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unaccompanied and accompanied singing

The Sandman 13 Feb 07 - 05:28 AM
Scrump 13 Feb 07 - 05:40 AM
George Papavgeris 13 Feb 07 - 05:47 AM
JulieF 13 Feb 07 - 06:29 AM
Scrump 13 Feb 07 - 06:47 AM
GUEST,Bruce Michael Baillie 13 Feb 07 - 07:40 AM
My guru always said 13 Feb 07 - 07:55 AM
skipy 13 Feb 07 - 08:04 AM
Hawker 13 Feb 07 - 08:15 AM
GUEST,meself 13 Feb 07 - 08:22 AM
The Villan 13 Feb 07 - 08:29 AM
George Papavgeris 13 Feb 07 - 08:30 AM
bubblyrat 13 Feb 07 - 08:32 AM
Scrump 13 Feb 07 - 08:32 AM
GUEST 13 Feb 07 - 08:38 AM
GUEST,Helen. 13 Feb 07 - 08:43 AM
George Papavgeris 13 Feb 07 - 08:45 AM
GUEST,Terry McDonald 13 Feb 07 - 08:53 AM
Scrump 13 Feb 07 - 09:03 AM
GUEST,Bruce Michael Baillie 13 Feb 07 - 09:15 AM
dj bass 13 Feb 07 - 09:21 AM
GUEST,pattyClink 13 Feb 07 - 09:31 AM
ossonflags 13 Feb 07 - 09:44 AM
Fred McCormick 13 Feb 07 - 09:48 AM
George Papavgeris 13 Feb 07 - 09:50 AM
Scrump 13 Feb 07 - 09:57 AM
Captain Ginger 13 Feb 07 - 10:10 AM
DebC 13 Feb 07 - 10:35 AM
GUEST,Terry McDonald 13 Feb 07 - 10:44 AM
Scrump 13 Feb 07 - 10:52 AM
McGrath of Harlow 13 Feb 07 - 11:05 AM
r.padgett 13 Feb 07 - 11:20 AM
Fidjit 13 Feb 07 - 12:07 PM
GUEST,Terry McDonald 13 Feb 07 - 12:16 PM
bubblyrat 13 Feb 07 - 12:26 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 13 Feb 07 - 12:52 PM
Liz the Squeak 13 Feb 07 - 01:14 PM
GUEST,henryclem 13 Feb 07 - 01:21 PM
GUEST 13 Feb 07 - 01:22 PM
McGrath of Harlow 13 Feb 07 - 01:23 PM
GUEST,Terry McDonald 13 Feb 07 - 01:32 PM
Stewart 13 Feb 07 - 01:41 PM
Bee 13 Feb 07 - 01:47 PM
Liz the Squeak 13 Feb 07 - 01:58 PM
JohnB 13 Feb 07 - 02:01 PM
GUEST,The black belt caterpillar wrestler 13 Feb 07 - 02:18 PM
Charley Noble 13 Feb 07 - 02:36 PM
Scrump 13 Feb 07 - 02:45 PM
GUEST,pattyClink 13 Feb 07 - 02:46 PM
GUEST,Val 13 Feb 07 - 02:47 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 13 Feb 07 - 02:52 PM
MoorleyMan 13 Feb 07 - 02:56 PM
The Villan 13 Feb 07 - 03:36 PM
The Villan 13 Feb 07 - 03:39 PM
Charley Noble 13 Feb 07 - 04:47 PM
Rowan 13 Feb 07 - 04:59 PM
Dave Sutherland 13 Feb 07 - 05:40 PM
MoorleyMan 13 Feb 07 - 05:59 PM
Richard Bridge 13 Feb 07 - 06:07 PM
Scrump 13 Feb 07 - 06:35 PM
RTim 13 Feb 07 - 07:09 PM
MoorleyMan 13 Feb 07 - 07:38 PM
Rowan 13 Feb 07 - 08:02 PM
Tattie Bogle 13 Feb 07 - 08:09 PM
Captain Ginger 14 Feb 07 - 03:36 AM
Alec 14 Feb 07 - 04:02 AM
Scrump 14 Feb 07 - 04:48 AM
The Villan 14 Feb 07 - 06:23 AM
Scrump 14 Feb 07 - 06:32 AM
Captain Ginger 14 Feb 07 - 06:45 AM
The Villan 14 Feb 07 - 07:34 AM
The Villan 14 Feb 07 - 07:36 AM
Captain Ginger 14 Feb 07 - 08:02 AM
McGrath of Harlow 14 Feb 07 - 09:31 AM
The Sandman 14 Feb 07 - 10:57 AM
Liz the Squeak 14 Feb 07 - 12:12 PM
McGrath of Harlow 14 Feb 07 - 12:26 PM
The Sandman 14 Feb 07 - 12:55 PM
GUEST,zalby 14 Feb 07 - 01:09 PM
Barry Finn 14 Feb 07 - 04:40 PM
Barry Finn 14 Feb 07 - 04:52 PM
Rowan 14 Feb 07 - 05:35 PM
McGrath of Harlow 14 Feb 07 - 05:44 PM
The Villan 14 Feb 07 - 05:47 PM
GUEST,Val 14 Feb 07 - 06:11 PM
Uncle_DaveO 14 Feb 07 - 06:31 PM
Uncle_DaveO 14 Feb 07 - 06:37 PM
Barry Finn 15 Feb 07 - 12:39 AM
Scrump 15 Feb 07 - 05:09 AM
GUEST,Val 15 Feb 07 - 01:35 PM
r.padgett 15 Feb 07 - 04:30 PM
The Villan 15 Feb 07 - 04:35 PM
r.padgett 15 Feb 07 - 05:14 PM
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Subject: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: The Sandman
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 05:28 AM

recently, I did a gig at a singers club.The rule of the club was no instruments allowed.
as I frequently accompany myself on Concertina and Guitar,a programme of all unaccompanied singing, was quite a challenge.
I noticed that I used much more ornamentation in my singing when I didnt have to rely on a chordal instrument to provide interest,
as I didnt have two instruments to provide contrasting sounds,I had to think even more carefully,about the balance of subject matter,the pace or speed of the songs etc,I had a great night and sold lots of cds etc.
I also feel that I can sing better when only having to concentrate on singing,.
although, sadly not many clubs in England would book an unaccompanied singer baecause many people would prefer to listen to sounds than words.http://www.dickmiles.com


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Scrump
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 05:40 AM

Interesting subject, Dick.

I've never done a whole set unaccompanied, but I've done the occasional floor spot where I was asked unexpectedly to do one, and didn't have an instrument (or couldn't borrow one).

I enjoy the challenge of performing songs I would normally perform accompanied, without accompaniment. As you say, you tend to fill in the gaps that would normally be filled by instrumental fills, by vocal ornamentation, or adjust the timing to remove the gaps, etc.

I have a small repertoire of unaccompanied songs for "emergency" use - for example, if doing a short floor spot and I break a string, and I don't want to waste time restringing because of time constraints.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 05:47 AM

Good thread, Dick. Yes, sadly many folk fans (and therefore many clubs) focus on sound too much to enjoy unaccompanied singing. Not my home club though (Herga) - there the voice is king.

Interestingly, I just posted something related on a thread on the R2F&A board; I copy it here: "...there is an immediacy in even poor singing ("hi, this is me, I am making this sound with my body, I am communicating directly from my soul") that only the better players can achieve, as they need to control their instrument first and it becomes a medium, a filter for their expression. In addition, it is far easier for a singer to assume roles appropriate to the song, to show empathy, to act out a song, than it is for an instrumentalist (who is limited in movement by the degrees of freedom afforded by the instrument)."

And yes, I have always enjoyed singing my few unaccompanied songs a little more than the rest; and I think you are right about the freedom to embellish more with voice.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: JulieF
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 06:29 AM

I mainly sing unaccompanied and am able to change the decoration, empasis and timings as I feel fit. Its quite a challenge to sing with accompaniment.   I find that quite often it slows the song down as I am letting the other instruments fill the gaps in the song.   This is not necessarily a bad thing but there are times when you loose the power of the ornamentation and the flow when you have a rthymn forced on you.

J


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Scrump
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 06:47 AM

I agree it's probably difficult if you are being accompanied by someone else, to be able to vary the rhythm. That's why some people like to accompany themselves, because they can suit themselves (it can also be handy if you forget the words temporarily, to cover up with a couple of extra bars of instrumental accompaniment! ;-))


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: GUEST,Bruce Michael Baillie
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 07:40 AM

...Whilst agreeing with much of what is said here, and yes I do do a few unaccompanied songs myself, I for one wouldn't pay to hear an entire evening of unaccompanied singing because no matter how good it is I PERSONALLY find it bloody boring! And I do feel that the snobbery against musical instruments is largely by people WHO CAN'T PLAY AN INSTRUMENT!


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: My guru always said
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 07:55 AM

JulieF: well explained and my thoughts echo yours!

GUEST, Bruce: As an unaccompanied singer I also agree partly with your views as I feel a whole evening unaccompanied by one singer could be quite boring, but that's often dependant upon the singer and one's own taste of course. An unaccompanied singer needs to give variety to their set, and if they can include some items which are accompanied, by friends perhaps, then that would help the audience's enjoyment tremendously.

But as a non-musician, I can also enjoy singing and listening during whole weekends of unaccompanied singing such as in the Middle Bar, or Whittlebury. Sometimes even 24 hour non-stop, as in the MBS Reunion a couple of years ago.

Personally, I have always been in awe of musicians who can play instruments and sing at the same time. Firstly I'm not musician enough to play any instrument, and secondly I'd only be able to cconcentrate on singing the song itself. To do both I reckon is wonderful, though sometimes either the singing, or the playing can suffer as a consequence of this split attention in less experienced performers.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: skipy
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 08:04 AM

"Interesting subject, Dick"
Scrump, it's all in the punctuation!
Skipy


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Hawker
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 08:15 AM

I am in agreement with MGAS & Julie F, I also would love to, on occasion,accompany myself whilst singing, to add some variation, I play the harp and just cannot sing with it, my brain will NOT multi task! I have also found it difficult to play my other instrument the penny whistle and sing at the same time somewhat limiting! Those who do I bow down to the talent you have and that I obviously do not - I have to be happy with singing unaccompanied. I have to say like MGAS I love unaccomapnied singing - and for me, if I made a CD I would persuade musicians to help me out on some of the tracks, so it didnt sound too samey. If I got really clever I could even multi track and accompany myself! I think that's a little way off yet though!
I dont think music and singing are a competition, I enjoy all for their doing and am happy to listen to the good the bad and the ugly and see merit, potential and joy in all.
Cheers, Lucy


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: GUEST,meself
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 08:22 AM

"And I do feel that the snobbery against musical instruments is largely by people WHO CAN'T PLAY AN INSTRUMENT!"

Of course there's no snobbery implied in that statement, is there?


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: The Villan
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 08:29 AM

>>I for one wouldn't pay to hear an entire evening of unaccompanied singing because no matter how good it is I PERSONALLY find it bloody boring!<<

That is much how I feel. Can't help it, just doesn't float my boat.

That doesn't mean that the unacompanied singer is not good, just a question of style and taste.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 08:30 AM

Horses for courses, Bruce. I understand that you wouldn't pay to listen to unaccompanied singing all evening; yet many would pay to listen to Coope, Boyes & Simpson or to Cockersdale, or to Dave Webber & Anni Fentiman. And last night at Herga a roomful was happy to sit through 2 sets of Metcalfe, Giles and Woods.

But there is no snobbery against musical instruments that I am aware of - I accompany myself on 12-string mostly, and there are other residents at the same club who play instruments. And we'll happily listen to Steph when she comes in with her harp, or to Andrew's bodhran and whistle, or to Malc's squeezebox, when he drops in. Isambarde with their great instrumental sound kicked ass for us a short while ago. No, no snobbery - just a predilection for cultivating singing, accompanied or not.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: bubblyrat
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 08:32 AM

The funny thing is-----I have been to venues where instruments have been,almost militantly, banned ( The Middle Bar, the Vale of the White Horse festival,Wantage, & others ) but I cannot remember EVER seeing,or hearing of, an unaccompanied singer facing ejection from,or being refused entry to, an ostensibly dedicated instrumental session. It looks as if we instrumentalists are a much more tolerant,and far less snobbish, crowd !!! As some of you have suggested-----'They' are JEALOUS !! There are SOME people,like myself,who can't sing to save our lives,and sound so bad that we are ,in fact,asked NOT to sing( really !!) I went to Wantage once ( I shan"t return !! ) and innocently went to the lunchtime pub session,only to find that is was full of finger-in-ear fusspots ,the leader of whom said " I see you"ve brought your Golf-bags !", indicating my guitar gig-bag & my partner"s mandola ditto, so I gave them the world"s worst -ever rendition,unaccompanied,of 'A Nobleman Lived In Our Village Of Late'
-----and it serves them right !!!


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Scrump
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 08:32 AM

It's true that when you're singing unaccompanied you can concentrate more on the lyrics than if you are playing an instrument at the same time. It's also good (as George P says) to be able to do appropriate hand movements, etc., for some songs, which you can't do while playing.

Yes, a whole evening of unaccompanied singing sounds as if it could be boring, but with the right artists I'm sure it can be good. And I've endured a few dire evenings of accompanied singing :-)

On balance a mixture of both (which is what I usually see) is better, IMO.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: GUEST
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 08:38 AM

to Bruce Michael Baillie. Just a thought ... could it be that the snobbery of instrumentalists against unaccompanied singing arises because their singing is not accomplished enough to stand by itself ! I can and do accompany myself with guitar and used to feel it was necessary for variety. But as confidence and experience (and hopefully ability) have grown I have come to find the presence of mediocre guitar accompaniments quite unnecessary.

We're lucky in our club. There is no prejudice against either unaccompanied or instrumental performers. But some of the best nights in recent times have been given by the former variety. Tremendous variety: great warmth, intellectual stimulus, laughs a plenty, wonderful chorus singing, riveting stories ... you name it and we've experienced it just in the few short weeks since Christmas from performers who have not needed the prop of an instrument.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: GUEST,Helen.
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 08:43 AM

Dick - I've always thought that you're a great singer of unaccompanied song. Yes - I really enjoy the concertina and guitar accompaniments, but I'd really enjoy seeing you unaccompanied for an evening. Yes - it presents different challenges in terms of the choice of material and presentation. But boring? Never!!


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 08:45 AM

A little goodwill and tolerance goes a long way, bubblyrat, I agree. Clearly you still smart from that treatment, hence the intense feeling betrayed by the capital letters. Nevertheless, I know of very few events where instruments are not welcome, and these are generally well-known and -publicised. They are also far fewer than the tunes-only sessions I know (from where, by the way I have seen even accompanied singers evicted, because they don't fit the ethos of the session, which is "one leads the tune and everyone joins in"). But both those examples are of specialist events.

I found that clubs, generally speaking, will have a preference one way or another, but would be tolerant towards the opposite end of the spectrum too.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: GUEST,Terry McDonald
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 08:53 AM

An excellent thread! As someone who has precisely one unaccompanied song in a pretty large repertoire, I find it very easy to sing and play (guitar, of course) at the same time. Yet there are people who can't do both - in a band I was in until recently, the person with arguably the best voice simply couldn't sing and play at the same time, even though he played fiddle, mandolin, banjo, bouzouki and guitar. One result was that our accordian player (who could do both) and I shared most of the vocals, including the duets.

On the other hand, I always used to enjoy unacompanied singers such as June Tabor and Frankie Armstrong when we booked them as guests.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Scrump
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 09:03 AM

An interesting sub-thread emerging is the ease or difficulty of playing while singing.

In a different incarnation I found it difficult to play lead (electric) guitar while singing, but playing acoustic accompaniment I find more or less easy (although there are one or two songs I find I have to really concentrate on what I'm playing, which could potentially affect the singing adversely). If I do find it difficult, the solution for me is to come up with a simpler arrangement that I can manage easily.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: GUEST,Bruce Michael Baillie
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 09:15 AM

I think one or two of you maybe took me too much at my word I never said unaccompanied singing is bad or somehow worse than accompanied singing, I did use the phrase 'in my own opinion' which is just my opinion, I realise other people may not think as I. I certainly didn't mean to be offensive, just to give my own views. And I must say I have been to places over the years where I've felt that I've been frowned upon because I've played a guitar as well as sing.
In fact let me even disagree with myself a little here, one band who I always did enjoy singing unaccompanied all evening were Swan Arcade,
...so maybe I'm not snobbish after all!


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: dj bass
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 09:21 AM

I'd rather have no instrumentation than poor instrumentation, but I want to be entertained as well as informed. Few unaccompanied solo singers can do this for a whole evening. Vocal harmony groups are using voices as instruments to some extent, hence the "solo" above - I can listen to Coope, Boyes and Simpson, for example, all night. Personally I have few songs I'd inflict on an audience unaccompanied. I have noticed when recording vocals separately that there is much more concentration available for the voice.

Very good thread, this!


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: GUEST,pattyClink
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 09:31 AM

I'm hearing of groups I never heard of, sounds intriguing. If anyone cares to post a link to a sound clip for any of the above mentioned (Coope, Fentiman, Metcalfe and their assorted groups--they all sound like law firms don't they?!) for us unwashed and uninformed--


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: ossonflags
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 09:44 AM

Well intresting as always this kind of debate

I had the privalage to see Joe Heaney do a night of unnacompanied singing many years ago and that was awsome.

Like singarounds i personally prefsre a bit of a mixture, songs tunes and accompanied songs/choruses etc. I do not play an instrument meself but I do sing with a band and do sing unaccompanied sometimes with the band.

Just a small anecdote, I went to a local blues club a few years ago, looking for a guitar player to replace ours who was leaving.While i was there i got asked to take the stage and do a song so not being an instumentalist i did an accompanied song.After i finished the song there was a silence followed by cheering.One of the guitar players said to me "how the hell do you do that without an instrument"
I pointed to his guitar and said "how the hell do you do that?"

We all need each other folks.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Fred McCormick
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 09:48 AM

"And I do feel that the snobbery against musical instruments is largely by people WHO CAN'T PLAY AN INSTRUMENT!"


Would you mind not shouting. The overwhelming majority of traditional singers from Britain, Ireland and many other parts of the world traditionally sung unaccompanied. That was doubtless a function of poverty but it meant they they were not governed by the need to conform to the metrical strictures of instrumental accompaniment. That fact gives the unaccompanied singer huge amounts of room to vary the rhythm and pace of the song and to express its content as the singer feels it should be expressed. Unaccompanied singing can involve tremendous amounts of technical skill. It is an art form and it is no less valid than any other expressive art.

Before you start talking about musical snobs, I suggest you listen to some of the great unaccompanied singers we are lucky to have on record; Seosamh Ó hEanaí, Valya Balanska, Yanka Rupkina, Dillard Chandler, Lizzie Higgins, Nioclas Toibín, Joseph Taylor, Rebecca Tarwater, Sheila Stewart, Karin Edvards Johanassen, Horton Barker, Seán ac Donncha, Josie Seán Jeaic MacDonna, Sarah Makem, Elizabeth Cronin, Brigid Tunney, Walter Pardon, Robert Cinnamond and Maire Aine ni Donncha to name but a few.

If you take the time and trouble to listen to some of those singers, and try to understand where they're coming from, you might possibly realise how fatuous are your accusations of snobbery.

Fred McCormick.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 09:50 AM

You can just Google the names, but anyway here are some website links for whatever soundclips they offer:

Coope, Boyes & Simpson
Dave Webber & Anni Fentiman
Graham Metcalfe, Ian Giles and Ian Woods (no website) normally perform individually (Ian Woods has also written a number of widely sung songs), but they have recently also teamed up to form "GMW" for a number of gigs. Baritone, tenor and bass in their ranges respectively, they have a wealth of mostly traditional material.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Scrump
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 09:57 AM

I think the contrast between accompanied and unaccompanied singing can be used to the singer's advantage - something you wouldn't get if you stuck exclusively to one or the other.

There are a small number of songs I sing that I prefer to sing unaccompanied, because I feel that the lyrics deserve to be heard unaccompanied, and an accompaniment would be a distraction; or because I find that some songs somehow don't lend themselves to any other arrangement (I probably could come up with an accompanied arrangement for them, but I don't think it would be as good in these cases).

I think if you occasionally perform an unaccompanied song in a set of otherwise accompanied songs, it can have more impact, as it makes the audience sit up and listen.

I know myself that I sometimes find myself so engrossed in watching (say) the musician's fingering and realise I haven't been paying any attention to the lyrics, which I regret sometimes.

Does anyone else do this?


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Captain Ginger
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 10:10 AM

My personal taste is for unaccompanied singing, and that's how I prefer to perform. I find it gives me a better chance to 'find the zone' or whatever phrase one likes to use for that zen-like state where singer and song are extensions one of another.
The other problem is that I play the diatonic box, and the mechanics aren't conducive to singing (although I know Pete Coe, Tony Hall and a few others can sing and play well, I'm not that accomplished!).
And, for listening, I do prefer unaccompanied singing; be it sean nos, English solo style or a capella harmonising. The Voice Squad and CB&S are superb at this, and an instrument would destroy the magic, I feel.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: DebC
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 10:35 AM

As a singer who performs both unaccompanied and accompanied material (I play guitar), I find this thread very interesting. Thanks for starting it, Dick.

*For me*, there are just some songs that don't work unaccompanied, thus the guitar comes in handy. Your mileage may vary.

As for groups like CB&S, Cockersdale, Swan Arcade, Dave and Anni etc. These folks are using wonderful (and in some cases very involved and complex)harmonies to achieve a sound that is very different than one voice. There is a big difference between these folks and one unaccompanied singer doing an entire program and I don't think you can compare the two, in my opinion.

Speaking only for myself, I can't imagine doing an entire programme of unaccompanied songs, but I could if I had to.

Debra Cowan


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: GUEST,Terry McDonald
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 10:44 AM

I missed what to me is an obvious and important point - when you're not a naturally gifted singer, the guitar is essential for ensuring that I sing in tune.........


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Scrump
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 10:52 AM

It's true that an instrument helps the singer to stay in the right key throughout the song, especially if it's a long one.

And I agree with DebC, that two or more singers together singing in harmony can provide a lot more interest than a single singer can. And a band with a few different instruments can be more interesting than a solo musician. But this is not necessarily so in either case.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 11:05 AM

Often enough I'll use the guitar to get me singing in the right key, the one I've found works for the song, and then I'll put it down to sing the rest of the song.

Mt feeling is that singing without an instrument should be seen as the deafault mode, so to speak. Adding an instrument to give something extra is great when its done right - but the song and the singer come first.

Instruments come into their own for playing tunes. And in a evening of unaccompanied singing a few tunes from time to time break things up well, and provide variety.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: r.padgett
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 11:20 AM

As an unaccompanied singer and a bad concertina player I have no option but to sing unaccompanied

I prefer to sing with one or two others in some sort of harmony choosing mainly traditional/similar songs with a social history/story line

However it is possible to entertain using voice only using story telling or patter and introductions to songs to help the night progress

I do take off my hat to those who continue to develop skills in playing instruments dancing learning songs and telling stories and monologuists who have been part and parcel of the folk scene for many years

The spoken/sung words though is in my view of primary importance and as Dick Miles says all the tricks of sung embelishment and phrasing using speech which is not restricted by instrumental arrangements will give fine details of meaning and feeling full appreciation

Ray


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Fidjit
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 12:07 PM

A sing around with different artists doing a number each is good. You get variation.
For myself, a bit of each is always best. Gives the gig variation. Don't get a chance to be bored. Everyone wins. Enjoyment is the thing.

Chas


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: GUEST,Terry McDonald
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 12:16 PM

I regard the guitar accompaniment (i.e. my own) as integral to the performance of the song - the voice and guitar working together. At least, that's what I try to do. And I think I'm a better guitarist than I am a singer - mind you, I would only ever describe myself as a 'competent' guitarist!

Is there a trend developing in this thread, though? I get the impression, from their comments, that several of those who sing unaccompanied do so because they feel they can't play well enough. I'm not going along with the 'jealousy' argument - seems more like 'modesty' to me.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: bubblyrat
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 12:26 PM

Well said,Chas !!After all,it takes all sorts to make a world, not just the EFDSS Elitists !!


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 12:52 PM

From the responses so far it looks like this thread should be labeled UK... And good on the UK for being more open to unaccompanied singers. The only American unaccompanied singer I've heard do a full concert was Helen Schneyer, and even with her, if there was a piano around, she'd do some songs with piano. When I used to run a concert series, I booked Roy Harris and I thought he did a delightful concert... beautifully paced and entertaining. Unaccompanied. Afull concert of unaccompanied music works as much as anything on the personality of the singer (without a sense of humor, hello Snoozeville) and a good mix of humorous, upbeat, ballads and songs with choruses.

For me, singing some songs unaccompanied allows a freedom in phrasing and emotion that a regularly metered accompaniment may
tie down. Whether it's a ballad that my sound like a real story being told, or an upbeat, bumorous song where the singer can be playful with phrasing, some songs just sound best unaccompanied, to my ears.

Me being prejudiced and all.

And a state-sider, to boot.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 01:14 PM

upbeat, bumorous song ~ so if a funny song is humourous, would that be a rude song about bums?

Anyway...

I frequently hear a certain person sing accompanying themselves on guitar or mandolin. When they sing thus, I have difficulty in understanding the words because their head is bent down towards the instrument and I rely a lot on lipreading for comprehension. They also incorporate a lot of instrumental frills and furbelows which distract from the lyric. Not so long ago I heard this same person sing without accompaniment and was surprised to realise I could understand the words! I suspect it was partly because they were not looking down at the instrument, but also because they were putting the emphasis on the words and injecting some meaning into them, rather than the almost rote recitation that many of their songs have become.

Many players spend half the song looking down at their hands on the strings which can deaden the voice, not to mention constricting the throat and chest. Some concentrate on making a wonderful guitar accompaniment to the detriment of the words. The trick is balance. I like a ratio of about 3 to 1 unaccompanied, but that's just my preference. I would consider a chorus song, with people joining in to be accompanied ~ there is no rule to say it has to be a stringed instrument!

LTS


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: GUEST,henryclem
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 01:21 PM

I wish I could play ... I fell into singing (unaccompanied) after spending quite a few years as a regular Folk Club listener. I was encouraged to have a go by our local Club host, and I've never regretted it even though I'm sure my voice shows my lack of training and practice. From my point of view the words have to be out in front and worth listening to because there ain't much else! Having said that I have no problem listening to good singers, like Ian Woods, all night long (and next morning if he's kipped on the sofa). I do know, though, that good musicians make much more of my songs than I am capable of - and that's through a combination of both vocal and instrumental musicality.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: GUEST
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 01:22 PM

several of those who sing unaccompanied do so because they feel they can't play well enough.

On the other hand there are those who sing accompanied because they feel they can't sing well enough - "And I think I'm a better guitarist than I am a singer - mind you, I would only ever describe myself as a 'competent' guitarist!"

I think Jerry's got it right there about the way that "singing some songs unaccompanied allows a freedom in phrasing and emotion that a regularly metered accompaniment may tie down." And let no one dare say that Jerry can't play well enough!

True enough people often enough feel they can't play well enough, or know they can't play at all. But that really isn't any reason for them not to sing, or for anyone to assume that singing without musical accompaniment is somehow to be defined as second best. It's different, that's all, the way that a solo singer is different from a choir, or a solo instrumentalist is different from an orchestra or a band.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 01:23 PM

That last was me with a cookie gone walkabout.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: GUEST,Terry McDonald
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 01:32 PM

re the response to that quote from me .....can't argue with that!


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Stewart
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 01:41 PM

LTS, I agree. Many singers who accompany themselves on guitar tend to be better guitar players than singers, or else they put more into the guitar accompaniment than their singing. The understanding of the words often suffer. The accompaniment to a song should be understated so as to emphasize the song.

I am a fiddle player who can also sing, but can't do both at the same time. So I play a fiddle intro, sing unaccompanied, more fiddle between verses or as a break, etc. I enjoy this because I get to do both instrumentals and singing. And the singing comes across better, as I can concentrate fully on that at the time, and I think it focuses people's attention on the words and message of the song. It also adds variety for the listener, to both play an instrument and sing, but not at the same time.

Cheers, S. in Seattle


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Bee
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 01:47 PM

It's unusual here in the Maritimes to hear any unaccompanied singing, unless it's a Gaelic tune or a spiritual (we have some marvellous gospel singers, mostly from Nova Scotia's black communities).

Myself, I find I rely on the guitar to keep on key - I ain't that accomplished a singer OR player, but with both together I think I make a reasonably pleasant sound.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 01:58 PM

The one thing that bugs me most though, is when I stand up to sing, just because I don't carry a guitar, doesn't mean the audience should provide guitar backing!

LTS


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: JohnB
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 02:01 PM

I think that a fairer comparison would be "apples to apples" not "apples to Oranges". If you do not like a whole evening of mediocre to good solo a cappella singing, it should be compared to a whole evening of mediocre to good single instrument playing. It can not be compared to accompanied singing, with better or worse voice to instrument capeability.
I personally woulf by far prefer to sit through an eving of mediocre singing than mediocre instumentals.
I play well enough to piss off a lot of people who play worse than I do but I seldom inflict this on the paying public. I do however sing a cappela frequently, mostly with two other voices, who are both female.
In a crowded pub environment, I have never heard everyone stop talking to listen to any number of instrumentalists on any instrument however good they happen to be. I, and with my a cappella group have totally silenced the busiest of pubs with voice only.
Now! what really anoys me are groups like Crucible for instance who do both equally as well :)
JohnB


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: GUEST,The black belt caterpillar wrestler
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 02:18 PM

What about the effect of instrumentation on the abillity to learn the words?
I find that I larn and remember the words better of songs that I hear unaccompanied.
Conversely the radio station that I listen to on the way to work has a daily competition where pop song lyrics are read out. I never reconise them even if I know the song well because it's the tune that I listen to, not the words.
Is it something to do with me hearing tunes as a series of chords with a melody over?


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Charley Noble
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 02:36 PM

Several thoughts:

First, thanks to Dick Miles for starting this thread!

Second, "It's true that an instrument helps the singer to stay in the right key throughout the song" is only true if one is able to tune and play the instrument in question.

Third, in the States, most of us nautical singers sing the shanties unaccompanied. Forebitters are more commonly accompanied.

I do find it useful to use an instrument when I am puzzling out a new song, trying to learn it. I have no problems accompanying my singing with banjo but singing while playing the concertina is still a challenge to me; I'm sure it's just a matter of practice.

When our group is figuring out harmonies for a song, we usually use a guitar to make sure we are singing within the chords. Then it's usually better for us to just listen carefully to what we're singing without an instrument to achieve a pleasing blend. We may bring back instrumentation later once we've got the song down.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Scrump
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 02:45 PM

Second, "It's true that an instrument helps the singer to stay in the right key throughout the song" is only true if one is able to tune and play the instrument in question.

I can't argue with that, Charley.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: GUEST,pattyClink
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 02:46 PM

Thanks for the links George. There were some clips for Dave & Annie and for Metcalfe.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: GUEST,Val
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 02:47 PM

Just to toss a couple more opinions into the stew...

When a club or venue specifies "absolutely no instruments" for a particular evening, that may not be snobbery. It might be that if they leave it open, they feel the instrumentalists might "take over" or something. In a disorganized sing-around, an instrument also helps a person jump in for their turn (perhaps overriding someone who is vocal only) by launching into a couple of introductory chords. Also, heavily instrumental arrangements may "desensitize" some audience members to vocal subtleties - at first blush, a vocal-only presentation following a band may seem bland, especially to the Great Unwashed Masses. There are probably many more options for instrumental or combined instrument/vocal performances, and relatively few for primarily-vocal without accompaniment - so perhaps they want to stand their ground and say "for THIS evening, NO instruments." Seems fair to me.

As for singing while accompanying yourself, I think it takes both talent and practice to have GOOD instrumental and GOOD vocal at the same time. I suspect just about everyone would say they can put more nuance & subtlety into their performance if they only focus on one or the other.

There is one other variation that doesn't seem to be talked about much so far in this thread ... a duet or ensemble where vocal & instrumental duties are divided. Thus you have the benefits of accompanied singing (pitch reference & more complex arrangement) while still allowing each performer to focus entirely upon their particular part. Of course, that usually DOES call for a bit of prior planning and maybe even making friends with other performers rather than isolating yourself in your own music [grin].

-Val
who sings middling well while playing guitar, rather poorly while playing harp, & generally plays or sings better when that's all I'm doing.

(For those keeping demographic score, I'm in the US)


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 02:52 PM

When working out harmonies with my quartet, the instrument is a distraction. It's a lot easier to hear the harmonies without an instrument, and then to add the instrument to complement the voices.
I also like to drop the instrument (singular) for a chorus, just so everyone can really hear the words and the harmonies. Then, when I bring the guitar back in, it brings another dimension.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: MoorleyMan
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 02:56 PM

Have just found this thread, and what a sensible and reasoned discussion.

My own view is that in an ideal world/gig there's a place for all - unaccompanied and accompanied song, and purely instrumental music, and indeed monologues and stories. I love all of these, in balance.

The song being performed to some extent dictates the mode of performance. Some songs just don't work unaccompanied, and vice versa is also true. As several of you say, communication of the song /story/emotion is of paramount importance. Yes Mr Padgett, it is after all the traditional way. And some songs need the freedom of phrasing that accompaniment denies them, in order to best communicate that. Some songs are written to communicate best when accompanied however, I won't deny that either - but it's not easy to explain why the complex mix of emotions works better in the service of the song with accompanied chords or harmonies. Whatever, in any performance, accompanied or unaccompanied, surely nothing (whether fussy chords or fake accent) ought to be to the detriment of actually communicating the song.

Sure, as an atrocious guitarist (and fiddle player) myself, I salute any capable instrumentalist. I admire and respect those who can do well what they do, whatever that happens to be. I realise however that "well" is for many not a mark of quality but a personal value judgement that is born of often unreasoned or uninformed prejudice. Which is why most clubs won't even consider booking an unaccompanied singer, even for half of a double bill (probably the best "compromise" if compromise is needed). Sure, there are some who I couldn't "listen to all night". But the truth is that there are also unaccompanied singers who can/would/do carry a night, or extended set, simply due to their breadth or range of material (or variety in delivery/pace).

I too have been bored rigid by a self-absorbed accompanied singer (a professional) yet enchanted by an unaccompanied singer (an amateur) who had a decently wide range of songs and included chorus songs which generated at least some of the necessary variety in texture. Oh yes, and who engaged their audience by communicating interest in the actual songs rather than a dull succession of personal anecdotes to cover interminable tuning of instrument.

But I've also been bored rigid by just one half-hour guest spot by an unaccompanied singer whose repertoire consisted entirely of intentionally comic songs all done in the same manner. Even though I like comic songs!
Jerry's comment >>A full concert of unaccompanied music works as much as anything on the personality of the singer ... and a good mix of humorous, upbeat, ballads and songs with choruses<< rings true here in the UK as in the States.

If I booked acts for a club I'd never just "write off" an unaccompanied performer simply because they don't play an instrument. And I'd not automatically consider a performer more favourably simply because they can accompany themself on one or more instruments.   

There's my two pennorth at any rate.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: The Villan
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 03:36 PM

Why must a club cater for both.

I set my stall out when I started Market Rasen Folk Club which is now Faldingworth Live.

It would be concert style and accompanied performers that were invited to play, rather than them inviting themselves. The club is very singer/songwriter based.

I have met a lot of criticism over the time from certain people, but have stuck to my guns.

The club hasn't suffered because of it.

Basically as far as I am concerned, if I pronmote and run a club, I do it my way, not how soembody else tells me to do it.

Having said all that, there is no reason why people can't set up A Capella clubs and run it their way.

Likewise somebody who wants to run a singalong club can do what they want to do.

Just like session clubs can do what they want to do.

At the end of the day its up to each club to decide what they want and stick to it. It is also up to the audience to decide where they want to go to.

What it isn't up to, is for somebody to force a club to go in a direction they don't want to go.

I have always tried to be honest with performers and if their style suited my club, great, if not then I tell them. That doesn't make them bad performers.

I have been to some clubs, where a contemporary performer has been in the wrong club and vice versa. I don't think that helps the performer.

I also think it is important that all club organisers explain what style their club is before booking a performer, so that they know clearly where they stand.

There you go. Thats my ten penneth from somebody who doesn't know FA about folk music but has got off his arse and done somethiong about putting live music on the map.

I will get my coat and wait for the abuse. :-)


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: The Villan
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 03:39 PM

Did I just say all of that oooh errr


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Charley Noble
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 04:47 PM

;~()


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Rowan
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 04:59 PM

Lots of thought-provoking stuff.

Solo unaccompanied singing.
Unaccompanied harmonies sung in small ensembles.
Solo singing with one instrument accompanying.
Small-groups singing accomapnied by one or more instruments.

I started off singing unaccompanied because I could sing but not play anything musical. Campfire songs, music hall, shanties, ballads, jingles, forebitters, marching songs, counting/repetition songs; all were grist to the mill. Solo, you were forced into listening to how others made the song work and then put your own efforts into making it work. While I didn't do gigs continuously it was easy enough to vary the pace, style etc and break up the pattern with the occasional recitation. I suspect the story-telling used by some performers between their songs is their subtitute for recitations.

Then I got involved with Pageant, six people from Victoria, Sydney and Canberra, who were all solo singers (two sopranos, two tenors, two baritone/bass) and only the tenors could play instruments; free reed ones, as it happened. We felt that the best songs were ones that stood without accompaniment by instruments, so we sang unaccompanied harmonies. Much, probably most, of our repertoire was UK in origin (two of us were originally Poms) and American friends who've heard our stuff compared it favourably with the Voice Squad. We did lots of gigs for whole evenings/afternoons and the variations in style provided by solo and group singing were easily supported.

Most of us were also dancers and an accident of timing at a National meant we had to become a bush dance band for a TV spot demonstrating some colonial dances. We didn't want Pageant's reputation sullied by a wonky band performance so we changed our name. The broadcast started Higgins Municipal Bush Band on its way and also started us singing to solo and group instrumental accompaniment to some acclaim.

Personally I still find it easier to sing unaccompanied but I'm lucky enough to be able to both hold pitch for an extended song, as well as hold a melodic line against another equally strong melodic line. Some very good singers find both difficult but their vocal qualities still make them superb to listen to. As many melodeon and Anglo players know, these instruments breathe differently to people so I have a limited ability to sing while playing. Interestingly, I find it very easy to call dances while playing the tunes I use for various dances; I suspect I'm using the calling as a singing accompaniment to the playing. I've not heard too many others criticise my paying the way I do.

Cheers, Rowan


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Dave Sutherland
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 05:40 PM

For ten years I was involved in the running of the very successful South Tyne Folk and Blues where unaccompanied ballads and twelve bar blues stood shoulder to shoulder perfectly integrated. On a typical evening it would not be uncommon to hear songs gleaned from the repertoires of Bukka White, Harry Cox and Roy Harper appreciated equally by the audience. In fact the only time I heard our unaccompanied singers derided was by a no-hope, wanabee guitarist who was so bad we had to tell this person no more floor spots. Over the last forty plus years I have never felt that there is any snobbery attached to unaccompanied singing although I have heard stories circulating, mainly untrue, that certain traditionally based clubs(Nottingham Traditional Music Club suffered from this one) have barred any form of instrumentation, yet I have also seen advertisments for folk clubs declaring "floor singers with guitars welcome". These days as part of Traditions at the Tiger all four of our residents sing unaccompanied; no snobbery and nothing to do with it being "more traditional" we'd love to see more instrumentalists there.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: MoorleyMan
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 05:59 PM

It seems that an element of defensiveness has crept into this discussion.
Guest, Val - your point about audiences being "desensitized" is well made, and yes, clubs can easily make their own rules regarding instruments or no instruments for a particular theme night or whatever, or experiment just to test the water, that doesn't mean it has to be a permanent change in whatever direction.

Villan - no need to get yr coat, no criticism was intended of any particular club, I and other correspondents were just making observations on trends in and club attitudes in general, in my humble case based on experience of "all three sides of the fence" (and in different geographical areas, though not the States or Canada I'll admit) over a period of some 25-30 years.

>>Why must a club cater for both.<<
I don't think that's what folks here are saying. It's not a case of "must". I'm sure nobody's trying to tell anyone how to run "their" club. Many of us are currently, or have at some point been, in the position of getting a club started and/or keeping it running, and all manner of factors come into play, which may vary from week to week. As Villan rightly says, >>At the end of the day its up to each club to decide what they want and stick to it. It is also up to the audience to decide where they want to go to.<< Yes, but even a "loyal" audience can be notoriously fickle, and you might well get a full house for Mr Carthy, say, if he was to advertise he would do a whole evening unaccompanied!

>>I have always tried to be honest with performers and if their style suited my club, great, if not then I tell them. That doesn't make them bad performers.<<
Both points particularly well made there. Honesty from and among club organisers will always be best policy for the performer, and for the club's audience too (if that can be accurately gauged). Again, the last sentence is the key, and only bears out what we said earlier.

Finally: Scrump - your >> "It's true that an instrument helps the singer to stay in the right key throughout the song" is only true if one is able to tune and play the instrument in question<<
Yes, and that applies too if the instrument in question is the voice itself doesn't it? There's no disgrace in an unaccompanied singer taking his/her pitch from (say) a concertina before starting the song, and neither does that need make him/her a "bad performer", any more than it makes an accompanied singer who's reliant on an instrument a "bad performer".


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 06:07 PM

I am usually reluctant to sing unaccompanied.

IMHO you have to have a much better voice (bel canto voice) to be as pleasing to the ear as a solo unaccompanied singer than either as a harmony unaccompanied singer or any sort of accompanied singer.

Part of the big problem in persuading the audience to accept solo unaccompanied singer is that there are (I fear) more who think they can cut it as a solo unaccompanied singer than actually can.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Scrump
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 06:35 PM

>> "It's true that an instrument helps the singer to stay in the right key throughout the song" is only true if one is able to tune and play the instrument in question<<

Moorleyman, just to be clear: I can only take the credit for the remark in quotes. It was Charley Noble who added the rest. I merely said I couldn't argue with his addition. I don't want to take credit for Charley's thoughts.

I stand by that assessment of Charley's additional comment.

Yes, and that applies too if the instrument in question is the voice itself doesn't it? There's no disgrace in an unaccompanied singer taking his/her pitch from (say) a concertina before starting the song, and neither does that need make him/her a "bad performer", any more than it makes an accompanied singer who's reliant on an instrument a "bad performer".

Just after my original quote above, McGrath of Harlow said: "Often enough I'll use the guitar to get me singing in the right key, the one I've found works for the song, and then I'll put it down to sing the rest of the song."

I agree with that, and it's what I do too, if I sing unaccompanied and I have my guitar with me. It helps me to start in the right key.

As you rightly say, there's no disgrace. I've never thought there was. I simply pluck the appropriate note and off I go, confident in the knowledge I've started in the right key. The idea of it being somehow cheating or shameful to do this has never occurred to me. I've seen some unaccompanied singers use pitch pipes for the same purpose. Maybe there are a few 'hardcore traddies' around who would frown on this as somehow 'cheating', but I've never encountered any (so far! Maybe One of them will reply to this!)

What I said at the top of this post, referred to the fact that an unaccompanied singer can gradually drift off key, especially during a long song. Having some sort of instrumental accompaniment prevents this happening, which was my point.

Charley then pointed out that it was important to ensure you are able to tune and play the instrument in question, in order to accompany yourself when singing. I have to agree, as not being able to do these things would clearly preclude successful accompaniment of the singer.

I hope that clarifies things so far!


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: RTim
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 07:09 PM

I would love to contribute to this thread - but as I am only a boring un-accompanied singer 99.9% of the time, I will slide back into my hole.

Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: MoorleyMan
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 07:38 PM

Scrump - sure, I'm absolutely clear about who is credited with which parts of the quote! No confusion there as far as I saw.

>>As you rightly say, there's no disgrace. I've never thought there was ... The idea of it being somehow cheating or shameful to do this has never occurred to me. I've seen some unaccompanied singers use pitch pipes for the same purpose. Maybe there are a few 'hardcore traddies' around who would frown on this as somehow 'cheating', but I've never encountered any (so far! ...)<<
Well, interestingly enough I've found that it's mostly the accompanied singers (and not the "hardcoree traddies") who consider the use by an unaccompanied singer of any instrument (including pitch pipe) to obtain the desired pitch to be "cheating" ! Rather a perverse way of looking at it I'd say....

Richard Bridge - sure, you're right, >>there are (I fear) more who think they can cut it as a solo unaccompanied singer than actually can<< - well yes, and physiology means no-one can hear themself as others hear them (there was more about that on another thread) .... but (I too fear) your assertion goes for musicians and accompanied singers too - there's always been a misconception that anyone can pick up a guitar and get away with strumming three approximate chords or less and hey presto they're folk musicians, hallelujah! We all know it's what you do with the chords and "between the notes" that makes musicality out of any accompaniment to a song.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Rowan
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 08:02 PM

MoorleyMan has unearthed a notion that's completely novel (and foreign) to me, with
"There's no disgrace in an unaccompanied singer taking his/her pitch from (say) a concertina before starting the song" and
" I've found that it's mostly the accompanied singers (and not the "hardcoree traddies") who consider the use by an unaccompanied singer of any instrument (including pitch pipe) to obtain the desired pitch to be "cheating" ! Rather a perverse way of looking at it I'd say...."

Extraordinary!

We routinely used Lynne's recorder to give us a pitch when singing as a group, because many of the harmonies stretched close to the limits of individual members and the songs we sang occupied a variety of keys. At the same time as Pageant was rollicking along from Sydney to Melbourne, Rumbylowe were hitting their straps in Brisbane, with similar repertoire and success. It was a lovely sight to see Martin Gallagher hold his wrist to his ear, diddle a few notes up or down the scale, after which they'd all start singing. His watch was one of the very early digital models where the quartz crystal oscillator was just audible; its note was 3/5 of 5/8 of FA off D, and perfect or the task.

I've heard lots of guitarists whose notion of D was a lot further away than Martin's watch.

Cheers, Rowan


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 08:09 PM

I sing both self-accompanied and unaccompanied, and find some songs go better with, and others without, accompaniment, while some can reasonably be sung either way (although as others have said, the same song may sound different with/without accompaniment: what should not happen is for the accompaniment to drive the song. We've probably all heard people sing accompanied songs in such perfect meter that you could set a stopwatch to them, but the song becomes devoid of expression and meaning.
As for the ability to play and sing at the same time, it really depends on the skill you have with the instrument (has it become as familiar as driving a car, so you can change gear/chords without thinking about it?): while I can sing while playing guitar or bodhran (as I've been playing them for longer)I cannot sing and play button acccordion at the same time (too many neural connections required!)even with songs I know really well.
And another strange phenomenon, I've come across one or two people who can't sing a song they know well WITHOUT their chosen instrument if they happen not to have it with them: that to me seems really odd, but might be explained by some of the "purist" unaccompanied singers as "hiding behind an instrument".


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Captain Ginger
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 03:36 AM

I think the consensus here is that neither way is 'right', and that both schools have their stars and dunces.
From a listener's point of view, I have to say I'm glad Villan has outlined the policy at the club he runs, because that means that I can comfortably avoid it should I be in the area. There is a similar club near where I live which prides itself on being 'a performance venue' rather than a folk club, and every act there carries a guitar and generally does self-penned material. The overall effect is one of stupefying dullness and twangling onanism, I'm afraid.
Give me variety any day - which, to me, is contemporary and traditional, accompanied and unaccompanied, group and solo - anything but bloody wall-to-wall snigger snogwriters with guitars!


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Alec
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 04:02 AM

I agree with what Captain Ginger says about variety.
I am extremely partial to a well prepared Tikka Balti but would not want to have one at every meal.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Scrump
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 04:48 AM

I think I know what Captain Ginger means about singer/songwriting guitar players, but as a guitarist myself, I hope he's not including us all in that assessment. (I hardly write any of my own material, but maybe that makes me even worse, as not only do I sing and play the guitar, but I pinch other people's songs into the bargain?)

For me, variety is important and I wouldn't particularly want to go to a club where there were only this type of performer, any more than I'd want to go to a club where it was all finger-in-the-ear hardcore traddies singing a cappella; or all concertina players; or whatever. Although I have enjoyed myself in one or two 'single varietal' clubs, but these were exceptionally good at what they do. But generally, I prefer to see different types of performer. But then I appreciate that others may prefer a more limited range of artists.

But there's nothing wrong with a club that decides to 'specialise', as long as people going to it know what to expect. If I go to a club and don't like it, then I can just give it a miss in future.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: The Villan
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 06:23 AM

You have your opinion Captain Ginger, but you are also offensive to performers who put a lot of work in to provide very good music.

I suggest you have a look at the diary for Faldingworth Live before you make snide comments.

I probably put more variety than most clubs and each person on gets 25 mins minimum. A lot of hard work goes in to provide an excellent evening of entertainment with variety. The main guest on a Friday gets 1 hour.
There are 7 resident performers + 2 others who whilst not resident never the less perform on a regular basis.

They are Stitherum, Helian Keys, Steve Newton, Andrew Tiffany, Aimee Robertson, Wild Wolds Women, Gwenda & Terry Cater, John Blanks and The Twanglers.
They rotate during the year and each one does about 6 evenings through the year.

To support each main guest there are 3 acts who each do 25 minutes using the above mentioned plus other performers who play on an occasional basis.

Below is the full program for 2007. Don't know if you know any of them Captain Ginger. If you dont then you must have your head stuck up your bottom. Do you run a club CG or just whinge when somebody won't put you on.

2007
12/01/2007    Friday Jet Skiffle & Blues

Saturday January 20th Jez Lowe & Kate Bramley in Concert

26/01/2007    Friday Helian Keys
9/02/2007      Friday WinterWilson
23/02/2007    Friday Dick Appleton

03/03/2007 Saturday In Concert Allan Taylor

09/03/2007        Friday Dave & Julie Evardson
23/03/2007        Friday Mark Newman
06/04/2007        Friday Copper Kettle
20/04/2007        Friday No Fixed Abode
04/05/2007        Friday George Papavgeris

12/05/2007 Saturday In Concert His Worship & The Pig

18/05/2007        Friday        Daz & Anna Barker
01/06/2007        Friday        Clarty Sough
15/06/2007        Friday        Mary Humphrys & Anahata
29/06/2007        Friday        Hamish Currie

07/07/2007 Saturday In Concert Derek Brimstone

13/07/2007        Friday        Steve Turner
07/09/2007        Friday        Ploughmans Bunch

15/09/2007 Saturday In Concert Bram Taylor

21/09/2007        Friday        Byards Leap
05/10/2007        Friday        Ember
19/10/2007        Friday        Gainsborough Folk Festival

27/10/2007 Saturday In Concert Pete Coe

02/11/2007        Friday        Cara
16/11/2007        Friday        Paul Bellamy & Mark Campbell
30/11/2007        Friday        John Conolly

08/12/2007 Saturday In Concert Flossie Malavialle

14/12/2007        Friday        Edwina Hayes


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Scrump
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 06:32 AM

Some excellent acts there, Villan. Wish I lived nearer myself so I could come to a few of those.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Captain Ginger
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 06:45 AM

I wasn't whingeing, Villan - merely expressing my own opinions about a club near me which takes itself rather preciously and which is full of people playing self-penned stuff tiresomely.
On the basis of what you said about your club I came to the conclusion that it wasn't for me. Just because your taste is not the same as mine, there's no reason to accuse me of being up my own arse. De gustibus non disputandum est an' all that.
I've heard of most of your guests, of course, and some of them I like. But I also like other music. For me, 'folk' is clearly a broader and more robust church than it is for you.
But good luck with the venture - anyone running a club (and yes, I have done that in my time) needs that. You may need a thicker skin, however.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: The Villan
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 07:34 AM

>>Just because your taste is not the same as mine, there's no reason to accuse me of being up my own arse<<

Sorry CG I thought it was you who was going on about other performers.

In actual fact my taste of music covers most genres of music, from 1950's right the way through to current day. In fact the radio program I listen to most is radio one.

Folk music has its place but it is only a part of the big wide world.
I love music in all forms as for me it makes the world go around.

I can never understand why some people get so blinkered with one sort of music to the detriment of all other forms of music.

Anyway apologies for getting a bit het up.

Anyway here is a question to anybody

Through your life what percentage of all genres of music that you have listened to falls into the following 3 categories.

1. Unacompanied songs
2. Accompanied songs
3. instrumental (tunes)

Mine is
1. 1%
2. 98%
3. 1%

For me, that is why I like accompanied music of all genres.

Some of the instrumental groups that I can think of are such as The Shadows, Johhny and The Hurricanes

Unaccompanied apart from Folk, I am unable to think of anybody taht woudl spring to mind.

Accompanied well I could fill Mudcat with that one.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: The Villan
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 07:36 AM

Scrump
>>Some excellent acts there, Villan. Wish I lived nearer myself so I could come to a few of those<<

Thanks for that. Shame you aren't nearer.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Captain Ginger
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 08:02 AM

Gracious apology accepted - thanks!
For me the stats are the other way around in that 90 per cent of my live musical experience has been unaccompanied singing or instrumental. Recorded is a different matter - excluding classical music and rock/pop, I'd say maybe 25 per cent of what I've heard has been accompanied.
As for unaccompanied stuff outside the folk world - it is rare, particularly solo stuff.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 09:31 AM

Unaccompanied non-folk? Meaning without the accompaniment of a musical instrument.

Plenty of church music of various sorts.

But generally speaking, if its unaccompanied it's going to be claimed as a kind of folk music, and we'll probably have an argument on the Mudcat as to whether it should be so included(eg football chants).
..................................

There are some great people booked for Villan's club, and I have every admiration for anyone who can get a viable club going like that. Can't say I agree with having rigid rules about whether people sing their own songs or other people's songs or traditional songs, and whether they use musical instruments or not, but if having rigid rules is seen by him as important for the club I'd shrug it off. Especially if its a way of giving the club street cred with those people who might not be at ease with the types of music excluded.

And a policy like that might well provide the spur for a folk event running in parallel, building up an overlapping set of regulars. Two where there was one.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: The Sandman
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 10:57 AM

the reason why both these singers clubs in Ireland,have a no instrument policy is this,there are many traditional irish music sessions,where singers dont get much of a look in,but plenty of places where irish musicians can play irish music.
so im fairly sure its an attempt to keep it a singing venue,both of the clubs, the spailpin fanach and the skibbereen singers club are well attended,and had a great variety of singers and styles[even though it was all unaccompanied].
I believe when Sara Grey did the Spailpin club she was allowed to use her banjo.Ipreferred to accept the challenge.http://www.dickmiles.com


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 12:12 PM

I must confess to being in some situations where a song might have been appropriate but the sheer number of musical instruments in the room has made me feel totally inadequate - and I'm not exactly quiet! Certainly my two weekends in Portaferry have shown that. The last time I went, 2 years ago, there were a great many more songs sung. This year, there seemed to be a greater number of tunes. I had a fantastic time both times, but I just felt totally overwhelmed by the number of instruments I'd have to sing past this weekend.

LTS


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 12:26 PM

Sometimes in a good singaround, when it gets to someone's turn, and they start opening up a case and tuning a guitar, it really does break the rhythm that can build up around the room. And when the accompaniment drown out the words of a song you'd like to hear, that's annoying too. That can happen even with a really skilfully played accompaniment. In fact that can be even more irritating, because the words get in the way of the guitar, and you lose out that way too.

This is a special kind of situation there - I'm not putting down the idea of singing with accompaniment, still less the art of fine guitar accompaniments.
...........................

One thing I've noticed - in a session which is predominantly tunes, when someone sings a song, it often seems to work much better when it's unaccompanied, for the contrast and the concentration.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: The Sandman
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 12:55 PM

mcgrath ,your last statement is absolutely right,I think what happens is that people feel at liberty to chat during tunes.
you can normally get order in a seSsion and people will listen to one unaccompanied song ,providing its not too long.
But they somehow associate instruments with tunes,and start to chat through an accompanied song [im talking about IRELAND now].another reason why singers want to have their own clubs[I think]is that they can attempt longer songs without losing the bar audience attention,because they are in a separate room and everyone who is there has come to listen to songs.
one very good tip for singers in sessions, apart from sticking to unaccompanied songs, is to choose songs that start on a high note,it grabs peoples attention,and to choose songs that only have three or four verses. http://www.dickmiles.com


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: GUEST,zalby
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 01:09 PM

there is a lot to be said about unaccompanied singing, I find it a refreshing change to go into a bar/parlour where a "sing-a-round" is in session. Most memorable from a visit to a traditional Irish pub where someone starts and each person then does a "turn" as the flow goes around the room.
here in Stockport, England we have a folk club that does just that. every Monday is a sing-a-round with each person doing a song/story/monologue in turn. The session is led by the host who interrupts the round every so ften with a song accompanied to his/her musical instrument. But by and large it is great entertainment


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Barry Finn
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 04:40 PM

I'd have to say that over here in the Northeast US there are very few singing sessions, except the 7 shanty sings that I know of. The Irish sessions that I know of (unless they're a house session) are mostly instrumental & sing is frowned upon & some of these sessions have some good singers attending that play. I don't know why, maybe it's become an unwritten rule that even the singers are discouraged to sing, I don't attend enough anymore to know. The Press Room in NH is the exception. I haven't been to the UK & last I was in Ireland was 20 + yrs ago but I can fully understand the no instrument policies. When I was in Ireland there was singing at sessions but I can see why all the singer's clubs started cropping up, I wish it would happen here (aside from the shanty sings).
I sing mostly unaccompanied, (I only play a bodhran though I do at times use it to back up some of my songs) so I'm stuck there but I don't mind a sensitive accompaniment on soft, sweet or slow stuff, on rough, rowdy or raunchy stuff I don't care if the house joins in. I do find that because I normally focus my treatment of a song & how to use my voice to put it over that when others join in I sometimes have to block them out if they're not sensitive to how I'm phrasing, my timing, where I'm putting my emphasis on ornamentation, etc. & I do feel like I'm losing a bit in my treatment of the song as a trade off for the accompaniment. Granted if I could play an instrument well I probably could get past that with a lot of practice.
As for listening to unaccompanied singing I could relish in it for days on end depending who's doing it. To me there's nothing like a voice alone. It can vary far more that any instrument IMHO. The variety in voices is an inexhaustible resource for musical sound. I can also listen to the likes of the Watersons the Voice Squad, Finest Kind (Canadian) the Copper Family, Dave & Annie & other of that ilk non stop for months. On the other hand I could sit in ecstasy listening to some singer/songwriters accompany themselves or have a group backing them up like George Papavgeris, Duncan MacFairlane (sp), Jez Lowe, etc. Now some of these folks don't need instrumentation to put their songs over but if they feel that an accompanymentwell give it a bit extra, then by all means they should & I'd have to say that they'd be right about it too.
What I enjoy most is a great singing session where all voices are heard together, swapping leads, the various harmonies, the same melodies being done by different voices or just a step above the other, even those that couldn't carry a note if they had a bucket joining in. I had a friend tell me yrs ago that at sea (1915's-1930's) they'd all join in on the chorus & a good portion of those couldn't hold a note but it all came out as a sort of natural harmony.
What it boils down to is personnel taste & personnel opinion & in my case the voice is by far my musical choice & it is first & will be the last instrument we will use to make music. This doesn't make me a singing snob it's just what I like, I wouldn't go around putting other types or styles of music down but I definitely would ignore one type of workshop for another.

And Villan if I do ever get your way I'd love to drop in on your club, it sounds to me like the balls. Someday I do hope to visit some of the Irish singing clubs too.

Barry


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Barry Finn
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 04:52 PM

Just as an aside to my above comments. Folks that can't sing joinging in with others never takes away for the sound of the group It can only strengthen it, if it's coming from within, with passion , heart & soul. If one listens to the field tapes of group singing in a natrual enviorment; say the field recordings of prison work gangs singing, or of the fishing communities they all didn't have good voices, a good voice wasn't even a requirement for a lead but the sound as a whole IMHO becomes more forcefull, more natural & more complete than those if it were just a roomful of "good singers".

Barry


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Rowan
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 05:35 PM

Until the mid 70s, if you randomly gathered 500 folkies together in Australia, I'd reckon only about 100 of them would have been players of instruments, and most of that 100 would have been singers accompanying themselves with guitars. So most of the sessions were singing sessions with no instrumental accompaniment.

And they were truly awesome. The PLT at the National in Melbourne, '73 had more than 800 singing in Humphrey Trantor's workshop on rounds and canons and later on, the same number singing spirituals. The main bar of the (now demolished) pub under the Sydney Harbour Bridge had the same number of singers going for about 8 hours on shanties and choruses during the National in '75.

As Barry put it so colourfully, some couldn't carry a note in a bucket but the total effect was truly musical, in every way. As were Jeannie Lewis and Margret Roadknight in their (usually, but not always) accompanied performances.

Cheers, Rowan


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 05:44 PM

"...it sounds to me like the balls."

To avoid misunderstanding, I take it that's a favourable comment, Barry? Because it could be taken the other way in this country...


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: The Villan
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 05:47 PM

BF
George, Duncan and Jez, with instruments :-) - wow what a night that would make. I love all three of them.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: GUEST,Val
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 06:11 PM

Just thought of one other fair reason for a solo performer to accompany him/her self on an instrument, which I don't recall seeing yet in the discussion (apologies if I overlooked one of the posts) -

It fills in a space between (or within) verses to allow for catching a breath, or to give time to rack your brain to remember the words of the next verse!

Val
(whose motto is "That wasn't a mistake, that was Jazz")


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 06:31 PM

I sing regularly at an open mike in a coffee house, and typically I'll be told that I can have 20 minutes.

Now my songs are usually fairly short, and 20 minutes, with introductions, means about six songs.

I sing with guitar or banjo much of the time, but in a six-song set I'll probably sing the second and fourth or fifth song unaccompanied.

Some of my songs are such, and my interpretive style is such, that I cannot imagine an instrumental accompaniment doing anything but getting in the way of what I want to accomplish.

Your mileage may vary.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 06:37 PM

To amplify my last post, I should say that most of my songs are story songs. If not outright ballads, then songs with a strong narrative feel to them.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Barry Finn
Date: 15 Feb 07 - 12:39 AM

Yes McGrath "the balls" is/was meant as a VERY favorable comment. Extremely close to a musical orgasm.

Villan, all 3 with OR without instruments & with OR without their groups, as a trio, that'd be something, ok, maybe at a workshop together, that's a little more a wishfull thought.
I've been lucky enough to have heard both George (not with his group) & Jez live (as opposed to dead?) a number of times & am always thrilled by them. I never heard Duncan but because of his posting here & a thread he contruibeed to I went to his web site, U-Tube & his My Space & gave him a listen & was really taken aback by his perfomences & it's not really my favorite type or style but really got a good kick in the ass (that's a good thing) hearing him/them.

Val, on the other hand, in some circles when time comes for another verse instead of trying to catch your breath, it's an excuse for some musicians to do their solo parts & if it a 3 verse song, not bad but when it's a 9 verse song it's the listeners that are holding their breath waiting for it to get over & it's the singer tthat's falling asleep, espicially if it has a chorus.

All the best
Barry


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Scrump
Date: 15 Feb 07 - 05:09 AM

really got a good kick in the ass (that's a good thing) hearing him/them

Glad you explained that too, Barry. Because that could be taken the other way in this country...

:D


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: GUEST,Val
Date: 15 Feb 07 - 01:35 PM

"...in some circles when time comes for another verse instead of trying to catch your breath, it's an excuse for some musicians to do their solo parts & if it a 3 verse song, not bad but when it's a 9 verse song ..."

Oh, I agree. I wasn't trying to say that instrumental interludes SHOULD be used constantly. Most good singers oughtn't NEED such a pause in most songs, and a sense of artistry & proportion should dictate how an arrangement is balanced between instrument and vocal. Anything, even good ideas, taken to excess can be annoying.

But there have been a couple of occasions when I (not claiming to be a "good" singer) have been glad to be able to vamp for a measure or two to cover up either lyric fumbles or the fact that I should have phrased my breathing better.

Val


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: r.padgett
Date: 15 Feb 07 - 04:30 PM

Which all goes to show that unaccompanied singers have to work hard to entertain.

Flexibility in changing song types, ballads, shanties, stories, jokes, chorus songs, arm waving, juggling, tap dancing or whatever!!

It is somewhat difficult to stop singing/talking even when you cant remember the words without an instrument to fill in the gaps

I do think that extra strings to your bow is important even to the extent of having other back up workshop material and a possibility is to use archival material.

This of course depends on what you and potential clubs or other audiences perceive is or should be your motivation in wanting to sing your choice material

I am thinking obviously that folk song is a medium for learning as much as for artistic interpretation!!

Food for thought maybe and discussion?
Ray


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: The Villan
Date: 15 Feb 07 - 04:35 PM

>>Flexibility in changing song types, ballads, shanties, stories, jokes, chorus songs, arm waving, juggling, tap dancing or whatever!!
<<

Are you on about Pete Coe there Ray or yourself :-)


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: r.padgett
Date: 15 Feb 07 - 05:14 PM

I do take my cap off to Pete Coe

He is certainly an all rounder although I don't think he falls into Story telling. he has developed over the years

Story telling is certainly an art form in itself and people like Packie Manus Byrne was/is a brilliant singer storyteller and whistle player

Many of the source singers didn't play instruments as accompaniment but could play instruments (such as Walter Pardon) played melodeon

Indeed I was surprised to see that Bob Davenport was/is an Anglo player!

I would argue that on occasion accompaniment with instruments clearly makes a mess of the song and the singer's voice can be pushed unduly due to the noise generated (e.g. Melodeon)

I still contend that the story/narrative/lyrics are and should be all important and that the tune should be used as the vehicle to convey and generally the convention is to keep the accompaniment simple and unobtrusive (unless yer brilliant)

I certainly am trying to improve and experiment with parallel ways of entertaining such as storytelling and introducing songs as I feel that others should do too although these skills dont always go down too well in folk clubs where time is at premium!!

Ray


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