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Help: Why a finger in the ear?

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Jim Dixon 28 Jan 02 - 01:50 AM
Anahootz 28 Jan 02 - 02:04 AM
The Shambles 28 Jan 02 - 02:29 AM
Cappuccino 28 Jan 02 - 02:43 AM
GUEST,Boab 28 Jan 02 - 02:51 AM
paddymac 28 Jan 02 - 03:03 AM
mooman 28 Jan 02 - 03:49 AM
AliUK 28 Jan 02 - 04:41 AM
JohnInKansas 28 Jan 02 - 04:50 AM
GUEST,micca at work 28 Jan 02 - 04:51 AM
JudeL 28 Jan 02 - 04:56 AM
The Shambles 28 Jan 02 - 05:09 AM
JohnInKansas 28 Jan 02 - 05:47 AM
Dave Bryant 28 Jan 02 - 06:51 AM
Hollowfox 28 Jan 02 - 08:21 AM
The Shambles 28 Jan 02 - 08:49 AM
Malcolm Douglas 28 Jan 02 - 09:07 AM
JudeL 28 Jan 02 - 09:20 AM
Jim Dixon 28 Jan 02 - 09:53 AM
McGrath of Harlow 28 Jan 02 - 01:12 PM
Noreen 28 Jan 02 - 01:39 PM
McGrath of Harlow 28 Jan 02 - 01:54 PM
breezy 28 Jan 02 - 02:27 PM
Herga Kitty 28 Jan 02 - 02:32 PM
GUEST,NERD (cookieless computer) 28 Jan 02 - 02:33 PM
InOBU 28 Jan 02 - 02:38 PM
Skipper Jack 28 Jan 02 - 03:22 PM
GUEST,Martin Ryan 28 Jan 02 - 03:41 PM
Mrs.Duck 28 Jan 02 - 03:50 PM
Lyrical Lady 28 Jan 02 - 04:06 PM
Crane Driver 28 Jan 02 - 04:07 PM
Pterry 28 Jan 02 - 04:15 PM
Don Firth 28 Jan 02 - 04:33 PM
Bill D 28 Jan 02 - 04:54 PM
sophocleese 28 Jan 02 - 06:34 PM
GUEST,Amy 28 Jan 02 - 07:12 PM
McGrath of Harlow 28 Jan 02 - 07:23 PM
The Shambles 28 Jan 02 - 07:26 PM
bill\sables 28 Jan 02 - 08:00 PM
Desdemona 28 Jan 02 - 08:05 PM
Paul from Hull 28 Jan 02 - 08:34 PM
little john cameron 28 Jan 02 - 09:08 PM
bill\sables 28 Jan 02 - 09:35 PM
catspaw49 28 Jan 02 - 09:57 PM
Jim Dixon 28 Jan 02 - 10:02 PM
catspaw49 28 Jan 02 - 10:16 PM
Pene Azul 28 Jan 02 - 10:23 PM
Chip2447 28 Jan 02 - 10:40 PM
JedMarum 28 Jan 02 - 10:46 PM
GUEST 29 Jan 02 - 12:29 AM
The Shambles 29 Jan 02 - 01:57 AM
The Shambles 29 Jan 02 - 02:01 AM
McGrath of Harlow 29 Jan 02 - 03:40 AM
McGrath of Harlow 29 Jan 02 - 05:34 AM
IanC 29 Jan 02 - 07:16 AM
Jim Dixon 29 Jan 02 - 08:28 AM
GUEST,PaulM 29 Jan 02 - 08:45 AM
GUEST,Martin Ryan 29 Jan 02 - 08:52 AM
Skipper Jack 29 Jan 02 - 11:00 AM
GUEST,PaulM 29 Jan 02 - 11:12 AM
JudeL 29 Jan 02 - 11:16 AM
Skipper Jack 29 Jan 02 - 11:32 AM
GUEST 29 Jan 02 - 12:16 PM
Mr Red 29 Jan 02 - 12:33 PM
Snuffy 29 Jan 02 - 04:38 PM
John MacKenzie 29 Jan 02 - 06:00 PM
Desert Dancer 30 Jan 02 - 01:31 AM
Dave Bryant 30 Jan 02 - 08:17 AM
Liz the Squeak 31 Jan 02 - 12:51 AM
The Shambles 31 Jan 02 - 02:17 AM
JudeL 31 Jan 02 - 05:49 PM
Liz the Squeak 31 Jan 02 - 06:06 PM
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catspaw49 01 Feb 02 - 04:44 PM
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reynard 10 Jun 11 - 08:12 AM
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Jack Campin 10 Jun 11 - 09:40 AM
McGrath of Harlow 10 Jun 11 - 09:47 AM
Big Al Whittle 10 Jun 11 - 10:25 AM
Vin2 10 Jun 11 - 11:14 AM
Jim Dixon 10 Jun 11 - 11:28 AM
michaelr 10 Jun 11 - 03:26 PM
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Subject: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 01:50 AM

As an American who has been fascinated by all things British for several years now, I admit there is one expression that I keep seeing over and over again in various postings by our British friends that has me totally baffled.

Alex: "I'd rather spend an evening with the Corries than sit in an English folk club listening to some conceited bore with one finger in his ear and the other up his ass…"

Ian Kirk: "Usually bearded blokes who run folk clubs that are soooo traditional that unless your floor spot is a turgid ballad with 93 verses sung ala Ewan MacColl with your eyes shut and your finger in your ear you get frowned at and ignored for the rest of the evening and not asked to sing again."

Mick Lowe: "Apart from the Spinners, you can also blame Aran Jumpers, people singing whilst sticking their fingers in their ears and singing unaccompanied... if you want to be superficial that is."

Susanne (skw): "If a paper like The Observer can define a folk festival as 'drinking your beer with one finger in your ear' (May '99 - as a joke, but still), what do you expect?"

Gervase: "I've lost count of the number of Aran jersey/beard/finger-in-ear/pewter tankard taunts I've heard, and what really hurts is that so many of them are true."

Someone please enlighten me: What is the significance of the finger in the ear? Does anybody really do this? Who? Why? (I've never seen such a thing in the US, and I presume it is/was only done in the UK.)


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Anahootz
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 02:04 AM

This might be completely wrong, but in noisy situations, sticking a finger in your ear (or otherwise blocking noise) is a way to tell what you sound like. I have seen singers do this when monitors go out for no apparent reason, and it sems to work. As for doing it while not singing, or with "one finger in his ear and another in his ass", well, maybe he can't tell the difference.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: The Shambles
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 02:29 AM

I suspect it was done because people saw other performers do this and assumed that in order to be taken seriously as a 'traditional' singer, and felt they had to follow suit and trust that there was some good reason for it.

A bit like placing a lighted cigarette in the headboard of one's guitar, which seem to make you a better and more earnest blues player.

It would be interesting to establish the history of these practices. Who were the people setting the example?

In truth, I do not seem to see it done much now. If it is done now at all, it tends to be reifly and not done throughout the song. Which lends me to believe that it was always more fashion than passion.

Or possibly a signal, in a noisy place that someone was trying to sing? You could stick the finger in another orifice but it may give an entirely differnt signal?


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Cappuccino
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 02:43 AM

It simply seems to concentrate the sound in your head - so when you're searching for the note, you've got a better chance of finding it. I occasionally do it (briefly, so nobody notices) in church.

But of course, as Shambles rightly points out, in folk clubs one scores points for intensity, and there's even a way of tuning up which can have the audience listening respectfully... so I guess people overdid the ear thing to win some kind of credibility.

Damn... got my finger stuck again....

- Ian B


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: GUEST,Boab
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 02:51 AM

I'm not a "practitioner", but with one finger in your ear, you can hear yourself singing, even if you're a mere foot from a great muckle speaker; try it!


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: paddymac
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 03:03 AM

Jim - I've seen it commonly enough on the american scene as well. It's normally done to block external noise (especially somebody singing in your ear off-key) and help you focus on the note you are producing (or trying to produce anyway).


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: mooman
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 03:49 AM

The good thing about watching an unaccompanied English ballad group is that they can always stick their fingers in each others' ears!

(8>)

mooman


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: AliUK
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 04:41 AM

I always thought that it was so that their brains wouldnt run out as they cocked their heads to hear the whispered prompts from someone in the audience. But then again what do I know?


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 04:50 AM

'Way back in the stone age, when I was a mere highschool puppy, my "Public Speech" class instructor informed us that the "finger in the ear" was a technique used by many radio announcers. We did practical exercises - with lots of discussion, although I never did get to stick my finger in "Tanny's" ear.

Most people are rather astonished at the result the first few times they hear a recording of their own voice played back. Truth is - what you hear "from the inside" is generally quite a lot different than what comes out.

Blocking the feedback from outside with a finger in one ear allows you to hear and control "which voice" you are using.

Most people's conversational speaking voice is rather thin, but with practice one can learn to use a "more resonant" voice. It is easy, however, when using one voicing, to slip back into another. The finger in the ear allows you to assure that you maintian "your radio sound," particularly if you are "projecting" something that is learned rather than run-of-mill-everyday-yellin'-at-the-kids noise.

Some voice teachers will teach the use of the "FIE" to help students learn aspects of voice control. Using mouth shape, vocal chord tension, open or constricted larynx, and emphasising "chest resonance" are all part of learning "taught" singing.

It's also handy if your duet partner is a little off pitch.

John


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: GUEST,micca at work
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 04:51 AM

I suspect (if my memory serves) that this is another part of the legacy of Ewan Mc Coll....


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: JudeL
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 04:56 AM

If you can't hear what you are singing it's very difficult to adjust the note you are singing to what you believe you should be singing. Ever notice people who have walkmans and personal cassette players who have them turned up loud, when they sing they are almost invariably badly off key, even people that would normally be able to at least sing along matching an instrument. This is partly what they are hearing is the note being produced by the recorded artist and not the one they are singing. Putting your finger in your ear seems to help you hear what you are singing and distingish it from other sounds around you. Unfortunately like everything else anything mildly different from the standardised, homogenised, media-fed/dictated idea of normal is immediately identified used as a stereotype and ridiculed. Jude


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: The Shambles
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 05:09 AM

What ever the (slight) practical advantages, I would still come down on the side of ridicle, in the context of the practice whilst singing in folk clubs.

'Go-faster' stripes, alloy wheels and spoilers on one's saloon car may give some slight aerodynamic advantage, but that is not the real reason for their popularity.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 05:47 AM

The "FIE" is a legitimate practice, that can be a help in certain situations. While primarily useful as a "training tool," to help in learning a desired projection of the voice, there are circumstances where its use in performance may help the performer to do a better job.

Anyone who does it in performance just "because it makes me look like a folk singer" is certainly to be pitied.

If a performer uses the technique because it helps the quality of their performance, then it would seem appropriate to applaud their knowledge of what makes their own performance the best they can do.

To a certain extent, it is the mark of an inexperienced perfromer, but folk is where we accept and applaud the tradition that is presented/preserved first, and the performance as a secondary element.

Judging too harshly may mark the "judge" as "not quite into" the folk element.

I guess it would depend a lot on whether we are expecting a professional PERFORMANCE or whether were sharing someones appreciation of a song.

Try it sometime, and see if it helps (in a private practice session - of course).

John


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Dave Bryant
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 06:51 AM

One of the reasons that some people have a problem pitching notes is that their ears are slightly "out of tune" with each other. Try listening to note with one ear and then the other - you might find that one way round the note seems sharper/flatter. The FIE technique can help with pitching in this case. The technique is also useful when you're singing a tight harmony with someone and want to block out other sounds (ie an audience member who is well out of key in choruses).

However I usually find that the "Hand cupped between mouth and ear" method is usually the best way of providing personal unaccompanied "Foldback". It is especially useful in packed singarounds where everyone is trying to pop different harmonies in (the sort with Johnny Collins, Jim Magean, Tom & Barara Brown, Dave & Annie etc.). It was this method, rather than FIE that Ewan McColl made famous - I always recall him sitting the wrong way round a chair resting his elbow on the back with his hand between mouth and ear.

Unfortunately both methods are very difficult when you're trying to play an instrument with two hands. Perhaps some musical accessory manufacturer will come out with a clip on device (worked by a pedal) to overcome this.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Hollowfox
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 08:21 AM

I always thought that FIE was making fun of the "hand cupped between mouth and ear" method that Dave described above. It really is useful, sometimes.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: The Shambles
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 08:49 AM

Unfortunately both methods are very difficult when you're trying to play an instrument with two hands.

Of course if you are not singing and playing an instrument at the same time, you have nowhere to stick your lighted ciggarette and may actually have to smoke it.

I am a singer who may sound better with one finger in my ear but like thousands of other 'singers with guitar' and singers in many other types of music have never felt the need to try it.

I am sorry I just don't buy it.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 09:07 AM

As Micca says, this seems to have started with Ewan MacColl, who learned it as an actor and used it -and taught it- as an aid to voice production; it is not a technique that was ever used by traditional singers, being associated only with the revival of the 1950s and later.

As Dave points out, the finger is not usually put in the ear, but the hand cupped slightly behind it; perhaps some people who had only seen the operation from a distance misunderstood what was being done and copied it.  Lightly closing the ear with one finger (no insertion is required) also reduces extraneous sound but is less effective, being mainly useful for making phone calls in noisy places.

Martin Carthy has been known to use the cupped hand method and I've seen others doing it from time to time in folk clubs (and in rock concerts, for that matter), but never, so far as I remember, anybody with a finger in their ear.  Though I don't doubt that there are people out there doing it, sometimes for the wrong reasons, I suspect that the stereotype is usually just a straw man, invented so that it can be more easily knocked down than the real thing.  Constructive criticism is so much harder, after all.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: JudeL
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 09:20 AM

Having in noisy (usually multi-harmonied) environments occasionally resorted to using the finger in the ear to keep myself from sliding into copying the loudest person next to me. The finger in the ear method, I find tends to help more than cupping of ear in these places as the sound seems to reverb around your skull and is therefore more easily distingished from the confusion around you. However I have seen both methods used where it seemed to be more affectation than need.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 09:53 AM

Thanks, folks, for all your explanations, but I am still somewhat dissatisfied.

If I needed to block out external noise for any reason, I'd probably place the palm of my hand over my ear. It's more comfortable, more sanitary, less disgusting to onlookers, probably more effective (though I haven't done a lot of tests), and would serve as a signal to the noisemakers to "pipe down!" (Where does that expression come from, by the way?) In fact, this method seems so natural to me that it would never occur to me to use any other.

As for the radio announcer technique – this must date back to the days before radio announcers wore earphones. I can't remember where I learned it, but I thought it worked like this: Place the finger tips gently on the outer edge of the ear, bend the ear forward so as to extend it outward from the head to the maximum extent, and hold the fingers palm of the hand parallel to the cheek an inch or two away from it, with the heel of the hand near the mouth. This will form a channel that conducts sound from one's own mouth to one's ear. (Dave Bryant: Is this what you mean by "foldback?") I see the benefit of doing this, BUT – it seems to me that if you did it enough while practicing at home, you wouldn't NEED to do it in public. You'd already know what your voice sounds like. Anyway, it's not the same as sticking your finger in your ear, and not likely to be confused with it.

Several people have stressed that there are good, practical reasons for the FIE. If so, why is the technique so often mentioned with scorn (as in the quotes in my first post)?


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 01:12 PM

Dominic Behan said the reason he put his finger in one ear was because he didn't like half the songs he was singing.

But it does help you hear yourself, especially in a noisy environment - more so if you stick the thumb behind the ear and press it to close down the earhole. It means, I suppose, that you get the sound coming round inside the head instead of taking the route round the outside.

Meself, I think it's an affectation not to do it, rather than the other way round. I'd rarely consciously choose to do it, but at times I've consciously chosen not to, what with the FIE jokes.

If you're playing an instrument of course you have to do without the technique - but then you've got the instrument to help you keep in tune.

And then of course some of us are getting a bit hard of hearing these days, and that's always been a reason for the hand cupped to the ear, for traditional singers and all.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Noreen
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 01:39 PM

Hmmmm:

Ewan Maccoll

with finger

and ear.

What d'you think?


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 01:54 PM

And you'll note in the last picture up there he appears to have the thumb up behind the ear as I mentioned. The man knew what he was doing.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: breezy
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 02:27 PM

I stick me finger in me ear to dig out the wax while I'm singing, then I stick both fingers in me ears when dave Bryant is on cos he's so bloody loud!
a sea shell would work just as well or a pewter tankard angled forward or two tankards, one for each ear,"st-ear-i-o" with or without beer ,now that is the question.A beer sleeve would do the job but it doesn't have the same stage cred.
"And we'll stick one of our fingers in our ears," x 3
and we'll all sing out of tune
Make up your own verses to "roll the old chariot a shore"
Off now to clean me nails, then the keyboard, and then the mouse.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Herga Kitty
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 02:32 PM

I agree with McGrath and Dave Bryant - I don't stick a finger in my ear but I do press on the outside to block out external noise and hear what I'm singing - and, since we used to have 4 of the people Dave mentioned as members of Herga, it is a jolly useful technique for checking whether what you're singing fits with what you're hearing in your other ear. Only works if you're sober, though. (I thought I should point that out before anyone else does on my behalf.)

Kitty


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: GUEST,NERD (cookieless computer)
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 02:33 PM

I agree with JudeL; environments with polyphonic singing (like rounds, part singing, etc) make it very difficult to remain in your own part unless you are experienced. FIE helps a lot. As for being unsanitary, even people who do the real FIE rather than the cup-behind-the-ear are not necessarily doing anything unsanitary; your ear has a little flap in front of the earhole and when you put your finger "in" your ear you are really pushing on that flap so it closes your earhole. Your finger does not really go "in" your ear, but someone looking from even a slight distance would not be able to tell this.

I rarely if ever use FIE these days, but when I used to attend round singing groups I would absolutely have to use it or I could not stay together with my part. It's true that it's fairly ridiculous to use it when singing unaccompanied and alone unless there is a lot of noise or the acoustics are really bad. But I wouldn't presume to accuse anyone of using this just for show. Certainly if you know Martin Carthy you know he wouldn't do something like this just to imitate Ewan MacColl; it must be helping him or he'd lump it. That said, I'm sure SOME poseurs do use it for the wrong reasons.

As for singing with one finger up your ass, I guess it might help you hit the high notes ;-)


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: InOBU
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 02:38 PM

I thing the cupped hand is older. I learned it as a child and still do it, and the real trick is when I have to switch back to the pipes or whistle and have to drop the hand at the last messure to grab the pipes, and the change in tone hits me. It takes practice to not be thrown by that, but one can be much more carefully on pitch especially if one is singing with harmonies... or you are doing the harmony. Cheers, Larry


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Skipper Jack
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 03:22 PM

I go along with the cupped hand over the ear, if you try it, your voice can be positively deafening if you sing loud enough!

Personally I think that if you waxing lyrical you need your finger in your ear to stop the wax coming out!!


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: GUEST,Martin Ryan
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 03:41 PM

Never stuck my finger in my ear while singing (and try valiantly not to do ao at other times!) but I DO occasionally find myself with my index finger pressed semi-firmly against my jawbone somewhere in that region, when trying to sing harmonies in noisy environments! I could speculate about picking up harmonics (sic) or feeding them back around my head - but speculation is what it is. I certainly don't think its really a matter of blocking out the background - rather of amplifying somehing closer!

Regards

p.s. I think I should go and lie down....


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Mrs.Duck
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 03:50 PM

Norma Waterson once told me that for maximum effect one hand should be cupped just behind the ear as above with the other between the mouth and other ear. As she put it "not so much one finger in your ear and the other up your arse but one in your ear and the other up your nose"


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Lyrical Lady
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 04:06 PM

I use the FIE for the excact reasons that InOBU states and find the practice quite helpful. As for "FIE" used as a derogatory statement ... perhaps it stems from the idea that if one places a finger in the ear to allow oneself to hear oneself better ... maybe it refers to one who likes to hear him/herself speak/sing ... far fetched...maybe!

LL


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Crane Driver
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 04:07 PM

Skipper - when I stick my finger in my ear, it's not my voice that's deafening (know what I mean?) Seriously, trying to learn the melody line with some very loud 'armonisers around, you sometimes need all the help you can get. I don't do it on stage though (unless things are going very wrong indeed).

And where I stand, you need all the earwax you can get!


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Pterry
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 04:15 PM

Muezzins seem to do it up there Minnaretts.... Put one finger in there ear that is.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Don Firth
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 04:33 PM

After Ewan MacColl's first concert at the 1960 Berkeley Folk Festival, just about everybody went around with a hand cupped behind behind an ear. Lotta guitars and banjos got dropped that weekend.

No radio announcer I've ever seen (I was one for eight years) ever cupped a hand behind an ear, except for the guy on "Laugh-In." They use headphones.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Bill D
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 04:54 PM

I have some hearing loss, and have used a cupped hand to help focus sound for many years. It can help you hear you own voice in a crowd. If you actually insert a finger, it further isolates YOUR voice from other sounds, but also reduces amplification. (I have now gotten hearing aids to do some of what I need, but many times they are TOO loud, so cupping the hand still is useful...

......however, when I was in college, there was a guy who was director of the Physical Plant (building & grounds) who was occasionally observed walking about with his pinky finger inserted in his ear, so it looked like his arm was partially supported by the 'hook'. People remarked on this for years, but as far as I know, no one ever got up the courage to ask him why...grin*..he never sang, as far as I know.(he was 'strange' in several ways...a real character)


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: sophocleese
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 06:34 PM

I've noticed that wearing ear plugs in a very noisy rock bar means you can actually hear the conversation of those you wish to talk with. I think this is similar to the finger on the outside of the ear. If you feel you might be considered a poseur by the uninformed and undiscriminating you can always hold a book, bodhran or beer mug up in front of your mouth and hear yourself in the bounce back off of that.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: GUEST,Amy
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 07:12 PM

As a voice teacher I can tell you that sticking your finger in your ear or cupping your hand around your ear can help people with conductive hearing loss hear whether they are singing their own note or something else. This is used very often in choral singing rehearsals or rehearsals of 4 part harmony.

I remember Robin of the Bee Gees doing this a lot in the 70's to make sure his note was correct.

The jokes in the first entry are probably refering to those singers who put their finger in their ear and still can't get the correct note!


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 07:23 PM

Right, that's sorted the FIE business - we're agreed it's the ones who don't do it who are the show-offs who are worried about their image.

Now for the Aran sweaters...I haven't seen one of those in years. Waistcoats are surely the key fashion statement if you're into Irish music anyway? And brown boots of course.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: The Shambles
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 07:26 PM

Brown boots?


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: bill\sables
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 08:00 PM

I'm not sure if I will get into trouble from other British folk singers for revealing the real reason why we put our fingers in our ears while singing but I think it is time the world knew our secret.
Firstly, it dates back to 1943 when British scientists were developing new ideas for the war effort. Not only did we discover that carrots helped pilots to see in the dark but we also dabbled in radio and minaturisation. We developed the miniature radio tape recorder which could be planted in various parts of the body beneath the skin, this was a great aid for our spies and under cover agents.
Military doctors would perform a small operation to implant the miniature radio receivers in the index fingers of the right hand. Unfortunately, the recorders and transmitters were slightly larger than the receivers so a suitable place had to be found to conceal their existence. As usual the boffins at MI5 came up with the result when a cleaner, who had been asked to do a rather unpleasant task remarked, "If you think I'm doing that you can stick your job up your arse." This was so obvious a place of concealment that they wondered why no one hadn't thought of it before.
During the early sixties many of these devices were on sale to the general public in Army and Navy surplus stores and indeed on market stalls throughout the land and for a small fee doctors would do the implant operation. Folk Singers in particular found this an invaluable aid to remembering song lyrics and tunes. All they had to do was play the song they had recorded at home on the miniature recorder and then transmit it to the tiny speaker in their finger. But the one problem was that the speaker was so small that they had to stick their finger in their ear to hear the words and music.
Once this technique had been mastered and accepted by folk audiences across the country another problem arose.
It was found that most of the long ninety seven verse songs in the English tradition were putting the audiences to sleep and so singers had to find a way to keep the audience interested in their performance, so they decided to give long introductions to their songs. Unfortunately this meant switching the recorder on and off.
And that is why when you see a folk singer singing with his finger in his ear he usually does have the other finger up his arse.

Cheers Bill


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Desdemona
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 08:05 PM

I've seen loads of photos of people singing that way---the Watersons in particular come to mind off the back of one of their records. I imagine the "hearing yourself better " explanation is probably the correct one; of course, as with anything I suppose it could easily become an affectation.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Paul from Hull
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 08:34 PM

*LMAO* Brilliant stuff Bill!


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: little john cameron
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 09:08 PM

Talkin aboot Arran sweaters,Rick where is the photie o' you an' me an' Ralph wi the Japanese Arran sweaters.Ah'm sure aw' hauns wid like tae see that. ljc


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: bill\sables
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 09:35 PM

While we are on the subject of Arran Sweaters, The history of this form of dress again dates back to the sixties when Folk Clubs were springing up all around the UK. Every town and village had its own folk club and the English Folk Dance and Song Society declared that each and every club should wear a form of uniform (Rather like the Scouts)which would be an Arran Sweater. Not any old Arran sweater would do however, every club had to develop a patern which only their members were allowed to wear. This was very handy for the police forces around the country because when they picked a drunk up from the gutter they knew by the patern of his or her sweater exactly where he had come from.
Cheers Bill


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: catspaw49
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 09:57 PM

You're cookin' tonight Bill!!! LMAO!!!

But truthfully, wasn't that your first thought when you saw the thread title? "Why a finger in the ear?" -- Because my thumb is occupying my ass!

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 10:02 PM

So, are you guys telling me, that no one actually puts their finger IN their ear, but they actually cup their hands BEHIND or AROUND their ear, and that all these finger-in-ear comments are merely jokes? Or honest misunderstandings? Or deliberate misrepresentations meant to ridicule folksingers?

Anyway, in those photos of Ewan McColl, he definitely doesn't literally have is finger IN his ear, but he doesn't exactly appear to have his hand cupped either. So what the heck IS he doing?


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: catspaw49
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 10:16 PM

Yeah Jim.....That's how it looks to me too.

And am I the only one who didn't immediately flash on Robin Gibb too?

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Pene Azul
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 10:23 PM

Hmmm... looks like he's pressing his finger against the back of his ear. That seems to produce a similar effect, but more subtle.

Spaw, I thought of Gibb too when I saw this.

Jeff


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Chip2447
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 10:40 PM

THREAD CREEP...
Jim Dixon Pipe down is an actual call on a bosuns Pipe, used to get rowdy sailors attention and give them warning that the Bosun is about to start breaking heads. Quite literally "Pipe down". And if memory serves me correct, it is sounded as a long high trill dropping into a low pitch trill...

Imitating Gary Owens from Laff In, one finger stuck in his ear
"We now return you to your regularly scheduled thread."

Chip2447


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: JedMarum
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 10:46 PM

Why a finger in the ear? It is one of the least offensive orifices.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: GUEST
Date: 29 Jan 02 - 12:29 AM

I've got a question about the miniature speakers implanted in the fingertip. I'm curious as to whether they could act as microphones as well.

Can one find these on eBay? Do you have any model numbers ? How much could one expect to find one in reasonable good (unimplanted) condition?


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: The Shambles
Date: 29 Jan 02 - 01:57 AM

Brown boots?


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: The Shambles
Date: 29 Jan 02 - 02:01 AM

Why the cigarette in the guitar?


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 29 Jan 02 - 03:40 AM

Brown boots. I arsk you! Look at the feet at any folk gathering and you'll see what I mean. (Especially funerals of course.)

It's Aran, not Arran. As in the Aran Isles in Ireland, where, as I've heard it, someone who'd emigrated to the States send home a book of knitting patterns early last century, and the locals took up knitting them, and people assumed it was an ancient tradition. And the Clancy Brothers had an auntie who was into knitting sweaters for them, as aunties do sometimes, and they'd have hurt her feelings if they hadn't worn them.

I've never heard that the people of the Isle of Arran in Scitlanmd go in for that kind of garment.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 29 Jan 02 - 05:34 AM

"Scitlanmd" - honest, that was just a typo.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: IanC
Date: 29 Jan 02 - 07:16 AM

As far as I recall, nobody's got the story right so far. It's a curious fact that people don't know what they look like to others. Neither do they know what they sound like. You'll find Ewan MacColl, and others pressing their hands to their jaws to the bottom of their ears in order to facilitate bone transfer of sound. This is supposed to give a slightly more direct path for your own voice than listening to your mouth round a corner. It's also supposed to be useful if you're singing in harmony with others as it amplifies your own voice.

What I heard, anyway
Ian


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 29 Jan 02 - 08:28 AM

If this bone transfer thing is such a good idea, why don't opera singers do it? Just wondering.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: GUEST,PaulM
Date: 29 Jan 02 - 08:45 AM

This page has a few pictures that show what Ewan MacColl actually did

Paul


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: GUEST,Martin Ryan
Date: 29 Jan 02 - 08:52 AM

IanC

i think that's basically what I was trying to say - except that I suspect its low harmonics that you mainly hear.

As to opera singers, Jim - where would they put the dagger?

Regards


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Skipper Jack
Date: 29 Jan 02 - 11:00 AM

Have you also noticed that some trad' unacc' singers as well as sticking fingers in their ears, also stand in such a position as to give one the impression that they are dying for a pea?

Okay I'll shut up now!


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: GUEST,PaulM
Date: 29 Jan 02 - 11:12 AM

I wasn't aware that peas were the preferred vegetable of folkies....

Paul


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: JudeL
Date: 29 Jan 02 - 11:16 AM

Skipper: look like they're dying for a pee, no wonder, have you seen some of the queues for the toilets at folk festivals! Jude


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Skipper Jack
Date: 29 Jan 02 - 11:32 AM

Oh yes! I spelt pee as pea! Silly mee!

Thanks Paul.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: GUEST
Date: 29 Jan 02 - 12:16 PM

If we can make any conclusion from this thread, it must be that it can be a useful technique to improve your singing in harmony.

Shame that Shambles "I am sorry I just don't buy it" isn't big enough to admit that he's WRONG

Then again, Shambles isn't very good at admitting to being wrong...


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Mr Red
Date: 29 Jan 02 - 12:33 PM

well someone had to say "pardon?"

BTW I take ear plugs to ceilidhs and concerts these days. Not that I do many concerts unless I am stewarding at a festival.
WOULD MY MESSAGE BE ANY MORE MUSICAL IF I SHOUTED IT?
its not the finger anyway it is the cupped hand and even (in the case of Ewen McColl) the forearm, that is the folk equivalent of the monitor cans.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Snuffy
Date: 29 Jan 02 - 04:38 PM

During the 60s/70s many singers affected a nasal, whiny delivery and a pseudo-rustic accent as well as the finger in the ear.

I think many people assumed that it was the finger in the ear that was the cause of the appalling noise that resulted, and the blame has (unjustifiably) stuck.

WassaiL! V


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 29 Jan 02 - 06:00 PM

I always assumed that it was the jawbone conducting harmonics of a sort, and helped you to keep relative pitch. Relative to others that is. I knew a man who reckoned to tell the quality of a watch by clenching it in his teeth and sticking his fingers in both ears. If you can do this while making sure that your lips don't touch the watch, it's amazing what you can hear. Don't try this with a digital watch, only works with good old fashioned mechanical movements.
Tick Tock....Giok


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 30 Jan 02 - 01:31 AM

Same thing (watch held in teeth, fingers in ears) is fun on the head of a guitar (try this only with someone you love -- then the teeth marks will be souvenirs and not so painful).

~ Becky in Tucson
ahhh, those were the days...


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Dave Bryant
Date: 30 Jan 02 - 08:17 AM

Thanks PaulM - the last picture of Ewan shows exactly what I described - chair the wrong way round - elbow with cupped hand resting on the back.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 31 Jan 02 - 12:51 AM

BECAUSE EVERYTHING HAS TO BE SOMEWHERE!!!

lts


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: The Shambles
Date: 31 Jan 02 - 02:17 AM

I think Ewan MacColl was before his time in many ways.

For everyone now, not just folksingers, seem to walk around in this position.

Maybe he had invented the first mobile phone?


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: JudeL
Date: 31 Jan 02 - 05:49 PM

GOT IT ... the mobile phone is just a cover ... they're all closet folkies! Jude


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 31 Jan 02 - 06:06 PM

At least mine plays a folk song.....

(OK and Led Zeppelin)

LTS


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: GUEST,Chicken Charlie
Date: 01 Feb 02 - 04:17 PM

I have done this when singing harmonies, as it helps me hear my own voice "inside my head," esp. on the first few run-throughs of a new piece in a choir-type situation. I can't really see the point of doing it solo; that would honestly seem a mere affectation. [I could draw a parallel with the other finger, but this is a family site.] Mildly tangentially, I have never been able to wean myself away from keeping my ear to the frame when I play autoharp. Holding an ear to the top of a guitar body is comforting too, in a foetal kind of way I guess. Helps check the tuning if there's a lot of background noise.

CC


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: catspaw49
Date: 01 Feb 02 - 04:44 PM

Okay.....survey time.............

How many of you have found yourselves driving along this past week, or in the shower, or in a session with your hand upside your head trying some of these configurations?

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Max Johnson
Date: 10 Jun 11 - 06:48 AM

Pavarotti sometimes used to cover his ear with his hand, briefly. As many others have pointed out, it helps you to pick up your own voice when there's a lot of other 'traffic'.
Occasionally when harmonising, if a chord seems slightly 'off', it's hard to know whether it's you that's causing it. Always best to check. I'm told.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: reynard
Date: 10 Jun 11 - 08:12 AM

As an American who has been fascinated by all things British for several years now... (Jim Dixon)

As someone who has been away from the folk scene for a while, and has only just signed up to this forum, I'm aware of the absurdity of responding to a question that was asked ten years ago; but I've just read through all of the above (I should get a life) and if Jim Dixon is still out there, I'm not convinced anyone has really answered his question. Yes, Ewan McColl et al used a technique that became the butt of tedious anti-folk jokes for decades- but the real issue is, why did the British feel the need to denigrate their cultural heritage in this way, while at the same time embracing American folk-roots culture, especially the blues. And today it's still generally considered cool to sing the blues but not to sing English traditional music, even in many "folk" clubs, where "anything goes" as long as it's not English. I suspect that this is the puzzle behind Jim's question. There is an analogy with bluegrass being rejected in the States as "Hillbilly" or yokel music so perhaps it is normal for a culture to reject its past traditions. The blues was rejected by white audiences in the States until the Brits revived it- but that was a racial issue. Perhaps these issues have been discussed on other threads?


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: GUEST,Uncle Rumpo
Date: 10 Jun 11 - 08:49 AM

"Why a finger in the ear?"


Well as myself and my dear saucy wife have found out,
even back at the height of the permissive 1970's,
any other similar size and shaped part of the human anatomy
can get a swinging couple thrown out and banned
from most traditional folk clubs..


.. but we can chuckle about it now.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 10 Jun 11 - 09:40 AM

Yes, Ewan McColl et al used a technique that became the butt of tedious anti-folk jokes for decades- but the real issue is, why did the British feel the need to denigrate their cultural heritage in this way, while at the same time embracing American folk-roots culture, especially the blues. And today it's still generally considered cool to sing the blues but not to sing English traditional music, even in many "folk" clubs, where "anything goes" as long as it's not English.

I suspect a lot of it was simply because MacColl was a Communist and so anything he was closely associated with had to be ridiculed by the right-wing establishment, be it his singing technique, his musical material, the facts of his biography or the venues he worked in. You can't often mention his name in any thread in any discussion forum, even today, without some Tory nutter frothing at the mouth about one of those subthemes for dozens of followup postings.

You leftpondians had the same with Pete Seeger and the banjo.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 10 Jun 11 - 09:47 AM

I've never been in a folk club where English traditional songs, when sung properly, are scorned.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 10 Jun 11 - 10:25 AM

A finger in the ear is worth two in the bush.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Vin2
Date: 10 Jun 11 - 11:14 AM

As may have been mentioned already, Mick Jagger & John Lennon have been filmed with their hands over their ear when singing - usually in a studio.

Don't see it as much in concerts now cos, methinks, of the use of sound monitors in front of the artiste?


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 10 Jun 11 - 11:28 AM

Yes, I'm still around, and still paying attention to threads like this.

At first I was mainly concerned with understanding what gesture, or hand position, was actually being described, who did it, how did it originate, what was its purpose? I think this has been pretty well answered.

Then there is the further question of who uses the descriptive phrase of a "finger in the ear" to disparage a certain kind of music, and why?

Jack Campin: Your theory that Ewan MacColl's communist connections account for the scorn with which folk music is viewed by "Tories" is interesting, but I don't think Pete Seeger was ever scorned in quite the same way. Yes, he was blacklisted in the 50s and banned from TV, but he eventually recovered from that, and at any rate, it was only the politicians and TV executives who banned him; I don't think he was ever rejected by true folk-music fans.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: michaelr
Date: 10 Jun 11 - 03:26 PM

"Why a finger in the ear?"

So you don't have to drop your trousers...


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: GUEST,Dave in Michigan
Date: 10 Jun 11 - 03:52 PM

Singers put a finger in an ear when singing for the same reason that Highland Pipers march when playing: to get away from the d*mn noise. [second half heard from an American player of the Highland pipes]


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Gurney
Date: 10 Jun 11 - 04:10 PM

Bone conduction, it's called.
The Lo-Fi equivalent of the earphones that all recording studios use, so that you can hear yourself over the other noise.

I used to call such singers 'petrol pumps,' and include myself in their number.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Jun 11 - 10:44 PM

The poster, of course, is gargoyle...
It is a Rugby/Hash Song.

You will find "finger in the ear" in the "Monkey Boy" DT/MC thread.

The lyrics and tune include hand visuals and "square dance" locked elbows....and exchanging partners.

Would you like a finger in your ear? Would you like a finger in your rear?
Would you like a finger in your beer
REPEAT - to Dance
No F--king Likely, No f--king likney

For body movements and audience participation - this equals "Father Abraham" .... and is closely connected to "Lost Control".


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Jun 11 - 04:02 AM

"I suspect a lot of it was simply because MacColl was a Communist"
It was Alan Lomax's suggestion that singers in Britain looked to their own national repertoire for their source material.
When he first came to Britain all the singers he met were singing a hodge-podge of songs from all over the world, America, Africa, China, Russia, Germany, Israel... you name it, they sang it; Ewan and Bert were singing American songs; there's a recording of MacColl singing Sixteen Tons for a National Coal Board film somewhere here.
The WMA (Workers Music Association), the fore-runner of Topic even released records of it by The Clarion Singers, Paul Robeson, etc. - used to have some of them at one time.
The hand-over-ear technique is a centuries-old technique, used internationally - we have a photograph of Bengalese temple singers using it somewhere, and the Bengalese singer/teacher, Kali Das Gupta, who lived in London in the late sixties used it all the time. Leslie Shepherd used a woodcut of a nineteenth century broadside seller likewise in one of his books (I think The Broadside Ballad.
One of our Irish Traveller singers described his father singing in the pub with his back to the crowd and his hand cupped over his ear some time in the 30s/40s "just like that feller Ewan MacColl".
Lloyd said it was popular with Eastern European singers and it is a toss-up whether it was he or MacColl introduced it to the revival (MacColl devised various vocal/stage techniques for his work with Theatre Wokshop, relaxation, voice production, projection etc.)
I seem to remember that The Watersons sang with both hands cupped over their ears on occasion.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: GUEST,Jim Martin
Date: 11 Jun 11 - 04:34 AM

Ear ear or here here



http://farm1.static.flickr.com/118/279012493_0d7dd915cf_o.jpg


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: GUEST,Desi C
Date: 11 Jun 11 - 08:19 AM

There is a practical point to it, in that it helps concentrate the sound back into yourb head so you can better be in the right key. I suspect it began in the early English trad folk clubs where P.A's were very rare or frowned upon, I suspect as many others here have said many people just copied it parrot fashion thinking they'd look cool. I'm not sure there was ever a need to carry on singing your song with your finger in ear, It is rarely seen now but one does still see it done from time to time


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 11 Jun 11 - 09:23 AM

From 'The Folker' (Fred Wedlock I think)

I mostly sing traditional
With my finger in my ear
Coz half the tripe I'm singing
I just can't stand to hear

It's a load of cob-lye-arrrs

Bar after bar
(Bar after Bar)
To the rhythm of an off-key
Japenese one string thatched guitar

Yamaha

:D (tG)


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: glueman
Date: 11 Jun 11 - 09:31 AM

As someone who has suffered from sinus and ear problems since birth, I always cup one ear for the first few bars to make sure my noise is in the same key as other singers. A whole song performed that way, especially with eyes tight shut, would be beyond my giggle factor whether I were the offender or someone else. Unless the noise coming out of the remaining open orifices was transcendently sublime of course.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Richard from Liverpool
Date: 11 Jun 11 - 09:45 AM

I was taught as a boy chorister to occasionally cup a hand over the ear to check my individual pitch and tone. A way of making sure that I was individually pulling in the right direction before turning back to the sound of the rest of the choir and concentrating on the blend.

But you know what? I have never seen anybody cup a hand over their ear or stick a finger in their ear at any of the folk clubs or singarounds I have attended in the past year or so since I got into the whole folk thing. Perhaps it's something that people should try, and to hell with the fact that it's become a sneer-laden stereotype? If you haven't, give it a go. You never know, you might find it useful. It made me a better chorister, without a shadow of a doubt.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Fred McCormick
Date: 11 Jun 11 - 12:14 PM

I have never in all my born natural ever seen anyone sing with their finger in their ear, although I have heard one or two people sing as though they've got it firmly stuck somewhere else.

However, I adopted the practice of singing with one hand cupped over my ear when I first started singing. And yup. A lot of people thought it was an affectation I'd picked up from Ewan MacColl!

The reason in fact was that I found it helped me to sing without straining. Gradually, as I learned to adapt to different acoustical environments, and to sing in a key that was somewhat lower than stratospheric, I found I needed it less and less.

But having recently joined a socialist choir, I find I sometimes need to cup one ear, and sometimes both, to hear the harmony I'm supposed to be singing and not what the basses, altos and sopranos are singing.

Anyway, Paul Robeson used to cup his hand over his ear because, tremendous voice and all that, he had a very narrow vocal range. So if he could get away with it, I don't see why anyone should complain about the rest of us.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Allan Conn
Date: 11 Jun 11 - 12:35 PM

"However, I adopted the practice of singing with one hand cupped over my ear when I first started singing. And yup. A lot of people thought it was an affectation I'd picked up from Ewan MacColl!"

At Kelso we have an early open mic session, then later a pub session is a very lively and at times noisy bar. Last week it was even noisier than usual and during one song I was having trouble hearing myself so cupped my ear. It made a hell of a difference. Though it isn't something I'd normally do


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: GUEST,Warren fahey
Date: 12 Jun 11 - 12:40 AM

I think many are underestimating the creative power of the traditional musician. the finger in the ear or cupped ear is, as many here have noted, a means of staying closer to the tune. Sarah Ogen Gunning springs to mind (check the videos). Ewan MacColl used it for the same reason ... It was not an affectation. he told me it helped his concentration and failing hearing.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Hesk
Date: 12 Jun 11 - 03:51 AM

I think "finger in the ear" is just a derogatory way of describing "hand cupped over ear".
Has anyone mentioned touching the cheek bone, this seems to have a similar effect, The cupped hand is close to the ear, but lower down.
This also amplifies the sound in your head, so that you can concentrate in a noisy environment.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: RoyH (Burl)
Date: 12 Jun 11 - 04:06 AM

Opera singers do it too. Check out this Youtube of the phenominal mezzo Vivica Genaux http://www.youtube.com/watch?v+QcFLh9t4RJY
A superb voice, interesting jaw movements, and look at her left hand.
My thanks to Dai Woosnam for turning me on to this wonderful singer from Alaska.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: RoyH (Burl)
Date: 12 Jun 11 - 04:29 AM

The great Paul Robeson used this technique at times, and I have seen film of Ella Fitzgerald doing the same thing. As stated earlier, the Watersons do it, Martin Carthy also. The late John Reavey did it. Al Atkinson, grand singer from Nottingham does. I think all this sniping from the media, and from non-trad music people, is a load of tripe, a sneer so common it's become a cliche. My guess is that the 'finger in the ear'jibes were started by people who didn't like Ewan MacColl, and who couldn't hear that he sang magnificently.   Who cares if a singer uses the hand/ear technique, or sings with his/her eyes shut? If a good song well sung is the result, let's have more of it. Burl.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: The Sandman
Date: 12 Jun 11 - 05:23 AM

I find it very helpful for unaccompanied singing, It enables the singer to hear their own voice clearly.
to be precise i think i generally have my hand on my jawbone.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 12 Jun 11 - 06:13 AM

why not a finger in the ear? its their finger, their ear. they have a democratic right to put fingers in the ear. if they wanted to put fingers in your ear, without your permission - that would be different.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: DrugCrazed
Date: 12 Jun 11 - 07:52 AM

I usually find that the person I usually sit next to has his finger in his ear when he's leading. On the side I'm sitting on. :(


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Trevor Thomas
Date: 13 Jun 11 - 08:52 AM

Singers use the finger-in-the-ear in most genres, in order to better hear themselves, when they're singing harmony, or with a loud band. Nothing wrong with that - all tried and tested etc.

But there is a certain type of folkie (not spotted so often these days, but you see them from time to time) who do the finger in the ear thing when singing solo, unaccompanied and in a room of twenty or so other people (or fewer) who are all sitting in a respectful silence.

If someone can't hear themselves under those circumstances, they're probably singing a bit too quietly.

I think in this case, it's pretty obviously an affectation, possibly copied from Ewan McColl, who had several affectations, but was sufficiently authoritative, or influential for them to have been seen as 'the way to do things'.

It was more widespread in the 60s, as was the Arran sweater, and this has passed into cliche. I think the practice has largely died out, but somewhat tediously, the stereotype persists. To this day, any mainstream paper/magazine that mentions folk music will invariably mention something about 'finger-in-the-ear' in the opening paragraph.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: The Sandman
Date: 13 Jun 11 - 08:57 AM

If someone can't hear themselves under those circumstances, they're probably singing a bit too quietly.
no, not the case at all, I do not sing quietly but I sometimes like to have the finger on the jaw when singing,if a person has a cold or sinus problems, i have found it it helps
Trevor you are illustrating that you do not know what you are talking about.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Trevor Thomas
Date: 13 Jun 11 - 11:43 AM

That wasn't meant to be entirely serious, Dick.

Perhaps I should have phrased it differently.

"....singing solo, unaccompanied and in a room of twenty or so other people (or fewer) who are all sitting in a respectful silence.

If someone can't hear themselves under those circumstances, they're possibly not terribly good at listening."

If you really can't hear yourself when you're the only person making any sound, then no, I don't pretend to know what's going on there.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: The Sandman
Date: 13 Jun 11 - 12:32 PM

my apologies, it is difficult to know when someone is joking on the internet.


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Marje
Date: 13 Jun 11 - 01:01 PM

I've said this before, but not in this thread: in a small gathering, when a singer cups his hand around his cheek or ear, this may well hide his face and muffle his voice for some of his audience. So although the singer may hear his own voice better, the others present may not appreciate not being able to see his mouth or hear the words clearly because of the arm/elbow in the way.

It's not about the singer makiing a beautiful sound to wallow in, it's about communicating the song to other people. The singer needs to consider whether a hand to the ear or cheek is going to enhance or impair communication.

It may be helpful in a recording studio, or in a massively amplfied concert, but that's not the context most of us are used to.

It shouldn't be necessary just because you're singing harmony - the whole point it to hear the other singers and blend with them. Choirs, whether professional or amateur, don't stand with their arms to their faces - they learn to listen to the other parts, including the orchestra, and sing in tune with the rest.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 13 Jun 11 - 02:31 PM

talk about the offending digit!. If they want a finger - let them have a finger. Like King lear said, Reason not the need....!

(his daughters had just told him he had to disband his retinue if he wanted to live with them. They have been called 'monsters of ingratitude' for not letting Lear have a hundred beer swilling knights and a spectactularly unfunny jester hanging round the place.)

What kind of monster won't let an old folksinger stick his finger in his ear?

Live and let live!


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 13 Jun 11 - 03:08 PM

I says to a girl at the folk club "Can I put my finger in your ear?"

She says "Oh, Ok - It's folk musiuc after all." Then, after a few minute "Hey, stop it - That's not me ear!"

It's OK" I says "That's not my finger either..."

Dave the rude Gnome


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: alanabit
Date: 14 Jun 11 - 05:59 AM

I remember a performance I gave which was so ethnic that by the time I finished the whole audience had both fingers in their ears...


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Subject: RE: Help: Why a finger in the ear?
From: GUEST,RWJ
Date: 14 Oct 11 - 10:54 AM

I tried sticking a finger in my ear and didnt like the sound. Maybe it was what the listners could her to. Not good!!


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