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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
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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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