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Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets

Jack Campin 09 Apr 14 - 08:19 PM
GUEST,Don Firth 09 Apr 14 - 09:19 PM
GUEST 09 Apr 14 - 09:50 PM
Seamus Kennedy 10 Apr 14 - 03:56 AM
Joe Offer 10 Apr 14 - 04:04 AM
Jack Campin 10 Apr 14 - 04:13 AM
G-Force 10 Apr 14 - 05:00 AM
GUEST,Derek Schofield 10 Apr 14 - 05:23 AM
Nick 10 Apr 14 - 05:43 AM
Will Fly 10 Apr 14 - 06:10 AM
GUEST,Grishka 10 Apr 14 - 06:33 AM
johncharles 10 Apr 14 - 07:01 AM
Dave Sutherland 10 Apr 14 - 07:25 AM
GUEST,OldNicKilby 10 Apr 14 - 07:53 AM
GUEST 10 Apr 14 - 08:09 AM
RTim 10 Apr 14 - 09:02 AM
Nick 10 Apr 14 - 09:24 AM
Nick 10 Apr 14 - 09:24 AM
Stringsinger 10 Apr 14 - 12:25 PM
Deckman 10 Apr 14 - 12:28 PM
Doug Chadwick 10 Apr 14 - 02:14 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 10 Apr 14 - 08:54 PM
GUEST 11 Apr 14 - 05:27 AM
JHW 11 Apr 14 - 05:38 AM
The Sandman 11 Apr 14 - 05:58 AM
meself 11 Apr 14 - 10:01 AM
BrendanB 11 Apr 14 - 10:53 AM
GUEST,MikeL2 11 Apr 14 - 02:28 PM
GUEST,pete from seven stars link 11 Apr 14 - 02:28 PM
GUEST,MikeL2 11 Apr 14 - 02:33 PM
Jack Campin 11 Apr 14 - 04:10 PM
Janie 11 Apr 14 - 04:30 PM
JHW 11 Apr 14 - 04:38 PM
GUEST 11 Apr 14 - 09:03 PM
Janie 11 Apr 14 - 10:44 PM
Edthefolkie 12 Apr 14 - 08:08 AM
GUEST,DTM 13 Apr 14 - 07:15 AM
GUEST,DTM 13 Apr 14 - 07:15 AM
johncharles 13 Apr 14 - 10:36 AM
Lighter 13 Apr 14 - 11:27 AM
The Sandman 13 Apr 14 - 12:06 PM
The Sandman 13 Apr 14 - 12:09 PM
Janie 13 Apr 14 - 12:11 PM
GUEST 14 Apr 14 - 05:16 AM
Lighter 14 Apr 14 - 08:25 AM
GUEST,steve baughman 14 Apr 14 - 05:49 PM
Jack Campin 14 Apr 14 - 06:12 PM
GUEST,Steve baughman 14 Apr 14 - 09:43 PM
GUEST,Gerry 15 Apr 14 - 12:30 AM
The Sandman 15 Apr 14 - 02:05 AM
Genie 15 Apr 14 - 02:59 PM
Genie 15 Apr 14 - 03:02 PM
Edthefolkie 15 Apr 14 - 03:53 PM
GUEST,Kim C 15 Apr 14 - 04:50 PM
Big Mick 15 Apr 14 - 06:43 PM
Jack Campin 15 Apr 14 - 07:22 PM
Elmore 16 Apr 14 - 06:20 PM
michaelr 16 Apr 14 - 06:24 PM
The Sandman 16 Apr 14 - 06:43 PM
Lighter 17 Apr 14 - 08:25 AM
Jack Campin 20 Oct 14 - 04:49 PM
Jack Campin 20 Oct 14 - 05:39 PM
GUEST,mauvepink 20 Oct 14 - 08:51 PM
Rumncoke 20 Oct 14 - 09:31 PM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 20 Oct 14 - 10:05 PM
Musket 21 Oct 14 - 02:35 AM
GUEST,FloraG 21 Oct 14 - 04:04 AM
Leadfingers 21 Oct 14 - 04:47 AM
Acorn4 21 Oct 14 - 05:00 AM
Teribus 21 Oct 14 - 05:25 AM
GUEST,Rahere 21 Oct 14 - 05:36 AM
Teribus 21 Oct 14 - 05:38 AM
GUEST,Howard Jones 21 Oct 14 - 06:23 AM
GUEST,Desi C 21 Oct 14 - 06:45 AM
GUEST,pete from seven stars link 21 Oct 14 - 01:27 PM
Bill D 21 Oct 14 - 02:51 PM
Teribus 22 Oct 14 - 06:09 AM
wysiwyg 22 Oct 14 - 10:07 AM
Phil Cooper 22 Oct 14 - 10:30 AM
GUEST,pete from seven stars link 22 Oct 14 - 04:51 PM
Joe Offer 23 Oct 14 - 03:19 AM
banjoman 23 Oct 14 - 05:43 AM
GUEST 23 Oct 14 - 06:02 PM
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Subject: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: Jack Campin
Date: 09 Apr 14 - 08:19 PM

A thread to post links to full-on professional singers doing what some folks here claim a professional would never do.

To start, Joan Baez on Italian TV


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: GUEST,Don Firth
Date: 09 Apr 14 - 09:19 PM

Something a professional would never do--except--under special circumstances, such as singing a song in a language foreign to them for a special event.

A professional does not, in general, use cheat sheets.

One owes it to the audience, save on these rare special occasions, to learn the song.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: GUEST
Date: 09 Apr 14 - 09:50 PM

Jack - How many songs do YOU sing in another language ?    (Without a crib sheet)


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: Seamus Kennedy
Date: 10 Apr 14 - 03:56 AM

John McCormack the celebrated Irish tenor usually sang from a little songbook, as in this clip from "Wings Of The Morning". here
And I believe he was a professional.....


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: Joe Offer
Date: 10 Apr 14 - 04:04 AM

Merritt Herring, a legendary traditional singer on the West Coast of the U.S., sang from a binder of lyrics in his last years. I believe he took pride in singing from memory in his younger years, but he used his home-made songbook when I knew him. I'd pay a lot for a copy of that binder. Every song he sang was a gem.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: Jack Campin
Date: 10 Apr 14 - 04:13 AM

Jack - How many songs do YOU sing in another language ?    (Without a crib sheet)

Two that I can think of right now - one in Turkish (where I do know what every word means) and one in Basque (where I know the gist but it's basically by rote). Both rather shorter than "Marinella", though.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: G-Force
Date: 10 Apr 14 - 05:00 AM

I believe this is now normal practice for Van Morrison. Not that it bothers me.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: GUEST,Derek Schofield
Date: 10 Apr 14 - 05:23 AM

In England, the Copper family have long used the song book to sing from, but I think this is more a case of emphasising the importance of the song book in family history - they usually seem to know the words well enough.

Roy Bailey relies on song words now, as does Norma Waterson on occasions. Both of these singers are excellent communicators with their audiences and the song books do not get in the way of that communication. I've also seen singers who rely on the words who sing with their head stuck in the book, not looking up and not communicating. Sad.

Derek


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: Nick
Date: 10 Apr 14 - 05:43 AM

I have a live Sarah Vaughan album where the guy who introduces her specifically states at the beginning that she will be reading the words that she is singing.

I think she counts as a good singer.

It was at the height of her powers and she was singing in English not a foreign language


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: Will Fly
Date: 10 Apr 14 - 06:10 AM

I don't care two hoots what famous people do. When I'm in a folk club watching a floor singer who will probably perform, at most, two songs during the whole evening, I don't expect to see them using a prop.

Each to his own.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 10 Apr 14 - 06:33 AM

A "sheet taboo" can have two distinct motives:
  • If the performance is claimed to be about the performer's own identity, the sheet may weaken this impression.
  • If the emphasis is on "This is art", a sheet may suggest insufficient preparation.
The second criterion is not very strong.

(Computer monitors hidden behind a column or other equipment can serve as prompters nowadays, replacing the good old cue cards.)


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: johncharles
Date: 10 Apr 14 - 07:01 AM

The could be a whole new scene, Karaoke Folky with backing tracks and a little bouncing ball to indicate when the words should be sung.
john


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: Dave Sutherland
Date: 10 Apr 14 - 07:25 AM

What Will said.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: GUEST,OldNicKilby
Date: 10 Apr 14 - 07:53 AM

What is just as bad if not worse is the dreaded Palm Top that scroll's at the speed of the "Singer". Best solution I ever saw was at a Morris do when a "Singer " had their crib sheet torched. After that the books seemed to disappear


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Apr 14 - 08:09 AM

Like it or not, the world's most famous arena touring singers,
have been discretely using on stage autocue screens scrolling their song lyrics in real time with the live band's performance
[conveniently located front of stage amongst sound monitors]
for at least the last 20 years....

This is an accepted vital part of on stage touring equipment.

One major British artist openly admits he depends on this technological aide memoire,
as his memory for his own extensive back catalog of self written complexly poetic lyrics
is failing with advancing old age.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: RTim
Date: 10 Apr 14 - 09:02 AM

I have seen video of both Luciano Pavarotti and Richard Thompson sing from words, so if occasionally it is good enough for them, occasionally it is good enough for me - and I only use verse first lines as a back up.

Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: Nick
Date: 10 Apr 14 - 09:24 AM

Also saw Steve Knightley on Friday who got out a song sheet for a recently written song 'just in case he forgot it'.

He didn't.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: Nick
Date: 10 Apr 14 - 09:24 AM

Also saw Steve Knightley on Friday who got out a song sheet for a recently written song 'just in case he forgot it'.

He didn't.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: Stringsinger
Date: 10 Apr 14 - 12:25 PM

I have heard "singers" perform from memory, as opposed to those who used "cheat" sheets, preferring to hear a good performer who "cheats" over one who has an eidetic memory for words but is boring to sit through.

A rigid approach to folk singing is counter-productive.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: Deckman
Date: 10 Apr 14 - 12:28 PM

About two years ago I attended a house concert in the Seattle area given by a well known male trio. During the set-up, they ran an extension cord to a music stand and plugged in a lap top computer. During the first half of the concert they almost did each other bodily harm as they stumbled, reached, blocked each other and squinted to read the words from the computer. After the first two minutes it was no longer funny.

Half the audience left at the intermission. I left with them.

I think it's important to state the difference between a "jam session" (where crib sheets are very welcome) and a "concert" where folks pay good money to see a "performance." bob(deckman)nelson


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: Doug Chadwick
Date: 10 Apr 14 - 02:14 PM

A 'crib' sheet suggests something to be referred to occasionally during the song, perhaps to note which verse comes next or similar. Joan did not seem to engage with her audience at all, her eyes looking down, reading from the sheet throughout the song. Also, she committed the sin of arriving on stage with her guitar out of tune, having to make several adjustments before she was ready to go. Still, it was a beautiful song, well sung and I thoroughly enjoyed it, song sheet or not.

Just one question, why is it that song sheets are such a no-no in folk music when classical choirs would never been seen dead without each choir member holding a large book of words/music, even if they were singing "Happy Birthday to You"?


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 10 Apr 14 - 08:54 PM

Jack you don't know ....J about S.....

It has been my opportunity to attend "readings,walk-throughs,cold calls, that would place an insecure performer in a tail-spin if published.

Focus on Ms. B's performance.

Sincerely,
Gargoyle

"Criticizing people is unhealthy for the critic. He develops such a keen scent that amid a thousand excellences of any program, he looks to one solitary defect and holds it up to mockery. He becomes a scavenger. (GIL HAMBERT)


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Apr 14 - 05:27 AM

Performing from sheet music or a songbook is a skill that has to be learned. The fact that professionals learn this skill isn't an excuse for those who haven't to sing to a piece of paper rather than their audience.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: JHW
Date: 11 Apr 14 - 05:38 AM

Choirs maybe but they have masses of material to contend with, not individual repertoire.
Last time I saw 'Messiah' three of the imported soloists read from their score. The Alto never opened her copy and was way way ahead of the others in her performance.

Singing songs you don't know is another nail in the coffin of folk clubs.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: The Sandman
Date: 11 Apr 14 - 05:58 AM

we had a trad festival here in BALLYDEHOB last week,although during the course of the festival i had one paid gig. I did some impromptu singing just for fun
During a tunes session, i decided to sing one song, so i was in the position of floor singer, I sang Bushes and Briars, and in one verse I had to make up some words, no one noticed, in my opinion to some extent that is what performing is about, I kept my cool and ad libbed remembering the gist of the song and fitting the words to the meter.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: meself
Date: 11 Apr 14 - 10:01 AM

'a "jam session" (where crib sheets are very welcome)'

When I come to a session and see binders and sheets, my heart sinks - because I know that half the evening will be spent watching people shuffling through papers looking for something that they 'know is in there' - and the other half will be spent listening to them bumble through the first verses of old pop songs, before they give up - only to start looking for one they 'really know'. On the other hand, if I arrive to find no sign of sheets or digital devices, my heart soars - because I know it will be a good session.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: BrendanB
Date: 11 Apr 14 - 10:53 AM

I sing in a folk choir and we have a rule - learn your part and no crib sheets in performance. I greatly approve of this because I think it helps us to improve communication with the audience. The group that I sing/play with has the same rule for the same reason. However, I see no problem with a performer using a crib if it helps them to turn in a good, entertaining performance. I avoid sessions where players depend on books, folders etc. They screw spontaneity.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: GUEST,MikeL2
Date: 11 Apr 14 - 02:28 PM

Hi GSS

<" I had to make up some words, no one noticed, in my opinion to some extent that is what performing is about,">

I couldn't agree more.

I had to do that sometimes but managed to keep up my performance.
On one occasion I actually forgot the tune of the song I had introduced. I just sang the words to a tune I made up as I went along.

All performers whether professional or not make mistakes. But the best ones make only a few and know how to cover them up.

Cheers

MikeL2


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: GUEST,pete from seven stars link
Date: 11 Apr 14 - 02:28 PM

I suppose that if you attend sessions where you have lots of performers who don't need music/words at all, you can afford to be picky about who you allow to participate. the rest of us can find a singaround or open mic that is only to happy to accommodate the less confidant.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: GUEST,MikeL2
Date: 11 Apr 14 - 02:33 PM

Hi

There is a difference between using a crib sheet just in case you forget something, than bringing a song sheet because you couldn't be bothered to learn the song.

But I would listen to Sarah Vaughn whatever way she decided to perform!!!!

Cheers

MikeL2


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: Jack Campin
Date: 11 Apr 14 - 04:10 PM

Maddy Prior and band, 2003

That one is surprising. Surely, like me, she'd have half-known it years before getting the gig. It wouldn't have taken me long to learn it properly.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: Janie
Date: 11 Apr 14 - 04:30 PM

Well said, Stringsinger and Garg, in your footnote.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: JHW
Date: 11 Apr 14 - 04:38 PM

" I had to make up some words, no one noticed, in my opinion to some extent that is what performing is about,"
I couldn't agree more.

Me too - is it time for a thread 'Agreeing with GSS'


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Apr 14 - 09:03 PM

I've just finished several weeks working on a project with a big chunk of Bellowhead. They work from scores at first, then allow their inner musician to take over and take the music where it's got to go to in performance. I was fortunate, being able to sight-read, my run-throughs took no time, making the project viable: if we'd wasted the same amount of time on me we did on those who couldn't read.
The dots are there to tell each other what we ought to start from, they're not some kind of Midi code dictating every nuance of a performance. That's where those who only work from a score go wrong, they're not musicians, they've traded their souls to a machine. It's like reading a book outloud in a monotone: you have to add your own interpretation and expression, to bring it to life.
So yes, use the dots, and perhaps have them available if your memory fails because the interpretation has strayed a bit far from the score. But in principal, know what you're doing and don't do it unless you do. You don't expect actors to read from their scripts on stage, the only difference is that they aren't constrained by the somewhat artificial constraint of the musical conventions. I know only too well that where we sing from in our brains is not where we speak from, but the principle remains the same: it has to be you performing, not the composer.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: Janie
Date: 11 Apr 14 - 10:44 PM

Agree, Guest. Some here seem to be asserting, and perhaps I misunderstand, that it is impossible for it to be "you" who is performing if you need or prefer a cheat sheet. If that is what they assert, I disagree. I don't understand either/or thinking.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: Edthefolkie
Date: 12 Apr 14 - 08:08 AM

One celebrated singer I recall using an aide memoire was Peter Bellamy performing songs from "The Transports". He had a music stand for his little book too.

I guess that when Sandy Denny recorded "Tam Lin" she had the words in front of her!

Martin Carthy has been known to use a tablet (a small configurable flat screen, for the traditionalists among us).

If the above don't pass muster, even Joseph Taylor used to forget the words occasionally. Mind you he was a bailiff, not a folkie.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: GUEST,DTM
Date: 13 Apr 14 - 07:15 AM

I have a poor memory and it's deteriorating as I age. Although I don't like doing it, I sing with my eyes closes. There is one benefit, I can squint at my lyrics sheet if required.
Crib sheets are better than having someone looking at the ceiling in the middle of a performance trying to remember the next line, IMO.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: GUEST,DTM
Date: 13 Apr 14 - 07:15 AM

I have a poor memory and it's deteriorating as I age. Although I don't like doing it, I sing with my eyes closes. There is one benefit, I can squint at my lyrics sheet if required.
Crib sheets are better than having someone looking at the ceiling in the middle of a performance trying to remember the next line, IMO.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: johncharles
Date: 13 Apr 14 - 10:36 AM

repetition aids memory.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: Lighter
Date: 13 Apr 14 - 11:27 AM

A crib sheet in your pocket in case you forget the words in front of an informal audience is one thing, or singing from the page while you're recording for an absent audience.

But if you're an adult and don't know the song, don't make us sit and listen as you try to learn it on our time.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: The Sandman
Date: 13 Apr 14 - 12:06 PM

practice,practice and practise again, if you are not feeling well or tired do not sing, it is only people who are getting paid that have to try and perform when they are not feeling well or tired, in my experience in these situations try not to drink much alcohol.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: The Sandman
Date: 13 Apr 14 - 12:09 PM

here is another suggestion try using mental yoga exrcises for improving memory.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: Janie
Date: 13 Apr 14 - 12:11 PM

Really? I don't think needing or wanting a cribsheet necessarily indicates a performer doesn't know a song. Performance anxiety and what happens in the brain with age can both lead to lapses of memory - no matter how well a person may have learned the song.

I suppose there comes a time with even the most well-known and applauded performers reach the point through the aging process when they really ought not be performing in large venues anymore or expecting people to pay big bucks to see them. (From what I have recently heard, BB King comes to mind - but that goes well beyond using a cribsheet for the lyrics.)

I agree that a paid performance is not the time or place to learn a song. I don't think using a cribsheet is an unforgiveable sin, however, and don't think some one using a cribsheet necessarily, even usually among celebrated singers, suggests they are "learning it on our time." Not saying it has never happened. But hard to believe a singer who is celebrated can be routinely accused of learning their songs on our time.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: GUEST
Date: 14 Apr 14 - 05:16 AM

I'm 59, but don't have that memory problem: I just learned over 100 pages in that Bellowhead piece. It can be done. My problem was that a careless Jordanian academic gave me her laryngitis a week before the gigs: technique carried me through.
I think it's a matter of pride: if you're not ready, don't do it. Know why and anticipate the problems next time. Performance nerves are just a cop-out: you should be attuned to the venue and audience, but those are empathic nerves, and should help your assurance: anything else should be ignored. Your first task is to grab the audience' attention: there's nothing worse for you than a gang more concerned with fighting their way to the bar than what you're doing. In such circumstances, there's an argument for busking till ready, doing something you fancy rather than something in the program. If the organisers are so disorganised as not to have got the audience settled by the time they want you "on", then that's their problem. But even then, you still have to grab them, and that needs musicianship, and the root of that is knowing what you're doing. In the worst of cases, recognising a failure can even be a positive experience.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: Lighter
Date: 14 Apr 14 - 08:25 AM

> musicianship ... is knowing what you're doing.

Well said.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: GUEST,steve baughman
Date: 14 Apr 14 - 05:49 PM

Interesting discussion, thanks for having it.

I think we misstate the problem when we cast it in terms of "profesisonalism" or by compiling lists of celebs who do and don't use cheat sheets. The real question, IMHO, is to what extent (if any) cheat sheets undermine listener experience.

Imagine a stand up comic reading her lines, or a joke party where folks are reading their contributions from a book. I suspect this would knock a good 30% of our experience as listeners. Why might we think it is different with singing?

Memorizing the song is not always feasible and it is almost never easy. But it tells the audience that we love the music and them enough to do so.

There is a cost in using cheat sheets. And although sometimes it may be worth paying, we do well to recognize that it is not always so.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: Jack Campin
Date: 14 Apr 14 - 06:12 PM

Imagine a stand up comic reading her lines

Les Barker


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: GUEST,Steve baughman
Date: 14 Apr 14 - 09:43 PM

Bingo! Nice, and it would've been 30% better without the notebook. :-)
My point is, let's not just assume that there is no cost to reading.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: GUEST,Gerry
Date: 15 Apr 14 - 12:30 AM

"In the worst of cases, recognising a failure can even be a positive experience."

Boy, have I had a lot of positive experiences!


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: The Sandman
Date: 15 Apr 14 - 02:05 AM

"Bingo! Nice, and it would've been 30% better without the notebook."
50 PERCENT better


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: Genie
Date: 15 Apr 14 - 02:59 PM

"Performing from sheet music or a songbook is a skill that has to be learned. The fact that professionals learn this skill isn't an excuse for those who haven't to sing to a piece of paper rather than their audience."
Totally agree. And having that paper at the ready does not imply that you aren't professional or haven't rehearsed, any more than performing without such implies that you are and you have.

As for ad-libbing when you blank on a lyric:
When you blank on the lyrics of a song you know well ? even one you wrote ? maybe your ad lib will improve the song or at least not hurt it. But it often weakens it (substituting some inane lyric or a repeat of an earlier lyric for what was one of the best lyric lines of the song), even if the audience does not notice.   (This has happened to me during both a recording session and a live performance of one of my best songs: I repeated a lyric from verse 1 in place of the real lyric in verse 2. The audience did not notice; the song just wasn't as funny with that 'ad lib'.)


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Professionals Using Songsheets
From: Genie
Date: 15 Apr 14 - 03:02 PM

And, Steve B, singing a song where specific lyrics are key is quite different from what most stand-up comics do.   Professional speakers regularly use either note cards or (in recent decades) a teleprompter.

The key to professionalism in using "prompts" is in HOW you use them and whether you can use them discreetly without interfering with your connection to the material (song, speech, poem) you're presenting or to your audience.

I heard/watched Basil Rathbone do a poety 'reading' when I was in college. And, yes, it's called a "poetry reading," but although Sir Basil did have printed material on a lectern, he did not fix his eyes on it, nor did it lessen in any way the brilliance of his delivery of the poems.

Genie


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: Edthefolkie
Date: 15 Apr 14 - 03:53 PM

I see we have the pejorative words "celebs" and "cheat sheets" being used. I'd just like to point out that (a) anyone considering Pete Bellamy, Sandy Denny, Martin Carthy, Richard Thompson, and Joseph Taylor (!!) to be celebs must be a bit of a puritan and (b) I wasn't making a list, just giving examples.

Get your humour bypass attended to, it's only folk when all's said and done. Bit of a cult, as another "celeb", Linda Thompson, once said.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: GUEST,Kim C
Date: 15 Apr 14 - 04:50 PM

We have carol books we use at the holidays since we don't sing those songs all year long and don't always remember all of them. Plus, we have additional copies to share with any listeners who might like to sing along.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: Big Mick
Date: 15 Apr 14 - 06:43 PM

It is all about stagecraft. I use an electronic cheat sheet which replaced a MusicPad Pro which replaced a 3 ring binder. I don't sing from it, it sits to the side where I can glance at it for key,chord structure, and word cues. As Bill D. has often said, for him it is whether or not he can close his eyes and tell if the performer is singing from it. I was with Judy Collins when she performed at Dogwood, and she had a music stand. For me, whether with my band or solo, the songs in the set list are constantly changing. Each has been thoroughly rehearsed until it is performance ready. But there are far too many for me not to be able to look over for reminders. It is not a song circle at a weekend gathering for me where folks are willing to wait while I stumble around for a lyric. For me it is a crowd of 50 to a 1000 folks that I owe a good performance to. Because I don't do the same songs over and over as some of my friends who have fixed sets, the crib sheets are necessary for a solid performance.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: Jack Campin
Date: 15 Apr 14 - 07:22 PM

And from somebody who definitely knows a thing or two about stagecraft:

Lady Gaga


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: Elmore
Date: 16 Apr 14 - 06:20 PM

Meaning no disrespect, I wish the late Louisa Jo Killen previously known as Louis Killen had used some sort of cheat sheet in concert. Great voice, terrible memory for lyrics. Age was not the issue.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: michaelr
Date: 16 Apr 14 - 06:24 PM

Big Mick -- would you please tell me what brand and model of "electronic cheat sheet" you use? I need to upgrade from my three-ring binder to something I can upload Word docs to, and that easily lets me arrange them in sets.

TIA,
Michael


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: The Sandman
Date: 16 Apr 14 - 06:43 PM

louisa killen had no problem here.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qIQ7rhW655Yhere is another good versionhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQE3AS3Vzb0


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: Lighter
Date: 17 Apr 14 - 08:25 AM

What's interesting is that groups of carolers are actually expected to sing from books. It's a different tradition.

But if just one showed up alone and sang from a book, it would seem pretty pathetic.

As for poetry readings, they are called "readings," after all. And the demands of spoken nuance are greater in performing poetry - particularly "classic" poetry than they are in singing a folk song.

Reading or reciting poetry, moreover, is understood to be about the poet's exact words: no changes allowed. The words are expected to come directly from a book rather than from an *oral* tradition.

Poetry readers are expected to stand up with a book in the lectern in front of them, and as was said, maintain contact and rapport with the audience. If Basil had stood instead with a notebook or a few sheets of paper, and just read because he hadn't mastered the material, I doubt he'd have been very successful.

Of course, being Basil Rathbone would have given him a huge advantage no matter what.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: Jack Campin
Date: 20 Oct 14 - 04:49 PM

Bob Dylan, 1965

and this time, electric


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: Jack Campin
Date: 20 Oct 14 - 05:39 PM

Pianist with the Kilfenora Ceili Band, 1958


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: GUEST,mauvepink
Date: 20 Oct 14 - 08:51 PM

I do not see 'crib sheets' as bad things. I'm not bothered if a good performer has them or not. I do not judge them on whether they have crib sheets or not. I judge them on the content of their congs, their voice and their interaction with the crowd.

The one person that springs to mind, who does all the aforementioned things with oodles of confidence, is Anthony John Clarke. His delivery, his lyrics, his presentation and musicianship/technique are surely to be admired? I respect so much that he knows fast, long songs so well without words. He is something to aspire to. BUT, if he turned up with crib sheets in later life I would still sooner hear him and see him than not at all because of some 'crib sheet snobbery'. I know many many great singers who use crib sheets. My life is better for having heard their songs than it would be without.

I accept other genres of music having music and words in front of them. Why not folk? I would sooner hear live music any day, read from crib sheets, than listen to backing tracks with someone who knew all the words parrot fashion. It actually saddens me to see backing tracks used so much with someone who plays an instrument. But that is an entirely different topic.

My verdict is this: if you can sing and play well, good songs that touch my emotions in various degrees, then I don't give a damn if you are using words to help you do it.

There but for gods grace go we....

mp


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: Rumncoke
Date: 20 Oct 14 - 09:31 PM

I wrote down my songs when my memory started to go.

On a good day I can sing the songs someone wrote and I heard them sing a couple of times 40 years ago. On a bad day I can't remember where I left my glasses so I can't read the words all that well anyway.

Tam lin - no problems - something with four verses - dicy.

It is no use telling me to learn the words - I knew them, no problem, and then one day I didn't. It was like finding no foot on the end of my leg.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 20 Oct 14 - 10:05 PM

Poor memory has always been a stumbling block that has prevented me even bothering to become a singer.
Even though I am fairly confident I could sing in tune with some kind of 'character' in my voice.

In my late teens and early 20s I was involved in theatre,
but was limited to walk on 'scene stealing' cameos
beacuse of my lousy memory for words.

Though I'm still building up courage to have one good go at singing before I get too old.
At least reading the words won't mattter too much
when recording demos for internet distribution only...


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: Musket
Date: 21 Oct 14 - 02:35 AM

I reckon a few on here are confusing using song sheets with other issues.

The famous and infamous mentioned above will employ a combination of practice and sheer talent, on the basis that memory skill is not as high on their priority list as ensuring the performance sounds good.

I think the singaround beef expressed by many is based on, forgive me if I miss anything;

If you don't try to learn the song, your concentration on the prop lowers the standard of delivery.

A shorter repertoire of well rehearsed songs beats a "repertoire" limited only by how many pieces of paper you can cram into a file.

I will hazard a guess that every one of us who has had a pop at crib sheets has suffered from trying to entertain a room and seeing people flicking through to see what they are going to mumble next. Most ignorant.

Yes, I do stick a piece of paper with first few words of verses of songs I am unsure about to my guitar. Don't confuse crib with not knowing in the first place.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: GUEST,FloraG
Date: 21 Oct 14 - 04:04 AM

I remember hearing a story about a conductor who was mightily upset. The power went off - but the orchestra carried on playing. They all knew their parts. The music was just the aid memoir.
Trouble is - put up a music stand in a folk club and a few people use it. Then everybody does - and even the experienced players start to sound uninspiring. Too easy to sing a quarter learned song/tune + you are too busy reading the notes to listen for variations others might make. Gone is the creativity.
Its the same with dance calling. Its too easy to just read the calls from a crib sheet. Takes ages to walk through the dance and some calls are not clear even when you do read them. Best to have the dance ' in your head'.
FloraG.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: Leadfingers
Date: 21 Oct 14 - 04:47 AM

My main problem with people singing from a 'crib sheet' is the people who don't sing to the audience , but sing AT a Bloody Book held between them and the audience . And STILL stumble over the lyrics !!!


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: Acorn4
Date: 21 Oct 14 - 05:00 AM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQqNUwNNkTo


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: Teribus
Date: 21 Oct 14 - 05:25 AM

Jack Campin Date: 11 Apr 14 - 04:10 PM:

Maddy Prior never even looks at the music stand in front of her.

Jack Campin Date: 14 Apr 14 - 06:12 PM:

Les Barker is neither a singer {Singers are what this thread is about}, or a "stand-up comedian", he describes himself as a poet.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: GUEST,Rahere
Date: 21 Oct 14 - 05:36 AM

I'm backing Maddie in December, music delivered yesterday. She uses the stand for running order.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: Teribus
Date: 21 Oct 14 - 05:38 AM

Apologies I forgot to add in my last.

Someone mentioned choirs and their "scores" - In the only choir I ever sang in, we all knew the material, all knew our parts, the scores were carried simply in order that we had something to do with our hands (i.e. they were not moving about and causing a distraction - the choral director regarded that as being the job of his hands).

Les Barker does probably know his stuff off pretty well "by heart" but with his stage persona, the hand-held manuscript is used as a stage prop, and the deliberate pauses to consult it seem to have more to do with comic delivery and timing rather than for him to know what comes next.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: GUEST,Howard Jones
Date: 21 Oct 14 - 06:23 AM

The issue isn't about books or crib sheets as such. When experienced musicians with established performance skills use them it is usually for exceptional reasons. In most cases, where they are used it is as an aide memoire and doesn't detract from the performance - the Joan Baez example illustrates how even an experienced performer can be caught out when forced to rely on them.

Neither are comparisons with different genres with different practices helpful, although as someone has pointed out the music is often there for visual effect rather than to be referred to. Also they are often performing much longer and more complex pieces of music.

The issue is use of books and cribs by performers who haven't developed performance skills or confidence, and whose continued reliance on them as a crutch acts as an obstacle to them acquiring these skills and results in consistently poor performances.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: GUEST,Desi C
Date: 21 Oct 14 - 06:45 AM

I think in that clip they were actually making a point of showing that Baez took enough trouble to have the song in their language. But I've paid to see more than a few 'celebrated' singers use words on a music stand 'crib sheets' is such an ignorant offensive term. I would prefer they do that than other 'celebrated' artists I've seen forget the wor5ds and ruin the song! Not to mention taking ages tuning up! Isn't it much more wrong not to have your guitar ready tuned for at least the first song!?


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: GUEST,pete from seven stars link
Date: 21 Oct 14 - 01:27 PM

not sure if I am mildly annoyed, or mildly amused, when a performer does not even get his guitar out the case till he is on, and then decides to tune up.      methinks, are they expecting the rest of us to wait in rapt anticipation for their awesome performance ?.
I suppose they might just be worried it might get damaged, so maybe I should give the benefit of the doubt.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: Bill D
Date: 21 Oct 14 - 02:51 PM

Big Mick remembered my feelings about it. If I can close my eyes and not tell, it's ok... I will use a crib sheet if it's a song I haven't done recently.


What really hurts are those who read totally off of a page and still can't sing either the words OR the tune. Stumbling, backing up, pausing at the end of a line, and trying out different notes is simply no fun for those in the room, no matter what the room.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: Teribus
Date: 22 Oct 14 - 06:09 AM

"not sure if I am mildly annoyed, or mildly amused, when a performer does not even get his guitar out the case till he is on, and then decides to tune up."

What setting are you in? Certainly not Concert or Festival. Singaround, or session in a crowded room perhaps? Tuning on stage is common because of the vastly different temperature changes that exist between backstage areas and "on stage" under a full festival or concert lighting rig.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: wysiwyg
Date: 22 Oct 14 - 10:07 AM

It looks to me like most of the no-sheets posters are in areas where there are so many singers that competition is necessary and has become a culturally ingrained dismisveness.

Sad to see judgementalism getting paired with what is intrinsically the music of the people.

Also odd to see no-censorship folkies wanting to muzzle singers based on stylistic issues.

;-)

Just sayin'....

~S~


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: Phil Cooper
Date: 22 Oct 14 - 10:30 AM

We do a four piece christmas band in the month of December. Though we are always well rehearsed, we still work off of printed sheets to prevent brain farts. But it' a special show and material that is not done the rest of the year. Rest of the year we don't use them. However, Lou and Peter Berryman make great use of a song book on a stand in their shows and it works.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: GUEST,pete from seven stars link
Date: 22 Oct 14 - 04:51 PM

fair comment, teribus. think I got a bit thread drifted. I was thinking on the more local level, and others are waiting to play , who are ready to play.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: Joe Offer
Date: 23 Oct 14 - 03:19 AM

I dunno. I think all that matters, is whether the song is sung well. Why not withhold judgment and just listen?

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: banjoman
Date: 23 Oct 14 - 05:43 AM

I have always disliked the use of crib sheets in singarounds. I feel that if you cant learn a song then it shouldn't be used.
I saw the ultimate a couple of weeks ago in an informal session when one person got out a laptop and set it up on a music stand and proceeded to go through lists of songs to find (Quote) "One that I might be able to do" I find that those who use crib sheets usually get it wrong anyway.


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Subject: RE: Celebrated Singers Using Songsheets
From: GUEST
Date: 23 Oct 14 - 06:02 PM

It's been said more than once up thread but apparently still not digested by some posters. "Crib sheet" can mean different things.

Something to be referred to for an occasional reminder if there's a memory lapse is one thing. Some singers who don't use them for that purpose should.

But if it means only half knowing the words or not knowing them at all and having to read them all the time, then it's something quite foreign to most of the singers from whom the songs were collected and to general practice in folk clubs in the earlier years of the revival, and it is justified only in exceptional circumstances.

One such circumstance is when a good song writer is trying out a new song. But that should only be with a sympathetic audience in a club that really is a club, where most of the "audience" are participants. Another is someone being asked to sing a song that is not part of their normal repertoire, for example in memory of someone who has just died.

Apropos (thread drift) tuning when about to perform: I only wish all guitarists would do so, and thoroughly. Never mind extreme temperature differences caused by stage lighting: instruments drift out of tune even in normal room conditions. I have often heard what would otherwise have been an excellent performance ruined by the performer not taking enough time to get the b---y thing in tune first.


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