Lyrics & Knowledge Personal Pages Record Shop Auction Links Radio & Media Kids Membership Help
The Mudcat Cafesj

Post to this Thread - Printer Friendly - Home
Page: [1] [2]


Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!

Related threads:
Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs (143)
Whiskey voice - what is it? (34)
How To Sing With Power? (23)
Singing, can it be taught? (16)
Perfect singers (108)
Why can't I sing in tune? (122)
Singing thru the tears- how? (87)
Can anyone learn to sing (168)
Vocal techniques (16)
Exactly what's a true contralto? (67)
Singing: Exercises to improve high notes (47)
Is the voice an instrument? (56)
Help: singing unintended Vibrato/ Control (19)
do I need a vibrator? (66)
Speech Level Singing (42)
How are Soprano and Tenor Defined? (29)
Help: How can you tell which voice you've got (83)
Tuners for VOICE not Instruments (33)
The Mouse that Roared (Finding Your Voice) (25)
singers: who do you emulate and why? (65)
Breath Control While Singing (44)
Threads on the Singing Voice (36)
Improving voice without lessons (43)
What type of voice? (37)
how can I improve breath control (26)
Info on voice ranges (21)
fellow sean-nos singers? (45)
Singing - Alexander Technique (19)
how do you prepare to sing? (54)
What's a 'good voice'? (93)
Is that really you? (64)
Help, singing in noisy environments (41)
voice quality? (49)
Singing in Scenic Outdoors (33)
Does it get easier??? (singing) (50)
spectrograph - voice analysis (14)
Vocal training resouces? (11)
Singing in a dome (39)
How versatile should your voice be ? (20)
Gender and the soprano voice (79)
What is singing? (40)
Current Thread on the Singing Voice (5)
Song suggestions for higher lyric voice (9)
Vocal Instruction for Singers (2)
Learn to sing harmony: Good instruction tapes (4)
voice range - how to extend it (please) (14)
Vocal embellishment - guidelines? (31)


GUEST,GerMan 12 Mar 03 - 05:40 AM
Nigel Parsons 12 Mar 03 - 05:45 AM
My guru always said 12 Mar 03 - 05:51 AM
GUEST 12 Mar 03 - 05:53 AM
Bagpuss 12 Mar 03 - 05:56 AM
GUEST,GerMan 12 Mar 03 - 06:04 AM
Nigel Parsons 12 Mar 03 - 06:17 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 12 Mar 03 - 06:26 AM
GUEST,GerMan 12 Mar 03 - 06:29 AM
McGrath of Harlow 12 Mar 03 - 06:41 AM
Compton 12 Mar 03 - 06:58 AM
InOBU 12 Mar 03 - 07:30 AM
InOBU 12 Mar 03 - 07:31 AM
GUEST 12 Mar 03 - 07:53 AM
GUEST,vince 12 Mar 03 - 08:06 AM
Maryrrf 12 Mar 03 - 08:30 AM
Dave Bryant 12 Mar 03 - 08:38 AM
Folkie 12 Mar 03 - 08:45 AM
GUEST 12 Mar 03 - 08:56 AM
JohnnyBeezer 12 Mar 03 - 09:21 AM
Alice 12 Mar 03 - 09:38 AM
McGrath of Harlow 12 Mar 03 - 10:32 AM
Alice 12 Mar 03 - 11:06 AM
Grab 12 Mar 03 - 11:43 AM
IanC 12 Mar 03 - 11:56 AM
Steve Parkes 12 Mar 03 - 12:04 PM
Dave Bryant 12 Mar 03 - 12:07 PM
An Croenen 12 Mar 03 - 12:07 PM
IanC 12 Mar 03 - 12:29 PM
David Ingerson 12 Mar 03 - 12:49 PM
Alice 12 Mar 03 - 01:24 PM
JohnnyBeezer 12 Mar 03 - 01:34 PM
Don Firth 12 Mar 03 - 01:51 PM
John Routledge 12 Mar 03 - 01:51 PM
ard mhacha 12 Mar 03 - 02:24 PM
CapriUni 12 Mar 03 - 03:37 PM
MMario 12 Mar 03 - 03:42 PM
GUEST,Marion 12 Mar 03 - 03:45 PM
Herga Kitty 12 Mar 03 - 04:34 PM
Zany Mouse 12 Mar 03 - 04:46 PM
CapriUni 12 Mar 03 - 06:33 PM
Roughyed 12 Mar 03 - 07:08 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 12 Mar 03 - 07:11 PM
Alice 12 Mar 03 - 08:09 PM
mg 12 Mar 03 - 08:46 PM
GUEST,Timcat 12 Mar 03 - 09:34 PM
Art Thieme 12 Mar 03 - 09:47 PM
GUEST,Keith A working 13 Mar 03 - 04:22 AM
JudeL 13 Mar 03 - 05:16 AM
Stewart 13 Mar 03 - 12:24 PM
Share Thread
more
Lyrics & Knowledge Search [Advanced]
DT  Forum
Sort (Forum) by:relevance date
DT Lyrics:













Subject: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: GUEST,GerMan
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 05:40 AM

As a regular attendee of sessions in the North of England I have a few questions about the phenomenon of unaccompanied singing:

When did it start? Obviously people have always sung to themselves but what is the history behind someone singing to an "audience" unaccompanied? Historical visual references almost always show some form of musical accompaniement (even if it's just someone beating a drum).

Does anyone actually like it? I get the feeling it's something people feel they ought to like rather than actually liking!

Why do people at sessions shut up & listen to a singer but when someone with, for example, a guitar does something everybody starts/carries on talking?

Have there ever been any (genuinely) commercially successful purely unaccompanied singers?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 05:45 AM

"Have there ever been any (genuinely) commercially successful purely unaccompanied singers? "
"The Flying Pickets"

If I'm at a 'Filk' convention I generally sing unaccompanied. Mainly because I lack the playing ability. But as German says it does mean that people often listen more closely as the message is carried purely by the words, and no accentuated (or hidden) by fancy guitar work

Nigel


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: My guru always said
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 05:51 AM

I'm not a musician so I can't accompany myself. Sometimes others will kindly accompany me, though I find that difficult having always sung alone. Being able to adjust the timing, tone, sound & notes as and when I want to makes me prefer to present an unaccompanied song. I've been told that people listen (I have my eyes closed usually so I don't check) and they're real quiet & apparently they clap afterwards, but I get so caught up in the feel of the song that I realise I'm only singing for me. Selfish ain't it :-)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: GUEST
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 05:53 AM

GerMan - yes a lot of people do genuinely like unaccompanied song. And some people just can't abide it. Its personal choice. Probably coloured by the quality of the performances they've heard.
Unaccompanied singing is very naked - and there is nothing to pull the singer back into key if they should wander off. A bad unaccompanied singer is more unpleasant/difficult to listen to than a bad accompanied singer, because there is nothing to distract you from their faults. A good unaccompanied singer can be stunning - because, as Nigel says, the singing is not obscured by accompaniment.
For some reason it seems more impolite to ignore an unaccompanied singer than an accompanied one - a guitar & voice can more readily be consigned to the background.
As to ignoring a guitar - dispair not! They may be half-listening and loving it.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: Bagpuss
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 05:56 AM

I sing unaccompanied a fair amount of the time. Some of the songs I sing sound better accompanied and others unaccompanied. And I certainly like listening to unaccompanied song - there's something about focussing your attention just on the voice and song that can be a very powerful experience (if the singer is good of course...). I am also in a choir that performs unaccompanied - the harmonies are so rich that other instruments are certainly not needed.

I don't know much about the history, but surely work songs were usually unaccompanied?

And, yes its probably a small niche in the folk world which likes this style, so I would be surprised if there was much commercial success involved...


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: GUEST,GerMan
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 06:04 AM

Following on from Bagpuss's messages group unaccompanied singing seems to be entirely different and seems to be treated in much the same way as accompanied singing. I would imagine work songs were sung by more than one person at a time.

Personally I'm in two minds about unaccompanied singing hence my questions. I recently bought Blue Murder's CD & I love it but more often than not when someone starts up at a session I use it as an excuse to put my guitar down & go for a leak!

On the other hand I've found some singers (Johnny Collins springs to mind) to be nothing short of pure entertainment. I guess it lies with the individual.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 06:17 AM

"Personally I'm in two minds about unaccompanied singing hence my questions. I recently bought Blue Murder's CD & I love it but more often than not when someone starts up at a session I use it as an excuse to put my guitar down & go for a leak!"
If there are few unaccompanied singers at your sessions, and you use their appearance as a chance for a toilet break it seems you may be founding your assumptions on a very small number you have actually heard. Try staying in place, take your breaks when one of your favourite accompanied singers starts. They will know it's not an affront, and you will probably get the chance to hear them again anyway.
If after listening to all the unaccompanied singers in a session you decide they are definitely not as good, or not worth the time, Then you can reschedule your toilet breaks again, but as an informed choice.
Thanks for starting an interesting discussion!

Nigel


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 06:26 AM

As to "why" people sing unaccompanied, it doesn't necessarily have anything to do with their ability to play an instrument. I've sung and played guitar or banjo for most of my life, but there are certain songs that I've always felt were best sung unaccompanied. It's not that I couldn't play them with accompaniment. Singing unaccompanied gives you a freedom that for certain songs allows you to savor the lines, subtly play with rhythms and emphasis that you couldn't do, locked in to an accompaniment. I've always done Little Brown Bulls, We Are Anchored By The Roadside, Jim, The Spring of '65 and Jam on Gerry's Rock unaccompanied. That may be due in part to the fact that I learned them from recordings that were unaccompanied. But, I've also written quite a few songs that always sounded best to me, unaccompanied. I'd be hard-pressed to generalize about why certain songs sound better to me, unaccompanied. Some are ballads that tell a story, where the accompniment feels like a distraction to me. There are other songs where I like to be able to play with the rhythm
to emphasize certain lines or words, or just because it's fun.

Singing with a group is a whole different story. I love to hear a capella harmonies, and my gospel quartet does several songs a capella, just because we think it sounds better that way. A guitar accompaniment subtracts more than it adds. And there is a whole tradition of a capella singing in black gospel that it's nice to carry on. I've always preferred songs like Amazing Grace, unaccompanied, where the singer can put all ltheir feeling into the song, holding notes and lines as they feel.

One of the things that I've come to realize, is that acoustic instruments don't have the "sustain" that I want for some songs. I find an electric guitar is better suited to black gospel (and some blues) because you can hold notes longer, which frees the singer to put more feeling into a line.

Even on songs with my quartet where a guitar background adds a lot, we often will take the last chorus unaccompanied, just to hear that blend of voices. It brings the full attention to the voices, the harmony and the message.

Now, as for doing a full evening of unaccompanied singing, that is a rare gift. I ran a concert series for 27 years and I rarely booked that were a capella. To my ears, Roy Harris was the best I ever heard. He did a wonderful concert, and I think very few people found it a limitation, listening to an evening of a capella singing. It was like watching a foreign film with subtitles. After the first few minutes, you adjust to it, and forget that you are reading the subtitles. When someone is doing a whole evening of a capella singing, their personality, humor and delivery become far more important. Particularly if they do a lot of long ballads. An evening of unaccompanied murder ballads should be made illegal. Or songs with a complicated historical background, with political intrigues. Roy is a charmer, and I think I cold listen to him sing the phone directory. But, that is a rare gfit... one I do not have.

These days, the Fairfield Four have gained a lot of attention, singing black gospel. They sang a song in Oh Brother, Where Art Thou (three of them,) and after 70 years as a group, they've suddenly been discovered. Even Elvis Costello recorded with them! I heard them at their peak, and I wouldn't have enjoyed them as much if they had accompaniment.

Done right, singing without instrumental accompaniment isn't a subtraction. It's an addition.

Jerry


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: GUEST,GerMan
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 06:29 AM

I hoped people would find it interesting!

Another point. I was once listening to someone singing when I absentmindedly starting tapping the body of my guitar in time to the beat (I didn't even realise I was doing it). I was told, in no uncertain terms & rather rudely, by the wife of the chap singing to stop. I'm always delighted if someone accompanies me in any way.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 06:41 AM

"I'm always delighted if someone accompanies me in any way. "

That's rather an extreme generalisation, GerMan. I could point the way to a few people I can't believe you'd want to be accompanied by, especially in some ways...

Singing to an audience is the odd thing really. I think it's fairly clear that the normal way people have always sung is to and with friends, and without musical accompaniment.

Generally speaking I tend to prefer the situation where that is the case, with the songs mainly unaccompanied, and the instruments coming into their own for the tunes. Though I break that one all the time myself. Asalt Whitman said "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, (I am large. I contain multitudes.)"


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: Compton
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 06:58 AM

Surely it was all unaccompanied singing in the good old days, apart from perhaps the piano. Certainly, pub singing was never played with guitars, Perhaps, concertina or fiddle. Songs passed down by generation was by oral tradition...Performance did not really matter, Content did!.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: InOBU
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 07:30 AM

The Sean Nos tradition in Ireland, is by definition unaccompanied. I often am asked to sing unaccompanied ballads in Quaker meeting houses I visit, (and my own meeting) and from that I have put together a show of unaccompanied civil rights ballads. I find that the words are sometimes secondary when done with the whole band. There is an active listening which goes into the ballad in that form, not unlike listening to a great story teller or a radio play... for a description of the new ballad show, look at the reclaiming American patriotism through ballads thread.
By the way, sorry I was a bit short with you on the other thread, forgot what about, but things are hectic here in New York.
Ah yes, it was about IRA terrorism... if you are interested Richard Bridge, a British solisitor and I had a conversation about the same on Mudcat many years ago refferenceing the Doherty case. We became great friends through that conversation, though we dissagree on one thing or another. So if you use Joe Doherty as a search term you can see where we went with this before.
As I told Richard at the time... the first pint is on me when we meet on your side of the puddle or mine
Cheers
Lorcan "Larry" Otway


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: InOBU
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 07:31 AM

PS You meaning GerMan... who started the thread...


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: GUEST
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 07:53 AM

OK Larry! Mine's a Bitter!

Re. Compton's point "Surely it was all unaccompanied singing in the good old days".

I'd have thought the oldest surviving music in England is Morris Music where the words are accomanied by at least dance & some form of instrument???


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: GUEST,vince
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 08:06 AM

I reckon some people tend to not realise or accept that the voice is, or can be, an instrument in itself as used brilliantly by such artists as Anne Briggs, Martin Carthy, Peter Bellamy, Ewann MaColl and loads more. When joined in harmony with others as with the Young Tradition, Wilson Family, Watersons, Firm Friends etc then the sound produced can be magical. Of course some songs sound better accompanied and some people will never take to unnacompanied singing, its a matter of taste really. I prefer a club or festival that has a fine mix of accompanied and unnacompanied songs. As for history, i'm sure unnacompanied singing is as old as the voice itself.
Who's ever heard a thrush or linnet sing accompanied then??


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: Maryrrf
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 08:30 AM

I think it depends on how good the singer is, whether or not the song lends itself to being sung unaccompanied, and lots of other factors such as the surroundings, etc. It's only been in the last several years that I started to really enjoy unaccompanied singing but if it's done right it does have the ability to pull your attention in - almost cast a spell over you, as long as you're prepared to put forth the effort to listen. I would tend to agree that, for me, a mix works best. I usually accompany myself on guitar but do sing some songs unaccompanies.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: Dave Bryant
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 08:38 AM

I'd have thought the oldest surviving music in England is Morris Music where the words are accomanied by at least dance & some form of instrument???

The earliest references to Morris Dancing seem to be from about Tudor times and it seems likely that these were more of a form of court dances. William Kemp's famous dance to Norwich was not neccessarily what we would recognise as Morris today - after all he was one of Shakespeare's actors, and presumably his dancing would have been somewhat theatrical. Kemp would certainly not have been welcome in The Morris Ring as he danced with several female partners on the way ! Many of the tunes used in Morris dancing have their roots elsewhere, either as songs or dance tunes from other genres. Most of the Morris traditions extant today are probably no older than 250 years.

The British "Oral Tradition" was almost exclusively unaccompanied - if you were poor you couldn't afford to buy instruments. Instruments like pipes and simple drums could be homemade, but these would most probably been used for dancing to, rather than for accompanying singing.

Perhaps part of the problem is the term "Folk Music" - none of the old traditional singers would have used it to describe their songs. In fact I heard a story of one (greenhorn) collector who is supposed to have asked a traditional singer of considerable repertoire if he knew any Folk Songs. "Oh No", came the answer, "I can't play the guitar or anything like that".

I expect that in years to come, people will be asking "Un-synthesised Singing - How and Why".


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: Folkie
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 08:45 AM

Sometimes the key which suits the voice best isn't an easy one for instruments. For some unknown reason there are some songs I can sing easily in F sharp but put them into the more playable keys of F or G and I just feel uncomfortable singing them. A semitone shouldn't really make a difference to a song being too high or too low but I find it does so I sing those songs unaccompanied.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: GUEST
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 08:56 AM

a semitone definitely can make the difference. Depends where the breaks in your voice are etc.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: JohnnyBeezer
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 09:21 AM

Dear Folkie
Perhaps someone should invent the capo.
The voice is of course the seminal and most ancient instrument, closely followed by percussion.
Speaking as a guitarist, I have experienced many a frisson listening to live 3&4 handed unaccompanied singing over the last several decades
the emotion can be phemonenal.
Also, of course, we can go right back to Plainsong chants which are incredibly moving pieces. Although I am not a Christian, I am in awe of the beautifully poetic Christian writings which, together with the unaccompanied harmonies in monasteries etc., serve to present a real "GUT" experience
Shalom
Johnny N


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: Alice
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 09:38 AM

GerMan, some songs developed in a tradition of solo unaccompanied singing, particularly the sean nos tradition in Ireland. There are many songs I prefer to sing solo unaccompanied. The style is very emotional and focussed on the meaning of the lyrics. As others have said, when the singer is good, it weaves a spell over the listener, drawing them into the meaning of the words. Since many of the best songs for this style are airs, not dance music, the rhythm varies, slowing down, holding or ornamenting a note to emphasize a word or phrase... definitely not something you should be trying to accompany or tap a beat to. You can hear two songs that I sing solo and unaccomanied at this page, Paddy's Lamentation and Green Fields of Amerikay. Click here

I find that when I do accompany myself on guitar and have my band playing with me, it adds another separation between the song and the listeners... people definitely treat a song less like background music when it is unaccompanied. They quiet down and focus on the words when it is sung without accompaniment.

Alice


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 10:32 AM

If a Morris Dancer wears bells, does that count as accompanied?

If singing unaccompanied gets in the way of the song, maybe because the singer strays out of tune, than an accompaniment is better. But more generally it's the other way round, the accompaniment takes over, and corrals the singer into singing a smoothed out and over-regulated and rhythmical version, even when that really isn't what's needed. That's why sean nos singing is unaccompanied.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: Alice
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 11:06 AM

Sorry, I messed up my link to the audio files. Should be:
CLICK HERE

Alice


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: Grab
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 11:43 AM

Shantymen were always unaccompanied - no way to hang onto a guitar on a boat! They were commercially successful in their time, and there's plenty of ppl doing shanties still.

Graham.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: IanC
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 11:56 AM

I really don't understand this thread. The vast majority of traditional English (and Irish and Scottish) song was, until the revival of the 1950s/1960s, unaccompanied. It would be more pertinent to enquire how and why we started producing accompaniments to these songs.

From time to time he would drop into our house for a meal, bringing odd records he had discovered or some new-old song that he had picked up and would sing. He was developing his own distinctive singing style in these years, taut and unfussy. On the whole he preferred the traditional English style of unaccompanied song, but he was never pedantic about that or anything else and was prepared to accept an instrumental accompaniment if it seemed to add anything of value. Shortly before the war I took him to the Eel's Foot at Eastbridge. in Suffolk, a pub whose regulars had long maintained an. excellent song school. Out of this visit came a historic broadcast—historic because it was, 1 think, the very first in which authentic traditional singers, as distinct from collectors and arrangers, were heard on the air.

(Leslie Murton on A. L. Lloyd)

I would suggest that (particularly guitar) accompaniments mainly arose to fit in with the Skiffle and Pop culture of the 50s/60s. I've nothing against this at all, and often enjoy accompanied song but let's get it into perspective.

;-)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: Steve Parkes
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 12:04 PM

Ian, it was the Second Folk Revival (the first was with Sharp et al.), which started a bit earlier than the UK skiffle craze, although they fed off each other. We should get Steve Benbow's protegé to ask Steve Benbow, who was there, after all.

Steve


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: Dave Bryant
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 12:07 PM


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: An Croenen
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 12:07 PM

Such an interesting thread! As a performer I rarely sing unaccompanied and have only a few songs that I sing unaccompanied : 'When a man's in love', and a Hungarian song come to mind. But I run singing classes that are run unaccompanied by instruments. We have so much fun because of it: the group improvises harmonies, vocal accompaniments etc. etc. At times someone accompanies certain songs, but it seems to make the whole group a lot lazier, and very comfortable just singing the melodylines. So for group singing I prefer not to work with accompaniment. (we sing many different styles, it doesn't matter) Listening to an unaccompanied singer can be nice but it not always is... As for instrumentalists (or other singers!) who join in uninvited, that really makes me nervous, even more as a listener than as a performer. Unless the whole evening is set up with the understanding that everybody can join in at any time, I feel that performers will let you know if they want you to join in. If they don't, then there might be a reason (as mentioned before there might be accelerations etc. etc. going on, or the song may simply want to be heard by itself.) As for performances with instruments, especially when there is more than one person playing, I find that the sheer volume of the speakers sets people into talking. Try turning your volume down and you will draw people in. Turn the volume up and people will shout in eachothers ear instead.
An


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: IanC
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 12:29 PM

Steve

It was, most likely, the 97th Folk Revival. There've been so many. That's why I gave the dates.

;-)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: David Ingerson
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 12:49 PM

I've been a musician all my life: majored in clarinet my first year in college, played at performance level on three instruments, played a dozen others passably, sung in top-notch choirs and played solo roles in operas. All that fell away when I heard my first sean nós song--unaccompanied (as all sean nós songs are). It simply reached out and grabbed me 23 years ago. Everything I sing now is unaccompanied. And I love it. Yes, there is a bit of selfishness there, I suppose, but don't we all do (or strive to do)what we love?

The unaccompanied nakedness of the song demands that each verse, each line, each word be treated with individual respect, sung with a focus and presence that is impossible with an accompaniment. Well, not impossible, but rare. And I do work at expressing each line in the most . . . "appropriate" is a watery word for it... way. Perhaps the words "grace" or "strength" or "richness" catch pieces of what I mean. And after I have reworked a line dozens of times until I get it the way I like it, certainly the vast majority of listeners will not catch the subtleties, but it adds to the spell that others have alluded to.

As all music, it is, of course, a matter of personal preference. And I love singing unaccompanied and listening to (good) unaccompanied singers.

David


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: Alice
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 01:24 PM

The spell is cast when listeners hear each word and phrase with the precision of communication that the singer is putting into it... seeing the picture painted in their mind, feeling the emotions being sung. The focus is so clear when solo unaccompanied.

Alice


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: JohnnyBeezer
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 01:34 PM

You know Alice you're dead on the money!!
Breaths, pauses, phrasing, it's so very intimate.
Johnny N


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: Don Firth
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 01:51 PM

For years I always sang with accompaniment. It never occurred to me not to.   The first time I ever heard someone singing without accompaniment was the late Ewan MacColl at the 1960 Berkeley Folk Festival. He carried a chair on stage, set it down backwards, straddled the chair, leaned his arms on its back, put a hand behind his ear, and started singing. For about forty-five minutes he sang classic Scottish ballads—no accompaniment, just his voice spinning tales of battles, treacheries, thwarted loves, foul murders, fierce loyalties, and heroic deeds—all in stark, pure, undiluted song.

It was a revelation! Ballads. The telling of a story—unadorned. Nothing to draw your attention away from the narrative. None of the usual distractions of "Hmm. Nice picking pattern" or "Tricky bass run" or "Wow! I never would have thought of using a minor chord there!" Just the story. I think I learned something basic that evening. Singing ballads, singing any song, is telling a story. Even a comic song or lyrical lament with no perceivable narrative always implies that there is a story behind it.

But for some reason, it never occurred to me to set the guitar aside. Lately, though, I've been learning a lot of songs, especially adding Child ballads to my repertoire—the ones I had on a list and was going to get around to, but never did—and in the process, instead of my usual routine of starting to learn the song with my guitar in my lap, I leave the guitar in its case. I first consider the story in general and try to make sure I fully understand what's going on, including the parts where there is no explanation (why did Edward murder his bother-in-law? No clear reason given in the ballad, just a dark hint). Then I learn the words as if it were a poem. Then I add the melody, and sing it until I have it down pat. Then, I reach for the guitar to begin working out an accompaniment. But at that point, sometimes I find that an accompaniment doesn't really enhance the song. It can actually distract from it. I go ahead and work one out anyway, but very often now, I decide not to use it.

One evening a few months ago at a songfest, I uncorked a few unaccompanied ballads for the first time—including singing, unaccompanied, one that I had been doing with the guitar. And the response was most gratifying. A couple of people commented that they had never really paid that much attention to the stories before. A couple others said they'd been hearing me for years but hadn't realized 'til then what a "great voice" I had (always nice to hear!). One fellow who has been playing and singing for years said, "God! Ballads. I wish I had the kind of voice to sing them like that!" Actually, he does, but he's so used to hiding behind his guitar that he'd probably feel naked and embarrassed without it.

An accompaniment is only that. It should be like the frame of a painting. If people look at a painting and say, "Gee, isn't that a nice frame?" then someone has screwed up somewhere. Oftentimes the accompaniment is compelling enough that it's about all people pay attention to, and a wonderful, powerful story told in a centuries-old classic song or ballad gets lost in all the fancy fingerwork.

I love playing the guitar, and I always will. But I've recently discovered that singing without it is a very freeing experience. If you haven't done it, give it a try. You might be surprised!

Don Firth

P.S: Now the trick is to get the compulsive accompanists to keep their hands off their instruments when I want to sing without accompaniment.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: John Routledge
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 01:51 PM

Exactly Alice.

Your post sets out beautifully why unaccompanied singing is difficult/impossible within the confines of a Geordie session.

Happy singing to you all.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: ard mhacha
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 02:24 PM

Ian C, I have to agree, I was brought up with unaccompanied singing,in our local Gaelic football club.                           i
In the 1940s and 50s we had our "big nights" around Christmas and on the odd occasion our team won a trophy.
Everyone had to sing on those happy occasions and it was all unaccompanied, we would help the shy person out by singing along, but always in those days, at street corners or on long country walks we let rip, great days, even minus the twanging Guitars. Ard Mhacha.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: CapriUni
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 03:37 PM

As for the antiquity of unaccompanied singing... I figure lullabies must be very ancient, and if they are actually sung as lullabies, they have to be sung unaccompanied. One can't hold a baby and an instrument at the same time...


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: MMario
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 03:42 PM

lullabies aren't always sung holding the child.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: GUEST,Marion
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 03:45 PM

Another advantage to singing a cappella, for an entertainer, is to create more variety in a set.

I perform alone, so there are only two orchestrations available to me: solo fiddle, or my voice with guitar. I do the occasional song a cappella just to have a different sound - for the same reason that I deliberately mix up slow songs with fast songs, or fingerpicked songs with strummed songs.

Marion


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: Herga Kitty
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 04:34 PM

I suspect that some of this discussion depends on whether you're singing as a performer to be listened to or singing as a shared and collaborative experience for people to join in with.

Most of the singing at Herga - eg by Johnny Collins, Graeme Knights, Mike Sparks and myself - is unaccompanied, because we are these days predominantly a singing club. But we enjoy good accompaniments as wel.

I've heard instrumental accompaniments that detract from, rather than enhance, the quality of a song, because the instrument was being used as a prop not an enhancement. The big Child ballads, when well sung, are utterly compelling without instruments - but if you get a really sympathetic accompaniment like Jeff Gillet accompanying Ron Taylor on Willie's Lady, that can be magic too.

The question is always, what does the accompaniment add to the song - if a song is good it will stand without accompaniment


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: Zany Mouse
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 04:46 PM

GerMan: Define "commercial"!

People like Dave Webber and Anni Fentiman manage to make their living from unaccompanied singing (although Dave occasionally plays the concertina). In my mind if you can make a living from it that is commercial enough.

ZM


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: CapriUni
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 06:33 PM

From MMario: lullabies aren't always sung holding the child.

Not always, no. But if the baby is fussy, you may have to be prepared to pick the young'un up and do some rockin'.

BTW, many, many years ago, I saw an interview with a pediatrician talking about caring for fussy babies, and he said that many collicky babies are soothed by the sound of the father singing, especially if the baby is held up to the chest, and the father rests his chin on top of the baby's head... seems they find the feel of the vibrations of a deep voice soothing ...

Deep body massage, anyone? ;-)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: Roughyed
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 07:08 PM

When my daughter was a baby the only way to get her to sleep was to put one foot on her bouncing cradle and play my guitar and sing while rocking her with my foot. I think it depends on the song. Some songs have an emotional impact which is massively increased by singing it unaccompanied, some songs can have a whole new side brought out by a good accompaniment.

When it comes down to it I believe that as a singer of traditional songs it is good to make them accessible to general audiences which can involve musical arrangements, whereas with a different audience which is knowledgeable and interested an unaccompanied version can press very different buttons. All music to me is about communication and as long as you stay true to the intention of the song you can do whatever you like pretty much with it.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 07:11 PM

When I tried to sing my kids to slepp, I always fell asleep first.

Jerry


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: Alice
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 08:09 PM

I have been amazed to hear several instrumental musicians, people who I thought were really into traditional music, tell me that they never paid attention to the lyrics of songs. Hearing just the words was a wake up call for them.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: mg
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 08:46 PM

I must admit to not paying too much attention to the lyrics of the song..sometimes I wake up out of my slumber and am quite surprised to find out what the song was about I sung for 10 years. I generally sing unaccompanied, only because I just never learned to play the guitar, which seems upside down to me or something..and I do play at home with the accordian but it is too loud for public consumption..also the notes don't go low enough for me. I love singing along with really good guitar players..once I got to sing with Gordon Quinton, my #1 favorite guitar player. But I hate it when they get the chords wrong....

I'm really more of a small group singer I think..3-6 people..mg


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: GUEST,Timcat
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 09:34 PM

My earliest memories of music were my family singing in the car. This was when car radios were pretty rare and were toast by the time the then secondhad car was ours. I have sung to all three of my kids, all of whom are now taller than me, and they all know the words to many of the old camp songs we sang. We sang in the car, in the bath, in the yard and on boats and canoes. Around campfires, and so on. My grandfather actually collected medicine show songs from the hucksters that came through northern Illinois in the 1880's and 90's, and he sude to sing a lot of them that I have never heard anywhere else.All unaccompanied. Lots of folks didn't have the money for instruments or lessons where I grew up, but I think just about everybody sang.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: Art Thieme
Date: 12 Mar 03 - 09:47 PM

I've done a few al capone (a capella) songs ;-) over the years. An Erie Canal ballad called "THE BULLHEAD BOAT" that I got from Lyman King of Fulton, New York --- also a humorous ballad by Craig Johnson to the tune of "The Buffalo Skinners" called "A North Country Tragedy". The American lumberjack song by James Stevens---"The Frozen Logger", is fun without instruments. Another lumbercamp song, "The Pokegama Bear" from Minnesota is one I did unaccompanied after I couldn't play it on guitar any longer. An Arkansas song called "Father Oh Dear Father" is another one.-------Only just now did I realize that these were all rather funny songs on one level or another. The serious songs in my rep were almost always done with an instrument. Jaws Harp songs were sung a capella ---but with accompaniment of sorts; the instrument plays the melody (so to speak) in-between the verses.---------- For my money, Lou Killen and Roy Harris have been two great ones. Lou's performance of "The Flying Cloud" is simply sublime. EMERY DE NOYER who was a blind singer of lumber camp ballads in the earlier 20th century is my favorite American unaccompanied singer. Hear his songs as collected by and issued by the Library Of Congress Archive Of Folk Culture. Horton Barker and Lee Monroe Presnell and Vera Hall and Granny Riddle are also at the top of the list. -------

All that said, these days I really think that JUDY COOK does as good a job as can be done presenting the unaccompanied songs with a real respect for the story she is telling through music while, still, being very entertaining on stage.

Just a few of the things this thread has had me thinking about.

Art Thieme


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: GUEST,Keith A working
Date: 13 Mar 03 - 04:22 AM

I can't play so do what I do.
I have noticed that musicians sometimes do not get so much quiet, and wondered why. Sometimes I think that concentrating on fingering isolates you from the audience. Note the discussion on eyes closed singing. Really confident players never get that (I was watching Breezy last week!)
Keith.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: JudeL
Date: 13 Mar 03 - 05:16 AM

Singing with eyes closed is not a matter of confidence, but it does help you concentrate on the song, rather than yourself or the chap in the back that is crunching crips and discussing the footie.

And it's not a matter of those who sing unaccompanied do so because "the poor things" can't play an instrument. More than one person who is primarily a musician has said that for certain songs, even though they could play with them they choose not to.

Lots of people have stated very clearly that having an instrument playing can detract from a song rather than enhance it, and be very restrictive in terms of regulating tempo. This is not to say that some songs cannot benefit from having a regularised beat that doesn't slow down to near dirge when others join in the chorus, but there are many songs where the instrument is unneccessary, a distraction and is there because the performer wants a crutch, or because the musician wants to fiddle with something.

Others may be delighted when people with instruments join their singing uninvited but most of the time I find it restricting. Mostly other voices which join in can adjust to minute alterations of tempo, almost without their owners being aware that they are doing so and thus don't pose the same problem and are welcome as they add to the song. Unfortunately most of the time when an instrument is played the cumulative effects of the minute differences between the timing of how the singer would have sung it and how they sing it because the timing has been regularised often makes a song (which is wonderful unaccompanied) come out very flat and robs it of meaning. There are some very skilled performers who, accompanying themselves can make the transition but very few.

The absolute worst is the musician who constantly noodles along with everything, even when they have NO idea what the song is.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Unaccompanied Singing - How & Why!
From: Stewart
Date: 13 Mar 03 - 12:24 PM

Since I took up fiddle playing again several years ago I do more a capella singing since it's hard to fiddle and sing at the same time. I usually begin a song on the fiddle, then sing a few verses unaccompanied, then a fiddle interlude, and finish the song unaccompanied. Sometimes I follow the song with a related fiddle tune. For example, I sing the Scottish song "Johnny my Man (Farewell to Whiskey)" followed by the two Scottish fiddle tunes, Farewell to Whiskey and Welcome Whiskey Back Again - it makes a great set.

Singing unaccompanied is much more demanding as a singer, but it allows me to fully express the song, and I think it is much more interesting for the listener, as most songs tell a story and it is the words and they way they are expressed that are important. As I have been doing this more and more at our open mic, I have inspired several other singers to also sing unaccompanied. It takes some courage at first, but it has its rewards. I guess I have heard too many "singer-songwriters" who can't really sing, but play virtuoso guitar (or at least think they can), and I have a hard time understanding their songs underneath all the fancy guitar work (it just gets in the way).

My approach to learning a new song is to first sing it unaccompanied. That way I can freely explore different ways to express the song unhindered by the guitar rhythm and chords. Then I add accompanyment only if it adds something to the song, otherwise I'll sing it a capella.

Cheers, S. in Seattle


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate
Next Page

  Share Thread:
More...

Reply to Thread
Subject:  Help
From:
Preview   Automatic Linebreaks   Make a link ("blue clicky")


Mudcat time: 9 April 2:05 PM EDT

[ Home ]

All original material is copyright © 1998 by the Mudcat Café Music Foundation, Inc. All photos, music, images, etc. are copyright © by their rightful owners. Every effort is taken to attribute appropriate copyright to images, content, music, etc. We are not a copyright resource.