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Good singer/not good instrumentalist

GUEST,woody 21 May 04 - 01:18 PM
Midchuck 21 May 04 - 01:39 PM
TheBigPinkLad 21 May 04 - 01:40 PM
Kim C 21 May 04 - 01:51 PM
Kim C 21 May 04 - 01:53 PM
Mark Clark 21 May 04 - 01:53 PM
Don Firth 21 May 04 - 02:16 PM
ToulouseCruise 21 May 04 - 03:09 PM
Don Firth 21 May 04 - 03:19 PM
ToulouseCruise 21 May 04 - 03:24 PM
GUEST,Woody 21 May 04 - 04:06 PM
Dreadnought 21 May 04 - 05:43 PM
Uncle_DaveO 21 May 04 - 06:36 PM
Dreadnought 21 May 04 - 07:18 PM
McGrath of Harlow 21 May 04 - 07:46 PM
Alaska Mike 21 May 04 - 07:53 PM
Don Firth 21 May 04 - 08:21 PM
Don Firth 21 May 04 - 08:24 PM
Big Al Whittle 21 May 04 - 08:44 PM
Strollin' Johnny 22 May 04 - 04:05 AM
Dave Bryant 22 May 04 - 08:01 AM
fat B****rd 22 May 04 - 08:11 AM
kendall 22 May 04 - 08:52 AM
Jim McLean 22 May 04 - 10:59 AM
Strollin' Johnny 22 May 04 - 11:03 AM
pdq 22 May 04 - 03:10 PM
Don Firth 22 May 04 - 04:53 PM
GUEST,Anne Croucher 22 May 04 - 06:24 PM
GUEST 22 May 04 - 06:39 PM
Naemanson 22 May 04 - 10:10 PM
Big Al Whittle 23 May 04 - 02:39 AM
GUEST,guest mick 23 May 04 - 12:53 PM
Melani 23 May 04 - 03:19 PM
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Subject: Good singer/not good instrumentalist
From: GUEST,woody
Date: 21 May 04 - 01:18 PM

The thread about "To Sing or not to Sing" made me think about this. Can a good singer get away with being just okay (not awful but let's say nothing to write home about)if they accompany themselves on an instrument - like a guitar? Would this be overlooked if their voice, phrasing, etc. were quite good? I've never been that interested in the guitar except as a means of accompanying a song - no fancy riffs or melodys. I do fingerpick and not just strum, but my chording isn't exactly innovative - it's pretty basic. Any thoughts?


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Subject: RE: Good singer/not good instrumentalist
From: Midchuck
Date: 21 May 04 - 01:39 PM

Yes.

I know.

Peter


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Subject: RE: Good singer/not good instrumentalist
From: TheBigPinkLad
Date: 21 May 04 - 01:40 PM

Absolutely. When I get to a tricky chord I just sing louder to cover my shortcomings. But, of course, make sure the songs you choose to perform are not reknowned for their instrumental breaks.


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Subject: RE: Good singer/not good instrumentalist
From: Kim C
Date: 21 May 04 - 01:51 PM

Dwight Diller.


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Subject: RE: Good singer/not good instrumentalist
From: Kim C
Date: 21 May 04 - 01:53 PM

Wait, I got that backwards. Dwight is a great instrumentalist and not so great a singer; but it works for him. I think the reverse is also true.


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Subject: RE: Good singer/not good instrumentalist
From: Mark Clark
Date: 21 May 04 - 01:53 PM

Woody, Most audiences will be more entertained by good singing than by fancy instrumental technique. It kind of depends on what you're singing. If you're singing jazz, you'll need a good knowledge of jazz chords. If you're singing blues, you'll need a few riffs but the presentation of the song is more important than the sort of guitar pyrotechnics you'd get from an electric blues band.

The great majority of the memorable folk singers and singer-songwriters have always just relied on a few simple chords and patterns, just as you do. You might want to think about working up some two or four bar intros that change with the song but don't worry about playing an instrumental chorus between verses.

Back in the '60s some folk singers used to lift their guitars high up so the sound hole was right at the vocal mic and just bang chords into the mic—the same chords they'd been using for accompaniment. I always thought that was pretty cheesy but their fans seemed to like it.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Good singer/not good instrumentalist
From: Don Firth
Date: 21 May 04 - 02:16 PM

I can think of two big names in folk music (and this is right off, without really thinking about it) from times gone by who were primarily singers and not really what you could call great guitarists:   Burl Ives and Ed McCurdy. Mostly simple first position chords, pretty basic strumming or picking patterns, and an occasional base run (the "lullaby lick" was about as complicated as Burl Ives could manage).

Sometimes flashy intrumental work can actually detract from the performance of a song. It's nice to be able to play some pretty flashy accompaniments--and then choose not to.

Parable:   I worked one summer for a custom picture framer who did frames for some pretty famous artists and for some prestigeous galleries. His work philosophy was, "The frame should be simple, and reflect the colors and shapes within the particular painting. It sets the painting off in space and it should really not be noticed. If people look at a painting and say 'isn't that a nice frame?' then the framer has failed. He's done a poor job. He hasn't done right by the painting."

I learned a lot about song accompaniment from him. To me, the same principle applies.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Good singer/not good instrumentalist
From: ToulouseCruise
Date: 21 May 04 - 03:09 PM

Full agreement here as well. When I drop by the little live open-mic style spots around the city, it is the vocals that hold my focus... but remember that the manner you sing becomes extra-important -- entertaining, lots of heart and emotion, etc.

In my duo, I only sing, but my partner sings and plays acoustic. It is a very basic set up, and he is strictly a rhythm guitarists -- no fancy lead breaks here! But our harmonies and our stage presence makes people quickly forget that there is only one instrument on stage, as the instrument -- for us -- fulfills a role of accompaniment, not a role of focus.

or something like that....


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Subject: RE: Good singer/not good instrumentalist
From: Don Firth
Date: 21 May 04 - 03:19 PM

". . . fulfills a role of accompaniment, not a role of focus."

Well said.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Good singer/not good instrumentalist
From: ToulouseCruise
Date: 21 May 04 - 03:24 PM

Thanks Don... as I was writing it, I thought "that is about the cheesiest thing I have ever written, and may even offend some of the musicians here".. then I thought, HEARING us play would probably offend ALL of the musicians here ;-)

Brian.


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Subject: RE: Good singer/not good instrumentalist
From: GUEST,Woody
Date: 21 May 04 - 04:06 PM

Thanks for the advice. I have always felt that was the case but lately I've become a little self conscious about my guitar playing - not bad but no-frills. I guess this was after seeing a few singer/guitarists who were much better at the guitar than I am. I am still going to work on the guitar part a little harder - just to add some flourish to the vocals. Again, thanks to everybody who responded.


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Subject: RE: Good singer/not good instrumentalist
From: Dreadnought
Date: 21 May 04 - 05:43 PM

What's the "lullaby lick"..?


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Subject: RE: Good singer/not good instrumentalist
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 21 May 04 - 06:36 PM

It's a rhythm better recognized than described, that goes BAH-da-dah-da BAH-da-dah-da etc.

Pete Seeger says that his sister Peggy fastened the name "lullaby lick" on it.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Good singer/not good instrumentalist
From: Dreadnought
Date: 21 May 04 - 07:18 PM

Thanks Dave, I'll keep an ear out for it.


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Subject: RE: Good singer/not good instrumentalist
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 21 May 04 - 07:46 PM

Myself I'd always sooner hear a good singer who's a minimal guitarist than the other way eound. (And by "good singer" I don't necessarily mean a technically accomplished singer, but someone who can really get across the meanings of a song, in a way that makes listeners understand.)

When an accompaniment gets in the way of a song, I don't care how pretty or clever it is, it's just noise so far as the song is concerned. Much better to save that stuff for an instrumnetal.


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Subject: RE: Good singer/not good instrumentalist
From: Alaska Mike
Date: 21 May 04 - 07:53 PM

I have accompanied myself on guitar for many years. I use mostly simple chords and basic fingerpicking patterns. I usually perform solo and rely on my vocals and presentation to carry each song. When I have made recordings, I try to find excellent instrumentalists to add color and depth to each cut so that the listener doesn't mind hearing the song over and over. It seems to work quite well.

Mike


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Subject: RE: Good singer/not good instrumentalist
From: Don Firth
Date: 21 May 04 - 08:21 PM

Lullabye lick.

In sequence:   1) Thumb plays a bass string, 2) Index finger plays the 3rd string, 3) Middle and Ring fingers play 2nd and 1st string simulaneously, 4) Index plays the 3rd string again. That's a basic two-beat. For a three-beat, repeat steps 3) and 4). Alternate bass strings, change chords when necessary.

If you want to get really flashy with it, try an occasional bass run, alternating between thumb and index finger.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Good singer/not good instrumentalist
From: Don Firth
Date: 21 May 04 - 08:24 PM

. . . which is to say, Thumb plays bass note, Index plays third string, Thumb plays the next bass note, Index plays 3rd string again, etc.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Good singer/not good instrumentalist
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 21 May 04 - 08:44 PM

if you enjoy it, do it. If people are beastly to you afterwards the situation may need looking at. People are usually quite kind and forgiving in folk clubs - if everybody is throwing things at you or choosing your spot to go and have a wee - that's unusual.... I have found.


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Subject: RE: Good singer/not good instrumentalist
From: Strollin' Johnny
Date: 22 May 04 - 04:05 AM

I'm in total agreement, a Good Singer with a simple guitar style will get away with it no problem. There are plenty of examples like, for instance, Stan Rogers who cheerfully admitted that he kept his guitar-playing simple so he could concentrate on performing the vocal. And before my fellow Stan-Addicts start squealing like stuck pigs, yes his recorded work (including the two live albums) features wonderful arrangements, but Stan's trick was to have a band around him full of great players - I have a tape of him playing without the band at the Bermuda FC and his guitar playing is very straightforward, nice but straightforward.

The majority of the listening public hear the voice, the accompaniment is secondary.

Now hang me out to dry guys, I just know somebody will try!

Johnny :0)


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Subject: RE: Good singer/not good instrumentalist
From: Dave Bryant
Date: 22 May 04 - 08:01 AM

The title of this thread probably sums me up.


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Subject: RE: Good singer/not good instrumentalist
From: fat B****rd
Date: 22 May 04 - 08:11 AM

Interesting thread. I'm consistent. Crap at both.


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Subject: RE: Good singer/not good instrumentalist
From: kendall
Date: 22 May 04 - 08:52 AM

Traditional folk music does not demand that you be really good at either. It's the lyrics, not the flash that's important.


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Subject: RE: Good singer/not good instrumentalist
From: Jim McLean
Date: 22 May 04 - 10:59 AM

One definition of a good folk singer is that he/she knows all the words.


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Subject: RE: Good singer/not good instrumentalist
From: Strollin' Johnny
Date: 22 May 04 - 11:03 AM

Lot more to it than that, Jim. Rappers can remember all the words but good singers they ain't.


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Subject: RE: Good singer/not good instrumentalist
From: pdq
Date: 22 May 04 - 03:10 PM

Nice to hear a good word or two about Burl Ives.

Yes, Ives personal guitar playing was perfunctory.

Burl Ives was also America's favorite folksinger.

He was also one of the great showmen ever.

Here is a site for Burl Ives fans:

   Burl Ives CDs

There is also a fan club:

   Burl Ives Appreciation Society (=BIAS)
   PO BOX 139
   New York, NY 10021-0012


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Subject: RE: Good singer/not good instrumentalist
From: Don Firth
Date: 22 May 04 - 04:53 PM

I cut my teeth on Burl Ives. Used to listen to his radio program when I was a kid. (Direct link to the CDs)

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Good singer/not good instrumentalist
From: GUEST,Anne Croucher
Date: 22 May 04 - 06:24 PM

I practise with a tape recorder running, then play it back next day. If I notice the guitar I practise harder.

I can play 'better' that is, fancier, but made a conscious decision not to when I got hold of a reel to reel tape recorder again and heard myself in younger days - almost a soprano. It is weird to set the two recordings running and hear yourself now singing in harmony with yourself thirty years ago.   

Anne


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Subject: RE: Good singer/not good instrumentalist
From: GUEST
Date: 22 May 04 - 06:39 PM

If the guitar gets in the way of the song, either by being too complicated or too incompetent, you're not doing the song justice. Are you sure you're such a basic guitarist anyway? I never consider myself much good when I look at the masters of the instrument, but I still get people coming up and telling me I am a good guitarist. Maybe it's one of those deals where if you think you are good you are just not trying hard enough.


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Subject: RE: Good singer/not good instrumentalist
From: Naemanson
Date: 22 May 04 - 10:10 PM

I sure am glad to read this thread. I have always felt bad about my poor playing even though people praise my performances.


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Subject: RE: Good singer/not good instrumentalist
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 23 May 04 - 02:39 AM

or as Burl put it
dum ching!

nobody remembers the Burl Ives folk song book, ....oh well!

There was a geezer called Xavier Coudril who used to do an entire comedy routine about the Burl Ives dum-ching technique, back in the days of Les Cousins. XC was a shit hot guitarist, once I saw his name mentioned in the radio times - doing the music for a childrens programme, but I never heard of him since - has anybody else?


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Subject: RE: Good singer/not good instrumentalist
From: GUEST,guest mick
Date: 23 May 04 - 12:53 PM

Xavier Coudril ,never heard of him .Sort of illustrates the point most people on this thread are making though. Everybody remembers Burl Ives and his dum ching . What about Woody Guthrie as well -played Pastures of Plenty with one chord . Somebody told me once that an instrumentalist or even an orchestra ,no matter how good , always gives way to the human voice ,no matter how bad .


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Subject: RE: Good singer/not good instrumentalist
From: Melani
Date: 23 May 04 - 03:19 PM

Ever heard Eric Bogle live? I have been mightily encouraged by the fact that he seems to play guitar only about ten percent better than I do, which is pretty low-level for a professional. He solves this problem by employing musicians to back him up, and making jokes about their letting him play along. Of course, in his case, all that's necessary is that he play well enough to compose his wonderful songs.


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