs is that in some song circles (e.g., a couple I know of in Portland and one in Seattle), the social experience of singing together seems to be much more the goal than the aspiration to make exquisite or professional-sounding music.   In such groups, it is not unusual for the person whose turn it is to launch into a song a cappella without really knowing the tune, with no sense of meter or phrasing, etc., and with the resulting "sing-along" being at times pretty chaotic or comical.   Rather than ask if someone else feels comfortable leading it, perhaps with a guitar to help keep people on pitch, someone will just plow into a song (a well-known one or one that's "in the book"), with some people doing one arrangement while others are doing another.   Suggestions made to improve the quality of the group singing (e.g., "Please watch the lips of the person leading the song so you'll know when to come in on the next line") are usually regarded as impertinences which spoil the camaraderie.   
What I meant about a goal being to learn new songs is that in some groups people enjoy hearing a new song even when the one presenting it has to read it from notes or a book and maybe can't even stay on key.    I have sometimes appreciated someone singing a song from RUS or song sheets, even if they sang it badly, because it allowed me to hear what tune goes with the lyrics or because it was just a really nice song, which I might add to my repertoire.
Unless it's a "songwriter workshop," song circles are seldom solely about hearing new songs, but some workshops at music camps do seem to be more about sharing songs on a theme -- for the sake of the songs and the theme -- than making beautiful music then and there.   
Books and song sheets tend to be used in circles like this, either because the one leading/presenting the song doesn't know it well (and, for that group's purpose, doesn't need to) or for the sake of the group singing along.

I was at a song circle last night where the consensus seemed to be that everyone should sing along on everything if they either knew the song (or chorus) or could find it in their book or notes.   I don't think anyone did any solos except for verses, etc., that they did not know, and I don't think solo "performances" would have been all that welcome.   The group seemed to construe it as a "sing-along."


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: TheSnail
Date: 15 Feb 10 - 07:15 PM

Jim Carroll

Unless you consider 'wanting to sing' a standard - you do.

Having slight trouble parsing that sentence. No, I don't consider 'wanting to sing' to be a standard. I consider it a reason to give someone the opportunity to sing.

It is not; it is an abandoning of standards.

No, it is recognising where the responsibilty for standards lies.

Why on earth should anybody who doesn't want to sing ask to?

I have no idea, but, according to you, wanting to sing immediately disqualifies anybody from being capable of doing so.

Therefore you are giving your club over to anybody who walks through your door,

Yes.

whether they can sing or not

How are we supposed to know before we put them on? (He asks for the umpteenth time.)

Howard Jones

Snail, there are those who argue that the most important aspect of folk music and folk clubs is participation, and that people should sing.

Indeed there are but I don't see how that justifies the line - "I realise there is a gulf between those who think standards should apply to folk music and those who don't".

My comment was not aimed at you or your club, and I am not trying to reopen our previous discussion.

Neither was I. I was just responding to something you said.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 15 Feb 10 - 07:29 PM

Soldier Boy, I'm glad you brought the thread back to the focus on amateur song circles and sing-arounds, where group participation is often encouraged.    I agree that the better the music sounds, the more satisfying the experience is both for participants and any "audience" that might be present.   But music - especially group singing - doesn't have to sound "professional" to be exhiliarating, moving, fun, or inspiring.    And if the song itself is a great song, that can compensate a good deal for a not-ready-for-prime-time performance.

Mary: "OK..if it doesn't sound good at all, but people are enjoying themselves...I guess that is the question. Do you want to go to this event or not? The question is not is it good for people of whatever ability to get together in a place and time of their own choosing and sing joyously together, regardless of sound produced. It is a poignant question if the event was well attended and perhaps started by great singers and now it is in great decline. "

Well, I don't know the history of all the song circles I participate in, but my experiences is that the quality of music -- and the degree of reliance on books -- varies greatly from one month to another, depending a lot on who shows up.
I have been to song circles where, no, it didn't sound very good and I, for one, didn't enjoy myself much, because of some of the things I mentioned in my last post. There's one group I lost interest in very quickly because, even WITH books in hand, people simply would not make an effort to figure out where the rests were and when to come in on the next line. But other groups can be that way one time and totally different the next. And usually there is more decent, even really good, music made than bad, so it's worth it to me. Your mileage may vary.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 15 Feb 10 - 07:52 PM

even if you are an amateur social singer should you not aim to do that as well as possible? That is what I meant about aspiring to professional standards.

Professional means you're making money at it. That doesn't say a damn thing about quality.

I know a lot of amateurs who could run rings round most professionals in the depth of their knowledge of the tradition they work in. Pros tend to have very small repertoires. The fact that they're also very highly polished repertoires doesn't stop boredom setting in once you're hearing the same act done with the same jokes for the third time. For me, an amateur like my old pal Iain Grant (who could lead off something like 2000 Scottish tunes on the moothie) was vastly more interesting to listen to than any pro with the ability to reproduce only the contents of the five or so CDs that represent their total career.

So, I don't aspire to being a pro. Pros are often pretty boring. I've got higher targets to aim at.

(Sakata's "Music in the Mind", about the musical culture of 1970s Afghanistan, is interesting on this - in that culture it was quite clear that educated amateurs were rated far higher than professionals. The same distinction sometimes operated in early modern Europe, but it was unusually sharp in the situations Sakata wrote about).


The best performers can have memory lapses, no matter how much work they have put in beforehand, just as they can lose the tune or have their concentration distracted.

I would expect somebody who's being paid for their performance to take precautions to make lapses impossible. If there is ANY chance of one happening, they need to have a book handy. It's the professional thing to do.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 15 Feb 10 - 08:12 PM

Thanks Genie for your sage and practical comments. You make a lot of sense.

I guess that every singaround/song circle/folk club/fringe session etc etc are all very different and that is what to me in the UK makes the whole folk experience so fascinating and varied.

If the scene or atmosphere or reception or rules etc don't tick all your boxes you can try another one quite close by and see how that grabs you. You just vote with your feet and we are all,thankfully, at liberty to do so.

Chris


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 16 Feb 10 - 03:35 AM

"according to you, wanting to sing immediately disqualifies anybody from being capable of doing so."
Where have I ever said this?
Therefore you are giving your club over to anybody who walks through your door, even after they have proven themselves incapable of singing - and you have no facility for helping them because they are too few in number (I paraphrase").
"How are we supposed to know before we put them on? (He asks for the umpteenth time.)"
Also for the umpteenth time - been through this and you continue to wheedle round it.
Once someone has shown shown themself unable to sing, but willing to do so, you offer them help, rather than your policy of continuing to put the in front of an audience to flounder and drown. That is what any club I have been involved in has always done - that is what your club does not do.
You have moved from your original position of saying that poor or non singers DON'T turn up at your club asking to sing to admitting they 'occasionally' turn up. What did you do when they did?
You sound far luckier than many of the clubs mentioned on this forum who do have problems - wonder if you overawe them into silence; you apparemntly offer them no assistance to improve - or have you been hiding your light under a bushel.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: MikeL2
Date: 16 Feb 10 - 05:33 AM

hi jack

You may well be right that many amateurs have much deeper knowlege of folk than some professionals.

A professional does not get paid to necessarily have knowledge in great depth Many do !!! ). He is primarily paid the entertain an audience.

I know many people who have extremely deep knowledge but they don't know how to express it in an way that will keep an audience interested and entertain.

On your second point professsionals are after all is said and done only human. They like anyone else make mistakes.

But the good pros have learned how to reduce them and cover most of them up. They also know how to use "balls ups" to their advantage.

cheers

MikeL2


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST
Date: 16 Feb 10 - 05:48 AM

"You apparenntly offer them no assistance to improve"

That's a bit unfair, Jim. The club Snail & Co run is pretty unique in the number of workshops it puts on throughout the year, an initiative that is surely to be applauded.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,Spleen Cringe at large
Date: 16 Feb 10 - 05:49 AM

Sorry, me above


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 16 Feb 10 - 06:42 AM

Jack, I'm not suggesting that all singers should aim to become paid professionals. I'm saying they should aspire to the highest standards, even if they fall short. Most professionals, if they are to earn a living, have achieved those standards (I agree there are a few who make you wonder how they do earn a living, but I've never come across any with the limited repertoire you describe). You've sort of made my point by pointing out that a great many amateurs do achieve the highest standards.

What I am trying to say is that anyone who puts themselves forward to sing in public should strive to do that to the very best of their ability. At the very least that means taking the trouble to learn the song, of which memorising the words is simply a part.

What really pisses me off is when someone gets up, with folder and music stand, and says "Here's a song I learned this afternoon" (or worse, "Here's a song I wrote this afternoon") when they're clearly not ready to perform it out in public.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: TheSnail
Date: 16 Feb 10 - 10:57 AM

Jim, your constant theme is that allowing people to sing because they want to will inevitably lead to a catastrophic decline in standards. The only way that makes sense is if people who want to sing are incapable of doing so.

Therefore you are giving your club over to anybody who walks through your door,

Yes.

even after they have proven themselves incapable of singing

You have said yourself, several times, that hardly anyone is incapable of singing.

- and you have no facility for helping them because they are too few in number (I paraphrase").

Perfectly acceptable paraphrase.

Once someone has shown shown themself unable to sing, but willing to do so, you offer them help,...... That is what any club I have been involved in has always done - that is what your club does not do.

Are those the same clubs that collapsed in the eighties because they'd been taken over by non-singers? In around forty years of going to folk clubs, I have never encountered that. We are a folk club not a school.

You have moved from your original position of saying that poor or non singers DON'T turn up at your club asking to sing [I don't think I have.] to admitting they 'occasionally' turn up. What did you do when they did?

We gave them a flloorspot. You really do seem to have trouble grasping that basic truth.

You sound far luckier than many of the clubs mentioned on this forum who do have problems

Lucky or....?

- wonder if you overawe them into silence; you apparemntly offer them no assistance to improve - or have you been hiding your light under a bushel.

Perhaps we just inspire them to give their best.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 16 Feb 10 - 11:23 AM

I am not going to ressurect any old arguments, Brian, as I think that you have never been to our folk club and I know I have never been to yours. Let us just say that as we both have many years experience in running and arranging folk events we have had slightly different experiences. It is only slight, we are talking a tiny proportion of floor singers, but it is enough for us to come to different conclusion on certain things.

To come back to using books, one of the consistantly poor performers at our club (not seen him for ages funnily enough - maybe our clubs are now the same:-) ) does all the things mentioned above. Looses the page. Does not know the song. Looses the tunes. Does not know what he is going to do next etc. He is a prime example of how to not sing from a book! He would have no qualms whatsover about singing anywhere yet, based on past discussions, I would be very reluctant to perform at your club. I do not consider myself particularly bad but I am afraid that I would make mistakes and somehow let down the high standards you have achieved.

I know it is me, not you, that is at fault here but, I could not help but feel I was under pressure to a) Perform and b) be good! Something I could not promise:-(

I can see how singing from books got into a disagreement about standards but can we not just agree that standards are measured in different ways, by different people, in different parts of the country, depending what colour underwear we have chosen that day? In other words - We will never agree on a standard standard:-) None of them are right or wrong - just different.

Cheers

DeG


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 16 Feb 10 - 08:00 PM

Come on fellas, I thought that this inter-folk club constant warfare and personal bickering had finished and that you had gone off to start your own thread! Or at least that is what you promised you would do earlier in this thread. So why come back and just carry it on?

David el Gnomo has said it all above when he said "In other words - We will never agree on a standard standard:-)None of them are right or wrong - just different."

In other words you are enlessly repeating yourselves, chasing your own tails in endless circles and getting nowhere fast because you will never come to any consensus.....and it's getting really boring!

Can I please ask you very politely to have some respect to the fundamental basic etiquette of Mudcat - and that is to try your best to keep to the original subject of the thread and not stray off into semi-related subjects which then turn into very personal and hostile interrogations between just a few people who seem to have some kind of history of conflict and disagreement between them.

Many thanks.

Chris


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: TheSnail
Date: 16 Feb 10 - 08:45 PM

Sorry about that Chris but it seems that I can't stick my head above the parapet without atracting an awful lot of hostile fire. I posted a rather whimsical quotation which I thought was apposite and immediately came under an extraordinary level of attack. I didn't choose the ground on which I had to defend myself.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 16 Feb 10 - 09:15 PM

It's OK The Snail.

The best ground for battle is always the 'high' ground (definately favoured by the Romans!).

P.S I love that quote from Henry Van Dyke. So very appropriate and I believe, so very true.

Thanks again.

Chris


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,Muppett
Date: 17 Feb 10 - 05:06 AM

I'd rather go to a pub or session and see folk singing live from a book or crib sheet then have no music at all. Come on live and let live.
There are places in the world where getting together for a sing around or to see live performers is still prohibited.

So if some of you have to get high and mighty about what should or shouldn't be aloud make it something worth having a grumble about.

In the meantime Chris use yer book where and when you like.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 17 Feb 10 - 11:40 AM

Thank you Muppett. Are you on yer good behaviour tablets today?!

Chris


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 17 Feb 10 - 06:08 PM

Well said, Muppet.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Genie
Date: 17 Feb 10 - 06:10 PM

Oh, and one more thing:

LIVE FROM THE WEST COAST IT's POST # 500!!


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 17 Feb 10 - 09:29 PM

Wow - 500 !!

Never thought this thread would rumble on anywhere near so long when I first posted it.

Well done folks for all your very fine contributions. You've been marvellous and I have learnt so much from you.

I suspect that this thread has reached it's pinnacle and will now lose steam and fall off the page.

So guess what folks; I am now going to take a break and go off into the sunset to learn a song from memory so I will not need the song book.

Wish me luck.

Bless.

Chris


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Spleen Cringe
Date: 18 Feb 10 - 02:37 AM

Good luck!


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Bupkes
Date: 18 Feb 10 - 10:52 AM

One funny result: After following this long discussion, last night at the Irish session in Newburyport, I found myself so self-conscious that I couldn't remember any of my songs! So, I sang all three of my contributions from word sheets. No one seemed to mind. Granted, this is a mostly instrumental session, with only every third or fourth number being a song; none of the instrumentalists play from sheet music. So I suppose they're pretty easygoing about the singing.

And for one of my songs, a rather difficult one to memorize that we don't often sing, Robert Burns's "Westlin Winds", a couple of the other singers came to look over my shoulder, and they appreciated having the words out so they could sing along! Afterwards we chatted about what versions they knew, and about what it meant to them, but I was sensitized to this issue of reading words at a session, and I couldn't detect any critical eyebrow-raising or anything else, far as that goes.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: MikeL2
Date: 19 Jun 10 - 11:17 AM

hi

Some time ago we discussed here whether it is OK to use song books while performing and there were several different opinions.

In searching for a song I found this clip that might answer whether or not books should be used for words as prompts....

Click here

Sorry but I have yet mastered producing blue clicky things yet.

Cheers

-------------Link fixed. JoeClone----------

MikeL2


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: MikeL2
Date: 19 Jun 10 - 12:00 PM

Hi Joe

Thanks for fixing the clicky thing...I must learn how to do it...previous tries have failed....I must not be holding my mouth right....lol

cheers

MikeL2


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Don Firth
Date: 19 Jun 10 - 01:35 PM

No, I don't think that really makes a case for using a song book while performing. Marty Robbins makes a bit of a gag out of the routine, and the way he sings the song tends to indicate that he knew the words a whole lot better than he let on.

There's a difference between singing at a folk club or at a song circle and performing, in the sense of doing a concert or recital for a paying audience. Over the years, I have attended concerts by such well-known singers as Pete Seeger, Richard Dyer-Bennet, Theodore Bikel, Joan Baez, Gordon Bok, Guy Carawan, Judy Collins, Peter Paul and Mary, the Weavers, the Gateway Singers, the Smothers Brothers, Peggy Seeger, Ewan MacColl, Sam Hinton, Jean Redpath, Lightnin' Hopkins, Marais and Miranda, Mississippi John Hurt—and on for at least a dozen more. In addition, concerts and recitals by singers in other fields of music, such as opera, art song, early music groups such as the New York Pro Musica, the Baltimore Consort, etc. . . .

Nary a song book or piece of sheet music in sight.

I have been singing for audiences since the mid-1950s in coffeehouses, clubs, concerts (without song books or song sheets), and television (with neither song books nor song sheets nor cue-cards).

So—what do you want to do? Sing purely for fun? Or sing professionally, i.e., for paying audiences?

There are different standards, and a paying audience is not going to respond well to a singer who comes out on stage and sings from a song book.

Don Firth

P. S. If you're singing in a folk club or song circle, find out what the standards of the group are and abide by that.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Ron Davies
Date: 19 Jun 10 - 03:37 PM

Don is right. Obviously Marty is taking this approach for fun--and may possibly not intend to answer our question.

I think most people don't seem to object to a visual aid to a singer.    I certainly don't--except for Rise Up Singing (AKA the Blue Book of Death)--which has just too much potential for abuse--and has been abused--to welcome it to any singaround.

Unless it's billed beforehand as a Rise Up Singing singaround. In which case the rest of us should be warned of this. And we will make the appropriate decision.

As I've noted before, you folks in the UK should count yourselves lucky-- you will never have to deal with this problem.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 19 Jun 10 - 03:53 PM

I thought for sure that the Three Tenors used sheet music on music stands, but maybe I'm wrong. I've noticed that most of the operatic vocalists and instrumental soloists that play with our local symphony, do so without sheet music.
In choir, I usually look over somebody's shoulder to see the first word or two of a verse. The rest I sing from memory. I man the microphone mixer, and it's nice not to have a hymnal in my hands.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 19 Jun 10 - 07:16 PM

I think it is generally OK for a person to use a book, hopefully not the blue book, for his or her own reference. It is OK always to use any book, like blue book, if the group is organized around doing so.

It is not OK to hijack a group that does not like them and insist on using them and passing them out and shouting out page numbers. On the other hand, it serves the group right for being so passive about the whole business. mg


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 19 Jun 10 - 08:32 PM

I will repeat what I said earlier - Having the words as a reference is vastly different to holding an open A4 or Foolscap book between you and your audience , so that rather than singing FROM the book , you are singing TO the book !


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: MikeL2
Date: 20 Jun 10 - 05:02 AM

hi don

I agree entirely with you....my posting of the link was utterly tongue deeply inserted into cheek.

Like you I am sure the Marty knew the words and this was just a show.

Cheers

MikeL2


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: The Sandman
Date: 20 Jun 10 - 08:10 AM

surely it is wrong to be dogmatic about this ,does it not depend upon the circumstances.
i recently saw two singers put on a good performance they were singing in harmony[which they did well] but they had words in front of them, the harmonies were not written out in front of them, but they were occasionally peeping at words, i agree it would have been better without words, but they were good, if they hadnt done a spot the evening would have been poorer.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,Sedayne (Astray)
Date: 20 Jun 10 - 08:30 AM

Odd how the brain works with respect of definitive versions on one hand & spontaneous variants thereof on the other. This makes it awkward when Rapunzel & I are singing a song together because our a) versions are invariably different and b) I'm more likely to alter things as I sing that she is. So I'll use a crib sheet just so I know I'm singing the same words as she is. Also, when we edit a song for a particular performance we'll use words just so we know which verses we aren't singing.

I might add that as I get older it takes me ages to learn new songs although following our wee session with Crow Sister a few weeks back I found I'd learned Childe Owlet by osmosis. How's that for traditional process? Either that or just wanton pilfering on my part, however so unwitting; in recent singarounds I've sang it to three different tunes, one of which I made up on the spot...


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 20 Jun 10 - 12:23 PM

""surely it is wrong to be dogmatic about this ,does it not depend upon the circumstances.""

I couldn't agree more Dick, and I hope you don't get the same shitstorm of mockery and abuse which I had when I made the point some 450 posts back.

I know three or four people with very fine voices and rotten memories. I would be gutted if I were attending a club and they were debarred from singing on the grounds that they hadn't the right to sing if they couldn't remember the words, and that would definitely be my last visit to that club.

There are also a few clubs for which I have rung ahead to ask for a floor spot (more than fifty miles from home). In all but one, I peformed and was well received.

In the exception, I was told that nobody performs whom they have not heard sing, and that I should send a demo, and visit at a later date.

Needless to say it will be a much later date, about the time that Hell freezes.

Their audience must get sick of the same few singers every week.

Don T.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Don Firth
Date: 20 Jun 10 - 03:59 PM

Joe's observation is correct. In "The Three Tenors" program (Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, and José Carreras), there was a music stand in front of each of the three of them. But—each of these singers has sung perhaps hundreds of full-length opera performances out of sight of sheet music and they normally did concerts and recitals without sheet music in evidence. The music stands on "The Three Tenors" were a precautionary measure. In a solo recital, more often than not, if a singer of, say, Pavarotti's experience has a lapse of memory, he can cover it and most people in the audience won't even notice.

On one occasion, I saw Andrés Segovia blow a passage and quickly cover it without a break. I spotted it because I was very familiar with the piece (having tried to play it myself), but out of an audience of around 1,500, I'll wager that not more than half a dozen spotted the goof and they were all guitarists themselves.

But in a live concert which is being televised for repeated broadcasts on PBS stations, the music stands were a precautionary measure. I've seen the program a number of times and there were no more than half-a-dozen times when one of the singers glanced at the music, and these occasions were mostly between songs, as in, "What's next?"

Doing a program like that is similar to making a recording. If you goof in a concert, even if you goof badly, it's done, and it's gone forever. But if you goof on a recording and don't do a retake, it's there forever. When you are recording a live concert for an indefinite number of plays on national television, (à la "The Three Tenors"), it's pretty messy to do retakes in front of a large live audience, so to forestall the possibility, the crib sheets were there in front of them. Which they didn't use all that much, if at all.

As far as church choirs are concerned, they are generally made up of members of the congregation rather than professional singers, and more often than not, they rarely have more than one or two rehearsals before they perform a hymn or some such during a service. Not sufficient time to memorize something all that well. So using music is customary.

The question is, what is your ambition? If you just want to sing for fun, then do it however you want, and in whatever manner is acceptable or customary for those you sing with / for. But if you aspire to performing professionally, concerts, clubs (other than folk clubs), recitals, and such, there are certain standards that one needs to meet. And this holds for singers of folk songs as well as any other kind of music performance. One of those standards is to know your material well enough so you don't need to read it out of a song book while you're singing before a paying audience.

This takes practice and rehearsal. Which is expected of a professional musician.

Or in the words of a political figure who has become prominent within the last few years, "Drill, baby, drill!"

Don Firth

P. S. For recording (doing the home studio thing), I would definitely have my song sheets (I keep a large three-ring book of the songs I sing, for reference and occasional refreshers if I need them) within sight. I would not try to record a song that I didn't know, but I would have the song sheet handy just in case I felt a glitch coming on, mainly to avoid having to do a retake on a song that has gone quite well up to then.

But what gets up my nose is the person who comes to a song fest of any kind and stands there with a song book or song sheet in their hands, struggling with a song that they obviously have little acquaintance with and keep everybody waiting (and rolling their eyes) while they stumble around with it.

P. P. S. Keeping a song book or sheet in front of you all the time is like using a crutch. The more you use it, the more you get to depending on it. Take a chance! Try working without a net!


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 20 Jun 10 - 04:39 PM

What Don says is right. But why should it only be expected of a professional musician? Why shouldn't an amateur who also intends to stand up in front of an audience (and a UK folk club audience is usually a paying one) also be expected to put in the effort?

Of course there are some who appear to believe that the purpose of a folk club is to allow people to do their rehearsing in public. There does seem to have been an increase in this type of club, but is it coincidence that folk clubs as a whole have declined over the same period?


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Ron Davies
Date: 03 Jan 11 - 11:02 PM

Not that it should be necessary, but here is another indication of why RUS has no place at a vibrant music party (or song circle).    For New Years Eve Jan and I again went to a music party.   We brought a bottle of wine, Christmas crackers, and spanakopita.   The hostess provided all sorts of other comestibles, including chocolate fondue with fruit.   And drinks.


Then the music started. One couple started with a song called "Christmas in the Islands", I think.   Jan and I did "I Want Eddie Fisher for Christmas" , which I'd recently picked up from "Hot Jazz Saturday Night"--though the song, by a lot, is more a bobby-soxer's heartfelt plea than hot jazz.   This was followed by "Christmas in Jail", by a guy who did a great job on it.   From there I did "I Wish I Could Sprechen Sie Deutsch" (jail connection), and "Fraulein."    And so on.    There was a wonderful, lilting, rendition of "Christmas on Christmas Island".   As well as "Let's Talk Dirty in Hawaiian".   And "Riding Down the Canyon" since the topic of that song came up, and "Am I Blue?" (with the 2 verses), And others. With very few exceptions, every singer knew his or her songs cold with no crib sheets of any kind.   

Above all, no RUS ever reared its head.

So the party was a smashing success.   Sure it was a bunch of friends getting together but the musical success was also due to the fact that nobody had brought that book and insisted on ploughing through every blessed verse.   People there actually knew what they were doing.   Either you can do your songs or you can't. Bringing the Blue Book of Death is a very good indication that you can't.

Was the music there "folk music"? Probably not.   Who cares?


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,Desi C
Date: 04 Jan 11 - 07:24 AM

I host a club that has Singarounds and full P.A nights alternative weeks. Certainly for a singaround singing from a book or songsheet is fine, I would reccomend it for beginners. I had/have the same problem and still perform new songs from a song sheet. You'd be amazed how many experienced and pro performers forget the words of songs they can normally remember by heart. And at our singers nights we don't frown on it at all, but you're right, the odd club or performer can be a bit snobby about it. If you use a music stand I suggest, each time you sing, move it a little to the side each time, until it's there if you need it, and finally try not using it at all. Don't worry about forgetting it happens and the audience will often shout out the right line, if not make a joke of it and do the c horus again. Good luck

Desi C
The Circle Folk Club
Coselet w.m, club
Ivyhouse Lane, Coseley
W.Mid's WV14 9JH
Every Wed night
Newcomers welcome


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Old Vermin
Date: 04 Jan 11 - 07:41 AM

I am belatedly responding to Leadfingers 'singing to the book' in particular. No names, no pack drill, so I shan't say where this happened, and I have quite forgotten who it was.

Reading from an electronic notebook with a small screen can be pretty crippling to a performance. The man in question was seated - not a good start - bent over this infernal machine. He was leaning over to see the content - presumably a small font and to frequently hit the page down button for the shallow screen. You may imagine what this did to his singing voice, breath control, phrasing and audience rapport.

As a memory, very funny. Rather a bore at the time, though.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 04 Jan 11 - 07:49 AM

I have once seen the bass player in a jazz lineup headlined by a world-famous performer using an electronic display (a netbook of some sort, I think) for his score. It worked fine.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: RTim
Date: 04 Jan 11 - 08:57 AM

I recently saw a video of Richard Thompson - OBE!! - reading a song on stage!!
So if he can do it, why not anyone else?

Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,PeterC
Date: 04 Jan 11 - 09:39 AM

So if he can do it, why not anyone else?
Why can't everybody else play like Richard Thompson?

Performing from a score is a specific skill which some people have and most don't.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Midchuck
Date: 04 Jan 11 - 10:02 AM

In '07, George Jones came to the Rutland (Vermont) State Fair. It was the first time in 40+ years living in the vicinity that I'd paid to get into a grandstand event at the fair.

Mr. Jones is well over 70, and his liver is probably twice that age; but he still has it, in terms of voice, phrasing, etc. But I did notice that there were two large video monitors set up at floor level at the edge of the stage. I'm sure they gave him an ongoing display of his lyrics, even the ones he'd been singing for well over 50 years.

I still disapprove of singing in public from printed or displayed lyrics. I think most people can't get the hang of singing out at the audience while looking down at the book or screen, rather than singing down as well, and killing your projection. But if George can do it, then I guess we'll have to call it OK after a certain age.

Peter


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: EBarnacle
Date: 04 Jan 11 - 11:29 AM

Last Thursday, Lady Hillary and I went to an acoustic music Meetup. We came away with totally different experiences. The only exception was that the people there had a good, sociable, time.

Everyone there [except us] had all of the preposted repertoire either printed out or posted on their laptops. No nonposted music allowed or at least performed. There were several electrified instruments, including one bass, in a relatively small room. They were turned up. It took about 2 or 3 minutes to set up between each song. Everyone was performing lead, often badly.

As can be seen from my observations, while I participated, I did not particularly enjoy the evening. I enjoyed the sociablity of the evening. Full stop. Lady Hillary, on the other hand, saw this as a useful opportunity to learn guitar technique. There is value to both outlooks.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 04 Jan 11 - 12:22 PM

RUS?


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Maryrrf
Date: 04 Jan 11 - 12:39 PM

RUS = "Rise Up Singing" . It contains the lyrics to thousands of folk songs and is widely used at camp singarounds, etc. The problem is not really the book itself, but the way people use it. "Rise Up Singers" seem to have a tendency to feel that the RUS version is THE version, and no other will do. They often have made no attempt to actually learn the song, and they sing with their eyes glued to the book and with little or no personalization - i.e. they haven't made the song their own, but appear to be singing by rote. And there seems to be a compulsion to sing every single verse, no matter how long the song may be. So, instead of a singaround where you hear songs that people have actually put effort into learning, and perfecting their technique, meaning you might actually hear a new song or an interesting new version of a song, and pick up some pointers that will help your own singing, you just get a lot of people droning through selections from Rise Up Singing. Cheat sheets are okay, and as has been pointed out are widely used by professionals, but only as an aid that you can glance at to jog your memory. The best scenario is to have memorized the song and worked with it until you are comfortable with the lyrics, tempo, etc.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 04 Jan 11 - 02:00 PM

Quite a problem you seem to have there!
I've been to traditional English music clubs where I feel like the cheat for having learned the words. You feel like Brett Maverick at the church whist drive.

Im not sure what the answer is. I wouldn't want to be the one to dissuade anyone from singing, but an evening of it can really get on your nerves.

A song to me, is a bit like a Shakespeare speech - a soliloquoy in a play. It demands everything you've got under the bonnet, performance wise. However i think you simply have to accept that different people feel differently about it. It s a democracy and some people are content 'bawl the hymns' as Oscar wilde put it.

There is a strong feeling in English clubs that they are protecting the tradition, and as Martin carthy says - the main thing is that we sing these songs, the ultimate sin is to just neglect and ignore them.

Game of cards, anyone? Call me Brett!


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: stallion
Date: 04 Jan 11 - 02:06 PM

after me thirty years his nibs agrees with me, except that is what I thought thirty years ago, today i think a song should be "felt" and understood, we swopped positions!


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 04 Jan 11 - 03:47 PM

Yes almost always if it is for your personal reference and you don't impose song sheets and books on others if that is not the culture of the group.

Yes if you have set up the event, circle, camp, party. Do it however you like it and tell people in advance so they can come for the cookies and perhaps the music will not be to their liking but they like the people etc.

No if a group has existed for some time and it is their tradition not to use books. Do not ruin a good ongoing group by imposing group songbooks on them. This has happened all up and down the west coast of USA like a terrible virus and the good groups are pretty much gone except at private functions, which you and I might never hear about. I am talking not about using a book for your own personal reference but the practice (and I won't go to these places if I know in advance) of taking out the blue book and going to some song and telling everyone the page number and suffering through it, although others could enjoy it. mg


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Joe_F
Date: 04 Jan 11 - 06:40 PM

A compromise that I have encountered in some recent group sings is that the leader of the song may use a cheat sheet or book, but the rest either join in on what they (more or less) know or confine themselves to the chorus.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: EBarnacle
Date: 05 Jan 11 - 01:43 AM

Here's another Meetup group--the New York City meetup group. They define folk music as "from the 60's Woodstock era to the present." Similar in approach to what I described earlier. Am I missing something?

http://www.meetup.com/folk-47/

I'm with you on this one, mg.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,Desi C
Date: 05 Jan 11 - 12:17 PM

Much as I don't mind using a music stand, I should have added that looking down at a song book or computer screen as some have mentioned really is not a good thing, it does create bad technique and makes a nervous voice twice as bad. But copy the words onto an a-4 sheet and write then in large letters. Used with a music stand should mean little or no looking down. At our club we position the music stand for all who need it at the right ditance and level, done properly you should be able to see the words quite clearly and without any lowering of the head. With practise you can gradually learn to sing without it


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: The Sandman
Date: 05 Jan 11 - 01:09 PM

well there is a world of difference between reading the lyrics of a a song you have been singIng for 40 year[eg George Jones]and thinking you can do justice to a song that you may have discovered in a book the previous day.
The only people likely to do justice to the latter are highly skilled actors who are used to reading words and being able to interpret them, actors are used to reading scripts that perhaps they have only seen once or twice before, but that skill is beyond most floor singers.
Songs deserve to be treated with respect.
Al is right when he says that it is better that the songs are sung than not sung but.. what is better still is that the songs are sung well than badly, it is the difference between the highest common factor and the lowest common denominator.http://www.dickmiles.com


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Old Vermin
Date: 05 Jan 11 - 01:25 PM

Jack Campin notes a bass-player with a netbook.

Could a Kindle or similar be neatly fitted to a music-stand?


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: olddude
Date: 05 Jan 11 - 01:37 PM

Not Ok to use any book, it violates the 1954 standards LOL


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