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Any tips for working on phrasing?

olddude 22 Feb 10 - 11:12 AM
Anne Neilson 22 Feb 10 - 11:30 AM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 22 Feb 10 - 11:31 AM
olddude 22 Feb 10 - 11:35 AM
Little Robyn 22 Feb 10 - 01:23 PM
olddude 22 Feb 10 - 01:29 PM
olddude 22 Feb 10 - 01:53 PM
Seamus Kennedy 22 Feb 10 - 01:56 PM
Genie 22 Feb 10 - 02:13 PM
DonMeixner 22 Feb 10 - 02:25 PM
MikeL2 22 Feb 10 - 02:29 PM
Crowhugger 22 Feb 10 - 02:35 PM
Genie 22 Feb 10 - 02:37 PM
Genie 22 Feb 10 - 02:51 PM
jennyr 22 Feb 10 - 03:05 PM
olddude 22 Feb 10 - 03:06 PM
Murray MacLeod 22 Feb 10 - 03:34 PM
olddude 22 Feb 10 - 03:51 PM
mg 22 Feb 10 - 04:01 PM
Joybell 22 Feb 10 - 04:36 PM
Genie 22 Feb 10 - 11:05 PM
Genie 22 Feb 10 - 11:19 PM
GUEST 22 Feb 10 - 11:23 PM
Genie 23 Feb 10 - 11:14 PM
Crowhugger 24 Feb 10 - 10:27 AM
Will Fly 24 Feb 10 - 02:58 PM
Genie 24 Feb 10 - 08:28 PM
Crowhugger 24 Feb 10 - 10:56 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 24 Feb 10 - 11:01 PM
Genie 31 Mar 10 - 04:18 PM
TonyA 31 Mar 10 - 07:24 PM
Crowhugger 04 Aug 10 - 05:10 PM
Bobert 04 Aug 10 - 06:21 PM
sharyn 04 Aug 10 - 10:03 PM
Joe Offer 05 Aug 10 - 12:11 AM
Jim Carroll 05 Aug 10 - 07:42 AM
GUEST,mg 05 Aug 10 - 03:50 PM
Crowhugger 05 Aug 10 - 03:50 PM
GUEST,mg 05 Aug 10 - 03:55 PM
Jim Carroll 05 Aug 10 - 04:07 PM
sharyn 05 Aug 10 - 04:17 PM
Ebbie 05 Aug 10 - 04:40 PM
maeve 05 Aug 10 - 04:48 PM
GUEST,mg 05 Aug 10 - 06:52 PM
maeve 05 Aug 10 - 06:56 PM
Jim Carroll 05 Aug 10 - 07:37 PM
GUEST,mg 05 Aug 10 - 07:54 PM
GUEST,mg 05 Aug 10 - 08:00 PM
Artful Codger 05 Aug 10 - 11:00 PM
Jim Carroll 07 Aug 10 - 02:54 AM
GUEST,Phrasing 07 Aug 10 - 07:54 AM
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Subject: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: olddude
Date: 22 Feb 10 - 11:12 AM

Listening to my recordings, I mess up phrasing quite often, it is something my brain just does when performing. I tend to emphasis words that should not be and no emphasize words I should. I have got to fix that. How do real singers do it ... any tips? Other than have a real singer do it LOL

Thanks Dan


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: Anne Neilson
Date: 22 Feb 10 - 11:30 AM

I don't know if you sing with accompaniment, but I've sometimes noticed singers almost being forced into awkward phrasing because of a rhythmic and demanding backing (even when they're playing the instrument themselves, sometimes).
I suspect it should be easier for an unaccompanied singer, but you have to be able to hear what you're doing when practising. My starting point is to make myself thoroughly comfortable with a basic version of the tune - no words, at this point. I then begin to work up the lyrics, a verse at a time, and if they sound "clunky" I abandon the tune and read them aloud till they settle into the rhythm of speech. And with that pattern in my mind, I go back to my basic tune and juggle it about until I'm happy with the result.
And if you do sing with instrument(s), perhaps think about freeing up the accompaniment so that the song dictates what happens, rather than the singer being dragged along in the wake of the musician(s).
Hope this might be of some help.


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 22 Feb 10 - 11:31 AM

Practice by speaking the lyrics aloud.

Then sing like you are talking.

Works for me


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: olddude
Date: 22 Feb 10 - 11:35 AM

Great suggestions!, I play guitar and sing and sometime I just place the emphasis on the wrong words. Even worse they are all my own songs !! LOL ... I like these ideas, I will give them a try. It seems to happen no when I am sitting on my couch playing but during recording, then I will do the same thing when I play out.

Thank you


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: Little Robyn
Date: 22 Feb 10 - 01:23 PM

It might have something to do with nerves if it doesn't happen at home.
Robyn


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: olddude
Date: 22 Feb 10 - 01:29 PM

that maybe the case but i record at home. what i think it is I am not hearing it when sitting alone but when I record i can hear it so I think I am doing it all the time but only in playback to I really hear the phrasing issues. For example i will go loud on certain phrase where I should not or accent a certain syllable where I should not. Maybe reading out loud first is a good idea


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: olddude
Date: 22 Feb 10 - 01:53 PM

Ok
here is what I am talking about, this one I wrote called "Lightning Road", I am holding the rooooad part way too long and sluring many of the phrases, I didn't pick up on it until playback on a recording. I need to smooth out the phrasing on my songs I think ... I know I been driving everyone on the cat nuts lately with the music but I am trying to get everything as right as I can before I make a new CD of songs. I get a bit anal about this stuff I guess but I want anything I do to be the best I can make it. My last Cd had some production issues and it too was home grown

Lightning Road

Dan


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: Seamus Kennedy
Date: 22 Feb 10 - 01:56 PM

Dan, a lot of times, if you're not breathing correctly you won't phrase correctly.
Get the ol' diaphragm going, and see if it helps.

Seamus


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: Genie
Date: 22 Feb 10 - 02:13 PM

What Seamus said.

Also, if I have to sing a phrase that I'd like to do in one breath, but can't, I plan ahead of time where to sneak a breath in, in the least obtrusive place.   Otherwise I tend to run out of breath just where I don't want to.
Example:   "Silent Night." "All is calm, all is bright 'round yon virgin mother and child."   (Many people breathe after "virgin" as though there were a comma there and 3 people: virgin, mother, and child; but there should be no pause there.)   If I don't think ahead, I run out of breath between "virgin" and "Mother," so I try to take a good breath before "'round," and if I still run out of breath, I hold off till I can at least sing "'round yon virgin Mother (breath) and child."   (This song tends to be challenging for breathing because it's usually sung very slowly.)
The point is, if you don't plan where you're going to take your breaths (in choir, we often mark the places in our sheet music), you may find yourself sort of forced into unnatural or misleading phrasing when you get short of breath in an awkward place.


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: DonMeixner
Date: 22 Feb 10 - 02:25 PM

What Seamus said, and as you rehearse the song count beats and syllables. This holds true as you write a song as well.

D


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: MikeL2
Date: 22 Feb 10 - 02:29 PM

Hi dan

I listened to your clip and your phrasing doesn't sound too bad to me. But of course I don't know how you mean the song to sound.

There is some good advice here to help, especially about relaxing. When you are up-tight all kinds of things go on.

I would suggest too that you listen to people Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald who were masters/mistress of phrasing difficult songs. I know the music you do is not of that genre ( popular word here these days ) but it helped me.

The other thing Dan; do you still struggle to hit the phrasing as you would wish when you sing without accompanying yourself.??

Cheers

MikeL2


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: Crowhugger
Date: 22 Feb 10 - 02:35 PM

Olddude,
There's absolutely nothing inherently wrong with the phrasing in the song I heard thanks to the soundclick link you provided above. Nothing in your performance distracted me from the meaning, the story, the music. As a listener, any so-called imperfections only bother me when they interfere with being transported by the performance. I was transported the whole time, ergo nothing wrong!

Okay, so if you still want to phrase differently, certainly work/play with all the stuff that's been suggested already. I sing barbershop a lot as well as accompanied folkish stuff and I can attest to the fact that it IS easier to phrase according to the lyrics without a clockwork accompaniment than with one.

Following up on EKanne's and Tom Bliss' suggestions to practise freely speaking the lyrics: If there is a barbershop quartet or chorus in your neighbourhood (men's or women's) that's in the process of working up a slow tune, go have a listen. In that genre there is a great amount of push-pull of the rhythm of the slower tunes (for some reason they rarely do it as much with up-tempo songs). Anyway, if that option is open to you, you'll witness a room chock full of people struggling against the urge to sing according to even pulses, instead trying to use something much closer to speech rhythms. The lesson being that it's not an easy change to make. Keep in mind how many times you've sung songs in the clockwork kind of rhythm. You can expect to need more repetitions the new way to make it automatic despite nerves.

Good luck whatever interpretive paths you choose!

~CH.


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: Genie
Date: 22 Feb 10 - 02:37 PM

Also, don't be tied to the same pattern of beats, syncopation, etc., from one verse to another.
Some songs are deliberately written so that each line in a verse has exactly the same rhythmic pattern as its corresponding line in the next verse, but others aren't.
To make the lyrics sound best, you often have to vary those patterns for different lines, sometimes coming in on the first beat of a measure, sometimes pausing and syncopating, singing some phrases as triplets, etc.
This is a major reason why choral music is often written out over several pages, even though the melody basically repeats throughout.   What will change from page to page in the score is not the melody as such but the rests, the incidentals, the lengths of the notes, etc.   
To me, one of the most annoying things is to hear a song delivered in "sing-song" manner with the phrasing exactly the same from one line or verse to another even though that doesn't really fit what the lyrics are expressing.


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: Genie
Date: 22 Feb 10 - 02:51 PM

I agree with Crowhugger and Mike, Old Dude, that your phrasing works fine with that song.
It is very regular and predictable from verse to verse and verse to chorus, but that's not unusual for that kind of music.
If you want to sing the story more 'lyrically" (I think that's the word), you could try modulating the rhythm a little in places. E.g., on the chorus, instead of starting with "[Rest] you can SAY," you could omit the rest and make "You" a quarter note. There are a few other places where a line or phrase might be emphasized by breaking away from the usual rhythm.   Sometimes this draws attention to the lyrics/story and away from the melody as repeated pattern.   I'd just say toy around with it -- maybe without the instrumental backup -- till you find the phrasing that seems right to you.


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: jennyr
Date: 22 Feb 10 - 03:05 PM

I agree with all the above, particularly Genie's comments about not being tied to a set pattern for every verse.

If I'm having trouble with a particular song, I go over each verse like this:
- read or recite the words (line by line, if necessary) as if they were prose, until I've got them into a 'natural' rhythm
- sing the words to the notes of the melody, but with the same natural rhythm, ie not thinking at all about the beat, bar lines, etc
- start to fit the words to the rhythm of the song, varying the rhythm to put the important words at the points in the bar where the emphasis is (or sometimes varying bar lengths to fit the natural emphasis)


I don't accompany myself (not a good enough instrumentalist), but if I did, I wouldn't start to add that until I was completely happy with how the words were fitting. On the few occasions when I've had someone else accompanying me, the instrumental part has been a very late addition.


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: olddude
Date: 22 Feb 10 - 03:06 PM

Thank you so much, one of the things that really interested me is the breathing. that was a great great suggestion. I find in some songs I run short of air on holding some of the notes then break up the next line or so (slur) ... That I will work on also. There is some excellent advice here ... I truly appreciate it my friends

Dan


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 22 Feb 10 - 03:34 PM

Everybody gets their phrasing wrong sometimes.

One of the greatest phrasing screw-ups in folk music, which has been committed by almost everybody who has recorded Raglan Road, occurs on the final couplet ,

"When the angel woos the clay, he'll lose
His wings at the dawn of the day"

ALmost everybody puts a pause after "woos" and then sings "the clay he'll lose" as a single phrase, with a following pause, then the final line.

Makes a total nonsense of the meaning of the last two lines.

Even Luke Kelly wasn't exempt ...


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: olddude
Date: 22 Feb 10 - 03:51 PM

I just redid it an re-posted , I tried a little better breathing to get the words clearer based on what you nice folks told me to do. I am much happier with it by following your advice.


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: mg
Date: 22 Feb 10 - 04:01 PM

I love singsong songs and in fact I can't stand it when people take a song written singsongy and then try to get creative and to my ear make it ugly. My personal choice is not to sing stuff that does not have a strict rhythm and not to sing things that hit on the wrong syllable. To me the rhythm is the most important aspect of the music..not the words and not the melody but the rhythm and I hate it when it is irregular. mg


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: Joybell
Date: 22 Feb 10 - 04:36 PM

I agree, mg. Except that I would say that the rhythms, the words, and the melody are all linked in a well-crafted song. Too often these days song-writers go for message over the medium, I believe.
In a perfect song all three fit together without effort so that the voice and the instruments become the vehicle and not the main attraction. In a well crafted song -- or a speech -- or a play -- the breathing should not be a problem.

olddude -- If your phrasing works out when you're not nervous I'd say you're doing OK. Keep singing, keep playing, good luck.
Cheers, Joy


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: Genie
Date: 22 Feb 10 - 11:05 PM

Mary and Joybell, I think there are (at least) two distinct types of songs where phrasing is concerned: those that are meant to be "sing-song" and regular, with the repetitive rhythm being an integral part of the song, and those that are more fluid re how the lyrics fit the basic rhythm. A lot of songs have excellent lyrics that just plain don't 'scan' exactly the same with the tune from verse to verse.   
Of course it's a matter of taste whether one chooses to stick strictly to one type or the other. I think an awful lot of, if not most good music, would be abandoned if one sang or listened only to songs with a rigidly fixed pattern across all verses and across all melodic lines that used the same notes.

In general, I think that songs that tell very dramatic - or funny - stories often call for varying the pattern of the notes to fit the narrative.   Especially if the songwriter didn't "hear" sing-song regularity when writing the lyrics and melody.


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: Genie
Date: 22 Feb 10 - 11:19 PM

Here are two excellent examples of phrasing variations being used to wonderful effect within the same song:

Eric Bogle - No Man's Land (Green Fields Of France) sung in English and German By Eric Bogle and Wachol (German lyrics composed by Hannes Wader) .

Even within the English lyrics, Bogle varies his phrasing - within the basic rhythm of the song - to make the narrative conversational and powerful. The German lyrics' phrasing differs even more, probably because of differing phrasing patterns from language to language. 

But here's an even more 'lyrical' rendition of the same song by the songwriter himself:
Green Fields Of France (solo by Eric Bogle)


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: GUEST
Date: 22 Feb 10 - 11:23 PM

Oh ok so you are singing. Well then I'd break it down to how you would speak your words. What are you trying to say? "Girl, you're killing me" vs. "Girl, YOU'RE killing me," etc.


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: Genie
Date: 23 Feb 10 - 11:14 PM

Generally, yes. There are exceptions, where the emphasis in the song is phonal (sonal) rather than semantic. (Oh, heck. In plain English, sometimes the song is more about the sounds and rhythms than about the story or meaning of the lyrics.)

I can't think of any really good examples right now, except things like "Erie" morphing into "Ee-rye-ee" or "Amazing Grace" usually being sung with the accent on the "ing" syllable instead of the "maze" syllable (as would be the case in normal speech). But there are cases where the phrasing/syllabication/stress patterns are deliberately modified for effect.


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: Crowhugger
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 10:27 AM

Hey Dan I like both versions! Honestly though I couldn't say where the changes are without hearing the first one again, in fact I'd probably have to listen to them both a coupla times.

Making the sung rhythms more lyrical specifically to support the words or to make a contrast with them is a tried and true approach to interp. For example I might play around with speeding up the line that says something like 'catch me if you can' (maybe that's not the exact lyric there, but you know where I mean) since that lyric suggests speed, racing. I'd try 1 syllable per finger-pick, i.e. sing the end of that line all in 16th notes. Yes, the words will be finished earlier in relation to the instrumental than in your present versions.

A singer isn't obliged to put breaths only and always at the end of each line. It might work in places to carry through into a word or two, or more, of the next line. If this makes you shake your head because breath will become an issue:
(1) is there somewhere you'd like to add a feel of urgency, as I do with 'catch me' line? If so, such a spot is a candidate for a different breath pattern, perhaps by speeding up (part of) a line and adding a couple of words from the next line.(BTW this won't work for me with the 'catch me' line, since it feels clearly to be the end of a sentence & paragraph so to speak.)
(2) there might be a place mid-line to add a breath, which can really emphasize the word or phrase that follows--and once you've tanked up with air mid-line you'll be able to continue to mid-next-line; follow?

To find such opportunities, I like to write out the lyrics as one big run-on sentence, then punctuate as I wish completely without regard to accompaniment or previous versions etc. Then I compare my result to the original stanzas to see if it'll still reasonably fit the chords. I might find I want to repeat some words, or even leaving a half line or more of accompaniment without singing, another type of emphasis.

Whatever you try, record 'em all, sleep on 'em, listen to them when you're in different moods. Then go with what you love!

~CH.


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: Will Fly
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 02:58 PM

One of the problems that singer/guitarists run into - particularly (but not only) when they play the guitar fingerstyle - is that the concentration required for the guitar work can interfere with the concentration required for the singing. The ideal is to be able to play what you want to on guitar and sing what you want to - at the same time. So, if there's a problem, you have a choice:

1. You can accompany yourself with an arrangement that is simple enough not to have to worry about it - it becomes automatic - so that you can concentrate on the vocal without thinking about the guitar.

2. You become completely proficient with the guitar arrangement that, no matter how complex, it becomes second nature - so that, again, you can concentrate on the vocal.

In a way it's like playing two tunes on the piano simultaneously - one with the left hand and one with the right hand - or rubbing your stomach and patting your head. (I used to drill this into myself by playing a 4/4 boogie on the keyboard with my left hand while playing a tune in 3/4 with my right hand - and then see how long I could sustain it before it ended in chaos!).

One exercise I still do from time to time is to sing a song while, at the same time, playing a single note improvisation on the guitar. It's worth a try...


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: Genie
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 08:28 PM

Will, you're so right about that guitar-vocal coordination thing. This is one reason why some people prefer to lay down instrumental and vocal tracks separately when recording.

I have no problem whatsoever keeping the vocal phrasing I want when an instrument is playing a modulation of the tune or a different metric pattern of notes -- when someone else is playing the instrument.   I just haven't very well mastered the skill of having my hands playing a rhythm or melodic run that's quite different from what I'm singing.   That does take a lot of extra practice.

I think another way to master this is to practice the song slowly, note-for-note with the guitar (or whatever) playing one thing and the voice singing another. Breaking it up into short phrases to practice will probably help too.


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: Crowhugger
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 10:56 PM

Genie, that's exactly the crux of the practical side: the amount of skill (read: practice) required to take an imagined interpretation into the performance.
My guitar playing is not the driven, full-of-detail rhythm that Dan does so well, it's more sparse, yet still it's a job and a half for me to master singing a freer, more lyrical line over an even rhythm. But still I try because I like the result when I can 'get' it.

It has become a bit easier with practice.

~CH.


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 11:01 PM

Phrasing is personal. Or at least I hope it is. I like the idea of just saying the words without the melody. The Men's Chorus I sing in does everything by ear and memorization. We rarely use sheet music. When we learn a new song, our director Dan Williams will have us go through the words, just reciting them a couple of times. Sometimes we do it just from a lyric sheet, or if it's a hymn in the hymnal where we're going to lead the congregation, we'll read from the hymnal, getting the rhythm from the musical notations. At other times, he'll have us go through the music, reciting la, la, la rather than the words. In each case, he's trying to get us to focus on the two basic elements of the hymn... the melody (with rhythm) and the words.

I'd encourage you to break up the lines a little more, Dan and try to sing each word as an individual word, being careful not to run two or three words together. My focus shifts from letting the melody, guitar and images flow to deciphering what the three words in one are. There might be an individual song where you want the words and melody to flow seamlessly for some purpose, but genergally speaking, each word is owed its due.

Think of how you talk and listen to your rhythms. We all break sentences up into phrases, emphasizing words naturally. Singing to a melody is a little different, in that the instrument and melody lay the foundation for the words.

You might also try breaking up the rhythm of your songs. Some songs work fine with a flowing, uninterrupted accompaniment, but be playful with rhythm, too. I think your style tends to be more flowing and unchanging through your songs. That's fine, but I think you should just fool around with rhythm. Not all songs have to have a pronounced rhythm, but some lines and verses just naturally create their own rhtyhm. The example I like to give is from a song titled Haircuts and Attitudes by Timbuk Three. Their style is not yours, but if you just read the following verse through a few times, I think the rhythhm will come naturally:

The wet look, the dry look
The F.B.I. look
Heavy metal goldilocks trying to look tough

In the long run, your own style and the individual song will determine the phrasing.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: Genie
Date: 31 Mar 10 - 04:18 PM

Good example, Jerry. The title is actually "Hairstyles And Attitudes." Those lines illustrate your point quite well.


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: TonyA
Date: 31 Mar 10 - 07:24 PM

With songs that have tricky phrasing, especially old Trinidadian calypsos, I go through the written lyrics carefully and underline all the stressed syllables. Then I sing from that for a while till the rhythm becomes engrained.


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: Crowhugger
Date: 04 Aug 10 - 05:10 PM

Hey Olddude, how's it going? A few months have gone by and now I'm curious about whether you've reworked the phrasing on some more songs, and whether you like the "new" or the "old" version better.


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: Bobert
Date: 04 Aug 10 - 06:21 PM

I musta missed this thread before so if it's not too late to throw another 2 cents worth in I will...

As someone allready mentioned... Learn the song by talkin' it rather thahn singin' it with then geetar... Reember, a good song is first a good story...

My only other piece of advice is have the music so down that you don't have to think about it... If you can just trust yer hands to do the rightm thing that will free you up to spend yer energy deliverying the story the way you would like it to be delivered to you if it were another musican singin' it to you...

B~


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: sharyn
Date: 04 Aug 10 - 10:03 PM

I would say think about the words. Think about what you want to get across in each line. Many times there are choices of emphasis. For example, in Lucy Kaplansky's "The Tide" you have a chorus of

I have nothing for you tonight
I have nothing for you tonight
I have nothing for you tonight
I have nothing for you.

When I sing it, I sing:

I have NOTHING for you tonight.
I have nothing for YOU tonight.
I have nothing for you toNIGHT.
I have NOTHING for you.

My choices are driven by what I hear as the meaning of the lines.

And if you think, you can avoid phrasing errors like the one Murray McLeod cited in "Raqlan Road."


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 05 Aug 10 - 12:11 AM

It's been said in other ways above, but the way I explain phrasing for singing and poetry reading is that the meaning of the lyrics has to be of primary importance, and it's almost a good idea to pay no attention to the meter at all. If you read for meaning, the meter will come into play on its own.
If your guitar is leading you astray, strum only on the first downbeat of each measure. That will give you freedom within that measure.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 05 Aug 10 - 07:42 AM

The golden rule according to traditional singers we've interviewed is to "sing as you say where possible".
One way of getting it right is to talk through your text a few times first, then alternate with a line sung and a line spoken, then half a line.... etc.
Usually comes right in the end.
Biggest pitfalls are singing to accompaniment, as has been pointed out.
Learn the song without (maybe it works better that way anyway), then add accompaniment; but make sure accompaniment follows and doesn't lead.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 05 Aug 10 - 03:50 PM

it seems to me that if you have to work at it the song is written in a way that I won't call wrong, but I will call written in a way that I personally and probably many more people would cringe at...I think this justifies some editing. Usually I like leaving it like the person wrote it but if they wrote it that way it is uncomfortable to many ears, mine at least. I don't like it when singers "interpret" songs or phrase them funny. Nor do I like poetry that way. I think if we weren't supposed to singsong the midnight ride of Paul Revere the way that it is written he shouldn't have written it that way and it is great the way it is. So are songs that fall in to speaking rhythm, and I can't think of any great songs that don't frankly.

So again, to each her own and if it makes you happy fine and if it makes the audience happy fine but it won't make some of us happy if the rhythm and accents on syllables are off. mg


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: Crowhugger
Date: 05 Aug 10 - 03:50 PM

I like that point about making sure accompaniment follows and doesn't lead. Being a so-so guitarist limits what I can do with accompaniment and I have to consciously choose either KIS or practise the guitar bits till they're dead easy. Then put voice & instrument together. Cuz yes, it's usually about the story. I figure we wouldn't have this conversation about song whose chief reason for being is rhythm for dancing e.g.


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 05 Aug 10 - 03:55 PM

I can tell you that 90% of the songs I sing along with at least I have no idea what the story is. Oh pretty tune. Oh some nice words here and there. Oh a pretty image. Oh, fundamentally, first and foremost, a nice rhythm that mimics my heart beat or the pulse of the earth or whatever. mg


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 05 Aug 10 - 04:07 PM

"I can tell you that 90% of the songs I sing along with at least I have no idea what the story is"
Sorry mg - you're throwing away the pie and eating the wrapping - bon apetit
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: sharyn
Date: 05 Aug 10 - 04:17 PM

Just goes to show how different we all are. For me, the melody attracts me to a song, but, if I'm going to sing it, the words carry it. I am somewhat rhythm-impaired musically, but am attuned to the rhythms of speech and poetry. I never thought of choosing songs by "the rhythm method" or the groove.

Dylan has impeccable phrasing and command of language, even though some people don't like his singing. He writes the most natural dialog I have ever heard in songs. You might want to study his phrasing, or others mentioned above.


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: Ebbie
Date: 05 Aug 10 - 04:40 PM

Phrasing can be really offputting. I heard 'How Can I Keep from Singing' (I think it was- I don't actually know the lyrics) and she sang "comFORT". It is so easy to hold a note and then sing the word naturally.


"I can tell you that 90% of the songs I sing along with at least I have no idea what the story is"
Sorry mg - you're throwing away the pie and eating the wrapping - bon apetit" Jim Carroll

Here I am with Jim Carroll and sharyn all the way. If it has a pretty tune, perform it as an instrumental. If the words are not coherent, I have little interest in it. It would be worth writing a song with a pretty tune but inserting bizarre, out of context and obscene words and then mumble it. Wonder how long it would take someone who pays no attention to the words to catch on?


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: maeve
Date: 05 Aug 10 - 04:48 PM

Interestingly, mg's own songs combine a clearly pictured storyline with wonderful melody, phrasing, and rhythm. She may not look for story when she's singing along, but she certainly can capture wonderful vignettes in her writing!

m


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 05 Aug 10 - 06:52 PM

Oh thanks..you are so kind...

I am trying to think of the story to Lady Gregory which is on a cassette I have refound...something about exchanging rings and hers is of tin and his is of something better..and she prays Lord Gregory to let her in somewhere and they had a day at Capper Quin??? That is all I know of the song but I keep listening to it because it has a pretty tune sung by the beautiful voice of Anne B. mg


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: maeve
Date: 05 Aug 10 - 06:56 PM

Just the facts, Ma'am.

Look here, mg: One of two versions in the DT


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 05 Aug 10 - 07:37 PM

Guest mg
The ballad is known as Lord Gregory, or The Lass of Roch Royal (Child 76). Popular in Britain and America; earliest printed version first part of 18th century, but certainly much older. Chaucer used the story in his 'Man of Law's Tale' (Canterbury Tales) and probably got it from the tradition.
Best version imo is Elizabeth Cronin's of Cork, Ireland, but several other excellent versions available.
Very reduced version is 'Who's Going To Shoe Your Pretty Little Foot' (based on just a couple of verses of main ballad).
Story: Pregnant woman and child sail to lover's home in small boat, but are turned away by his mother. She sails away and both she and the child are drowned in the stormy sea. Mother tells son she has turned his lover and child (usually son) away, he cuses her.
Used with beautiful effect in John Houston's last film, 'The Dead'.
Tell us who was singing it on your tape and I'll try to put up a text, otherwise, will dig one out and put it up tomorrow.
G'night all.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 05 Aug 10 - 07:54 PM

It was Anne Byrne, she of the most beautiful voice ever, and her version seems similar or identical to the one Maeve linked to.

Actually, quite often I will read the lyrics and get the gist that way. I remember talking to Chris R. about a beautiful Scottish song and she said oh the one about the wounded birds..and I am going wounded birds? To me it was a song about love and Peggy's charms and autumn days. I could not have told you there was a bird in that song but it turns out there are all sorts.   But I do usually have some general knowledge..like it is about a shipwreck, a moonlicht nicht, a farmer in distress etc... mg


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 05 Aug 10 - 08:00 PM

I will say that I would not sing a beautiful song with ugly words. Case in point, translation of Oleeana. Absolutely gorgeous tune to my ears and incredibly stupid translation except for the one verse about the streets of gold, which is in all sorts of songs. And I would not sing a song with beautiful words but not a great tune..case in point..I had always wanted to hear the tune of My heart's in the highlands my heart is not here..I heard it and boy was I disappointed..although perhaps I did not hear the right tune. So I would be more inclined to sing a song with pretty darn good words with a beauutiful tune than vise versa and I would never intentionally sing a song where the words did not fit right into the tune or were crammed in etc. I just go ouch whenever that happens, and I also go ouch when someone takes a song that fits nicely into the tune and messes with it, draws out parts etc. mg


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: Artful Codger
Date: 05 Aug 10 - 11:00 PM

Speech patterns are important for phrasing, but they're only part of the art of good phrasing--and so patently obvious that only the oblivious need that advice. After the phrasing is adjusted to make the meaning clear, words sensibly grouped and cadence somewhat natural, the purpose of phrasing becomes to provide aural interest--and this often contravenes the "sing as you speak" common wisdom. I have heard many singers sing as they speak, and the result (as with their speech) is tedium. It is more useful, to my mind, to use phrasing as a magician uses misdirection--to focus the listener's attention on whatever the singer wants to emphasize at that particular moment. A song well-phrased should be interesting even if you can't understand a single word.


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 07 Aug 10 - 02:54 AM

AC
"often contravenes the "sing as you speak"
Totally agree with you, but I think that it is importand not to let whatever you do interfere with the sense of the song, which can happen.
I still hold to the idea that that the singer is a storyteller and the primary aim is to pass on that story. In Ireland, the old singers used to talk about 'telling' a song rather than singing it.
West of Ireland singer Tom Lenihan explained to us how he would use humming sounds to fit words where they wouldn't scan in the tune - some lovely examples if you can ger to hear him sing on the albums he was on 'Paddy's Panacea', 'Mount Callan Garland' or 'Around The Hills of Clare'. Not only does it help with the scancion, but it can keep the listener's attention by keeping their ear working, without interrupting the sense of the song.
Jim Carroll

Anyway - Lord Gregory as sung by Elizabeth Cronin of County Cork.

Lord Gregory
1. I am a king's daughter that strayed from Cappoquin
In search of Lord Gregory, may God I'll find him in!
The rain beats at my yellow locks, the dew wets me still,
The babe is cold in my arms, Lord Gregory let me in!

2.   Lord Gregory is not here and henceforth can't be seen,
He is gone to bonny Scotland to bring home his new queen.
Leave now those windows, and likewise this hall,
For it's deep in the sea you should hide your downfall!

3. Who'll shoe my babe's little feet, who'll put gloves on her hands,
And who'll tie my babe's middle with a long and green band?
Who'll comb my babe's yellow locks with an ivory comb,
And who'll be my babe's father till Lord Gregory comes home?

4. I'll shoe your babe's little feet, I'll put gloves on her hands,
And I'll tie your babe's middle with a long and green band.
I'll comb your babe's yellow locks with an ivory comb,
And I'll be your babe's father till Lord Gregory comes home.
Leave now those windows, and likewise this hall,
For it's deep in the sea you should hide your downfall!

5. Do you remember, Lord Gregory, that night at Cappoquin,
When we both changed pocket handkerchiefs, and that against my will?
Yours was pure linen, love, and mine was coarse cloth;
Yours cost one guinea, love, and mine but one groat.

6. Do you remember, Lord Gregory, that night at Cappoquin,
When we both changed rings of our fingers, and that against my will?
Yours was pure silver, love, and mine was block tin;
Yours cost one guinea and mine but one cent.

7. Do you remember, Lord Gregory, that night in my father's hall,
When you stole away my fond heart, and that was worse than all?
Leave now those windows, and likewise this hall,
For it's deep in the sea you should hide your downfall!

8. My curse on you mother, and my curse it being sore,
For I dreamt the lass of Ocram came knocking to my door!
Lie down, you foolish son, and lie down and sleep,
For it's long ago her weary locks are waving in the deep!

9. Come, saddle me the black horse, the brown or the bay!
Come, saddle me the best horse in my stable this day!
Till I'll range over valleys, over mountains so wide
Until I find the lass of Ocram and lie by her side.


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Subject: RE: Any tips for working on phrasing?
From: GUEST,Phrasing
Date: 07 Aug 10 - 07:54 AM

I had a similar problem, especially with Luke Kelly songs which I love to do. I read that he pretty much taught himself to sing better as he was very keen on clear diction and he used vocal exercises.

I devised my own and do them 5 or 6 times a week, only need about ten minutes each time. Even just doing the scales, Do Reh Mi Fah So Lah Ti Doh, firstly 3 times in your lowst voice, 3 times in your normal tone, and three times in the highest tone but don't over strain on that one. Next do the scales again ten times getting ncreasingly fast on eact one. then scales again but very slow makng eggagerate voel sounds with your mouth, i.e really shape your mouth on a Doh for instance loud for about 6 seconds, inceasing he lenght ever couple of days (I'm up to 14 seconds on each one now, 30 if I try harder, but stop short of getting out of breath. You can devise your own or put a earch in on line and you'll find free progs on it. In just a couple of weeks you should notice much better volume in your voice and your phrasing and timing will follow naturally. good luck

Desi C


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