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When your singer's out of tune

Marion 10 Apr 00 - 01:20 PM
MMario 10 Apr 00 - 01:32 PM
BlueJay 10 Apr 00 - 01:35 PM
Seamus Kennedy 10 Apr 00 - 01:41 PM
Escamillo 10 Apr 00 - 01:44 PM
sophocleese 10 Apr 00 - 01:49 PM
Seamus Kennedy 10 Apr 00 - 01:59 PM
GUEST,Mrrzy-at-work 10 Apr 00 - 02:00 PM
Amos 10 Apr 00 - 02:24 PM
MK 10 Apr 00 - 02:28 PM
sophocleese 10 Apr 00 - 02:40 PM
Ebbie 10 Apr 00 - 02:58 PM
MK 10 Apr 00 - 03:58 PM
MK 10 Apr 00 - 04:06 PM
McGrath of Harlow 10 Apr 00 - 04:52 PM
Alice 10 Apr 00 - 05:05 PM
sophocleese 10 Apr 00 - 06:08 PM
Liz the Squeak 10 Apr 00 - 06:18 PM
MK 10 Apr 00 - 08:27 PM
catspaw49 10 Apr 00 - 08:36 PM
Sorcha 10 Apr 00 - 08:56 PM
Rob-IL 10 Apr 00 - 10:11 PM
Mark Clark 10 Apr 00 - 10:32 PM
Uncle Jaque 10 Apr 00 - 11:22 PM
Crowhugger 11 Apr 00 - 12:10 PM
GUEST,Bartholomew 11 Apr 00 - 12:23 PM
Lonesome EJ 11 Apr 00 - 12:44 PM
MMario 11 Apr 00 - 12:55 PM
Escamillo 11 Apr 00 - 01:08 PM
McGrath of Harlow 11 Apr 00 - 03:39 PM
pastorpest 12 Apr 00 - 03:41 PM
MMario 12 Apr 00 - 03:50 PM
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Subject: When your singer's out of tune
From: Marion
Date: 10 Apr 00 - 01:20 PM

OK, this little dilemma has happened to me twice and I still haven't figured out how to deal with it.

Both times I was playing guitar to accompany songs in church. A minister with a microphone was leading the singing. I strum the tonic chord to get us started, but the minister plunges in singing - in a different key.

What to do? I suppose a better musician than I would be able to discern what key he was in and spontaneously transpose into it, but that's beyond my abilities at this point. And I realize it would be good preventative medicine to lead the singing myself for at least the first few words, but one of those times I had laryngitis and the other time the minister plunged in so quickly I didn't have a chance - so I had to take the lead from singers who were not 'serious' singers but had the microphone because of their clerical roles.

These are the only options I can see, and I don't like any of them:

1. Continuing to play the song in a discordant key, and praying for forgiveness.

2. Just stopping, and letting the singer continue a cappella.

3. Loudly singing in the key I'm playing in, in the hopes of setting the minister and congregation straight - but this is likely to fail, and likely to make things worse.

4. Stopping, informing the minister that we're not in the same key, and starting again. This appeals to me the most as a musician, but wouldn't be very appropriate in a church setting.

5. Refraining from playing accompaniment guitar in church until I am good enough to determine what key a singer is in and play in that key. Could take a while.

Any other thoughts?

Marion


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Subject: RE: When your singer's out of tune
From: MMario
Date: 10 Apr 00 - 01:32 PM

I'd go with number 4. It is not inappropriate.

If you don't feel you can or should, then probably 2.


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Subject: RE: When your singer's out of tune
From: BlueJay
Date: 10 Apr 00 - 01:35 PM

I would stop, and sing ACappella,to keep the momentum going, maybe throw in a chord or note if you can find it. After that, at the earliest opportunity, I would talk to the preacher about the problem. Maybe he doesn't know much about music, and can only sing these songs how he learned them. In which case you'd probably have to learn them in his key. But the time to find this out is BEFORE you perform. Unless he is totally atonal, a little advance communication might solve this. Signed, Dear Abby


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Subject: RE: When your singer's out of tune
From: Seamus Kennedy
Date: 10 Apr 00 - 01:41 PM

Marion, it's been my experience that a lot of people go off key from the first chord that you give them. Let's say the song is in "C". So you strum a "C" chord, hoping that they'll start singing in 'C", but I'll bet you that they're singing in "F". "C" is the lead-in chord for songs in the key of "F", just as "A" or "A7" is the lead-in chord for songs in the key of "D", or as "G" or "G7" is the lead-in for song in the key of "C". I don't know what the musical terminology for this is, since I can't read music. If you want them to sing in "C", strum a "G7" chord to start them off.
All the best.
Seamus


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Subject: RE: When your singer's out of tune
From: Escamillo
Date: 10 Apr 00 - 01:44 PM

Two seconds of humming the note by the minister and you and others , after a chord, will put everybody in the key. A capella or accompanied choirs do this almost always, and it is not considered non-musical at all.
If the problem still occurs, I adhere to BlueJay.
Un abrazo - Andrés


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Subject: RE: When your singer's out of tune
From: sophocleese
Date: 10 Apr 00 - 01:49 PM

Marion I love singing but have often had difficulty finding my starting note out of a chord (learning to play guitar a bit myself has REALLY helped me in this regard as has more practice). A little longer and clearer signal helps. Try playing a three chord introduction to get the tonality and, perhaps, help establish timing and then clearly pick the first note. If he's still not managing to hit the right note try and suggest a short practice so he can get the hang of picking it up from the guitar.


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Subject: RE: When your singer's out of tune
From: Seamus Kennedy
Date: 10 Apr 00 - 01:59 PM

Duh, rehearsal - why didn't I think of that? All the best.
Seamus


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Subject: RE: When your singer's out of tune
From: GUEST,Mrrzy-at-work
Date: 10 Apr 00 - 02:00 PM

I've never been to church, but surely if you phrase it Oops, I'm not in the right key (rather than Oops, you're somehow wrong), surely you would be allowed to recalibrate without embarrassing anyone, especially if the singer doesn't know a key from the Gates of St. Peter... so that talking to them ahead of time wouldn't help. This is if the Dear Abby approach fails...


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Subject: RE: When your singer's out of tune
From: Amos
Date: 10 Apr 00 - 02:24 PM

If you're already in the thick of it, you can try finding single notes that fit his key. But the best bet IMHO is to put your heads together (as with the pitchpipe idea) over the guitar and hum for a second before you start. It's a perfectly acceptabel bit of business for the sake of the show.


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Subject: RE: When your singer's out of tune
From: MK
Date: 10 Apr 00 - 02:28 PM

Marion I believe you have hit the nail on the head as to why musicians sometimes find it necessary to do drugs before performing.

I'd recommed 4 to 6 lines of coke, prior to performing with him again....repeated at half hour to 45 minute intervals.







(I'm joking.)nbsp   8-)


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Subject: RE: When your singer's out of tune
From: sophocleese
Date: 10 Apr 00 - 02:40 PM

Not the coke, Michael, just the weed, smoke a little round the back corner and get mellow enough not to give a damn. If that's not possible there are probably spare bottles of communion wine hanging around, a blessed release from tension.


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Subject: RE: When your singer's out of tune
From: Ebbie
Date: 10 Apr 00 - 02:58 PM

Once I played backup on stage for two 80+-year-old women. The one had been a good singer early on but now was severely hearing impaired. Her favorite song- her grand finale- was 'I Want to be a Cowboy's Sweetheart', a Patsy Montana song that includes yodeling.

We did pretty well at first, with me strumming loudly close to her ear. Then came the yodel- and when she came back down, she had lost the key entirely and was no longer interested in listening for it.

What I did was to deaden the strings across the board and just keep the rhythm going. That way, I had something to do besides just stand there.

I em>was told that a startled delivery man out in the lobby heard the yodel on the PA system and demanded,What the hell is that??
Giggles are good. Ebbie


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Subject: RE: When your singer's out of tune
From: MK
Date: 10 Apr 00 - 03:58 PM

I meant the coke for the Minister.  8-)


..and the weed is a great idea for the instrumentalist Sophocleese. It can be shared later with the Minister when he starts coming down.


...sacreligious bastard that I am...*BG*


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Subject: RE: When your singer's out of tune
From: MK
Date: 10 Apr 00 - 04:06 PM

Semi-seriously just for a second, when I was actively playing clubs and lounges, and got to know a lot of the regulars, many times they'd ask to come up on stage and sing a number or two with the band.

Surprisingly, there were a few who were real good and could have cut it professionally, and we always enjoyed doing old swing standards with them and more often then not we'd end up inviting them up onto the stage to favour us with a tune.

Every so often though, we'd get somebody like Marion described in the first post. Now granted, we were able to transpose on the fly and adapt...but the real challenge is in backing someone up with no sense of time, rhythm or phrasing whatsoever. You feel like suddenly someone slipped some bad acid into your beer....and have trouble making the distinction between operating in a zero gravity environment musically, or whether or not this performer has really taken to heart the concept that there really are no rules.

In those instances, the only thing we could do, was drop the drummer and bass player, and I'd throw in the odd chord from the keyboards, but basically let it turn into an a cappella number. (More effective that way. Shame the things we had to do in exchange for free drinks from the patrons.) *BG*


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Subject: RE: When your singer's out of tune
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 10 Apr 00 - 04:52 PM

One thing that might help would be get a chromnatic electronic tuner - they're only about £12 nowadays. Invaluable for keeping guitars and suchlike in tune; and a great way of finding what is your comfortable key for singing a song (because the last note of the song is the key note (except when it isn't, but it normally us).

So with your minister, just hum the appropriate last note into the tuner, and you know what key he's in, and adjust to play in it, probably using a quick change capo, like a Kyser, which doesn't put you out of tune, because he's bound to be singing in some key you wouldn't normally plkay in.

Of course he might just change key again. In which case get someone to switch off his mike...

But the electronic tuner is a serious suggestion - it could make your life a lot easier. You could practice with some friend singing in random keys, till you got the trick right.


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Subject: RE: When your singer's out of tune
From: Alice
Date: 10 Apr 00 - 05:05 PM

Marion, you've gotten some good advice in this thread. I concur with those who have said "rehearse" with him! Before you have to play/sing together in public again, tell him you need to rehearse so you are both in the same key. He'll understand. Singers who are untrained usually have a very small range, so you will have to find the key that he can comfortably sing in. Use a capo if necessary. Also, rehearse with a TAPE RECORDER and play it back in rehearsal so you can BOTH hear what it sounds like. It is hard for many singers to really hear themselves. It is easier for him to get a grasp of what he has to do if he hears what he sounds like on tape and what he needs to do to make it sound better. Also, I agree completely with strumming an intro and then giving him ONE note that is the note he has to start on.

alice


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Subject: RE: When your singer's out of tune
From: sophocleese
Date: 10 Apr 00 - 06:08 PM

Or you could take him out back, shoot him, and put the rest of the congregation out of their misery, but that seems a little drastic, and, much as it pains many musicians to hear it, an ability to accurately find pitch is not a necessary prerequisite in becoming a pastor.


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Subject: RE: When your singer's out of tune
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 10 Apr 00 - 06:18 PM

Slip the weed into the incense burner - can only improve it, especially if you use the same brand as we do.....!

It depends a lot on your minister. If he is of a fairly laid back temperament, it is possible to do No. 4, with a laugh and possibly a loudly dropped hymn book....

If he/she is a bit strait laced, then deadening the melody and keeping the rythmn is more likely to succeed.

Practice doesn't always do it - several times, I and my group have been perfectly pitched in the practice, only to find the organist/musician completely loses it on the day and starts in the wrong key, forgets the arrangements we'd agreed on and on one memorable occasion, announced one hymn and played another from a different book, not even the same number!!

Of course, there is the priests revenge - at a Sunday service one morning, our priest stopped a hymn halfway through the first verse, with the words "that was bloody awful, shall we start it again, and you can all join in this time!"

LTS


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Subject: RE: When your singer's out of tune
From: MK
Date: 10 Apr 00 - 08:27 PM

...or Soph....we could just get the good Pastor one of 'Spaw's Amish Aussie Moustache Tuning Forks...




...sorry couldn't resist...


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Subject: RE: When your singer's out of tune
From: catspaw49
Date: 10 Apr 00 - 08:36 PM

Thanks for the plug Michael.........

Marion, you have gotten some great advice and I think a bit more rehearsal would help, but how about even then giving the guy an intro....Not just one chord, but say 8 bars leading to the first note. Most songs use some form of longer intro...more that just a chord. EWven when its only me and my guitar, I give myself an intro.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: When your singer's out of tune
From: Sorcha
Date: 10 Apr 00 - 08:56 PM

My group did a sing a long thing last summer, more or less cold. I was one of those "Story" things where the song selections follow a "plot" line. We did have the words in advance, and got to choose our own keys. The (few) vocalists in my group and the fiddle players got together and decided on the best key for us and untrained singers. Best key for fiddles is not necessarily the best key for vocalists. We used mostly G and D, of course, even tho lots of vocalists prefer the "flat" keys. For every song we did a "Natural" intro; the whole phrase ending with the tonic note, and holding the last note for a downbeat from the Leader. Seemed to work fairly well.


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Subject: RE: When your singer's out of tune
From: Rob-IL
Date: 10 Apr 00 - 10:11 PM

Switching keys can be helpful, but what about when the singer starts creating his own notes? I didnt think there were any notes between an E and an F until I played at this one church...


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Subject: RE: When your singer's out of tune
From: Mark Clark
Date: 10 Apr 00 - 10:32 PM

Marion, don't stop him and make him start over in your key; that's too emarrasing. The thing to do is gently set your guitar down and gracefully stroll (glide is really the idea) over to his side, raise your voice a 5th above his---in his key---and complete the song together. You'll both look good and sound good too. The faithful will think you just worked it out that way. Oh, it helps if you fix your sincerest gaze on the loftiest stained glass window in your field of vision.

- Mark


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Subject: RE: When your singer's out of tune
From: Uncle Jaque
Date: 10 Apr 00 - 11:22 PM

Sounds like a power struggle to me. When you give someone a bullhorn or other means of electronic amplification, it can do weird things to the ego. Going into that with an acoustical instrument is a no-win situation, Sister! Power trips in Church?? Oh yeah!; Been there! I noticed years ago that most hymns are written in fairly unsingable keys - at least for me. I'm always growling away at the bass (which is fun when u don't read music worth a dilly) or screetching in a vain attempt to keep up with the melody line. Organists have a gift for killing otherwise fine Sacred Music. If you're trying to make music in public with people who don't have a clue, my prayers are with ye, lass! Back when i was involved in the "Music Ministry", i pretty much did solo or not at all. Always wanted to do 4-part Gospel harmony, but that just didn't happen! Maintaining a sense of humor and not taking oneself too seriously is pretty crucial, methinks, when attempting to minister. May His Blessings be continuously & abundantly upon thee; Uncle Jaque


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Subject: RE: When your singer's out of tune
From: Crowhugger
Date: 11 Apr 00 - 12:10 PM

Marion,

On the rare occasions I've been in a church for something other than concerts or a song circle, the pianist or organist plays the last line of a hymn as the intro. It seems to give people a chance to figure out where to sing. I carried that over into Xmas carols whether playing piano (my apologies & condolences to those who've heard) or guitar. It's been very effective for me in unrehearsed situations.

If the lead singer (e.g., someone with a microphone) can't find the right place to sing, I'd suffer the occasion, feign desperate illness if there's more than one song, and never, ever work with that person again until I can find and play anything in any key.

I have met people who sing in one key and one key only. And if you don't know what it is or can't find it, accompanying them is a lost cause. Other people change key when they sing louder, to a higher key as the throat is tightened to give more force to the air.

IMHO, if you value your musical reputation, steer clear of these problems until you can deal with them one way or another. Just bow out with profuse thanks for the honour of being asked, gallons of grace, then run, don't walk, fast and far! Assertiveness courses are a wonderful resource: no rehearsal, no Marion.

~2 cents for free~
CH


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Subject: RE: When your singer's out of tune
From: GUEST,Bartholomew
Date: 11 Apr 00 - 12:23 PM

In my experience with sit-ins while clubbing, the rule is "follow the singer". Of course this rule can only be followed if the singer is actually in a key. It's actually good ear training to try to figure out where the heck the songs is, in situations like that.

If all of the good advice that you've already received in this thread doesn't help, try to remember that in Church it's God's glory you're there to praise - not your own (although this is faint solace to any player with pride in their performance, it's another lesson in humility).

If you have a singer who just sings flat from time to time, twisting the right ear counter-clockwise usually brings 'em up to pitch. But don't turn too hard or you'll snap a vocal chord.


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Subject: RE: When your singer's out of tune
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 11 Apr 00 - 12:44 PM

For a Christmas party several years ago, my band learned Elvis' Blue Christmas. Now most songs we do start with an instrumental intro, so I have the key down pat before my vocal starts. This particular tune, however, starts with the "I'll have a Blue.." with the band coming in on the word blue. Every rehearsal was right on the money, but when we performed it in front of about 400 people, I started a full note higher than where the band came in. Instant panic ensued...you know, the kind where every body exchanges a panicked glance that translates "Oh SHIT! Now what do we do?!!" With a loud "Merry Christmas, Every one!" I ended the song, and we went right into the next song on the list.


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Subject: RE: When your singer's out of tune
From: MMario
Date: 11 Apr 00 - 12:55 PM

I earned myself the title "Master of the Key of Off" because I really never KNOW what key I'm going to start a song in. (For some songs it seems to be totally random, for others, it's the right key except when it's not....) Since I sing primarily acappella and solo this rarely is a problem, unless of course I start too high or too low to include the entire song in my range. However, when I sing with my group....

Let us just say, I get stopped immedieatley a LOT. Luckily we perform "in character" where we can get away with this.....(my character is deliberately a bit "slow")


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Subject: RE: When your singer's out of tune
From: Escamillo
Date: 11 Apr 00 - 01:08 PM

>exchanges a panicked glance that translates "Oh SHIT! Now what do we do?!!"
Considering the place and audience, an "Oh Holy Shit !" would be more appropiate in this case.
(Oh, sorry, this is not a BS thread) - Andrés :)))))))


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Subject: RE: When your singer's out of tune
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 11 Apr 00 - 03:39 PM

Yes it is so. It's "Musical BS."


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Subject: RE: When your singer's out of tune
From: pastorpest
Date: 12 Apr 00 - 03:41 PM

I am a minister and I like to sing. I would go with number four as well. If the minister is secure with himself/herself then it is OK to stop and correct.

Rehearsal is good as well. A little comfort level with each other is an asset!

Are there others to lead the singing more musical than the minister?. The more lay leadership the better, I figure.

I would like a good guitarist in musical leadership in my church if all else fails.


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Subject: RE: When your singer's out of tune
From: MMario
Date: 12 Apr 00 - 03:50 PM

I've refrained about as long as I can. Does anyone else look at the title of this thread and wonder who the hell is playing music on their sewing machine? I keep wanting to post "have you tried tightening the bobbin thread?"


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