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Singing in my own voice - hmm...

Will Fly 19 May 18 - 07:59 AM
Jim Carroll 19 May 18 - 08:48 AM
Jim Carroll 19 May 18 - 08:48 AM
Gordon Jackson 19 May 18 - 11:00 AM
Will Fly 19 May 18 - 11:52 AM
GUEST,Tunesmith 19 May 18 - 12:15 PM
Jim Carroll 19 May 18 - 12:28 PM
GUEST,Observer 19 May 18 - 12:57 PM
GUEST,Tunesmith 19 May 18 - 01:05 PM
GUEST,Cj 19 May 18 - 01:37 PM
Will Fly 19 May 18 - 01:57 PM
Jim Carroll 19 May 18 - 03:06 PM
McGrath of Harlow 19 May 18 - 03:09 PM
Tattie Bogle 19 May 18 - 03:14 PM
GUEST,Cj 19 May 18 - 03:20 PM
GUEST,Observer 19 May 18 - 04:14 PM
GUEST,Cj 19 May 18 - 04:17 PM
GUEST,Observer 19 May 18 - 04:48 PM
GUEST,Cj 19 May 18 - 06:07 PM
StephenH 19 May 18 - 06:45 PM
GUEST,Observer 20 May 18 - 01:58 AM
BobL 20 May 18 - 02:41 AM
GUEST,Observer 20 May 18 - 02:56 AM
Richard Mellish 20 May 18 - 03:06 AM
Jim Carroll 20 May 18 - 03:57 AM
GUEST,Cj 20 May 18 - 04:24 AM
Will Fly 20 May 18 - 04:38 AM
Andy7 20 May 18 - 04:45 AM
StephenH 20 May 18 - 10:39 AM
Jim Carroll 20 May 18 - 11:12 AM
Will Fly 20 May 18 - 11:45 AM
Jim Carroll 20 May 18 - 12:04 PM
Will Fly 20 May 18 - 12:12 PM
Joe Offer 20 May 18 - 12:34 PM
Jim Carroll 20 May 18 - 01:32 PM
leeneia 20 May 18 - 02:48 PM
GUEST 20 May 18 - 03:34 PM
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Subject: Singing in my own voice - hmm...
From: Will Fly
Date: 19 May 18 - 07:59 AM

We often read about the pros and cons of singing in one's native "voice" on this forum, and I've often debated what I would do, should I decide to do such a thing (which I won't).

Consider: born in Chorley to a Lancashire father and a Suffolk mother; 2 years in Lancashire; 6 years in Glasgow; 6 years in Horwich; 8 years in Lancaster; 3 years in Leeds; 7 years in London; 42 years in Sussex.

Easier to sing songs by Doc Watson! :-)


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Subject: RE: Singing in my own voice - hmm...
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 May 18 - 08:48 AM

There's a different in singing in your own "voice" and your own accent Will, if that's what you are deferring to
MacColl's theory was that people's voices were changed by the environment they spent the mot time in
He argued that in order to enable you to tackle the widest spectrum of songs, you found our "natural" voice and learned to expand it to encompass 'naturally' what the various songs demanded
We already have a naturally varied repertoire of tones for our everyday speech - why not for singing ?
As far as accents - most of us are capable of modulating the way we speak without sounding artificial - with yor regional background, you should have no trouble; I have only Liverpool, Manchester, London and the West of Ireland to draw from
Personally, I find a natural regional accent far less ridiculous than trying to sound like a North Carolinan and attempting to do so would present me with enormous problems in relating to the songs
Jim Caarroll


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Subject: RE: Singing in my own voice - hmm...
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 May 18 - 08:48 AM

referring - of course


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Subject: RE: Singing in my own voice - hmm...
From: Gordon Jackson
Date: 19 May 18 - 11:00 AM

I always sing in my own voice with my own accent (or London non-accent).

I used to be annoyed going to folk clubs listening to singers introducing a song in some kind of sub-cockney accent, then singing in a poor imitation of an American one.

Now I find it amusing, hearing them talk about 'luv', then singing about 'lurv'.

Gordon


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Subject: RE: Singing in my own voice - hmm...
From: Will Fly
Date: 19 May 18 - 11:52 AM

Oh, I quite understand, Jim, and appreciate what you're saying - I just happen to prefer the songs of Doc Watson! As it happens, I sing his stuff (and similar) with the lightest of American accents, and I've been listening to, and performing, this sort of music for over 50 years.

You probably know me well enough by now, from previous posts on this forum, that I'm not particularly interested in singing folk songs from the British Isles, but that I love playing folk tunes of the British Isles.


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Subject: RE: Singing in my own voice - hmm...
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 19 May 18 - 12:15 PM

Surely, your own singing voice is an extension of your own speaking voice.
Listen to Sinatra, to Springsteen, to Muddy Waters...to George Formby.


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Subject: RE: Singing in my own voice - hmm...
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 May 18 - 12:28 PM

I know that Will, but these threads are always useful for making general points to whoever is in the vicinity at the time
I assume you have a full quota of material to hand - we have masses of U.S. stuff digitised with notes if you are interested
"Surely, your own singing voice is an extension of your own speaking voice."
It should be but it isn't always
I get very tired of those little girl head voices which take twice as much as necessary breath to produce and play havoc with pitch control (the dreaded "gear-change")
Jim


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Subject: RE: Singing in my own voice - hmm...
From: GUEST,Observer
Date: 19 May 18 - 12:57 PM

"I'm not particularly interested in singing folk songs from the British Isles" (Will Fly).

In which case Will, I certainly would rather hear an American artist sing what you obviously regard as "your material", rather than listen to what you consider to be your imitation of "the lightest of American accents" (mid-Atlantic twang - shudder).


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Subject: RE: Singing in my own voice - hmm...
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 19 May 18 - 01:05 PM

If Hank Williams sang "The Seeds of Love", do you think he would have adopted an English accent?


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Subject: RE: Singing in my own voice - hmm...
From: GUEST,Cj
Date: 19 May 18 - 01:37 PM

Singing should be fun for the performers, as well as the audience. I prefer people singing in their own accent, however tame that may be, rather than a mid-Atlantic or MacColl’s ridiculous Hoots Mon accent, but it’s tricky to do and what’s the option? Barring people from joining in?

Music doesn’t have to be devastatingly original and authentic, every time. Most of the time, it’s just for fun, after all.


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Subject: RE: Singing in my own voice - hmm...
From: Will Fly
Date: 19 May 18 - 01:57 PM

I play and sing what I like, in a style that suits me and the people I play with. So far, enough people seem to like it - and of course it's each to his own.

Regardless of what I may or may not sing, I have a pretty varied repertoire of tunes from the British Isles, France and the US, on mandolin, guitar and tenor guitar. Just to compound my sins, I've spent the last 50 years playing jazz, soul music, rock'n roll, French "caf-conc" tunes, early country music and 1920s and 1930s popular songs as well as traditional tunes - in other words, just whatever takes my fancy. If I like it, I'll play it.

Every kind of music, for me, brings its own particular joy.


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Subject: RE: Singing in my own voice - hmm...
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 May 18 - 03:06 PM

MacColl’s ridiculous Hoots Mon accent"
Nonsense" - MacColl sang more or less as he and his mother did to each other at home - he was like many people (including me, when I speak to my sisters on the phone), somewhat chameleon-like in that they slide back into old habits
MacColl was born into a Scots community in Salford with parents from the highlands and lowlands - Betsy had an almost impenetrable accent till the day she dies
In London, I had dozens of friends with London Irish accents - neither fish nor fowl
Most natural thing in the world
I wish people..... oh - what the hell!!

My problem with singing American songs (I've anglicized several American ballads) is that I need to get inside what I sing and I find that difficult in another voice
Same with Scots songs, but I'm prepared to work harder at them
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Singing in my own voice - hmm...
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 19 May 18 - 03:09 PM

How your voice comes out of your mouth is almost inevitably coloured by how the song came into your ears. It's remarkably hard to avoid that even if you try hard.

It'll also be coloured by the other songs you've learnt and sung. And all that adds up to your own voice.

What sounds silly is when you go overboard trying to imitate the way someone else sings it. Especially when you can't keep it up when the song is done and you are talking.

A mid-Atlantic accent? That should be reserved for singing whale songs.


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Subject: RE: Singing in my own voice - hmm...
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 19 May 18 - 03:14 PM

I would also answer anyone who tells me to "sing in your own voice": "Well, what do you think is my own voice?"
Like you, Will, I have moved around: Scottish mother (Aberdonian but brought up in Greenock, so no idea what HER accent was), English father (Londoner but pretty "neutral" accent). I was born in Glasgow, but have lived in Essex, Suffolk, London, Sussex, Devon, Cheshire, Shropshire, Suffolk (again), and for the last 30+ years, in Scotland.
I like to sing all sorts of songs, including Scots ones, and would not dream of trying to Anglicise Scots lyrics, but rather "dae ma best" at pronouncing them a bit better than some of the cringe-making efforts you do hear at times: my mother used to correct me, but she is now long gone, so I'd rely on friends to tell me straight. My normal speaking accent is perhaps to define: English, yes, but where from? Still probably a trace of Suffolk in it, tho' I can switch it back on for songs that come from Suffolk. (While my Scottish friends think it's Devon......!)


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Subject: RE: Singing in my own voice - hmm...
From: GUEST,Cj
Date: 19 May 18 - 03:20 PM

Jim, not meaning to have a go at MacColl, I know you hold him dear. But, as a Scotsman, I found and still find his recorded singing voice comical - like a Geography teacher called in at short notice to play a Scottish policeman in a community play.

But, each to their own. I am aware of his heritage. And maybe, as you say, singing as though he was Mr Barrowclough was what came naturally to him.


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Subject: RE: Singing in my own voice - hmm...
From: GUEST,Observer
Date: 19 May 18 - 04:14 PM

An observation and matter of fact. Ewan MacColl was born in Salford - as Scottish as Big Ben. He was a member of the Young Communist League and was so determined in the fight against fascism that when given the perfect opportunity to do precisely that he enlisted in July 1940 and then deserted in December 1940. Why he deserted remains a mystery - but biographers have suggested that he was simply scared stiff of fighting. His father's name was Millar, his mother's maiden name was Henry, so where the name MacColl came from along with the accent is anyone's guess. He seems to have made much about getting into "the song", yet he wrote and sang songs about things well outside his own personal experience in life. Ewan MacColl was in fact a total fake, everything about him was an invention.


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Subject: RE: Singing in my own voice - hmm...
From: GUEST,Cj
Date: 19 May 18 - 04:17 PM

Ok, my apologies to Jim if this thread drifts into the usual let’s kick MacColl thread. Wasn’t my intention.


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Subject: RE: Singing in my own voice - hmm...
From: GUEST,Observer
Date: 19 May 18 - 04:48 PM

Oh do come along GUEST Cj - you did write this didn't you - "Jim, not meaning to have a go at MacColl, I know you hold him dear. But, as a Scotsman, I found and still find his recorded singing voice comical - like a Geography teacher called in at short notice to play a Scottish policeman in a community play." - you either meant it or you didn't. No need for back peddling now. The information in my post is up there for refutation.


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Subject: RE: Singing in my own voice - hmm...
From: GUEST,Cj
Date: 19 May 18 - 06:07 PM

Yeah, but all I was referring too was EM's vocal theories, which Jim bought into the arena and I felt was worthy of challenging due to their (in my view) hypocrisy.

The other stuff has been done to death.


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Subject: RE: Singing in my own voice - hmm...
From: StephenH
Date: 19 May 18 - 06:45 PM

Too bad, Observer, that you have to prove a point that Jim Carroll has made many times: Mention MacColl and someone is likely to use it to spew vitriol. Your post had nothing to do with the subject of the thread - at least Cj's comments took on EM's singing style. You simply display your hatred of MacColl's politics. You're entitled to your opinion but as Cj says:
"The other stuff has been done to death. "

As for the subject of the thread:
Years ago, I would have felt comfortable singing in a Yorkshire accent, even though I was born and raised in Canada. My parents were both from Yorkshire, as were most of my extended family except for my Northumbrian
maternal grandmother. Now, I don't have them around anymore, and the Yorkshire accent of their generation (were they still alive they would each be more than 100 years old) might sound odd to present day young Yorkshire folk. I would have to work really hard at it now.
Is it really so horrible to sing in an accent that you have been surrounded by and nurtured in for a good deal of your life - even if it isn't your natural speaking voice?


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Subject: RE: Singing in my own voice - hmm...
From: GUEST,Observer
Date: 20 May 18 - 01:58 AM

Oddly enough StephenH my post was bang on topic and had nothing to do with Millar's politics as you put it, the point of the post is what is said in the last sentence. The post is about singing in an accent other than your own normal/natural voice, GUEST Cj pointed out what he honestly thought of Millar/MacColl's recorded singing voice in response to Jim Carroll's post.

On the well worn topic of "what is folk music" I am generally fully in agreement with what Jim Carroll has to say on the subject. In the course of my lifetime the genre that sparked my interest has been totally and detrimentally highjacked, to the point that many "Folk Clubs" should be prosecuted under the trades description act as in Jim Carroll's own words on going into a folk club today you "Never seem to get what is written on the tin".

To answer your specific question:

Is it really so horrible to sing in an accent that you have been surrounded by and nurtured in for a good deal of your life - even if it isn't your natural speaking voice?

Yes it is horrible, what you are describing is mimicry, or what PC enthusiasts would term cultural appropriation. The most practiced exponents of this that I have seen and heard are live bands out in the far east, generally they are from the Philippines, on stage while performing singing songs written in English they are word perfect, close your eyes and you would believe that you are listening to the original artist. Go over and talk to the band to compliment them on their performance and you are answered in pidgin.


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Subject: RE: Singing in my own voice - hmm...
From: BobL
Date: 20 May 18 - 02:41 AM

And what about foreign languages? I once got my local church choir to sing "O Tannenbaum" at a Victorian Christmas concert (Christmas trees were introduced here by Prince Albert) - in German, doubtless with a strong English accent, but who'd notice?


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Subject: RE: Singing in my own voice - hmm...
From: GUEST,Observer
Date: 20 May 18 - 02:56 AM

BobL, well done. You "once got" your local church choir to sing in German and you refrained from insisting in getting them to sing it with a fake German accent - i.e. they sang the German lyrics in "their own natural voices". I am sure they enjoyed the experience as no doubt did their audience.


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Subject: RE: Singing in my own voice - hmm...
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 20 May 18 - 03:06 AM

Much to agree with in the recent discussions.

I'm glad the digression into MacColl-bashing was brief, but I'm intrigued that there were claims of both the authenticity and the inauthenticity of his accent when singing in Scots. Is that perhaps because of his very distinctive and, arguably, not entirely natural singing voice, whichever accent he was using?

I agree with McGrath of Harlow: "How your voice comes out of your mouth is almost inevitably coloured by how the song came into your ears. It's remarkably hard to avoid that even if you try hard." I believe I am mostly successful in avoiding it nowadays, except when the song is in a different language or a substantially different dialect, when I either anglicise it or pronounce it as authentically as I can manage.


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Subject: RE: Singing in my own voice - hmm...
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 20 May 18 - 03:57 AM

"I found and still find his recorded singing voice comical -"
As someone who's father was born in Glasgow and as a 'Liverpool Sass' who has been steeped in Scottish song from the likes of Jeannie and The Stewarts since I first entered the scene in the early sixties - I do not
As a ballad buff, I am grateful for the 175 Child ballads MacColl breathed new life into and introduced onto the scene - I agree with Bronson's comments in his review of his and Bert's 'Riverside Series' when he described it as a groundbreaking step in opening up the world of sung balladry to the general public
You may find his accent "ridiculous" many thousands of us did not and are still not doing so - Scots and Sassanachs
I find it staggering to find that almost all his recorded repertoire is still freely available three decades after his death - surely that's an indication of how "Hoots Mon" people found his singing
I find it totally unfathomable (well, I don't really - just another "stick to beat an artist who wouldn't join the luvvie/folkie set) why MacColl's accent is such an issue with the few, yet they seem happy to accept the wierd phrasing, poor pronunciation, the hiccoughy delivery, the abandonment of narrative forms, the non-use of punctuation, the ostentatious accompaniment...... that turned so many of our most beautiful songs and ballads into narrative garbage - from so many of our folk superstars - MacColl and those who were influenced him never did that - they became song/storytellers (which is how so many of the field singers described themselves - English, Irish and the few Scots we recorded)
In this respect, MacColl's approach to the tradition was far nearer than most revival singers I have met and listened to (or stopped listening to)
I have no intention of nausing Will's thread up with this argument, so I will say as much as feel be said in one go and move on
I don't give a toss who likes or dislikes MacColl's singing, any more than I expect anybody to give a toss about my tastes
What does concern me is the unbelievable necrophobia that still prevents an intelligent discussion on the mass of other work MacColl did during nearly ten years of weekly meetings done with other singers on the scene who attempted to come to terms with folk song in order to give it the chance of survival (all done while MacColl's knockers were getting on with their own careers)
Garbage about name-change, distorted WW2 yarns like Teribus's, "Hoots Mon accents" and all the other crap has created a no-go area to discussing what, in my opinion, a major body of work on singing traditional songs
It may be of no value but people will never know until they open the box.
It's not as if the scene can flop down in it's armchair content that the future of folk song is in safe hands now, is it?

Apologies Will (can't guarantee it won't happen again elsewhere)
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Singing in my own voice - hmm...
From: GUEST,Cj
Date: 20 May 18 - 04:24 AM

Jim, you've been fighting this war so long that you always seem to bring the cavalry when a simple note will do.

That's fine, EM's accent didn't bother you. Well, it did and does me. I was merely responding to your take on EM's thoughts, which seem comically hypocritical when taken alongside how he actually sang.

His club's guidelines about singing in one's own accent I positively agree with and am grateful for, but again, they seem comically hypocritical when taken alongside how he actually sang.


That doesn't diminish his many positive qualities, like every human, he was flawed.


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Subject: RE: Singing in my own voice - hmm...
From: Will Fly
Date: 20 May 18 - 04:38 AM

No worries Jim - I purposely made no reference to MacColl and, in fact, had a long-gone and fascinating conversation with the late MtheGM in mind when I wrote the original post!

I do believe that having an ear for music can also give you an ear for differences in speech which range from accent to dialect to a foreign language. I was lucky enough (or unlucky enough, depending in your point of view) to have French drilled into me at a very early age, and it's a language I speak reasonably well to this day. I occasionally sing French songs - but I would never attempt to sing them in anything but my best French accent, otherwise they would sound utterly stupid. Luckily, French listeners have been very complimentary on my performance (or perhaps just humouring me!)

Now, here's a question: Is American English an "accent", a "dialect" or a "foreign language"? :-)

I personally treat it as a foreign language and give it as much care and attention as I give to French. All this, of course, begs the question as to what American and French we're talking about. Breton French? Texan American? It's a road with no end. All I can do is to be as faithful as I can to the song that I've heard. I'm particularly fond of a French "bal musette" song called "J'Attendrai" sung by Rina Ketty - a lovely song performed beautifully by Rina Ketty - who was Italian! Here's Rina in action:

Rina Ketty: J'Attendrai

Oh - be still my heart!


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Subject: RE: Singing in my own voice - hmm...
From: Andy7
Date: 20 May 18 - 04:45 AM

Nobody from Germany has ever complimented me on my accent when I sing in German. But a lady from Slovenia once did!


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Subject: RE: Singing in my own voice - hmm...
From: StephenH
Date: 20 May 18 - 10:39 AM

Observer, the example you used in answering my question had nothing to do with what I was suggesting, unless, of course, The Filipino singers grew up with parents who spoke English with various American or English accents.
I also agree with McGrath's comment, although I try, when I sing, not to fall into the habit of adopting an accent, which is hard for me as I've always had a love of language, words, and the way they are pronounced, etc.


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Subject: RE: Singing in my own voice - hmm...
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 20 May 18 - 11:12 AM

"Oh - be still my heart!"
Mine too - but I think that emphasises a problem with all these discussions
Songs like that are 'music' with words, and work superbly as such - take a narrative folk song like that and it would be diabolical
You favour American material, the traditional side of which is "word-based" (as Lomax's Cantometrics crowd entitled it) but not necessarily 'narrative'.
The thirties wrought great changes in American folk song, where the focus shifted from narrative to musical presentation, the words following the instrument rather than leading it
Personally, I love both, but I need to separate Dock Boggs's approach from Texas Gladden's when I sit down to listen to it
I suppose, as a Brit, that makes American songs approachable.
I remember a few years ago Peggy Seeger did a booking here in West Clare, she phoned us the day she arrived and we spent the afternoon together talking - part of it was her finding out what type of audience she could expect (largely a bluegrass/C&W crowd we thought from our memories of the club)
Pat and I asked her for a couple of her her unaccompanied big ballads - she somewhat dubiously agreed.
She started with her regular stuff, 'Handsome Molly', 'Cumberland Gap', 'Freight Train', et al, and was greeted with wild enthusiasm
She then sang 'Fair Annie' - one of her best 'biggie' and brought the house down - a brief silence, then thunderous applause
By the end of the evening she could have led the audience out of the door, up the road thirty miles and over The Cliffs of Moher.
Ballads heve been fairly easy to sing around here since, though you have to know where to place them
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Singing in my own voice - hmm...
From: Will Fly
Date: 20 May 18 - 11:45 AM

I couldn't agree more, Jim - I don't sing traditional "UK" songs because, on the whole, they simply just don't appeal to me. To be honest, I'm far more interested in melody, harmony, rhythm, musical form, technique and similar matters than in words - which is why I favour playing tunes over singing.

Having said that, I'm a great fan of 1930s popular song - sneered at, I'm afraid, by some on this forum as "Tin Pan Alley - from masters such as Kern, Gershwin, Warren, etc. I suppose, at heart, I'm just an old jazzer. Bob Copper once told me that his dad's favourite, non-folk, song was "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime" - so I'm not in bad company. :-)


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Subject: RE: Singing in my own voice - hmm...
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 20 May 18 - 12:04 PM

"I'm a great fan of 1930s popular song "
Me too Will, but I'm convinced they touch a different bit of the brain, but even with these, the clarity on enunciation plays a a major part of my enjoyment
I get the same buzz from the old Hollywood musicals
And Walter' Houston's 'September Song'.....
I feel like an old fogy when I complain about not understanding the words in pop songs, but it's not just that.
I got hooked on Brel, Trenet and Piaf in my twenties and my French has never advanced beyond asking a woman if she will sleep with me
It seems have something to do with vocal passion which over-rides the words
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Singing in my own voice - hmm...
From: Will Fly
Date: 20 May 18 - 12:12 PM

my French has never advanced beyond asking a woman if she will sleep with me

I hope you were successful!


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Subject: RE: Singing in my own voice - hmm...
From: Joe Offer
Date: 20 May 18 - 12:34 PM

When I'm singing in another language, I think it's important to have reasonably good pronunciation, but with an accent that's my own. I hear people sing foreign songs and just slaughter the pronunciation, and that grinds on me. And then I hear others sing in a foreign language and try to be too accurate, and it comes out sounding precious, like a U.S. Public Radio announcer trying to give precise pronunciations of the names of composers.

People sometimes ask me to write up "phonetic" lyrics for foreign songs, and I hate doing that. Worse yet, having to sing or read from stuff that was phonetically spelled, without including the original text.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Singing in my own voice - hmm...
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 20 May 18 - 01:32 PM

"I hope you were successful!"
Too long ago to remember!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Singing in my own voice - hmm...
From: leeneia
Date: 20 May 18 - 02:48 PM

Anybody who enjoys singing should go ahead and sing then they feel like it. Don't worry about what other people think, just do what's right for you.


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Subject: RE: Singing in my own voice - hmm...
From: GUEST
Date: 20 May 18 - 03:34 PM

I sing and write songs in my own accent, with some words "borrowed" from my father and mother. Words falling into disuse perhaps, thanks to the wonderful Scottish education system which has tried it's best to destroy my/our accent. Being from Aberdeen, that means that the audience understanding of my lyrics may be limited, but if they can listen to "world" music, songs from Brazil to Zimbabwe, then they can listen to my particular form of Scots too. And I'm happy to say that they do.
You can hear some here: www.youtube.com/bobknightfolk


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