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voice quality?

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Lighthouse 24 Mar 03 - 08:40 PM
NicoleC 24 Mar 03 - 09:01 PM
Allan C. 24 Mar 03 - 09:21 PM
Rustic Rebel 24 Mar 03 - 09:29 PM
Allan C. 24 Mar 03 - 09:31 PM
GUEST,leeneia 24 Mar 03 - 09:51 PM
mack/misophist 24 Mar 03 - 10:00 PM
Bee-dubya-ell 24 Mar 03 - 10:39 PM
Cluin 24 Mar 03 - 10:56 PM
GUEST,alinact 25 Mar 03 - 12:04 AM
alanabit 25 Mar 03 - 03:54 AM
Bonnie Shaljean 25 Mar 03 - 04:06 AM
KJ 25 Mar 03 - 04:46 AM
GUEST 25 Mar 03 - 05:18 AM
Gurney 25 Mar 03 - 05:21 AM
Deni-C 25 Mar 03 - 05:44 AM
JudeL 25 Mar 03 - 07:22 AM
GUEST,leeneia 25 Mar 03 - 10:18 AM
MMario 25 Mar 03 - 10:22 AM
GUEST 25 Mar 03 - 10:24 AM
Alice 25 Mar 03 - 10:39 AM
GUEST,JohnB 25 Mar 03 - 12:48 PM
Don Firth 25 Mar 03 - 02:33 PM
Maryrrf 25 Mar 03 - 02:39 PM
GUEST,Russ 26 Mar 03 - 09:04 AM
GUEST,Larry K 26 Mar 03 - 10:01 AM
Alice 26 Mar 03 - 10:16 AM
Steve Parkes 26 Mar 03 - 10:55 AM
CET 26 Mar 03 - 11:17 AM
Frankham 27 Mar 03 - 10:51 AM
McGrath of Harlow 27 Mar 03 - 12:04 PM
Alasdair 27 Mar 03 - 12:14 PM
Alice 27 Mar 03 - 12:32 PM
Mary Humphreys 27 Mar 03 - 12:41 PM
NicoleC 27 Mar 03 - 01:03 PM
McGrath of Harlow 27 Mar 03 - 05:54 PM
NicoleC 27 Mar 03 - 07:38 PM
McGrath of Harlow 27 Mar 03 - 07:48 PM
Ely 27 Mar 03 - 08:42 PM
NicoleC 27 Mar 03 - 08:54 PM
Genie 27 Mar 03 - 09:33 PM
Fred Miller 27 Mar 03 - 11:18 PM
McGrath of Harlow 28 Mar 03 - 09:22 PM
Frankham 29 Mar 03 - 09:25 PM
Fred Miller 29 Mar 03 - 11:59 PM
GUEST,jamesue 30 Mar 03 - 01:43 AM
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McGrath of Harlow 30 Mar 03 - 07:49 PM
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Subject: voice quality?
From: Lighthouse
Date: 24 Mar 03 - 08:40 PM

I am very troubled. I am a performing folksinger and I a lousy musician. I don't read music, I don't play an instrument, and I have to struggle to memorize lyrics. Its tough for me to maintain a repertoire because I have to go over lyrics periodically or I forget them. I struggle with meter to the extent that when guitar players try to play along when I'm singing, they often give up because my tempo is so ragged. In short, I'm about as bad as it gets. The only reason I have any success as all is because of my voice,a happenstance of nature. When I sing people's mouths drop open. I remember once when my wife and I were in a large piano bar. Over on one side of the room was the piano and a circle of drinkers where were involved with the music. The rest of the large room was filled with the buzz of people involved in their own individual group conversations. I was chatting with the piano player and I mentioned the tune (admittedly not folk) Old Man River. He invited me to sing it. He played an intro and I started to sing. The entire room quickly became quiet except for my voice. When I finished, the room burst into applause. Although it usually isn't this dramatic, this sort of thing happens a lot
    Recently I went to a folkmusic camp on the East Coast. A sucessful folksinger who also produces a large number of shows and books a large number of acts told me that she doesn't hire people like me. "In folksinging," she said "the music itself and the message of the music and the lyrics are what is important. Your unusual voice draws so much attention to itself that it gets in the way of the music. You need to go sing opera or something. You don't belong in folk music."
    This is not the first time I've run into this kind of problem. One of the best banjo and guitar pickers I ever known told me that I was much too "theatrical" for folk music. (I am very antimated when I perform.)
    I'm sorry, but I don't want to be in other types of music. I've tried them. You can only sing the notes and harmonies that are written or that the director, etc tell you to sing. Folk Music is the only genre that provides me with the freedom to experiment.
    I'm thinking of "tossing in the towel."   To hell with my "amazing voice." However, I was rather curious what other folk musicians think about this. Please forgive the length of this message, but I just had to get this out.


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: NicoleC
Date: 24 Mar 03 - 09:01 PM

The old adage says, "Those who can't sing, sing rock 'n' roll. Those who can't sing rock 'n' roll, sing rock 'n' roll anyway." You might as well substitute "folk" into that.

I think it's a lot of bunk that folk singers are supposed to be bad, and it's frequently an excuse for folksingers not to invest the effort in getting better. If you've got an amazing voice, it's a strength, not a weakness. Take your amazing voice to a music teacher who will teach you theory and practice, and learn the mechanics of music. Not all of us are natural whizzes at this and we need someone to help stuff it into our brains :)


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: Allan C.
Date: 24 Mar 03 - 09:21 PM

While I am entirely in favor of voice lessons and almost any other manner of musical training, I also believe there may be another possiblility to investigate as well. It might be that the instrumentalists who have attempted to back you are just too inflexible to work outside of set tempos. If you want to hear what it can sound like when a good voice is backed by musicians who can play "outside of the box", have a listen to Sinéad O'Connor's "Sean-Nos Nua" CD.


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: Rustic Rebel
Date: 24 Mar 03 - 09:29 PM

Sing what makes you feel good. You are the one who knows what you like to do and because a couple of people say sing something else, doesn't make it so. I would sure like to hear you sing! You have aroused my curiosity. Do you have anything out there that we can have a listen to? If you have an amazing voice, please don't toss in the towel! Create your style and go for it!
Peace, Rustic


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: Allan C.
Date: 24 Mar 03 - 09:31 PM

Another solution might be for you to investigate the possibility of backing yourself. You said you don't play an instrument. Why not give it a try? An autoharp might be a good thing to try for starters. Playing one can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. The main thing is that you can play it the way you feel it while singing in the same manner. Find an autoharp someplace and try. You might be surprised.


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 24 Mar 03 - 09:51 PM

Yes, take music lessons.

It is an error to think that one voice sounds one way. You can sing with your chest, with your head, softly, powerfully, bluesy...

Don't be misled by media stars whose every song sounds like every other song. They are selling a product, and their fans expect all their pieces to be alike as any two Kleenex. (Frank Sinatra comes to mind, as well as other more recent singers whose names I've never learned.)


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: mack/misophist
Date: 24 Mar 03 - 10:00 PM

You got a voice? You like to sing? Do it, dammit! And to hell with everybody else.


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: Bee-dubya-ell
Date: 24 Mar 03 - 10:39 PM

The idea that someone can have too good a voice for folk music is a new one on me. If one includes bluegrass as a folk genre then vocalists such as Peter Rowan, John Cowan and the late John Duffy are definitely evidence to the contrary. And any number of female folksingers have beautiful voices. Does the "too-good-for-folk" thing apply to men only?

And the timing problem you talk about is probably just due to singing alone all the time. Just find yourself an accompanist who can practice with you on a regular basis. Once you train your ear to listen to the accompaniment that problem will evaporate.

Bruce


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: Cluin
Date: 24 Mar 03 - 10:56 PM

Yes, I too am cursed with an amazing voice. And also too much money. Oh, and a big cock as well. It all causes me no end of problems. Solidarity, brother.


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: GUEST,alinact
Date: 25 Mar 03 - 12:04 AM

Lighthouse

I would give my left anything to have your problem.

Oh, and Cluin's as well!

Allan


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: alanabit
Date: 25 Mar 03 - 03:54 AM

Saying you are a good singer because you have a good voice is a bít like saying you are a good pianist because you are sitting at a Steinway. When I sing in bands, I often put the guitar down, but it is easier for me to work with the other musicians, because I do at least understand the mechanics of what they are doing. Pitch and metre are essentially the mechanics of music - and you need to learn about them to be able to work with other musicians. If you have a good instrument (your voice) you need to learn to use it just the same way everyone else has to learn. It is easier for some than for others. At the end of the day your voice will not make you sound good. You have to make it sound good. If it is out of pitch and out of time - it won't.


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: Bonnie Shaljean
Date: 25 Mar 03 - 04:06 AM

I think I can sniff more than a little jealousy in some of the comments people have landed on you. Here in Ireland there's a saying: F*** the begrudgers. Rustic (and the others) are right - it's YOUR own sound, let it be heard. If you don't, who will?

And for heaven's sake, stop describing yourself as a "lousy" musician just because you don't read music or play an instrument!! Not having learned something doesn't make you bad at it. Your beautiful voice IS your instrument. If you can quiet a cocktail lounge simply by singing a few notes, you have something that people obviously want to listen to. Please don't stifle it because of a few small minds!


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: KJ
Date: 25 Mar 03 - 04:46 AM

Some good points made. Don't give up,if you have a love of folk music then sing it.The good thing about folk is that it cannot be easily defined, people bring their own style and interpretation to it. You are a musician, your voice is your instrument. Unfortunately I have met people in the past who play or sing folk & traditional music because they think it's easy & that it doesn't matter if they are not very good & WORSE still don't make an effort to become any better after all 'it's only folk'. So if you & others think you have a talent, then work on it,play around, find your style. I'm not convinced about voice-training, it's not right for me but it may be right for you. As for accompanists, well, keep in mind that it is a dynamic process, accompanists have to listen & be sensitive to what you are doing & you have to do the same. My partner & I have spent hours rehearsing, working things out (often by trial & error). We do not think of ourselves as a guitarist accompanying a singer but rather two musical instruments that interweave & entwine & work together to create a sound that people enjoy. You both learn, like you I was ragged as regards tempo & phrasing as an unaccompanied singer but that has vastly improved as I've adjusted to a more structured approach. Staying in tune is vastly important but that depends upon instrumentalists & accompanists being in tune as you cannot keep your pitch if those playing with you are out. So keep at it, find like-minded people & work with them, you'll create your own sound & success to you


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: GUEST
Date: 25 Mar 03 - 05:18 AM

Before I had voice lessons I would sing everything in much the same way - full-on loud & powerful. I too would get lots of compliments & people would stop and listen - and that was very gratifying.

Since having the voice lessons I have a huge array of different techniques at my disposal - and can complement the song rather than use the song to display my voice.

No matter how good you are, if you sound the same on each song then people will get bored of listening after a while. That's why the compliments tend to be from people that are hearing the voice for the first time.

Voice lessons take nothing away, but can add an amazing new dimension.


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: Gurney
Date: 25 Mar 03 - 05:21 AM

Go for it, mate. There are internationally known singers with quite mediocre voices (my opinion) and superb singers only locally known. If the club compere doesn't want you to sing, s/he won't ask you. Just sing the chorus.


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: Deni-C
Date: 25 Mar 03 - 05:44 AM

I guess you could try drone accompaniments, like pipes etc....or a guitarist who lays a kind of rippling backing under the singing because they are not so time-dependent.....

(I also know a guy with a terrific voice, who has the most terrible timing and he accompanies himself. It's knackering just to listen to him, but the tone of his voice is a real delight.)

Learning guitar and backing yourself will not necessarily solve the problem, you might turn up with two conflicting rhythms.

What about taking a few drumming lessons to see if you can understand more about tempos. They don't come naturally to everyone.


But practise and enjoy and sing unaccompanied because that gives you the greatest of all freedoms and pleasure.


The best advice anyone can give you is to LISTEN. Listen to other singers until your ears bleed.

And (:-}) in answer to the post from the poor unfortunate guy who's over-endowed in the trouser department.....You have our sympathy. Life must be pure hell.

Good luck!


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: JudeL
Date: 25 Mar 03 - 07:22 AM

Just because someone playing a guitar couldn't follow your lead in the tempo that you (on that occasion) used to sing the song does not necessarily mean that you have a problem with your timing. One of the reasons people may actively choose to sing unaccompanied is to give them the freedom to make changes to the tempo as they are singing as a means of emphasis. Having an intrument playing along limits this.

Ideally, you may have someone who is able to hear and almost anticipate your delivery and play to match and support it. Not quite as good, you have someone who you've practiced with who knows your standard delivery and has adjusted parts of theirs to match. This can make the song sound the same each time, you must decide if that's a good thing or a bad thing. And then there are those who sound like a metronome that dictates the timing to you and tell you it's your fault for not singing the song in strict time. Personally this last catagory I detest, especially when they have started to play along uninvited!

The question is not really are you good but do you enjoy it? If you enjoy it then go for it. This "unusual voice distracts from the music" line sounds a bit like sour grapes to me. By all means try some training it may well help develop your voice and add to your enjoyment of singing but don't give up just cos in their opinion someone doesn't think you're apt for their venue. Remember in popular music many of the big names such as the Beatles were turned down for gigs in their early stages.


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 25 Mar 03 - 10:18 AM

"...this last catagory I detest, especially when they have started to play along uninvited!"

People come to a session and they need to ask your permission to play?

Better to learn about timing and tempo so that you can co-operate with your fellow beings.


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: MMario
Date: 25 Mar 03 - 10:22 AM

leenia - when you are singing an unaccompianied song - and someone starts playing along univited - it is not the *singer* who is being rude.


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: GUEST
Date: 25 Mar 03 - 10:24 AM

This reminds me of the recent Johnny Cash discussion. Here was a guy who had a big, bold, rough-edged bass voice in a time when lead singers in his field HAD TO BE twangy tenors or slick baritones. It didn't hinder him because he didn't fit the mold, rather he contributed his own style and literally brought many millions of new people into a love of country music.

Do you long to accompany yourself? if so get a folk-oriented teacher who can suggest an instrument and get you started on learning it.

If you really don't (and it can be too difficult to play 2 things at once for some of us, voice and guitar, or whatever) then don't. Sing unaccompanied, but learn more about your songs and maybe get a vocal teacher if you're unhappy with your phrasing or whatever.

It might also help to join the best choir or vocal group you can find, offer to do solos, but also learn to 'tone it down' and 'blend in' when you wish to. This will make it easier to jam with folkies later on. If you have a big voice, lend it to community musical theatre. Any of these might make you more knowledgeable and comfortable in your skin, and it doesn't mean you're abandoning folk, just that you're exploring your abilities.


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: Alice
Date: 25 Mar 03 - 10:39 AM

Keep singing, Lighthouse. I, too, have a voice that stops the chatter and gets attention and some might say is to "pretty" for folk music. I sing unaccompanied, I sing with very basic guitar accompaniment that I have learned, and I sing with others who accompany me on mandolin, fiddle, harmonica.... Find the right group of friends who will back you up - and KEEP SINGING.

Alice


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: GUEST,JohnB
Date: 25 Mar 03 - 12:48 PM

Whatever you do "don't stop singing" you will not be happy with yourself. Find songs which suit your voice and develop a style of your own. Sing a cappella. Give the stupid "musicians" who start to play dirty looks, if that fails, stop singing and tell them you will continue when they have finished the instrumental break. Change Key frequently in mid song. Or find an skilled accompanist, they are are a lot rarer commodity than a good player.
Good Luck JohnB.


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: Don Firth
Date: 25 Mar 03 - 02:33 PM

"Saying you are a good singer because you have a good voice is a bit like saying you are a good pianist because you are sitting at a Steinway." alanabit, that's brilliant!

Lighthouse, the person who told you your voice is too good for folk music is giving you a load of buffalo chips. I agree that it is true that "the music itself and the message of the music and that lyrics are what is important," but the same is true for any song. If an opera singer isn't cognizant of the content of what he or she is singing, any given aria (which usually marks a particularly dramatic point in an opera, or imparts information important to the story—much like a ballad) fails to fulfill its function. I find the idea that a person with a particularly good voice should not sing folk songs to be monumentally stupid. A person who says something like that has some issues they need to work out (afraid of the competition that might be lurking in the wings, perhaps?). It sounds like you've been given a gift. Don't let anybody talk you out of it. Sing what you want to sing.

Don't be afraid of voice teachers. It would be a good idea to take at least a few voice lessons to learn how to take care of that gift so that it will last. And what alanabit said above is all too true. It's one thing to have a fine instrument, but knowing how to play it well is a separate matter (my first voice teacher once described Mario Lanza as "like a Stradivarius played by a baboon"). It's not that hard to learn to read music and to learn a little music theory (this will help a great deal, despite what some folkies will try to tell you), and learning to play an instrument so you can accompany yourself can be a real joy.

Re: being theatrical or "animated" when you perform, John Jacob Niles made a career out of that kind of folk singing. However, he was one-of-a-kind (some would say "Thank God!"). But I'd be a bit careful about that. Folk songs, and traditional ballads in particular, tend to benefit from a bit of emotional restraint. Which is to say, sing with emotional intensity, but don't indulge in theatrics, because that will detract from a folk song or ballad. I remember once hearing a performance of Lord Randal in a recital by an operatic tenor. He gave it the full Italianate operatic treatment, making it sound like Edgardo's death throes in the final scene of Lucia di Lammermoor. Highly dramatic and beautifully sung, very appropriate in Lucia, but for Lord Randal it was downright gawdawful! Sometimes less is more.

And as far as having to go over lyrics periodically to keep them in mind, I think everyone does. I certainly do. I "know" several hundred songs, but my "working repertoire" is a whole lot smaller. I try to rotate my crop periodically, which means I have to go over any song I haven't sung for awhile or I'm liable to blow it about verse 3. Keep a notebook of all the songs you learn. Don't sing from it, but keep it for reference and to refresh your memory.

What kind of voice do you have? From Old Man River, I assume you are male, with a bass or baritone voice. Of course, without a voice teacher's diagnosis, you might not really know (when he first started, Placido Domingo thought he was a baritone until someone clued him in that he was really a tenor). Anyway, good luck! And keep us posted.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: Maryrrf
Date: 25 Mar 03 - 02:39 PM

Don't let a few negative comments discourage you. In folk music, as in other fields, some will like your style and others won't. I would think an unusual voice (especially if it's good) would be a plus. Who wants to sound like everything else? I have seen singers who were so into showing off their voice that the song got lost, and that's not good in folk music, but I would suggest recording yourself and listening to it. If you're happy, feel that you're getting the song and its message or story across, and others do appreciate what you do, then go for it. It's better to have an unusual voice that draws attention than to have a mediocre voice that is indistinguishable from everybody else.


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 26 Mar 03 - 09:04 AM

The following suggestions are based upon my experiences with people I sing with regularly.

1) Make musical friends.

You're looking for a group of people who get together informally and do music on a regular basis. The group should welcome newcomers. It should have a relatively stable base of regulars who can pretty much be counted on to show up every time. You're also looking for people who share your musical interests to some extent.

I don't know where you are or what's available. What you're looking for might be a called a "session" or a weekly/monthly/whatever "jam" or a "folk club" or a "folk song society" or an "open mike" or something entirely different.

Start by simply attending regularly and listening politely. If you're asked to contribute, be modest but do so. Also, be yourself. If not, be patient. No matter what, become one of the regulars.

Eventually people will start to recognize you, then start thinking of you as one of the gang.

You'll be doing this because musical "friends" are much more tolerant than musical strangers. They'll encourage you, they'll make allowances for you, and they'll work with you. They'll become familiar with your strengths and weaknesses and idiosyncrasies and figure out ways to deal with them.

2) Learn to sing harmony or learn harmony parts for the popular items in whatever repertoire you favor. Harmony singers get cut serious slack. Harmony singers are always in demand.

3) Join a group of shape-note or sacred harp singers. It'll be fun and good discipline.

4) Attend vocal week at Augusta. They'll treat you good. Contribute to the afternoon sing. If Daniel's there, connect with him.


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: GUEST,Larry K
Date: 26 Mar 03 - 10:01 AM

Voice Quality:

I am at the oppsite end of the spectrum. I love to sing but have the worst voice in the history of mankind.   I know that many of you will think that I am exaggerating, but there are hundreds of people who will agree with my statement.   As a mid life crisis I took a voice lesson convinced that they would throw me out and tell me I am hopeless.

5 years later I am still taking voice lessons and have exceeded my wildest dreams.   I will never be a good singer, but with the right accompanyment, I am an adequate singer.    A professional musician told me I have gone from totally hopeless to almost hopeless.   It took a lot of hard and grueling work for me, but it was well worth it. I have been asked to sing at a music teachers birthday party. I have been paid to sing.   I have sung for 1,200 people and gotten a standing ovation.   Therefore, I have very little sympahty for people who tell me that have a naturally beatiful voice and don't know what to do with it.

Here are a few things I do know.   Everyone can and should sing. (if I can sing than anyone can sing)   Singing is a right, not a privledge. Everyone can get better at singing.   The right voice lessons help.   Choosing the right material for your audience is critical.   Listen to Modern Man doing their parody of "Inappropriate Singing Styles" to understand what I mean.   Singing is about communicating with your audience.    If voice was everything than Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, and many others would never have been successful.

Oh, and by the way- I have a great memory and forget the lyrics.   I have to spend so much of my time trying to hit the right notes and have my mouth in the right position (something you never have to worry about) that sometimes I miss a lyric.   

A beautiful voice gives you such an great starting point. Sing the songs you believe in.   I have read the folkie manefesto and I couldn't find anything in it that said you were not allowed to sing folk music with a great voice.


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: Alice
Date: 26 Mar 03 - 10:16 AM

"The right voice lessons..." I agree totally. Lighthouse, if you can find a GOOD voice teacher (one who has experience in teaching the physiology of singing, not just teaching you songs) then you will find that having technical skills will make your voice easier to control. Here is the site of my voice teacher www.suzannegorder.com. Check with your local musician's union or the nearest University music department and see if they can recommend a teacher.


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: Steve Parkes
Date: 26 Mar 03 - 10:55 AM

Rubato is the offical music word for not really sticking to a rhythm. If classical musos have a word for it, it must be ok! Accompanists are mostly born, not made, even in classical music. (This is the complete total of my knowledge of classical music, so I'll stop there!) You'll probably find a musician who you can work with if you persevere; you probably will have to work too, not just the other guy, but it's worth all the effort.

I wonder how many musicians are too good to play folk? Most of the trad players I know fall into that category!

Steve


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: CET
Date: 26 Mar 03 - 11:17 AM

That succesful folk singer you met sounds like a senior operative in the folk police. Go sing opera, my foot! Has that woman ever heard Richard Dyer-Bennett, or Bryn Terfel, to name the first two that come to my mind, sing traditional music. The answer is probably that she hasn't, and wouldn't understand or appreciate their music if she had. To hell with her.

There's a lot of good advice on this thread. Bee-Dubya-Ell, thanks for the suggestion about finding a regular accompanist. I might try that myself.

CET


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: Frankham
Date: 27 Mar 03 - 10:51 AM

One of the best "folksinger" I have enjoyed is Jo Stafford. She was known as a big band singer and popular during the forties. She was an interpreter of folk music and did it movingly, convincingly and well and she could really sing it.

One thing that some folks are not going to like to hear. There is a disease in the folk scene and it's called "folk snob". It's as rampant as in classical music or in jazz. When I see that, I leave.

Folk musicians from a tradition-based background such as Doc Watson, Jean Ritchie and so many are free of this malady. They have open minds and appreciate varied vocal qualities.

Lighthouse,keep singing forget the "folk snobs". And if you sing with enthusiam, excitement and please an audience, it's a "win-win".

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 27 Mar 03 - 12:04 PM

If you've got a good voice, you're a good musician. What's all this about needing to have a musical accompaniment? Make a point of singing unacconmpanied unless you come across an accompnaist who really improves the song, which is not that common.

A lot of instrumentalists seem to find it very hard to follow the voice of a singer, especially when they vary the way they carry a tune from line to line and from verse to verse - which is how traditional singing is done more often than not. That's not "ragged", it's free. And often enough, rather than realising it is their own technique which is at fault, such instrumentalists blame it on the singer.


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: Alasdair
Date: 27 Mar 03 - 12:14 PM

Sounds to me like your critics are taking themselves too seriously. If you love singing, then sing. My personal opinion is that, if you're prepared to work hard on it, some of the things that you think you lack are probably within your grasp. My brother was tone deaf til the age of 22 in a family that was always very music oriented. When he picked up the whistle, I thought he would never be able to play. Now he can sing in tune, play more instruments that I know what to do with, runs a celtic band and session group and even teaches in schools.

You're lucky to have a natural gift in terms of your voice quality, but you should never underestimate the value of hard work, even in something as romanticised as folk music.

Cheers

Al


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: Alice
Date: 27 Mar 03 - 12:32 PM

Listen to Odetta, a big voice and a great career in folk music.

Alice


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: Mary Humphreys
Date: 27 Mar 03 - 12:41 PM

Following on from McGrath's posting: Of course the accompanist should follow the singer's intentions - not lead her/him. The tempo, phrasing and all stylistic matters are the responsibility of the singer of the song who has the words to interpret. The accompanist must be thoroughly aware of the singer's intent and reading of the song in order to enhance the performance.
Lighthouse: There is no way that anyone can accompany spontaneously a song they have never heard performed by a specific singer before without detracting from the overall performance. So don't think that it was you who was in the wrong. That is why mixed music and song sessions are not the best place to practice singing. Tune players are , in my experience, rarely good accompanists as they are more concerned about the melody and rhythm of the song rather than the words and their interpretation. So stick to song sessions. But don't give up! And preferably keep singing unaccompanied. Many of the best traditional singers did. They are worth listening to , just to get a feel for the styles and interpretation.


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: NicoleC
Date: 27 Mar 03 - 01:03 PM

On the other hand, many inexperienced singers need a solid accompaniest to stay anywhere near the song's key or rhythm. As a result, musicians often try to bring the singer back, instead of going with his/her interpretation, even if they are perfectly capable of it. A new accompaniest isn't going to be necessarily be able to make the right choice unless you talk about it.

Of course, if you are poor on theory, they may think they know better; egos always come into play. And honestly, they might. But are you singing along with them or are they accompanying you?

People who break the "rules" on purpose are almost always more effective than those who break the rules because they never learned them.


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 27 Mar 03 - 05:54 PM

"People who break the "rules" on purpose are almost always more effective than those who break the rules because they never learned them."

I'm not at all sure that's true. I think of all the great traditional singers, who never heard of the kind of rules that I imagine you mean, Nicole. I suppose there are always some kind of "rules" in any tradition, and in that sense I'd agree with you - but they aren't the same ones you'd find in the books of music theory.


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: NicoleC
Date: 27 Mar 03 - 07:38 PM

I agree; "rules" change, and then there are always those musical geniuses who "get it" on a different level than the rest of us. And I'm not talking about singers who know their genre's style inside and out.

But a singer who haphazardly sings on different keys and rhythms is less likely to make effective choices. Randomly experimenting, they might accidentally come across something that's really great and then not know what they did or be able to duplicate it again.

Whereas a singer who deliberately chooses to sing notes or phrases arhythmically or out of the conventional key can pick and choose effects that work to achieve a goal -- and then keep the good stuff or try something else next time because they understand what they did and how to duplicate it or modify the effect. They can also express their choices to an accompaniest and everyone can play on the same page.

I don't think having a great voice is enough to be a good singer. Even amateur musicians learn important techniques by trial and error like breath control and clarity that makes them better singers. I have a very nice sounding fiddle. That doesn't mean I always make music out of it :)

I guess part of my response is to the ideas being expressed here that the accompaniest must be wrong and a terrible musician because they couldn't play perfectly with an untrained singer. How so? Why is the assumption that the singer can do no wrong and the non-singing musicians must bear all responsibility for musicianship; yet the non-singing musician's interpretation of the song is totally dismissed in favor of the singer, who never learned the basics. It's like telling a baby not to crawl, but expect them to get up and run a marathon.

There are clearly many cases where the singer is the key component, but it's not always true, particularly not when, as in the example above, the non-singing musician has the paying gig and the singer is allowed to step in for a song. Beginners have to start somewhere, but it sure helps to give the others a "heads up." Communicating your style and intentions (or at least your intention to wander all over the place) to the best of your ability can go a long way to making the experience pleasurable for all the musicians involved.

I find the attitude that everyone else has to keep up with you no matter what to be plain rude on the part of any musician, singer or otherwise, except for jam sessions when beginners are involved.


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 27 Mar 03 - 07:48 PM

If a player can't keep up with, or keep down with, the singer, they're much better leaving them to manage without. The voice is the fundamental instrument, the one we all share, and the one we share with other creatures as well. (Including the proverbial horse..)


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: Ely
Date: 27 Mar 03 - 08:42 PM

So what? Sing without musicians.

(I've got the opposite problem--I can keep rhythmn like a metronome but I can't sing a note)


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: NicoleC
Date: 27 Mar 03 - 08:54 PM

If a player can't keep up with, or keep down with, the singer, they're much better leaving them to manage without.

If a singer can't keep up with, or manage to keep down with, the other musicians, they're much better leaving them to manage without.

Goes both ways, doesn't it? Otherwise it's just perpetuating the stereotype that singers don't have to bother to learn anything, which is an insult to those singers who work hard and are fine vocal musicians. (Whether it be a pretty voice or not-so-pretty voice.)


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: Genie
Date: 27 Mar 03 - 09:33 PM

Folk Music is the only genre that provides me with the freedom to experiment.
Ever hear of jazz? ;-D


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: Fred Miller
Date: 27 Mar 03 - 11:18 PM

I don't know, it does seem that there's a tendency in folk, in bluegrass, in related styles, toward a hard, pronounced edge, which doesn't always do well for the song. I sometimes like that over-breathed, softened sound, if only for variety, since I have a fairly earth-bound voice. Whatever you do well, I'd say try to learn a little of a different thing from it, if only to be able to set it off a little with a contrast. Everything gets old, virtuosity does itself a service when it remembers the powerful, primitive effects, and so on.

If you have that much trouble remembering lyrics, I think you need to tag them more with quite personal meanings for yourself. You won't forget them when they matter mnore particularly. I don't mean any dis, or dis-service to you by that, but you have to actually go through a process, that will save going over it again and again. And there are techniques for building your memory in that respect, the so called "memory theatre" methods that were important when print was scarce. Anything that's a gift is also a curse, it seems. Sometimes it's wonderful to have one's limitations.


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 28 Mar 03 - 09:22 PM

I remember the old records used to refer to singers as "vocal accompanist", and it's true enough that there are musical genres where that is an appropriate way of thinking about their role. Bluegrass is probably one such genre. But more typically it's the people playing the musical instruments who are the accompanists, at least while the singer is actually singing. And the skill of an accompanist is to follow the person or instrument they are accompanying.

That doesn't in any way mean there aren't skills a singer should aspire to learn - but those skills don't necessarily make it easier for an accompanist. They can even make it harder - for example when they include variations in timing, as an essential part of the storytelling.

This all reminds me of the discussions about percussion, where it becomes clear that, in some types of music, the drummer lays down the beat, over which the other musicians do their thing (including the singer), while in other types (including Irish music in particular) it's the other way round, with the drummer following the lead of the singer or the fiddle or whatever.


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: Frankham
Date: 29 Mar 03 - 09:25 PM

Lighthouse I'm going to suggest something to you that might sound like heresy to some. Sing folk songs but stay away from folk audiences for a while. Sing for "people" not officianados. Go out and sing for children, senior citizens, people who have not really been exposed to folk music before and those who have no "agenda" but appreciate a nice voice. Working on musicianship is sometimes a plus but even that is misleading sometimes. It's usually someone else's idea about what sounds good. (A little knowledge is a dangerous thing). You can educate yourself out of something good.

Build your own audience.

Folk festivals may be the worst place to start because there is so much attached to the "image" of a folk performer. It's an "act" in that you have to look right, act according to your onstage persona and fit in with that ideal.

It really helps to study folk music though. Listen to everything and anyone who you feel resonates with your experience and find that connection with the music that is you. Study the songs from the traditions that they come from and find out as much about the song you sing as you can ie: who wrote it and why or where does it come from and what does it mean. Give the song the respect it deserves.

One thing I've learned about performing folk songs. Not everyone is going to like what you do. There is always a critic in the house.
Somebody has an agenda that they bring to the performance. For this reason, it's best when starting out to stay away from that kind of thing. If people enjoy what you are doing, then that's where you need to be.

In my view, the American folk festival has become something strange because it follows trends. Singer-songwriters have taken it over or it becomes a highly stylized event with rockish bands or all bluegrass instrumental virtuosos or varying degrees of Celtoids (not necessarilly representatives of Ireland or the Isles.) . I remember the Ashville folk festival which was regional and educational about traditional folk music. Nothing like it around today.

Please don't listen to promoters or managers who attempt to get you to sing their way. And critics are historically found to be wanting.
Remember the saying (Mencken, I think) "No one ever erected a monument to a critic".

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: Fred Miller
Date: 29 Mar 03 - 11:59 PM

Frankham, I notice you toss in some really good points around here, guy.


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: GUEST,jamesue
Date: 30 Mar 03 - 01:43 AM

I truly believe everyone can sing, and everyone brings something different in vocal quality...I'm a prime example of someone who doesn't have a great voice, but I can sing on key, sing in harmony with others and blend in well. I sing with two others, and we perform at open mics, and in friend's homes, and we get requests. We try hard to make things interesting.We practice often, and make sure our solo parts are done well.    On the other hand, there's a person who also sings at our open mics who has a very fine strong tenor voice... good enough to sing professionally, but people get up and leave when he opens his mouth. Why? He spends a lot of time singing by himself to records. In his a capella performances, it sounds like he's singing to a record. He's obviously enamoured with his voice, thinks it will carry the whole performance and dazzle the crowd. But every song sounds the same...the style is the same, and all the vocal inflections and tricks are the same. There's a run of four or five notes that he sings very well, and he includes them on every song. The truth? He's really, really boring to listen to.


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: bradfordian
Date: 30 Mar 03 - 08:14 AM

Yeah, sing to children who have no pre conceptions, they'll soon tell you what they like, I reckon they won't be too concerned with meter. You can't give up on singing. You have something to offer. We must learn; many offer advice and guidence; listen, experiment, practice, try recording yourself (but it always sounds worse when the singer hears it back though!).
Try and find a choir to hang out with for a while. Chances are they may say "excuse me but your voice is just TOO good for us" (choir voices shoundn't stand out) but if they do let you practice with them you could learn an awfull lot about control & timing, learning to read music - you might even find one choir member you will take you under his/her wing. I unashamedly use sheets with lyrics on in front of me as I find it hard to memorise, so I look at the words and the audience on a 50-50 basis. This enables me to sing upto 400 songs as opposed to the 6 which I have actually managed to memorise, hence providing my audience with a wide variety of song and enabling me to sing, otherwise I would have long given up. Folkies are very very tolerant usually. But there is one club locally which is traditionally biased, the singers come to the front under a spot light to stand and sing (no way to use song sheets), so I just don't go there. BTW as regards voice quality, I think I rank with Frankham.
regards Brad.


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 30 Mar 03 - 08:43 AM

If you have got it,then flaunt it.Keep singing and to hell with the people who say you are 'too good for folk'.Having a good instrument
doesnt mean you dont have to practice with it,it just means its not such hard work as with an inferior instrument.


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Subject: RE: voice quality?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 30 Mar 03 - 07:49 PM

Having the words there as a kind of safety net can be helpful and even necessary. But that's not the same as reading a song, which can really get in the way of singing it, the same way that struggling to remember the words can get in the way.

It's really worth putting in the effort, as Lighthouse expressed it, "to go over lyrics periodically". Singing isn't primarily about making beautiful sounds, it's about stortytelling and picture painting.


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