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How many songs do you need?

RTim 04 Apr 17 - 11:15 AM
Bill D 04 Apr 17 - 11:20 AM
Jack Campin 04 Apr 17 - 11:33 AM
Andy7 04 Apr 17 - 11:43 AM
Teribus 04 Apr 17 - 11:44 AM
Jack Campin 04 Apr 17 - 12:28 PM
Teribus 04 Apr 17 - 12:51 PM
Big Al Whittle 04 Apr 17 - 01:17 PM
Bill D 04 Apr 17 - 01:51 PM
Bill D 04 Apr 17 - 01:58 PM
BobKnight 04 Apr 17 - 02:43 PM
GUEST 04 Apr 17 - 05:03 PM
Merritt 04 Apr 17 - 05:10 PM
Deckman 04 Apr 17 - 10:57 PM
Ernest 05 Apr 17 - 02:34 AM
GUEST 05 Apr 17 - 04:53 AM
banjoman 05 Apr 17 - 05:07 AM
GUEST 05 Apr 17 - 05:08 AM
Rob Naylor 05 Apr 17 - 05:21 AM
Big Al Whittle 05 Apr 17 - 06:53 AM
GUEST,Some bloke 05 Apr 17 - 07:40 AM
leeneia 05 Apr 17 - 11:19 AM
The Sandman 05 Apr 17 - 01:22 PM
Big Al Whittle 05 Apr 17 - 06:11 PM
Bugsy 05 Apr 17 - 09:42 PM
Big Al Whittle 06 Apr 17 - 12:18 AM
leeneia 06 Apr 17 - 12:45 AM
leeneia 06 Apr 17 - 12:48 AM
Marje 06 Apr 17 - 03:44 AM
The Sandman 06 Apr 17 - 03:46 AM
GUEST,Mike Daniels 06 Apr 17 - 07:13 AM
GUEST,Colin 06 Apr 17 - 07:15 AM
Johnny J 06 Apr 17 - 07:29 AM
GUEST,Desi C 06 Apr 17 - 11:01 AM
meself 06 Apr 17 - 12:12 PM
vectis 07 Apr 17 - 04:47 AM
Teribus 07 Apr 17 - 01:37 PM
Tattie Bogle 07 Apr 17 - 01:57 PM
Rumncoke 07 Apr 17 - 02:36 PM
Big Al Whittle 08 Apr 17 - 03:26 AM
Deckman 08 Apr 17 - 11:20 PM
SPB-Cooperator 09 Apr 17 - 08:04 AM
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Subject: How many songs do you need?
From: RTim
Date: 04 Apr 17 - 11:15 AM

How many songs do you need?

I have often wondered exactly how many songs I need to be a "folk" singer.

My main interest has always been songs collected in my home county Hampshire UK – and the collected Dr. George Gardiner collect some 1200 songs there from 1905 to 09.
The singer who gave him the most songs over that time was Mr. George Blake of Emery Down, later of St. Denys, Southampton – he gave Gardiner 48 songs. Now this was probably not Georges complete repertoire – I am sure there some songs Gardiner just didn't want.
There were examples of singers who had huge stores of songs – for instance, Henry Burstow 1826 to 1916 of Horsham Sussex – who was said to have 420 songs in his repertoire – I am sure that was unusual in those days – but what about today??
I think I could sing at least 150 songs fro memory, and a lot lot more with the words in front of me – thereby I know the tunes – but how many do you really need??

Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: How many songs do you need?
From: Bill D
Date: 04 Apr 17 - 11:20 AM

♫"Sing ninety-nine & ninety"♫

Some very wonderful singers have only a few, some have thousands.....


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Subject: RE: How many songs do you need?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 04 Apr 17 - 11:33 AM

I rather like the policy adopted by a tribe in Colombia where everybody was expected to compose their own song (or flute tune, I forget) in early adulthood. The was your song, you would never compose another one, and nobody ever performed anybody else's. (I think they were studied by Bruno Nettl and described in a couple of his books).


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Subject: RE: How many songs do you need?
From: Andy7
Date: 04 Apr 17 - 11:43 AM

I know around 60 songs from memory (some maybe needing a quick refresher/polish before performing).

As I normally sing only at singarounds or open mics, that can keep me going for several months without repeats, so more than enough, I'd say.

Remembering which songs I know, when I have to pull one out of the hat at short notice, now that's another matter entirely!


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Subject: RE: How many songs do you need?
From: Teribus
Date: 04 Apr 17 - 11:44 AM

"everybody was expected to compose their own song (or flute tune, I forget) in early adulthood. The was your song, you would never compose another one, and nobody ever performed anybody else's."

So no tribal stories or traditions passed down from generation to generation then - what a piss poor example of folk tradition.


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Subject: RE: How many songs do you need?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 04 Apr 17 - 12:28 PM

As far as I know, stories and traditions were passed down like anywhere else. And presumably the musical idiom didn't change fast.


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Subject: RE: How many songs do you need?
From: Teribus
Date: 04 Apr 17 - 12:51 PM

On the subject of how many songs a singer might need, it would as mentioned by Andy depend upon what you are doing. In an Open mike and singaround situation as he says about 60 would mean that you are not singing the same thing week-in-week-out (It is amazing how many people do this to the inward groans of those who have to listen). If you are performing say three 45 minute sets then you need to have about 13 or 14 songs at performance standard for each set. You will not use them all but you will need to have those at your command.

You cannot perform the same thing week-in-week-out so those three set lists have to change. I remember one group had a spreadsheet where they kept note of what they used to sing, once a song had six ticks beside it it was moved to the bottom of the list and stayed there until it worked its way to the top again. They had something in the order of about 160 songs, we ran on a list of material that was around 240, in a concert/festival environment we always made a point of NOT playing the same set list twice over the course of the festival but you could find yourself playing one set of about an hour, but generally festival slots tend to be shorter.

What also alters the requirement is whether you perform as a solo artist, a duo, or a group and what your normal mix is balance of songs and tunes, mainly tunes with a few songs thrown in to stop people becoming numb-eared, or mainly songs with a few tunes tacked onto or included within a song or a couple of sets of tunes thrown in each set.


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Subject: RE: How many songs do you need?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 04 Apr 17 - 01:17 PM

you can call yourself a folksinger.
no one has been taken to court over claiming to be one, thus far - to the best of my knowledge.


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Subject: RE: How many songs do you need?
From: Bill D
Date: 04 Apr 17 - 01:51 PM

Equines anonymous v. Bill Broonzy & Louis Armstrong et.al, 1964

"People's Court of Last Resort"


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Subject: RE: How many songs do you need?
From: Bill D
Date: 04 Apr 17 - 01:58 PM

Main witness was a "Mr. Ed".


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Subject: RE: How many songs do you need?
From: BobKnight
Date: 04 Apr 17 - 02:43 PM

I find that a 45 minute spot needs at least 10 songs. Most clubs work on two forty-five minute spots, but I can do a lot longer than that.
Actually I could do the 2x45's with original material only, but I prefer to mix it up a little with added traditional songs.


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Subject: RE: How many songs do you need?
From: GUEST
Date: 04 Apr 17 - 05:03 PM

If you are performing at booked gigs one set can be toured for a couple of months at least.

If you are floor singing at the same club week in week out you probably need more to avoid repeating yourself. If you start off singing regularly with too small a repertoire you can find that you are turning out with the dreaded crib sheet because you are not learning new material quickly enough.


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Subject: RE: How many songs do you need?
From: Merritt
Date: 04 Apr 17 - 05:10 PM

Most of my music projects these days are more commercial, more about licensed fare, less about folk. In that world I know 100s of songs. But I do have one new monthly cafe gig of 4 hours that is about 95% public domain and 5% originals. I figure 15-17 songs an hour, so 60+ songs total. I know I'll want to change up the song mix from month to month, so that keep adding to the Big List of public domain songs.

Different situation than your's, RTim. It's really cool that you keep a focus on music from your county; you're really helping to preserve something valuable.


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Subject: RE: How many songs do you need?
From: Deckman
Date: 04 Apr 17 - 10:57 PM

At my advanced age of nearly 90, I would suggest that you NEVER have enough songs to fill "your need." My "need" for songs started when I was 13, and it continues today. Just now I was working on a new song, to me. When I stop "needing songs" will likely be the day I die ... CHEERS, bob(deckman)


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Subject: RE: How many songs do you need?
From: Ernest
Date: 05 Apr 17 - 02:34 AM

Over here I`ve seen people busking in the underground (tube), playing a bit, collecting money, changing cars at every station - I guess one doesn`t need too many songs for doing that....


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Subject: RE: How many songs do you need?
From: GUEST
Date: 05 Apr 17 - 04:53 AM

"At my advanced age of nearly 90, I would suggest that you NEVER have enough songs to fill "your need." My "need" for songs started when I was 13, and it continues today. Just now I was working on a new song, to me. When I stop "needing songs" will likely be the day I die ... CHEERS, bob(deckman)"

Absolutely!!


I've got a reasonably large number of songs in my "working repertoire" (i.e. just over 300 that I know by heart – I wouldn't insult a song by trying to read it while singing it even if I could).   Although I don't do paid gigs (my choice in the main), I sing at singarounds and sessions several times a week but even so it takes me about two years to work through my repertoire. Of course I don't need so many songs – I doubt whether people would notice if I repeated each song after a couple of months (and some people do keep saying "Sing such and such a song again") – but I didn't learn the songs for the purpose of increasing my repertoire: I learn songs because I love them and want to sing them. I'm still hearing songs and thinking "I must learn that". It's hard enough to get through them all now but if a song wants to be sung there's little I can do about it.


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Subject: RE: How many songs do you need?
From: banjoman
Date: 05 Apr 17 - 05:07 AM

Totally agree- never enough songs. We at a conservative estimate could muster up about 400 songs between us (me & the other half)plus a collection of about 500 hymns and Christmas music. Always looking for more.


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Subject: RE: How many songs do you need?
From: GUEST
Date: 05 Apr 17 - 05:08 AM

59


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Subject: RE: How many songs do you need?
From: Rob Naylor
Date: 05 Apr 17 - 05:21 AM

I have about 50 that I can sing/play or sing unaccompanied from memory at any one time, from a growing list of around 90 (87 as of this week when I added a new one) that I either know now or can refresh quickly as required.

I've been going to a bi-monthly club in Devon for about 18 months now, with about 20 visits in that period. We normally get 4 songs/ tunes each over the evening and so far I've only repeated 3 of them. I may repeat another tonight.

There are dozens more that I want to learn (probably hundreds, but a couple of dozen at least on my "must learn soon" priority list). However, I'm not very musical (can only very slowly pick my way through musical notation, and find it difficult to pick up tunes just by listening too). I'm also a bit clumsy (as my long litany of injuries proves) so it can take me a long time to get a tune or a song to a level where I'm happy to perform it. Therefore my repertoire is growing more slowly than I'd like it to.

Teribus: You cannot perform the same thing week-in-week-out so those three set lists have to change.

You'd think so, but there's a band local to where I live in Kent that has a single *laminated* set list. We had them for a climbing club dinner a few years ago. The band from the previous year were excellent, and as well as their pre-selected set list were willing to try and improvise to requests (very successfully), if they knew the songs. However, they were booked so we had the laminated lot. People who'd seen them at other events swore that neither the set list nor the running order had changed in at least 6 years, so some people seem to get away with it!


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Subject: RE: How many songs do you need?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 05 Apr 17 - 06:53 AM

to be honest- that's a slightly different thing. people gigging functions, with an ever changing venue and audience need to be slick as all hell. know their equipment, their repertoire - introductory fuunies - so you can be grabbing the correct instrument with the correct setting.

a folk club audience that sees you maybe once every couple of years - deserves the kind of introduction that engage them intelligently - not really what they heard ten years ago. social attitudes change, and the traditional songs develop new relevancies. the songs don't need to change so much but your handling of them needs to get more assured - the way you inhabit a traditional song changes subtly throughout your life. this is what makes it live annew.

the resident's gig is different again. you need a big repertoire to keep it fresh. to have something interesting to say to the same people every week. to keep you on your mettle. to set the mood for the guests or other floor singers. if they are going to do long reflective songs. you have to provide the bounce. you're like the gouache - the background wash that complements the other singers , gives them a setting for the jewels they have to offer.

they are separate disciplines and you learn that by doing the jobs as well as you can.


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Subject: RE: How many songs do you need?
From: GUEST,Some bloke
Date: 05 Apr 17 - 07:40 AM

I recently totted up and listed titles in notes on my phone about 120 songs (and monologues) that I felt I could perform as opposed to "see if I remember." Mainly traditional songs, but a number of what is increasingly called acoustic roots.

Funny thing is, the next night at a club I help run, I played half a dozen songs and none were on the list.

Years of changing your set, not wishing to repeat too many and regular bookings where you should (but rarely did) make a note of what you played there last time means that the repertoire does increase somewhat.

Now.. of course, some you tend to be far happier with than others and places you go to regularly, its nice to get requests so you do repeat yourself, so a "regular" list for me is bout thirty songs at most.

In terms of song rate, I'm with Al. A folk club audience doesn't mind a bit of provenance waffle before the song and if you can slip in a knob gag or two, all the better.


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Subject: RE: How many songs do you need?
From: leeneia
Date: 05 Apr 17 - 11:19 AM

RTim, I think a real singer doesn't care how many songs he knows. However many he's learned and perhaps forgotten, he just wants to learn another. It's like any other addiction - you always want just one more.


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Subject: RE: How many songs do you need?
From: The Sandman
Date: 05 Apr 17 - 01:22 PM

"Subject: RE: How many songs do you need?
From: leeneia - PM
Date: 05 Apr 17 - 11:19 AM

RTim, I think a real singer doesn't care how many songs he knows. However many he's learned and perhaps forgotten, he just wants to learn another. It's like any other addiction - you always want just one more."         
Correct
, I am still learning, i have no idea how many i know, i have better things to do than count up how many songs i know, even if i want to get off to sleep, i would nt do that.


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Subject: RE: How many songs do you need?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 05 Apr 17 - 06:11 PM

whereas an unreal singer.......


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Subject: RE: How many songs do you need?
From: Bugsy
Date: 05 Apr 17 - 09:42 PM

Interesting to hear 'catters talking about how many songs you need for a40/45 minute set.

Personally, it depends on how the intro's go down. My normal setting the would be 8, my worst set Ever, 10, my Bestest Ever set, 3 9 (in a 1 hour set)

Uncle Del, rest hi soul, was a great inspiration.

Cheers

Bugsy


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Subject: RE: How many songs do you need?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 06 Apr 17 - 12:18 AM

there again - Derek was supremely skillfull at talking to the audience and keeping it entertained in an age when guitars were very expensive and digital tuners were a thing of the future. Derek used a lot of open tunings - less as he got older - but I've seen him use four different tunings in four songs. I doubt his audience were even aware his machinations.

back in the 1960's - a good guitar like Derek favoured would cost more than my dad made in a couple of months. so having a couple of guitars would not really have occurred to him.

he started doing all the chat when he was in a band with 17 year old Maddy Prior, and she gave him the job of talking to the audience whilst the rest of the band sorted themselves out for the next number. in the end, the schtick is probably what most people will remember him for - certainly Capstick, Carrot, Harding, Connolly - all at various times have mentioned Derek's way of introducing a song as influential on their own style.

last time I saw Malc Stent, i think he did two songs in the second half.

having said that DErek was a stunning musician in many ways. on the English folkscene, I can only think of young Sunjay Brayne who can handle a set of finger picks in the way Derek did. most of us rely on the transducer to amplify our efforts. but that percussive yet delicate technique that Derek had - it had unique qualities.


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Subject: RE: How many songs do you need?
From: leeneia
Date: 06 Apr 17 - 12:45 AM

Big Al wondered what an unreal singer is.

A person who is willing to damage the voice in order to make money is not a real singer.

A person who is willing to undertake a soul-destroying concert tour which may result in collapse and hospitalization is not a real singer.

A person who willingly sings out of tune or sounds sick because it fits his genre is not a real singer.


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Subject: RE: How many songs do you need?
From: leeneia
Date: 06 Apr 17 - 12:48 AM

Hello, Schweik. It looks as if you and I share the same attitude. Why spend time trying to count songs when we would be learning a new one or singing an old one.


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Subject: RE: How many songs do you need?
From: Marje
Date: 06 Apr 17 - 03:44 AM

I don't think most people would say there's a maximum number, beyond which they'd regard their repertoire as complete. It's the minimum number that's of more interest: how many songs do I need to know in order to keep people's interest when I sing?

And this depends largely and how often and where you perform. If I go to see a professional, paid artist at a club, I don't expect him to do exactly the same set he did when he came there a year or two ago. A good pro will keep developing his repertoire, and probably have something quite new every time that he's excited about and keen to share. This needs dozens or even hundreds of songs as a working repertoire.

If you just sing a song or two in a floor spot or a session or a singaround, you don't need so many songs, but it's nice to be able to rise to the occasion and find something suitable for the occasion (e.g. season, recent events, weather, etc). Sometimes at a song session, a "theme" develops spontaneously, and people try to find something that fits. There is, however, always someone who will say, "I don't know any songs about the sea/the spring/Brexit, so here's a Tom Paxton song"; this is probably the song he sang last week or the week before, from his four-song repertoire. Yawn. This is when I go to the bar or the loo.

So even for the occasional singer, a good, varied repertoire of a couple of dozen songs is what I'd consider a minimum. People often start by singing the only song they know; fair enough, and then they go home and lear another one for next time, and so it builds up. But for most of us, there's no point at which you ever want to stop. I know dozens of songs, but have just found a gorgeous tune to "The Lark in the Morning", collected only a few miles from where I live in Devon, so that's next on my list...

Marje


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Subject: RE: How many songs do you need?
From: The Sandman
Date: 06 Apr 17 - 03:46 AM

Marje could you pm the tune.


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Subject: RE: How many songs do you need?
From: GUEST,Mike Daniels
Date: 06 Apr 17 - 07:13 AM

n+1: where n represents the number of songs you already know


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Subject: RE: How many songs do you need?
From: GUEST,Colin
Date: 06 Apr 17 - 07:15 AM

Leenia....."Big Al wondered what an unreal singer is.
A person who is willing to damage the voice in order to make money is not a real singer.
A person who is willing to undertake a soul-destroying concert tour which may result in collapse and hospitalization is not a real singer.
A person who willingly sings out of tune or sounds sick because it fits his genre is not a real singer. "

I have pondered the above and come to the conclusion that it is unponderable.....I don't get this at all.... Possibly missing the Mudcat "in Jokes" I dunno
In answer to the original question..as a singer/ musician I need as many songs as required to meet the diverse needs of my audience which changes all the time...


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Subject: RE: How many songs do you need?
From: Johnny J
Date: 06 Apr 17 - 07:29 AM

As has been said, it all depends on why you need them and what you mean by being a folk singer.

The same question could apply to tunes and instrumental pieces, of course.

If you wish to be a regular club performer, then you need a repertoire that will last approx two 45min spots or, perhaps, an a single one hour spot. Of course, if you only intend to do short spots or even just attend singarounds, then the quantity is less important.

However, you probably need a few extra so as your repertoire doesn't become repetitive or stale and it's always a good idea to keep adding new material from time to time.

I think another issue is the ability to have enough tunes and songs "on the burner" at any one time which have been honed to a reasonable standard. This is an extra skill which not everyone has, I'd imagine, as I've never tried to be a full time or professional musician, that it takes a lot of dedication and work. I know several tunes but those I retain at any one time at a reasonable standard usuallly remains fairly constant although they do come back to me when required.

I guess that's why "set lists" are so important for many musicians too.


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Subject: RE: How many songs do you need?
From: GUEST,Desi C
Date: 06 Apr 17 - 11:01 AM

When I first was getting into Folk music in the late 70's I had a piece of advice on this subject from the great Martin Carthy, he said try to learn 10 songs very well, then add the odd new one when you can sing all the ten by heart. I'm 65 now and I have a collection/repertoire of over 600 and I've probably performed 400+ of those. but the 10 song advice was invaluable so I'd say a minimum of 10 and a limit of as many as you like ;)


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Subject: RE: How many songs do you need?
From: meself
Date: 06 Apr 17 - 12:12 PM

How long is a string ... of songs ... ?


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Subject: RE: How many songs do you need?
From: vectis
Date: 07 Apr 17 - 04:47 AM

The first gig I ever played was at a pub. I knew 17 songs and towards the end of the night I was halfway through them for the second time. Luckily the early punters were drunk enough not to notice or gone home by then.

I now have 150 to 200 on the go most of which can be done at the drop of a hat or with a short bit of notice. Still learning new ones as you can never have too many.


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Subject: RE: How many songs do you need?
From: Teribus
Date: 07 Apr 17 - 01:37 PM

Two - "Rawhide" and "Stand by your man"


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Subject: RE: How many songs do you need?
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 07 Apr 17 - 01:57 PM

Probably thousands where I know all the words if someone ELSE is singing them, but far fewer where I would be able to sing the whole song, in the right order, from memory. But I don't sing professionally, just do the occasional floor spot at clubs, and sing in sessions, with or without words in front of me. I do like to keep doing different songs, maybe to fit the occasion, time of year or whatever, which may mean that my aging brain does not retain all the words from one year to the next. But I am really trying to do more without crib sheets!


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Subject: RE: How many songs do you need?
From: Rumncoke
Date: 07 Apr 17 - 02:36 PM

My memory decided to retire some time ago - so I began to make a serious compilation of what I could remember - but as time goes by I find that songs are still turning up, and I am making a few, collecting a few - I even get my guitar in tune and play a few from time to time.
My family has always had singers, so I do sometimes introduce a song as one from my mother or grandmother's singing, or explain that my version of Goodbye Dolly has the soldier returning home, because my grandfather did, and sang it to my mother. He called her Dolly Grey-eyes.
At the last meeting of the local folk club I found the idea of my book being placed in an archive when I no longer need it quite hilarious - but maybe I should consider it after all.


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Subject: RE: How many songs do you need?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 08 Apr 17 - 03:26 AM

in a way it's a nice naive question. I can remember having a book with all the songs i knew - anxious not to repeat myself, but also anxious to show off the few songs that i had written. As I recall, it was up too 70 or eighty odd then. And that was forty odd years ago.


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Subject: RE: How many songs do you need?
From: Deckman
Date: 08 Apr 17 - 11:20 PM

I've always thought of my favorite songs as my best friends. And, as any thoughtful person will admit, one can't have enough friends ... eh? bob(deckman)nelson


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Subject: RE: How many songs do you need?
From: SPB-Cooperator
Date: 09 Apr 17 - 08:04 AM

When I was going to clubs regularly, with the shanty crew and with the music hall company, I learned about 300-400 songs and tunes - of which about 50 each (music hall/shanties) I was satisfied were up to a professional standard, as where possibly about another 20 - 30 in my stock repertoire. The rest, may have ever been performed once or twice,or never saw daylight. Tnose are the ones I learned just because I lied them. These days I could count the number of songs I would be prepared to perform in public on the fingers of one hand, and tunes, the toes on my feet.

In terms of my printed collection - that probably runs to a couple of thousand - a big chunk of that being music hall sheet music.


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