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New unaccompanied songs?

GUEST,LDT 19 Oct 10 - 04:23 AM
GUEST,LDT 19 Oct 10 - 04:28 AM
theleveller 19 Oct 10 - 04:31 AM
GUEST,Heeleylass 19 Oct 10 - 04:37 AM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 19 Oct 10 - 04:39 AM
nutty 19 Oct 10 - 05:00 AM
nutty 19 Oct 10 - 05:01 AM
GUEST,Steamin 19 Oct 10 - 05:10 AM
theleveller 19 Oct 10 - 05:10 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 19 Oct 10 - 05:11 AM
GUEST,LDT 19 Oct 10 - 05:26 AM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 19 Oct 10 - 05:44 AM
GUEST,LDT 19 Oct 10 - 05:51 AM
theleveller 19 Oct 10 - 06:12 AM
theleveller 19 Oct 10 - 06:20 AM
Liberty Boy 19 Oct 10 - 06:40 AM
GUEST,LDT 19 Oct 10 - 06:47 AM
GUEST,Banjiman 19 Oct 10 - 06:52 AM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 19 Oct 10 - 06:54 AM
GUEST,LDT 19 Oct 10 - 07:00 AM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 19 Oct 10 - 07:12 AM
The Sandman 19 Oct 10 - 07:28 AM
Vic Smith 19 Oct 10 - 07:41 AM
pavane 19 Oct 10 - 08:17 AM
Sailor Ron 19 Oct 10 - 09:42 AM
GUEST,schlimmerkerl 19 Oct 10 - 10:08 AM
Suegorgeous 19 Oct 10 - 11:57 AM
The Sandman 19 Oct 10 - 12:02 PM
GUEST,LDT 19 Oct 10 - 12:04 PM
Suegorgeous 19 Oct 10 - 12:18 PM
Little Robyn 19 Oct 10 - 02:50 PM
WalkaboutsVerse 19 Oct 10 - 05:00 PM
henryclem 19 Oct 10 - 05:19 PM
s&r 19 Oct 10 - 06:31 PM
Tootler 19 Oct 10 - 07:24 PM
Artful Codger 19 Oct 10 - 07:30 PM
GUEST,LDT 20 Oct 10 - 06:11 AM
Tootler 20 Oct 10 - 06:20 AM
RoyH (Burl) 20 Oct 10 - 06:36 AM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 20 Oct 10 - 06:36 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 20 Oct 10 - 06:39 AM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 20 Oct 10 - 06:43 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 20 Oct 10 - 07:24 AM
sciencegeek 20 Oct 10 - 09:28 AM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 20 Oct 10 - 09:54 AM
GUEST,LDT 20 Oct 10 - 10:39 AM
theleveller 20 Oct 10 - 11:02 AM
GUEST,LDT 21 Oct 10 - 04:58 AM
Suegorgeous 21 Oct 10 - 05:18 AM
Mingulay 21 Oct 10 - 12:48 PM
Artful Codger 21 Oct 10 - 06:51 PM
GUEST,Frug 21 Oct 10 - 07:36 PM
GUEST,LDT 22 Oct 10 - 04:24 AM
Paul Davenport 22 Oct 10 - 05:34 AM
theleveller 22 Oct 10 - 06:17 AM
GUEST,LDT 22 Oct 10 - 06:22 AM
Marje 22 Oct 10 - 06:46 AM
acegardener 22 Oct 10 - 06:56 AM
GUEST,LDT 22 Oct 10 - 07:00 AM
theleveller 22 Oct 10 - 07:09 AM
GUEST,LDT 22 Oct 10 - 07:21 AM
GUEST,Gail 22 Oct 10 - 08:15 AM
Paul Davenport 22 Oct 10 - 08:23 AM
theleveller 22 Oct 10 - 08:49 AM
theleveller 22 Oct 10 - 08:56 AM
GUEST,LDT 22 Oct 10 - 08:58 AM
GUEST,LDT 22 Oct 10 - 04:32 PM
Georgiansilver 22 Oct 10 - 04:49 PM
WalkaboutsVerse 22 Oct 10 - 05:48 PM
GUEST,LDT 22 Oct 10 - 06:06 PM
WalkaboutsVerse 22 Oct 10 - 06:20 PM
Tootler 22 Oct 10 - 06:36 PM
Georgiansilver 23 Oct 10 - 03:59 AM
GUEST,LDT 23 Oct 10 - 07:57 AM
WalkaboutsVerse 23 Oct 10 - 04:04 PM
GUEST,LDT 25 Oct 10 - 04:53 AM
Marje 25 Oct 10 - 05:31 AM
GUEST,LDT 25 Oct 10 - 05:47 AM
Tootler 25 Oct 10 - 06:53 PM
GUEST,LDT 26 Oct 10 - 03:55 AM
theleveller 26 Oct 10 - 07:50 AM
WalkaboutsVerse 26 Oct 10 - 05:52 PM
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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: GUEST,LDT
Date: 19 Oct 10 - 04:23 AM

Okay...random questions:
Does anyone write any contemporary 'traditional' style unaccompanied songs these days? Is the stock of songs being topped up? Or is it out of fashion? Were the songs of the past ever specifically written not to be accompanied or were they meant to have a tune?


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: GUEST,LDT
Date: 19 Oct 10 - 04:28 AM

And to qualify the question: I have been listening to folk song a day....and feel inspired to attempt to write a song. So this is my research. To see if I really should and how to approach it. I'm afraid I might end up with a poem rather than a song.


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: theleveller
Date: 19 Oct 10 - 04:31 AM

Yes, I do from time to time and I know a few other people who also write great songs. Most of my songs are based on events, legends and history of the East Riding of Yorkshire.

This one was based on the story of an old Wolds farmer I knew many years ago:

Jack and Jill


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: GUEST,Heeleylass
Date: 19 Oct 10 - 04:37 AM

Yes, lots. Have you heard Pilgrimage by Jess Arrowsmith? It's been done by Crucible, The Fagans and will be appearing on Paul & Liz Davenport's new album. Just one of many examples I can think of.


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 19 Oct 10 - 04:39 AM

"I'm afraid I might end up with a poem rather than a song."

You could pinch a traditional melody you know and work the song round that? I think that's pretty much what many of the old broadsheet ballad writers used to do.

But it's a good question, what features make a traditional song sound traditional? And how do people currently writing in the traditional idiom go about composing new unaccompanied songs?

I think there's quite a lot of potential scope for contemporary unaccompanied songs, particularly as song cycles for small theatre productions.


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: nutty
Date: 19 Oct 10 - 05:00 AM

I've just produced a CD featuring 20 unaccompanied songs that I have written.
M


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: nutty
Date: 19 Oct 10 - 05:01 AM

slippy fingers again

To continue.......
Many of which are mistaken for 'traditional songs'


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: GUEST,Steamin
Date: 19 Oct 10 - 05:10 AM

I thought about your original question for a while as I reckon I do write them.

On reflection, I think I use the easy ballad tune and style mainly when I write humorous or parody material. I doubt I have written serious material with it. Years ago, I used to sing Ron Angel's "Chemical Worker's Song" unaccompanied, but my material would be comedy or singing traditional verse unaccompanied.

Serious songs of my own I leave to the guitar, as I don't feel just my voice could put over the thought patterns I wish a serious song to portray. (Would help if I could sing better, but there you go....)


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: theleveller
Date: 19 Oct 10 - 05:10 AM

Nutty's songs are great!


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 19 Oct 10 - 05:11 AM

Old fishing or mining disasters seem to provide excellent subject matter for trad. sounding songs. Have you heard the one about the great North Sea fishing/mining disaster of 1893? Apparently a County Durham coal mine was extended too far out under the sea (due the the recklessness of the cruel owners, of course). The roof of the mine caved in, 1100 miners were drowned, and a quarter of the North Sea fishing fleet blew out of the ground, on the top of a water-spout, somewhere Consett. I sing it to the tune of 'Searching for Lambs'.


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: GUEST,LDT
Date: 19 Oct 10 - 05:26 AM

"But it's a good question, what features make a traditional song sound traditional? And how do people currently writing in the traditional idiom go about composing new unaccompanied songs?"

Exactly.
Does having a chorus or a certain number of verses have a bearing?


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 19 Oct 10 - 05:44 AM

I'd be interested in this too.
Key features such as rhythm, structure, themes and so-on.

For those interested in working in 'the traditional idiom' I think Leveller made a good point about where he draws his own inspiration from. I'm sure anyone can write about anything they fancy, but a good start point would no doubt be to look at the local history and stories heralding from your local area.
I think Demdyke featuring Sailor Ron, Ross Campbell, Rapunzel and Suibhne of this forum do just that: Demdyke


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: GUEST,LDT
Date: 19 Oct 10 - 05:51 AM

To fit the trad style is it always about an event or can it be about a person?


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: theleveller
Date: 19 Oct 10 - 06:12 AM

"can it be about a person?"

It can be about anything you like. I've just finished a song about my disreputable greatx5 grandfather, a seafaring man who drowned after being being blown by a gale into the Old Harbour in Hull whilst returning to his boat from the Old Black Boy Inn the worse for drink. The story emerged whan my cousin was researching the family history and came across a cutting, dated 1833, from a local newspaper. The secret is just to look around for something that really interests or amuses you - whilst you should try to get the fact right, it's perfectly acceptable to embellish them for dramatic impact (think newspaper articles). Try to get as much detail and local colour in as possible . Here's an example of a couple of verses from the above song:


I've sailed on every kind of ship from Billy Boy to Bark.
I've worked with lascars, packet-rats and many a chis'lling shark
And if I hadn't dodged the press gangs that were waiting in the dark
Those Frenchies would have been the death of me.

Chorus
Let the wind blow up and down
From the River Hull to the whaling ground
In the Black Boy I'll be found
For I do love strong beer.

As first mate on a whaler I was there at Baffin Fair
When we got drunk and Tommy Hunt got eaten by a bear
And I tell you, I'll be buggered if I ever go back there,
For the whaling lark will be the death of me.


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: theleveller
Date: 19 Oct 10 - 06:20 AM

I've just recalled some advice that may be helpful, which was given to me by that ace songwriter, Dave Goulder. He said that you should never used hackneyed or obvious phrases - always try to find a different way of saying things and, if it's a story song, make sure that it has a bit of a twist or a poignancy that sticks in the listener's mind.

Good advice, I reckon.


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: Liberty Boy
Date: 19 Oct 10 - 06:40 AM

In Ireland there are dozens of people writing songs in the traditional idiom, some of which are on their way into the repertoire of singers of traditional songs.


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: GUEST,LDT
Date: 19 Oct 10 - 06:47 AM

Another question...is the difference between traditional stylee and a modern stylee songs that modern seems to be first person (focused on the writer) whereas trad is more focused on other people? Or am I getting confused?


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: GUEST,Banjiman
Date: 19 Oct 10 - 06:52 AM

Try this one, written by Mrs Banjiman and has been picked up and sung by a few others.


Sleep Weel til' Morning

It is in the first person and definitely not a ballad but I think undeniably trad sounding.

Leveller, Jack & Jill is sounding as good as ever!


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 19 Oct 10 - 06:54 AM

There are plenty of trad. songs composed in the first person, all those lasses who've got pregnant and then feel abused by a false love or what-not for starters. But what you seem to get is more 'this is my story' and a detailing of events to the listener first person, rather than the kind of introspective reflection of the 'me thinking about me and my states of mind' kind of first person.


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: GUEST,LDT
Date: 19 Oct 10 - 07:00 AM

"But what you seem to get is more 'this is my story' and a detailing of events to the listener first person, rather than the kind of introspective reflection of the 'me thinking about me and my states of mind' kind of first person."

That's exactly it. That's what I meant. You put it much more succinctly than me.


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 19 Oct 10 - 07:12 AM

Sorry, I get your point now. I think we were saying the same thing just in different ways!


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: The Sandman
Date: 19 Oct 10 - 07:28 AM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxYiz-6PijM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=peA18SO9afU both of these work unaccompanied as do many of my songs, such as wages of death, jack the lad, battle of bosworth field, nearly all available in my songbook from my websitehttp://www.dickmiles.com


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: Vic Smith
Date: 19 Oct 10 - 07:41 AM

Michael Marra's outstanding Muggie Sha'

Lyrics here.


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: pavane
Date: 19 Oct 10 - 08:17 AM

A lot of songs will work unaccompanied, whether in the "folk" genre or not. For example, Mrs Pavane used to sing "Don't cry for me, Argentina" in folk clubs.


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: Sailor Ron
Date: 19 Oct 10 - 09:42 AM

Not being 'bright' enough to 'do' tunes I regard myself as a 'wordsmith'. I always work with a 'trad' tune in my head, thw words are then put out to musicians. Some accompanied, some unaccompanied, what to use, guitar, fiddle, concertina, or just voice surley depends on the song and the performer[s], I don't think you can be dogmatic on this subject. All I will say, as I said to WAV some time ago, is the traditional instrument for traditional English folk song is the voice!


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: GUEST,schlimmerkerl
Date: 19 Oct 10 - 10:08 AM

Dave Webber is writing and performing some good ones. First time i heard "Bonnet and Shawl" i was sure it was old. I was in Ireland recently, and suffice to say the "tradition" is alive and well-- in both English and Gaeilge.


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: Suegorgeous
Date: 19 Oct 10 - 11:57 AM

I'm not sure I could actually set out to write a trad-sounding unaccompanied song. I wrote one song, attempting to give it a bluesy feel and with no particular intention of it being sung accompanied - and it turned out to be very firmly folky (my peers tell me!), and definitely only works unaccompanied.

So now I'm not sure I'm capable of writing things to a brief...


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: The Sandman
Date: 19 Oct 10 - 12:02 PM

well most uk trad sounding songs, use dorian or mixolydian or the major scale.so there is a starting point
however other traditions do use other modes, the flamenco tradition is quite interesting as one of its modes is also shared by heavy metal bands


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: GUEST,LDT
Date: 19 Oct 10 - 12:04 PM

Heavy metal flamenco...there's a thought. ;)


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: Suegorgeous
Date: 19 Oct 10 - 12:18 PM

Unfortunately I find much music theory, scales, etc difficult to understand, let alone use intuitively to write from...


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: Little Robyn
Date: 19 Oct 10 - 02:50 PM

Suegorgeous, find yourself a piano somewhere, find middle C, now the next note up is D. Play the white notes only from D to d and you have just played a Dorian scale! If you can get that sound into your memory banks, then work your tune around it, that should sound 'folky'! And if you want Mixolydian, find the G, play a scale on the white notes only and there you are. And if you do the same from A, you're playing/singing in the Aolian mode.
An 8 note scale from any white note on the piano has a modal name, tho' some sound very strange and very few people ever use them.
It's not the 'experts' way but I find it a very easy way of hearing what the modes should sound like, then I just move that sound to any singable starting note. Then you don't have to talk about C Dorian or D Mixolydian or any other fancy words, you just hear it in your head and start singing it from where you are comfortable.
Robyn


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: WalkaboutsVerse
Date: 19 Oct 10 - 05:00 PM

With my Chants from Walkabouts I simply found a way to sing the verses unaccompanied, before I knew how to play, read or write music; then I began mimicking my voice with tenor-recorder and keys, before writing them down in a simple letter notation - e.g.


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: henryclem
Date: 19 Oct 10 - 05:19 PM

All my songs are unaccompanied (I've recorded 40 of them) and there is no conscious process of making them sound like folk songs; just the way they come out - having been steeped (up to my eyebrows) in the tradition at a very early age ... have a listen :                                                http://www.myspace.com/henryclements

Henry


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: s&r
Date: 19 Oct 10 - 06:31 PM

Pleasant tunes well sung Henry

Stu


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: Tootler
Date: 19 Oct 10 - 07:24 PM

Because I mostly play instruments that I put in my mouth, then accompanying myself singing is a little difficult, so I sing unaccompanied for the most part. I sometimes use a harmonica to provide instrumental "fills" between verses and I also have a shruti box which provides a drone accompaniment which works well on some songs.

I have tried accompanying myself with an anglo concertina, but I have found it a struggle (think pat your head and rub your tummy - or vice versa!) so I just use it for tunes now.

I find that most songs will work unaccompanied even those that the guitar freaks insist you must accompany.

I don't write songs (I have started to write a song on a few occasions but I have eventually got stuck on every occasion). I do put tunes to existing words and am finding Broadsides a good source of words. I mostly write my own tunes, but have on occasion used existing traditional tunes.


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: Artful Codger
Date: 19 Oct 10 - 07:30 PM

My songs are usually old poems for which I've written traditional-sounding tunes. Most are designed specifically to sound "period" and thus to be sung unaccompanied; and indeed, they would suffer (in my opinion) if they were accompanied. Some others I sing unaccompanied although they would be suitable for, possibly even improved by, competent instrumental accompaniment.

I often write "modal" tunes or mixed-mode tunes because I get so tired of major/minor fixity. For instance, I wrote a verse tune for "Bark Gay Head" which contrasts with the chorus tune ("Root, Hog or Die") both in having a different meter (duple vs. triple) and mode (Mixolydian vs. major). My tune for "Disheartened Ranger" is in Dorian, slipping ad libitum into Mixolydian. My latest song is "Old Buck's Ghost," with a tune in Dorian and its relative Lydian. When a text has a relentlessly regular metrical pattern, a modal tune can add some needed spice.

I prefer writing unaccompanied tunes because the singer has more freedom with the timing and expression, and I like how a single voice can suggest a full harmonic context through alternate melody notes and ornamentation. And there is less intrusion between the listener and the story--it's less likely to become overwhelmed by either the musical setting or the performer's ego. Adding typical instrumental accompaniment to either of these last two songs would kill them, or at least remove them from the singing tradition they were written within.


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: GUEST,LDT
Date: 20 Oct 10 - 06:11 AM

Do they have to rhyme?


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: Tootler
Date: 20 Oct 10 - 06:20 AM

Normally songs rhyme, but occasionally you get ones that don't. A good example of one that doesn't rhyme is Dirty Old Town.


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: RoyH (Burl)
Date: 20 Oct 10 - 06:36 AM

Why write an 'unaccompanied song'? Why not just write a song? Singers will decide whether to accompany or not.


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 20 Oct 10 - 06:36 AM

Probably most of the trad. songs I sing do rhyme, though I've never really thought about that one. But when rhyming, remember the value of 'poetic license'. I think the only thing that matters is that any rhyming words have a similarish sound. So if you broadly hit either the consonants or vowel sounds, that should do it.


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 20 Oct 10 - 06:39 AM

Isn't there a competition for newly composed unaccompanied songs in Newcastle? Maybe WAV can tell us more...

*

Working with Ron has changed my view of the nature of Traditional Song in general; my post-revival notion is that The Tradition is not so much the songs as the idiom in which they were composed and subsequently adapted into the multiplicity of versions that have come down to us, hitherto accounted for by so nebulous, patronising and misleading a notion as the folk process. The Tradition, far from being statically passive (as suggested by Sharp etc.) was highly creative, dynamic and mutable from one performance to another. As a writer Ron is immersed in 'The Taditition' as a craftsman; he is a latter day Tommy Armstrong, enriched by his vernacular parochialism, which is, I feel, the very essence of such material.

I like what Nutty does too; she sang a beauty at the Durham Folk Party Saturday night sing this year which involved Sunderland. Forgive me, Nutty - the details elude me, but the impressions remain vivid enough! Perhaps you might enlighten me as to what it was??

*

My favourite non-traditional unaccompanied song:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gp6gxPqCUQ


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 20 Oct 10 - 06:43 AM

"Why write an 'unaccompanied song'? Why not just write a song? Singers will decide whether to accompany or not."

Songs written with accompaniament aren't always easy to reproduce unaccompanied. When people try to sing a song crafted with accompaniament by pulling the words out of the tune you can sometimes hear the 'holes' where the music should be.

Writing a song with the unaccompanied singer in mind from the start means none of that complication, and of course it doesn't necessarily preclude someone adding accompaniament later anyway.


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 20 Oct 10 - 07:24 AM

CS - check that link in my last post; I think you could sing this to perfection.


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: sciencegeek
Date: 20 Oct 10 - 09:28 AM

Speaking from our humble experience as a capella singers, there are plenty of fine tunes that sound great without accompaniment... and it's not that hard to write a tune with those same qualities. Mike (the hubby) has done some fine tunes for C Fox Smith poems - both with and without backup instruments.

So it is more the nature of the lyrics and their presentation that determines if you want to go a capella or not. Realizing, of course, that your voice is the prime instrument that makes it a song rather than a poem.


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 20 Oct 10 - 09:54 AM

Heh, yes I like!
Like beat poetry crossed with some archaic invocation. A thread about unaccompanied songs from genres other than folk might be rather interesting, particularly modern compositions.


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: GUEST,LDT
Date: 20 Oct 10 - 10:39 AM

I gave it a go (writing a song) and its all written in my little 'ideas' book*...not sure if it should see the light of day yet. [Most of it came to me in a dream] It's about a bully and how his actions affect others. Got a chorus I like though.

"He bawled and he blustered, shouted and swore.
Always looking for someone to blame."




*ideas book, contains sketches, tunes, poems interesting words names etc.and names of tunes/songs I really aught to look up plus anything 'inspirational I hear or see.


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: theleveller
Date: 20 Oct 10 - 11:02 AM

Yeah, an ideas book is great - I've got one where I jot down lines or ideas for songs and put them together bit by bit (often on the train). It's amazing how you can be scanning through it and something you wrote months before sparks off a complete song.


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: GUEST,LDT
Date: 21 Oct 10 - 04:58 AM

I sometimes wonder if when I kick the bucket if someone will find my ideas book and find it useful.


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: Suegorgeous
Date: 21 Oct 10 - 05:18 AM

"I sometimes wonder if when I kick the bucket if someone will find my ideas book and find it useful. "

That sounds like a song line/idea in itself!


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: Mingulay
Date: 21 Oct 10 - 12:48 PM

Many years ago I sang a song I had written in the Middle Bar at Sidmouth. When I had wheezed my way through it someone said to me that he thought he had read all of Burns' poems but had not come across that one before. I had to tell him that it was not by Burns but mine own. Needless to say I was inwardly glowing at the thought of being compared with the great man. Never happened before or since of course.

I often have random thoughts that I think would make a good song, unfortunately 99.99% remain that way.


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: Artful Codger
Date: 21 Oct 10 - 06:51 PM

It's a great compliment when you've rewritten major chunks of old songs and no one notices: when it seems to them as if that's how the songs must always have been. I've heard many rewrites that stick out like a zebra in a tutu.


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: GUEST,Frug
Date: 21 Oct 10 - 07:36 PM

Try this.....................??

http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/video/video.php?v=390491200845


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: GUEST,LDT
Date: 22 Oct 10 - 04:24 AM

I've only written tunes on their own so far (well I recorded me playing them and a kind soul transcribed them for me) and I used to write 'fan fiction' stories. I've tried poetry although they are rather of the william mcgonagall type. Any attempt so far of writing words and tune for an instrument (I play melodeon & concertina) have failed.
I don't think I'd ever write something that would fool anyone into thinking it was traditional. I've listened to too much pop music and I think that's tainted my musicality.


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 22 Oct 10 - 05:34 AM

As Heeleylass commented above, Liz and I just recorded Jess Arrowsmith's 'Pilgrimage'. But we do it accompanied! I just gave Anni Fentiman a lullaby which I wrote and which she sings unaccompanied, called 'Iron Angels'. Dave and Anni took our 'Under the Leaves' to USA and found themselves in a high powered ballads forum at MIT. They sang our song and had the satisfaction of seeing, albeit momentarily, 60 pairs of academic eyebrows hit the ceiling as they thought they'd missed one! I think Suibhne has got it dead right. The tradition has a lot to do with the idiom. In writing traditional sounding songs you need to put aside any ideas of letting the world know what a great writer you are and instead write in a doggerel fashion with shorter words. Then its up to the rest of the world to finish it for you. I've heard at least five versions of 'Under the Leaves' and they're already all different.


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: theleveller
Date: 22 Oct 10 - 06:17 AM

I've never actually set out with the deliberate intention of making a song sound traditional (with possibly one exception, which has a medieval theme) and I never try to pretend that they are. There have been times when they've been sung by others and passed off as traditinal but it has never been my intention of creating 'fakelore' of any sort - I feel that to do so would be dishonest.

I disagree with Paul that writing in doggerel fashion makes a song sound traditional - there's a danger that it will either turn out boring or be a pastiche. Anyone interested in the styles and content which are essentially English should read Peter Ackroyd's book 'Albion - The Origins of the English Imagination'.


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: GUEST,LDT
Date: 22 Oct 10 - 06:22 AM

What do you mean 'doggerel'?


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: Marje
Date: 22 Oct 10 - 06:46 AM

From the point of view of someone who loves, sings and listens to songs but does not write them, a couple of things to watch if you're attempting to write a song:
1) New songs are often too long. If it's a long ballad-style song that tells a tale, it may need to be on the long side, but if it's not, make it four of five verses max, particularly if there's a chorus. The "folk process" has a habit of whittling down songs to their essentials, but when this hasn't had chance to happen, newer songs are often too long, with too much padding. Far better to make it short and leave 'em wanting more.
2) Get a really good tune. If you can write one, that's great, but if not, there are hundreds of good traditional tunes out there that either have no words or words that (probably for good reasons) are rarely sung. Even some hymn tunes are worth pinching or adapting. New songs often have tunes that are formulaic and forgettable, so even if the lyrics are good, they don't stand a chance if paired with a feeble melody.

Marje


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: acegardener
Date: 22 Oct 10 - 06:56 AM

I find some Mark Knophfler's lyrics fit easily into unaccompanied mode.

Try out Madame Geneva's it's about a writer of ballads.

Cannot find an unaccompanied version but here is the full monty
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_QpALGgYiZI

Whats more it is not long enough to bore the pants off the audience.


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: GUEST,LDT
Date: 22 Oct 10 - 07:00 AM

Length won't be a problem...I have a short attention span. ;)


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: theleveller
Date: 22 Oct 10 - 07:09 AM

I'm not sure what Paul means by doggerel but my definition is of something fairly loose and crude in its construction. I don't think this is true of many traditional songs – especially the ballads. The style of these (which, admittedly, may have come down to us in a debased form due to the versions peddled by the ballad sellers) was quite strict both in its metre and the use of word forms – especially alliteration and the use of 'open' words which have the "oh" sound. This goes right the way back to the Old English, as can be seen, for example, in Beowulf, which begins:

Hwæt! We Gardena         in geardagum,
þeodcyninga,         þrym gefrunon,
hu ða æþelingas         ellen fremedon.
Oft Scyld Scefing         sceaþena þreatum,
monegum mægþum,         meodosetla ofteah,
egsode eorlas.         Syððan ærest wearð
feasceaft funden,         he þæs frofre gebad,
weox under wolcnum,         weorðmyndum þah

Many writers use this form without being conscious of doing so – it just seems natural to do it. Sorry if I'm getting a bit anal about this – as a professional writer it's just one of my pet subjects!

I'll get me coat!


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: GUEST,LDT
Date: 22 Oct 10 - 07:21 AM

That's fine theleveller. I know nothing about it all. Need all the help I can get.


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: GUEST,Gail
Date: 22 Oct 10 - 08:15 AM

I think Bella Hardy has written some gorgeous traditional-style songs in the last couple of years. Her 'Three Black Feathers' could easily be mistaken for a much older song meant to be sung unaccompanied.


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 22 Oct 10 - 08:23 AM

By 'doggerel' I meant and said that it's not an ego trip in which you show how many syllables you can get into a line or how cleverly you can craft a rhyme. The extract from 'Beowulf' above is just that. (Possibly why nobody sings it? :-)) The writing of a song is always conscious 'art' but in the case of traditional song it doesn't spund like it. What comes over to us as listeners to traditional song is the very 'artlessness' of their construction, even the most beautiful. The use of grammatically incorrect syntax and archaic or 'odd' words also have their place too. When listening to traveller singers I am often struck by the way they forget or misremember a line and just sing what happens in the story despite there being, to my ear at any rate, an obvious rhyme which they could use to maintain the rhythm and structure. Yet they don't do it.
On the same point, and he can correct me if I'm wrong here, I'll bet John Connolly never looks out of the window at 5.00pm and remarks, 'what a rare evening'. Even if he is intending to go for a 'walk by the dockside'. Despite this, 'Fiddler's Green' is about as 'traditional' as you can get.


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: theleveller
Date: 22 Oct 10 - 08:49 AM

"The extract from 'Beowulf' above is just that. (Possibly why nobody sings it? :-)) "

Well, I'm afraid we're just going to have to disagree on this one, Paul. Beowulf was written (we assume) to be recited, possibly to harp accompaniment, in the rowdy atmosphere of mead halls where it had to cut through the din and catch people's attention - pretty much like many folk clubs :). I'm suggesting, as Peter Ackroyd does in the book I mentioned, that this form often comes unconsciously when writing ballad-style songs in English where Anglo-Saxon words are more appropriate that Latin ones. What's important is how the words sound (and even "feel" in the mouth) when they are sung. I certainly agree (as I pointed out above) that the choice of odd or different words is important and banality can be avoided by doing this. In the end, though, you write songs the way you want to and they are either good songs or not - whether they sound traditional is, to me, immaterial.


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: theleveller
Date: 22 Oct 10 - 08:56 AM

"What's important is how the words sound (and even "feel" in the mouth) when they are sung."

To expand what I mean by this - it's what happens when I listen to Juile Fowlis singing; she raises goosebumps even though I don't understand a word of it.


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: GUEST,LDT
Date: 22 Oct 10 - 08:58 AM

I had the 'bright idea' that maybe if I used na existing tune as a template then took it from there it might give me a better understanding of how it all works.

Now I'll probably be lynched for this.
But I took outlandish knight and kinda...tweaked it. Would you say it was a parody, pastiche or something else?

------
Margaret she sits with her i-phone a-tweeting
Ma ba and the lilly ba
When she heard a car with his hi-fi a-booming
On the very first morning of May
 
"Oh I wish that I could ride in that car I hear growling"
And it's ma ba and the lilly ba
"And had that young man's number to text"
On the very first morning of May
 
Well the lady she had these words scarce spoke
And it's ma ba and the lilly ba
When by her street corner the man come a-strutting
On the very first morning of May
 
"Oh strange it is, oh hot young woman"
And it's ma ba and the lilly ba
" I can scarce use my phone since I hear you a-calling
On the very first morning of May"
 
"Go fetch you the card from your father's table
Deliver it unto me
And the fastest car in your father's garage if your able
The keys give unto me"
 
So they've drove off the shiny, black car
And she's turned up the stereo grey
And they crusied till they come to the broad sea shore
Just three hours before it was day
 
"Get out, get out of the car," he says
"And deliver it unto me
For it's six pretty girls I have drowned here
And the seventh one you shall be"
 
"Get out, get out from the car," she says
"And come and kiss me
For if I'm about to die
I want to this my last action to be"
 
So he's got out the car with a sigh
And he's came closer to she
And she shoved him in the middle so small
And tumbled him all down in the sea
 
Sometimes he sank, sometimes he swam
And it's ma ba and the lilly ba
"Oh help, oh help, oh my pretty mistress
Or drowned I shall be"
 
"Lie there, lie there oh you false young man
Lie there instead of me
For I'll call the police to deal with you
And to prison they'll send thee"


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: GUEST,LDT
Date: 22 Oct 10 - 04:32 PM

What tunes are good to use to pin a song on?


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: Georgiansilver
Date: 22 Oct 10 - 04:49 PM

One of mine written a while ago.. put your own tune to it and use as you want... if you want to!!:-


The Point of War?

I went into the township, my uniform shining,
A fiery young soldier, away to the war.
I said my goodbyes to my dainty young sweetheart,
And knowing I might never see her no more.
I marched far away' cross the pink moorland heather,
Across the great river and down to the sea.
I joined with my regiment to go to battle,
Not knowing my future and what was to be!

Three days without sleep, as we travelled the ocean,
The sickness it took us and turned us all green.
No food could we eat, for none could we stomach,
We were looking much less than a fighting machine.
But we fought side by side, our bayonets thrusting,
The shots they rang out and so many men fell.
We moved on the enemy, killing and dying,
My legs disappeared, I was hit by a shell.

So many men died and the more they were injured,
To our homeland they brought those alive and in pain.
Now just half a man, I was vowing that I would not
Ever be seeing my true love again.
But she being willful, she made to my presence,
She held me so tight I could scarce catch the air.
She vowed that she loved me and would so for ever,
Her lifetime she now would devote to my care.

The war it was ended, with no-one a winner,
But with many sad losers confined to their beds
Some legs and arms missing those were lost in combat,
Some mentally shot and some out of their heads.
Twas so long ago that I went into battle,
A memory so distant but now after all.
I often look down for to see where my legs were,
They were lost to me only when I answered the call.

So to all you young men who are ready for fighting,
For all you young men who may choose to make war.
You may not come home whole of mind or of body,
You may never see, your own homeland no more.

Mike Hill
(2008)


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: WalkaboutsVerse
Date: 22 Oct 10 - 05:48 PM

"Isn't there a competition for newly composed unaccompanied songs in Newcastle? Maybe WAV can tell us more..."(S)...

I used to participate in a few festival comps (listed here), including one at Rothbury for unaccompanied self-penned songs; and, as you suggest, the John Birmingham Cup was/is similar - last I heard it had moved from the Cumberland Arms in Newcastle upon Tyne to be part of Whitby Folk Week.


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: GUEST,LDT
Date: 22 Oct 10 - 06:06 PM

I'm guessing with competitions you have to perform your own material. I don't sing. Haven't since I was 12 and recorded myself singing using a tape player...played it back. OOOOoooh it was awful.


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: WalkaboutsVerse
Date: 22 Oct 10 - 06:20 PM

LTD: I've heard of cases where someone didn't like their own voice but others did..?


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: Tootler
Date: 22 Oct 10 - 06:36 PM

Saltburn Folk Festival:

Singer/Songwriter Competition
for the Keith Marsden Memorial Trophy.

From the rules:
It is not compulsory for singer/songwriters to be the singer, (or even the lead singer where there is a group), but he/she must appear as part of the group which performs.

The Fred Jordan Memorial Trophy
for Unaccompanied Traditional Styled Singers

Info on the Saltburn Folk Festival Website


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: Georgiansilver
Date: 23 Oct 10 - 03:59 AM

Guest LDT.. I entered a song in the "Write a Lincolnshire Folk Song" competition but had it performed beautifully by a lady performer... came second... I guess not all comps are the same but always worth checking out. Best wishes, Mike.


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: GUEST,LDT
Date: 23 Oct 10 - 07:57 AM

@walkabout
Others agree with me. Someone once said I sing entirely in accidentals. lol! It tends to be anything but the tune and I dont get highr/lower just louder/quieter.


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: WalkaboutsVerse
Date: 23 Oct 10 - 04:04 PM

"Someone once said I sing entirely in accidentals. lol!"...Well then, LTD, if you did decide to accompany your singing, you could try for a cheaper piano - black notes only!


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: GUEST,LDT
Date: 25 Oct 10 - 04:53 AM

Isn't that the pentatonic scale? ;)


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: Marje
Date: 25 Oct 10 - 05:31 AM

"Doggerel" is, by definition, trite or clumsy or otherwise faulty. A traditional song shouldn't have these attributes, but the best ones tend to use short, Anglo-Saxon words rather than longer Latin-derived ones. If you want an example, look at the Border Widow's Lament in the DT (not the one with 2 after the title). There's only one long word (extremity) - all the rest of the vocabulary is as a simple woman would speak, which makes it very direct and touching.

Another point: if it's written to fit a regular tune, the lines need to scan rather than being sqeezed into the metre. Nothing marks out a fledgling song more than a badly-scanning line with too many syllables or the stresses on all the wrong places.

Marje


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: GUEST,LDT
Date: 25 Oct 10 - 05:47 AM

I've found a sentance that will be my 'inspiration'.
On time team - viking special the other night they talked about a cave with viking graffiti on it and one phrase stood out at me:

"Ingebjork the fair widow - many a woman has walked stooping in here a very showy person" signed by "Erlingr"

There's gotta be a story behind that. Was thinking plotwise woman all proud, won't marry the poor warrior and chooses rich chief, her husband is killed and she has to 'stoop' to enter the cave where he's buried and now she's poor she becomes humble and wants to marry poor guy but he turns her down.


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: Tootler
Date: 25 Oct 10 - 06:53 PM


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: GUEST,LDT
Date: 26 Oct 10 - 03:55 AM

@Tootler Is that a shocked silence? ;)


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: theleveller
Date: 26 Oct 10 - 07:50 AM

Go for it LDT!


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: WalkaboutsVerse
Date: 26 Oct 10 - 05:52 PM

I like both the tradition, in England and elsewhere, of singing unaccompanied, and of singing around a piano, or in congregation or evensong, to an organ. Thus, from my repertoire, I'm leaning toward doing my own songs, and English hymns, with the melody doubled via keyboards; and E. trads unaccompanied - although I like accompanying them, too..?..But, then again, there is also an unaccompanied tradition within our Christian music - e.g., it won't be long before we get to hear a highly trained choir boy singing the first stanza of "Once in Royal David's City", at Carols from King's, unaccompanied.


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: Tootler
Date: 26 Oct 10 - 06:08 PM

Deeply shocked!!!

So deeply shocked that I clicked on "Submit Message" instead of "Forum Home"

Of course it could be simply that I had written a reply in invisible ink! Now my secret is out, I plead guilty of lurking m'lud.


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Feb 11 - 11:29 AM

Found this thread by accident and saw this:
'I often have random thoughts that I think would make a good song, unfortunately 99.99% remain that way.' from Mingulay.
A couple of years ago a smart arsed kid in my class asked a stupid question but when I stated as much he (rightly) shot me down with the retort. " The only stupid questions are those you don't ask…Sir!" (The last word was pitched and timed to perfection I add) He was right. I think of him a lot more often than he thinks of me. The point? I wonder if…
The only really bad songs are those you don't write? The folk process tends to take care of the shortcomings of the writer if the song idea is a good one. Just an observation.


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Subject: RE: New unaccompanied songs?
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 11 Feb 11 - 12:59 PM

Anyone can put instruments to any song written, and by the same token can sing any song without instruments.


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