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Memorising songs and performance quality

Gervase 20 Jul 00 - 08:38 AM
Willie-O 20 Jul 00 - 08:52 AM
McGrath of Harlow 20 Jul 00 - 09:00 AM
MMario 20 Jul 00 - 09:12 AM
Bagpuss 20 Jul 00 - 09:17 AM
MMario 20 Jul 00 - 09:23 AM
Morticia 20 Jul 00 - 09:33 AM
Les B 20 Jul 00 - 09:57 AM
TheOldMole 20 Jul 00 - 10:04 AM
Midchuck 20 Jul 00 - 10:15 AM
sledge 20 Jul 00 - 10:19 AM
MMario 20 Jul 00 - 10:20 AM
GUEST,Mrr 20 Jul 00 - 10:20 AM
Kim C 20 Jul 00 - 10:22 AM
GUEST,JohnB 20 Jul 00 - 10:24 AM
Gervase 20 Jul 00 - 10:46 AM
GMT 20 Jul 00 - 11:39 AM
sledge 20 Jul 00 - 12:03 PM
radriano 20 Jul 00 - 04:38 PM
Catrin 20 Jul 00 - 04:48 PM
Mbo 20 Jul 00 - 04:53 PM
Jeri 20 Jul 00 - 05:00 PM
Mbo 20 Jul 00 - 05:19 PM
Sorcha 20 Jul 00 - 05:33 PM
Catrin 20 Jul 00 - 05:46 PM
Mbo 20 Jul 00 - 05:58 PM
Sorcha 20 Jul 00 - 06:10 PM
CamiSu 20 Jul 00 - 06:21 PM
Joan 20 Jul 00 - 09:53 PM
GMT 21 Jul 00 - 04:58 AM
Bagpuss 21 Jul 00 - 06:18 AM
Big Mick 21 Jul 00 - 07:33 AM
Escamillo 21 Jul 00 - 07:37 AM
Hamish 21 Jul 00 - 07:56 AM
Naemanson 21 Jul 00 - 08:11 AM
Mbo 21 Jul 00 - 08:39 AM
Whistle Stop 21 Jul 00 - 08:55 AM
Branwen23 21 Jul 00 - 10:30 AM
catspaw49 21 Jul 00 - 04:54 PM
Branwen23 21 Jul 00 - 04:57 PM
Sorcha 21 Jul 00 - 05:37 PM
Bert 21 Jul 00 - 05:54 PM
Escamillo 22 Jul 00 - 12:47 AM
The Shambles 22 Jul 00 - 01:32 AM
GUEST,Banjo Johnny 22 Jul 00 - 05:09 AM
Catrin 22 Jul 00 - 05:54 AM
Gervase 22 Jul 00 - 08:24 AM
Peter T. 22 Jul 00 - 10:58 AM
McGrath of Harlow 22 Jul 00 - 12:27 PM
Mbo 22 Jul 00 - 12:36 PM
sophocleese 22 Jul 00 - 06:24 PM
Gervase 23 Jul 00 - 05:03 AM
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Subject: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: Gervase
Date: 20 Jul 00 - 08:38 AM

I know it's probably rude to barge into any pub and say, "he guys, there's something good going on at the bar up the road", but on uk.music.folk at the moment there is a very good thread on the subject "does quality matter?" - in other words, as we're just singing in clubs and sessions most of the time, does it matter if we sound terrible and can't remember the words?
Dkick Gaughan ventured this, which I feel sums up the difference between good and bad performers, whether they're pros or just enjoying a singaround...

The chef Albert Roux was once asked the difference between professional and amateur cooks. He replied, "Professionals don't cut their fingers with the knife".
  I would suggest the answer in relation to pro/am performers could be, "The professional normally doesn't tell the audience they've forgotten the next verse".
  There is a huge difference between singing in an informal singaround and singing to people who have paid hard-earned cash to get in. A paying audience deserves at least a minimum level of preparation - from anyone who is singing, whether amateur or pro - and I'm afraid the excuse, "I have a lousy memory and can't remember words" gets from me the reply, "Then stick to singing at informal sessions until you've learned the basics of being a singer".
Having the most wonderful natural voice in the world does not make anyone a singer - being a singer is a craft and like any other craft it has techniques which demand study and practise. If people have parted with money then those performing have a responsibility to not insult them with sloppiness, lack of preparation and indifference.
  I don't have a particularly efficient memory but as a pro singer I have had to learn and work hard at the techniques of remember song lyrics. For what it's worth, here's the secret to remembering words for those who think they can't do it.
  Forget *how* you're singing and concentrate on *what* you're singing. Most people try too hard to impress the audience with their singing, therefore they become far too self-conscious and that's ultimately why they screw up. They're concentrating on the wrong things. Every song has a story to tell - concentrate on telling that story. Of course, in order to do this you will have to make sure you've studied the song sufficently in order to know what that story actually is, what the sub-texts are, what the relevance to the audience is etc. In other words, do your homework. The vocal techniques, and even the words of the song, are merely the tools used to tell the story and the trick is to concentrate your attention on the job rather than the tools.
  Too many amateur singers tend to take themselves far too seriously and do not take what they're doing seriously enough. Those priorities are in the wrong order.
  And before anyone says "it's all right for you, you're a pro" it was not always thus. I wasn't born being a pro singer - like everyone else, I started out as an amateur and learned my craft the hard way.   Dick Gaughan


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: Willie-O
Date: 20 Jul 00 - 08:52 AM

Dick's the man.

This ties in to some discussions we have had about confidence in one's abilities, or lack thereof. All singers make mistakes, forget lines, screw up the order of verses. The professional way of dealing with this--aside from trying to practice before the gig--is to think fast on your feet and don't apologize or stop and start over. Have a turanaround you can play while you're trying to figure out what to sing next.

If you know you'll have a problem with a song, its good to have a minimal cheat sheet, like just the first line of each verse, at your feet. (AT YOUR FEET, in BIG LETTERING. Rustling paper and going through messy binders is also unpro--and I should know.)

Willie-O owner of messy binders.


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 20 Jul 00 - 09:00 AM

"Too many amateur singers tend to take themselves far too seriously and do not take what they're doing seriously enough." Yes, I like that. (Though I'd leave the "amateur" out, because there are professionals who do exactly that as well, and amateurs who don't.)

I never think I know a song until I am completely unconscious of the words, just open my mouth and listen to the words come out to match the ideas and the pictures and the story. Of course sometimes they suddenly vanish from before you, and maybe you pull out some trick for getting by, like singing the last line over again in the hope that next time round the neurones will connect up.

But faulty memory isn't just an enemy - it's the way songs change and grow, and with luck get better.


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: MMario
Date: 20 Jul 00 - 09:12 AM

And if you can't memorize, or have troubles with it, then arrange your cheat sheets some way that it's not distracting...I saw a band once where everyone used music stands....but when helping break their stuff down at the end of the night noticed two of the guys had comic books on their stands. Turns out only ONE of them needed the cheat sheets, but they all used the stands so it wouldn't be obvious. the rest would just flip pages as appropriate...


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: Bagpuss
Date: 20 Jul 00 - 09:17 AM

Unless I'm in a very informal group where I know most of the people, I wouldn't even think of singing a song that I couldn't sing confidently. As I'm not a pro, I treat folkclub singarounds and floor spots as if were getting paid for it (and I suppose I am getting paid, by getting free entry and/or a free drink).

I always try to do my best when I perform - anything less is just letting myself down.

Bagpuss


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: MMario
Date: 20 Jul 00 - 09:23 AM

heck, I don't like even singing on HearMe if I have to read it off the paper; but whether or not you use crib sheets, I thing the confidence is the key. Whichever way or however you do it, even if you repeat one verse three times because you've forgotten the rest, it should be done with confidence...


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: Morticia
Date: 20 Jul 00 - 09:33 AM

I feel this kind of hooks in to the thread I started a while back re Memory and the Aging Vocalist ( can't do a clicky) but lots of people gave me some very good advice. I try to take all venues, paid and unpaid seriously and give 'value for money' where possible but have learned that nothing can take the place of practise,practise, practise.......unfortunately I then get to the point where I am sick to death of the damn thing.....anyone got any helpful hints around that one?


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: Les B
Date: 20 Jul 00 - 09:57 AM

Morticia - one of the women I sing with said the other night about a song - "If you're getting bored with it, it's time to put it in the back of the sock drawer for a while!" And she's right. I've sung a couple of songs for twenty five years and get dammed sick of them. But after a couple of months of not doing them I start to miss them, and back they come.


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: TheOldMole
Date: 20 Jul 00 - 10:04 AM

Re "The professional normally doesn't tell the audience they've forgotten the next verse" -- what about the great Ella Fitzgerald live recording of "Mack the Knife"?


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: Midchuck
Date: 20 Jul 00 - 10:15 AM

One of the reasons I have been hanging out on HearMe as much as I have, is that it's a sort of intermediate stage between working on a song alone, or with just my partners, and performing it in public. I have an audience, but a much more forgiving one than most, and I don't have to look at them looking at me.

Now if I can just train myself not to look at the text chat while I'm singing...That makes me blow the lyrics every time.

Peter.


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: sledge
Date: 20 Jul 00 - 10:19 AM

Gervase,

do you have a web site address for this uk.music

cheers

sledge


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: MMario
Date: 20 Jul 00 - 10:20 AM

How right you are Midchuck!


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: GUEST,Mrr
Date: 20 Jul 00 - 10:20 AM

Interesting thread. The reason that I don't call myself a musician is that all I can really do is memorize songs. But I can do that very, very well. I've had this gift/curse since I was a small child; if I hear it, and I like it, and I hear it again, I know it. BUT I can really only sing it the way I heard it, and I only really like the original version (that is, the first version I encountered). I never like Live versions if I heard the studio one first, and so on... and although I love singing with people, I often can't keep the melody if someone is harmonizing, either.

One of the main reasons I started hanging out around the Mudcat is that the Trad has the words to all kinds of songs where I have a hole in what I know. One reason I *joined* is that so many people know other versions, as the Trad tends to have something that isn't exactly what I heard/know, so then I ask the group if they know MY version, and then I learn something I've been dumdiddling since age 6 or something. I also tend to sing songs in the order they are on the record we had as a child, chaining through association.

I can also memorize songs in languages I don't know, if I like the melody and the way the words sound. I can sing an entire LP in Dalmatian, and Mom (who speaks Serbian) finds it hysterical, because even thought the sequence of sounds is correct, you can tell, apparently, that I don't know what I'm singing. I gather that it sounds like Ladle Rat Rotten Hut or something - the sounds are right but there's something, somewhere, wrong.


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: Kim C
Date: 20 Jul 00 - 10:22 AM

I don't know if any of you ever listen to the Opry, but Grandpa Jones (who I miss terribly) forgot words on a regular basis. Of course he was in his 80s.... but nobody cared because Grandpa had the best time on stage. There's something to be said for enthusiasm. It didn't bother him if he made a mistake so it didn't bother anyone else. It was just his way.

I had a piano teacher who told me once that if you make a mistake, do it with such conviction that people will believe you meant to do it, and they won't realize it's a mistake.

I have got to the point where I sing with my eyes closed pretty much all the time to minimize distractions. Sometimes I might focus on a faraway point above and beyond the audiences heads. Otherwise I'll start watching them and it's too distracting for me.

I believe that if there is a standard to which your audience expects you to perform, and you reach it most of the time, they will forgive you your faults.

However, in a formal performance, I prefer not to have to wing it on anything. Patio party, well, now, that's another story!


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: GUEST,JohnB
Date: 20 Jul 00 - 10:24 AM

Though not exactly Professional I do belong to a group that do get paid. What we sing is all a capella. We occasionally get the key screwed up at the start of a song, when we do that there is no point in going on, as it only gets worse. We were really bothered about it in the beginning but as time progressed and our confidence level increased we realized that it was just one of those things. All that I do now whenever that happens is make a joke about "well you have seen those guys up here with guitars forever tuning them, well we are just doing the same thing" No one has thrown anything at us, YET. JohnB


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: Gervase
Date: 20 Jul 00 - 10:46 AM

Sledge,
If you've gfot usenet access, it's at uk.music.folk, or you can get it on the web by going to www.deja.com and reading the threads that away.
Most of the time it's not a patch on the 'Cat, but sometimes there's paws for thought over the road.


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: GMT
Date: 20 Jul 00 - 11:39 AM

Kim C, taking the make a mistake with conviction thing a bit further. When soloing if you get the notes wrong I was told to repeat the phrase. It may make the solo sound a little exotic but it will convince everyone you meant it. It may even fit brilliantly
Cheers
Gary


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: sledge
Date: 20 Jul 00 - 12:03 PM

Gervase,

Many thanks, always worth a look.

Cheers

Sledge


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: radriano
Date: 20 Jul 00 - 04:38 PM

Great thread! There's some really good advice and observations here.

I've been known to forget lyrics on occasion and I've picked up a few tricks to deal with it. First of all, if you're performing for a paying audience I suggest never apologizing or bumbling about on stage. If it's just a phrase you've forgotten, improvise - make something up that rhymes with the rest of the line. If it's an entire verse just go on to the next verse. Of course, sometimes you just lose it and when your concentration goes there are some times when nothing you do saves the day. When that happens I joke about it. Laugh with your audience if you can.

I remember when I first starting singing in public. I would try to sing at singing circles and folk clubs and there was a period of time when I just couldn't finish a song. It's like everything else, folks, the more you do it, the better you get at it.

Here's how I memorize songs and it doesn't matter whether I'm using an audio tape or the printed page. First I sight-read (or listen to) the first verse of the song. Then I repeat the verse from memory. If I remember only the first line I'll go on and look at (listen to) the second line. Then I'll go back and sing the first line and the second line together. Pretty soon I have the entire verse memorized. You get the idea. Here's the important part for me. Once I've memorized a few verses, or even just two of them, I start back at the beginning and sing them in sequence. If I hesitate at any point with a line or a phrase I'll look at (listen to) that line or phrase and then start back at the beginning of the song. In other words, the words have to come to mind without hesitation. Then I know the song. Depending on the song, this process can take a while. I've taken to learning a verse of a difficult song each day. And sometimes several days go by before I can get the next verse down pat.

That being said, I will still forget on occasion. As mentioned in one of the other postings on this thread, if you get distracted and start thinking of something else while you're singing you are liable to forget the words.


Ra..Radri..(damn!)..oh yeah!..
Radriano


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: Catrin
Date: 20 Jul 00 - 04:48 PM

I'm not a professional performer. I do love singing though, so I spend a lot of time at singarounds (or recently on HearMe). I have discovered - after several embarrassing moments - that if I need the words of a song in front of me, I shouldn't be singing it in front of other people. My trick is to know the song inside out. I shut my eyes and 'watch the story'. I don't sing anything unless it makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck and then singing something for other people is like sharing.

Catrin


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: Mbo
Date: 20 Jul 00 - 04:53 PM

Hmmph! If i did that, you'd only get a few songs out me. The only things I have memorized, words & chords, is "She's Electric" and "Put Yer Money Where Your Mouth Is" by Oasis. And any acapella stuff I have memorized is mostly from musicals. Not a very interesting performer would I be.

--Mbo


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: Jeri
Date: 20 Jul 00 - 05:00 PM

I learn songs a verse at a time in my car. It seems to work. I often read lyrics in HearMe because I don't actually know very many songs, and I get screwed up a lot. My personal belief is, if I'm going to do any singing that people have to listen to, in a pub-singing environment, I'd better learn the song. While screw-ups are inevitable and forgivable, not even trying isn't very nice. I'm not a pro and have no intentions of ever getting paid (good thing, you say? :-), but still feel like I should do my best.

I know some singers who have very different versions of songs a year after I first heard them sing them. I think they're so good at "thinking on their feet" that they substitute words for the ones forgotten, which then become the normal way they sing the song. Folk process. I've also rather enjoyed the times a professional singer has forgotten the words, and the entire audience has sung the next verse.


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: Mbo
Date: 20 Jul 00 - 05:19 PM

Who says that not memorizing it means not doing your best? I know thousands of songs. They're in my subconscious, but I need to see the lyrics & chords in front of me, and then it all comes out fine like I DO have it memorized. It's not like when I'm playing off a cheat sheet that I don't know the song at all, and keep messing up because of that. When I do have something memorized, I spend too much time remembering when I should be concentrating on the singing. Whenever I hear people playing or singing their memorized stuff, they're always apologizing for mind-slips, forgotten verses, wrong keys, etc. Cheat sheets mean never having to apologize!


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: Sorcha
Date: 20 Jul 00 - 05:33 PM

I am not a singer, but a lot of this applies to me, also. There is something different between "memorizing" a song/tune, and "having" it. When I was in secondary school playing in Violin Competitions, I had to Memorize pages long concertos,including memorizing the rests. Today,over 30 years later, I can play maybe 6 bars of 2 different concertos by memory. A whole concerto? Forget it. "Knowing", or "having" is different. If I live to be 200, I will not forget how to play Redwing. It's just there in the hard wiring.

Memorizing is WORK, doing one phrase at a time. Having it means you have heard it so much you can do it automatically. I prefer to Have a tune so well that I can interact with my audience. Wink, dance, whatever.

I do sometimes play with my eyes closed just to filter out some of the distraction so I can listen to the mix better, but when on stage, I prefer not to. It is disconcerting to an audience to watch a perfomer who seems oblivious of the audience that (usually) paid, and looks like s/he is asleep at the wheel. (I also tend to stick my tongue out when concentrating........other fiddler has been told to kick me when I do that on stage!)


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: Catrin
Date: 20 Jul 00 - 05:46 PM

That is interesting - I had been thinking about 'knowing' the song in order to be able to concentrate on the emotion behind the words, rather than on the words themselves. This is because I believe that, even when in a singaround, it is a mark of respect not to bore people to sleep (hence important to 'know' the song). I had not thought about how it might look - i.e. like I might be falling asleep. All this is really important in terms of keeping people's interest.

I wonder though if there is something different in this sense, between the memorising involved when playing an instrument and that involved when singing a song or, most difficult of all, when singing a song whilst playing an instrument?

Just wondering

Catrin


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: Mbo
Date: 20 Jul 00 - 05:58 PM

If you could only see me when I'm on HearMe! I'm rocking back and forth, or doubled over and twisting all around to the emotion of the song...while sitting down and cheating!

--Mbo


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: Sorcha
Date: 20 Jul 00 - 06:10 PM

Also, if audiences bother you, try just picking out one person to perform to, rather than the whole hall. Worked for me for years, until I got more comfortable performing.


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: CamiSu
Date: 20 Jul 00 - 06:21 PM

Sometimes I feel like I can no longer memorise ANYTHING! (CRS)but if I have the story I can pull it up. As a storyteller I absolutely have to know the story and the words will be different every time. Perhaps that's why I get paid to tell stories and not to sing. Once I was in the front row when Harry Chapin forgot the words and we all sang the correct line. He laughed and allowed how it was a bit embarrassing when the audience knew your own song better than you did. On the other hand once at NEFFA I got to watch a friend who was singing "Tam Lin" when she was handed a note about someone who was illegally parked. Not dropping a single word she scanned the note and inserted a verse about said car and the consequences for not moving it. Her comment later was "It's a ten minute song. I wasn't about to stop and start over!"

Cami Su


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: Joan
Date: 20 Jul 00 - 09:53 PM

For me the operative idea is "Forget 'how' you're singing, and concentrate on 'what' you're singing." Good advice.

If I'm "seeing the pictures" while I sing, then remembering isn't even an effort. If I'm distracted and unfocused, the next line or a whole verse might suddenly poof away. Forgetting can happen to anybody, pro or notpro, but if you'd prefer not to want the earth to open and swallow you when you've gone blank, concentration can be a learned skill. Some good ideas in this thread about memorization. What's important is that the end result is a song well sung.


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: GMT
Date: 21 Jul 00 - 04:58 AM

I've only once stopped a song and started it again. The band were playing Rock 'n Me and I started singing Take it Easy (we used the same chord intro for both and played one in each half of the set)I lost it, had no idea where I was, who I was or what I was meant to be doing. I told the audience why we stopped and asked them which they would like to hear. Everything went rather well after that (and I started to use a set list with chord prompts after that.
Cheers
Gary


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: Bagpuss
Date: 21 Jul 00 - 06:18 AM

One problem I used to have was that even though I knew every verse of a song inside out, sometimes when I got to the end of a verse, I would forget the first line of the next verse. So now when I practise a song, I always make sure I practise going from one verse to the next - so that it comes as naturally as the next line in a verse.

I didn't mean to sound snobbish about not having the words in front of me. Its just that I've found I don't sing as well if I'm reading the words. In singarounds I often use prompt sheets to remind me of bits where I might come unstuck - but I don't like doing that when I'm standing in front of an audience as it puts me off.

Bagpuss


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: Big Mick
Date: 21 Jul 00 - 07:33 AM

I guess I will begin by saying that I agree completely with the notion that you must completely understand the song in order to tell a good yarn. But I do use crib notes when I perform, and I have seen any number of very good performers do the same for long shows. That is to say a 2 to 3 hour show. But I don't have a music stand on stage. What I use is a standoff on the Mic stand. It is like a small clipboard that clamps on the mic stand. They are available through Elderly. I took the rings off a 3 ring binder for note cards and riveted it to the metal standoff. It is very small and doesn't distract. I put first lines/key words that will jog my memory on 5" x 8" cards. I use just enough notation that I can find my place if I get caught. I don't read the song off the cards, just refer to it if I hang up on a lyric. We have about 270 songs in our repertoire, and while I can remember the lyrics most of the time, I need these notes in the event of a memory lapse.

Mick


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: Escamillo
Date: 21 Jul 00 - 07:37 AM

"Forget 'how' you're singing, and concentrate on 'what' you're singing." - excellent advice, for folk, pop, classical and everything.
As a singer I'm an excellent programmer, so I always rely on a small cheat sheet at a stand if there's any around. When it is something classical, I do as many pro singers do: have the full score on a stand near you but not obscuring your face, and look at it ocassionally. It is not considered a fault at all, but rather a signal of responsibility in front of the audience, even if you don´t look at it at all.
There's a story of Arturo Toscanini, the great conductor: some friends challenged him to conduct a complex symphony just from memory. He accepted, but said "ok, but you put another score on my stand, thus I don´t look as a prodigius monkey".
However, concentrating in the story or the feeling that you are expressing, will not only benefit the lyrics, but the whole quality of the performance. Un abrazo - Andrés


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: Hamish
Date: 21 Jul 00 - 07:56 AM

I'm reminded of when Ian Gillan took on the job of lead singer with Black Sabbath. (OK, not folk, but bear with me...) He couldn't get to grips with their lyrics and took to using big lettered crib sheets on the floor.

Rehearsals were OK. Then at the first live show, complete with dry ice.....


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: Naemanson
Date: 21 Jul 00 - 08:11 AM

I'm afraid I have to be to voice of dissent here. I agree somewhat with much of what has been said but I believe the audience isn't paying to find out how well we've memorized the words and music. They want to be moved by the song. Because of that any form of cheat sheet is acceptable as long as it is not a distraction. Lou and Peter Berryman work with a 2" binder open in front of them. I remember Rick Fielding at Mystic working (in a workshop) with a binder on a little stand at his feet.

I agree we owe the audience a level of professionalism but that level need not put at risk the reason they are there. They are there to join, in empathic bonds, the singer. They want to be transported by the song. Some of you may be such good instrumentalists that the audinece is there in awe of your ability with your instrument but ultimately we owe it to them to make them happy they walked through the door and paid their money. To that end any technique that works is acceptable.


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: Mbo
Date: 21 Jul 00 - 08:39 AM

Hamish, so he went over to Black Sabbath after Deep Purple? I was wondering that. Thanks!

--Mbo


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: Whistle Stop
Date: 21 Jul 00 - 08:55 AM

I agree with most of what has been said on this thread. But I think it should be recognized that not all songs consist of a straightforward "story" that can be understood as a simple narrative of events. I like story songs, but I also like more ambiguous (or "poetic") works, that evoke feelings through images and allusions rather than by telling a tale. For example, does anyone want to tell me the story in Dylan's "Visions of Johanna"? It's a favorite of mine, which I perform frequently, but I don't think that memorizing the "story" that it tells would really help me much.


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: Branwen23
Date: 21 Jul 00 - 10:30 AM

Just a thought....

Memorization ability alone does not a professional make... As was mentioned by Dick Gaughan in the above copied text, there is much more to being a performer than just the ability to memorize lyrics. Knowing the WORDS is not necessarily the same thing as knowing the SONG. As was stated, a performer should know the story, the emotion behind it, and its relevance to the audience. A performer has to feel the emotion within a tune and be able to convey to the audience that emotion. But it's not necessarily all or nothing, either... I once knew someone who could memorize absolutely anything, he had a photographic memory. Five minutes after seeing a tune printed, he "knew" it. But when he went to perform the tune, there was nothing there. Technically, it was perfect. Perfect tone, perfect words, but no feeling. On the other side of the coin, I also knew a musician who could not remember lyrics to save his life, but he KNEW every tune he performed, and felt every nuance of the song. Sure, on some tunes he had to have a cheat sheet for the lyrics, but nothing was lost because of that. My point is that, no matter which category into which you fall, whether you have a photographic memory, or something akin to Alzheimer's, if you are a musician, you know it. You don't need a "definition" of what you are. You feel the music, and you are a musician. So what if you need a cheat sheet? "Just keep right on playing for those who will hear."

-Branwen-


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: catspaw49
Date: 21 Jul 00 - 04:54 PM

Good post Bran......Sorry I missed it before. Sometimes people read posts without comment. Sometimes people NEVER read the other postings, perhaps they are too interested in their own opinion. Sometimes I acknowledge an effort that I like or is well stated by saying something like "Good post" to refresh the thread AND say I liked it. Ol Shambles thinks that's patronizing or brown nosing I guess, but I like to hear about mine, and I know you like to hear about yours.

Getting the feeling in a song is the most important thing. Also in a post.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: Branwen23
Date: 21 Jul 00 - 04:57 PM

well, it's a good thing to know that we're listening to each other's opinions, or else what are we here for? It's rather strange that the threads that get the most attention and feedback are the ones that are negative or antagonistic...

-Branwen-


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: Sorcha
Date: 21 Jul 00 - 05:37 PM

This one is great, though, and some GREAT ideas here.


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: Bert
Date: 21 Jul 00 - 05:54 PM

Like Jeri, I also learn songs while driving. I have to be really careful not to use up all of my voice when I'm driving a long way to sing.

When I use a cheat sheet it's almost always for the chords, and even then I usually make more mistakes WITH the cheatsheet than I would without it.

BTW, Good post Spaw! you didn't once mention a certain person's CRS. On a Thread about Memorising no less. I'm real proud of you.

Oh!, and Rotten Post Shambles,*BG*, people love to know that you have read their post and that you agree with them.

Bert.


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: Escamillo
Date: 22 Jul 00 - 12:47 AM

Well, I do especially read my own posts, but it is just the curiosity about what a heck have I said.


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: The Shambles
Date: 22 Jul 00 - 01:32 AM

My apologies to Gervase and all the contributors for my part in 'killing' this thread.

Killing the thread. If you are at interested in what I actually said and why.


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: GUEST,Banjo Johnny
Date: 22 Jul 00 - 05:09 AM

First, I disagree with everything. (JUST KIDDING) It's one of the best threads I have seen. Here are a couple more thoughts on memorizing.

With due respect to Radriano, learning "from the top" doesn't work for me. That way, you will know the beginning better than you know the later parts. When you perform the song, you will be getting into shaky territory as you near the end. And the ending is what the listeners remember. So instead, I learn the last verses first. Then when I sing it, I feel more and more confident as I go. There have been times in informal jams when I have been able to "rescue" a song by knowing what the other singer forgot. Don't do this unless you are sure it's okay.

First Lines can sometimes be a problem. It will help if you always call the song (to yourself) by title with key and first line, such as I'll Fly Away in G Some Glad Morning.

I have a little clip velcro'd to the top of my banjo hoop. I can note a set of tunes on the back of a business card and clip it there. Or if I am doing a new song, a card with the key words or first lines. Audience doesn't notice it. I think you could do something like that with a watch band.

What to do if you are rocking along and suddenly realize you have no idea what the next verse is: sing another chorus; scat a verse (woe-woe if it's a blues); play a solo on your instrument; signal someone else to play a solo. This should give you time to remember. If you are still stuck, repeat the first verse with a big finish, and act like that's what you meant to do all along.

With apologies to Kim C, I just don't like seeing a performer on stage sing with eyes closed. It seems so stuck-up, as if to say, "Oooh, I'm so soulful." If you are, let's see it in your eyes.

Thanks to all for an excellent thread! == Johnny


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: Catrin
Date: 22 Jul 00 - 05:54 AM

"To that end any technique that works is acceptable"

Good words Naemeson - This thread is highlighting one of the reasons why I love reading threads generally (I just wish I had more time!) Namely:

Different strokes for different folks -

What suits you might not suit me and vice versa, but that doesn't matter, it just makes the world an interesting place.

Lets keep singing/playing and whatever we love doing, in our own way with our own styles and lets keep learning from each other.

Catrin


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: Gervase
Date: 22 Jul 00 - 08:24 AM

Thanks to everyone for their ideas here - I confess that I have a terrible memory and even with a song I've sung for 20 years I can corpse. I do us cribs - sometimes just a business card with keywords, sometimes the page from the filofax songbook and - once or twice - (sad bastard that I am) a Psion organiser with the text set to Mr Magoo size.
The Psion experiment came to an end in an al fresco session when a friend, incensed at the use of such means to sing traditional material, picked up the organiser and dropped it into a pot of cassoulet steaming by the camp fire (It says a lot for Psion, though, that after I'd scraped off the duck fat and beans, the darned thing still worked - and does to this day, though with a strange smell).
But thanks again - I shall be trying some/many/all of the hints here in a concerted effort to relax the grip of the crib sheet.


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: Peter T.
Date: 22 Jul 00 - 10:58 AM

I think that memorization is sometimes important as a token or emblem or symbol of something much more profound going on. In poetry (I used to do poetry readings and other stuff on stage), one of the important issues is oral versus written stances. The oral tradition (memory carried around and transmitted by speech and ritual) is quite different from the later written tradition). The "bard" is someone who is carrying around the memory of the tribe -- is a bearer and transmitter of meaning -- and the written form is the enemy of that: it undermines that symbolism. Now of course this is fake in virtually all cultures nowadays, but the difference between oral speech from memory and written speech is still important (for native cultures in particular). I am surprised that this idea hasn't surfaced here: I assumed folk musicians thought of themselves as kind of bards (again, I know it is kind of faked, but I would have thought in ballads and stories, and so on, the speaking from memory would be utterly symbolic and necessary). Otherwise you are not doing your job: transmitting the legacy of memory.

yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 22 Jul 00 - 12:27 PM

Having the words in front of you is a safety net. Or rather it's like a safety harness an acrobat has in case of a fall.

It's there in case you need it, so that it takes the tension off - and that means you are tat much less likely to fall and actually use it.

Reading the words - as opposed to having them there, and checking if you need to - while I'm singing, I find puts up a barrier between myself and the song, and between the myself and any listeners. It's a stage we might have to go through while we're working in a new song, or singing one we haven't sung in a long time, but it shouldn't be the place we live.

It's nothing to do with singing involving some kind of memory test we've got to pass, it's to do with communication. Imagine telling a story to a few friends, and how it'd feel if you had to read it off the page word by word.

Closing the eyes is another thing. I think a lot of us find it more natural, rather than being an affectation.

There may be cultural, differences here in what feels more natural.It's definitely the way a lot of traditional singers in all parts of the British Isles hhave always done it. Opening the eyes and looking at people feels much more as if the singer is saying the focus should be on them rather than on the song.

(There's an inconsistency between my emphasising that it's all about communication, and then saying closing the eyes is quite acceptable - I point this out because otherwise someone else will. So who's consistent?)


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: Mbo
Date: 22 Jul 00 - 12:36 PM

Now see why I don't perform in public?


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: sophocleese
Date: 22 Jul 00 - 06:24 PM

I'm very nervous performing so I need to have the songs memorized completely. I tend to close my eyes, not from "soulfulness', but out of fear and a need to concentrate on the song. My partner does not have all the songs memorized and uses a binder so we put it between us. This means that I open my eyes more and last night tried harder to look at the audience and not stare absently at the open book (I'm a sucker for printed words, I'll read anything, anywhere except on a moving vehicle). I've sung in choirs where we all had our folders out and I used the music as a reminder for some tricky timings etc. Also in the choiurs we went through a lot of repertoire wery quickly and it would have taken a lot more time than I had to memorize everything completely. I've seen performers with cheat sheets and without them, it hasn't bothered me at all. The only thing that bugs me is the person who approaches the microphone with a piece of paper in their hands, bends their head to the words and reads in a flattened reading voice "Thank you ladies and gentlemen for attending our performance this evening..."


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: Gervase
Date: 23 Jul 00 - 05:03 AM

PeterT

Interesting point about the symbolic nature of the memorising of songs, which ties in well with an earlier thread here.


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: Naemanson
Date: 31 Jul 00 - 09:41 PM

I tend to close my eyes when singing too. It prevents distractions but I also do it because I can't stand the sight of so many suffering people seated in front of me!


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: tgreenie
Date: 01 Aug 00 - 02:30 AM

I always wake up in the middle of the night to memorize words. They seem to take form that transfers to the stage. Still, I remember years ago, after singing the same songs night after night, the band rebeled, and actually recorded what I was singing, then played the actual lyrics. My, there was quite a difference, so I re-memorized lyrics. Yet, many people, regulars who'd gotten used to "my" versions of the songs complained bitterly that I'd copped out on making the songs my own. Ya just can't win. Funny thing is I have the most trouble remembering my own dang songs.


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 01 Aug 00 - 12:25 PM

While I will sometimes use a printed set of words for HearMe, I would NEVER do so in a live performance! Why, you say?

Showmanship. In at least two respects:

Pay attention to someone giving a speech, even one that he's written himself, reading it off a typed copy, and alternatively tosomeone speaking directly. IT IS TOUGH TO READ NATURALLY, CONVINCINGLY. I believe this applies to singing too.

Even more important, to my mind, is audience contact. I perform as a solo act. In a performance I am continually looking around maintaining eye contact (or the appearance of eye contact) with the audience members. Seems to me this tends to make me appear the source of the song's story and/or emotions, and not just a second-hand retailer of someone else's thoughts and feelings.

I do have to say that if I only have a VERY few listeners, say three or fewer, I will often find myself singing off into space, or maybe closing my eyes, especially on emotionally charged songs, rather than making eye contact. Why? SEems to me that real eye contact becomes too intense, almost a challenge to the listener, and can get in the way in the way of feeling the song. YMMV.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: reggie miles
Date: 01 Aug 00 - 02:22 PM

I'm as guilty as the next guy at using a lyric sheet or chord sheet on occasion to get through gig. Though it's not something I feel chained to, it helps to have a prompt while trying a new tune. Some of my friends would like to have every aspect of any given performance we do laid out ahead of time and printed up to make it easier for everyone in the group to follow along. I've always enjoyed just getting up and playing what I enjoy without having to stick to a stick form or show. There are merits to each of these approaches and I usually try to find some middle ground compromise to appease everyone involved. I too will many times find myself closing my eyes while performing partly as a means of concentration. It helps to limit distractions. As some singers will place a hand over one ear to limit ambiant sound from interfering with their concentration. I also have a habit of keeping an eye on my fingerboard while I play thus limiting the amount of eye contact I make with my audience. Even at that there's the occasional missed fingering or slide of the bottleneck. I just muscle through as best I can. There are times when I have repeated a line that was totally improved or even a mistake on my part and have been surprised at how it seemed to come from nowhere and how I was even able to remember how to repeat it. Furthermore, I have totally lost a verse of a song at times. Though this is not a common occurence, stuff happens and for one reason or another the words just disappear. Perhaps it's due to exhaustion or dehydration. I remember being at a party and taking a small sip of some particularly potent champagne just before trying to sing a Lazy Larry song, Who Said I Was A Bum, to Utah Philips. It must have been the bubbles because I could not remember a lick after that sip. I have often finished performing a set soaking wet and feeling totally beat. It depends on the gig, who I'm performing with, what kind of material and instrumentaion I'm working with. This process we're all discussing here is called learning. There are as many stages as there are those caught up in the act of trying. Can any of us say we've arrived at the end of this process? I don't think so. My songs always seem to change even as I change and grow and discover more about this thing I'm caught up in, life on the planet.


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: Mbo
Date: 01 Aug 00 - 02:27 PM

Now it comes out! I don't sound convincing on HearMe! Well, you all better get used to those 3 songs I have memorized! Every night...what fun! And God knows I gotta look for the emotions I inspire when I play "Digsy's Diner"! Such a soulful song!


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: MMario
Date: 01 Aug 00 - 02:59 PM

The truth is out Mbo -- secretly we have allways figured you actually get your sister to sing all those songs on HearMe...or that you have a master recording studio that you feed into your sound card. Damn, boy, you have more styles then a hairdresser!


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: reggie miles
Date: 01 Aug 00 - 08:53 PM

Oh yeah I forgot to mention that the text on Hearme threw me off as well and I completely blanked on the words of the song I was singing. And the learning curve continues.


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: bbelle
Date: 01 Aug 00 - 09:19 PM

I'm of the old school and wouldn't do a gig with the words in front of me. If I'm concentrating on reading words, I'm not paying attention to my audience, and I'm not paying attention to my playing and will inevitably screw that up.

Like Jeri, I learn lyrics while driving in my car. I also memorize a verse at a time and keep going over it until I don't have to think about what it is.

Forget your lyrics ... don't panic ... make some up. It works and usually no one is the wiser. Unless, of course, it's the person who has come to hear you everynight since the gig started ... and, believe me when I tell you ... they will be the one to ask "are you singing new lyrics?"

HearMe is probably a great way to "debut" new material and you'll get some honest responses, as well. After that, it's really a matter of stepping out of your comfort zone.

But I don't have a problem with someone else using words, as long as the delivery is professional.

moonchild


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: Naemanson
Date: 02 Aug 00 - 10:18 AM

doesterr - You commented on showmanship and professionals reading from a printed page. But that is exactly what they do, wheter it is a news anchor person or a politico making a speech. Dave Letterman and the other talk show hosts work from cue cards. Saturday Night Live hosts work from cue cards.

I'm not saying the use of lyric and chord sheets should be the way to go. You definitely need to be completely comfortable and fitted into the sdong you want to perform. Nothing can take the place of rehearsal. But some of us are easily distracted. I am not one who can focus well (consider that I'm answering this at work!) and so I often find myself getting lost in a song I've been doing for years. I would never consider a cheat sheet for a such a song but my new material would benefit from the use of such a cheat sheet if only as a security blanket.


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: Pseudolus
Date: 02 Aug 00 - 10:36 AM

Dave O, I agree with you on the eye contact thing. I always have the ability to read the lyrics to songs that are new or that I just don't do often enough but if it's a song that has a message, a punchline, or needs to be a sing-a-long to be effective, then eye contact is really important. I do a song called "Playing Right Field" which I heard performed by Peter, Paul and Mary, and when I "tell the story" instead of just singing it (see the "Why did you choose your Mudcat name" for the actors discussion), then people listen, laugh, and enjoy. What a difference! I have no problem listening to others who are reading because I do it myself, but I get a lot more enjoyment as a performer knowing it inside out.

Frank


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: reggie miles
Date: 02 Aug 00 - 10:49 AM

Being in love, as I am, with all those songs/stories with way too many words to easily memorize is a curse but hey somebody's got to do it.


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Subject: RE: BS: Memorising songs and performance quality
From: The Shambles
Date: 02 Aug 00 - 03:51 PM

I always sing wit my eyes closed. For I have the words written on the inside of my eye-lids.

No it is vital to know all the words before you inflict yourself on any audience. It is OK to forget some but it will happen less and less, the more you do it. You do have to let go of the side of the pool before you can swim.


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