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Is it Ok to sing from a song book?

Soldier boy 02 Feb 10 - 09:40 PM
Beer 02 Feb 10 - 10:00 PM
Artful Codger 02 Feb 10 - 10:29 PM
Artful Codger 02 Feb 10 - 10:45 PM
Janie 02 Feb 10 - 10:54 PM
Dave Swan 02 Feb 10 - 10:56 PM
Neil D 02 Feb 10 - 10:57 PM
Melissa 02 Feb 10 - 11:00 PM
JohnB 02 Feb 10 - 11:11 PM
katlaughing 02 Feb 10 - 11:16 PM
Songbob 02 Feb 10 - 11:16 PM
Janie 02 Feb 10 - 11:45 PM
Acorn4 03 Feb 10 - 09:32 AM
Dave the Gnome 03 Feb 10 - 09:35 AM
Raggytash 03 Feb 10 - 09:39 AM
Charley Noble 03 Feb 10 - 09:43 AM
GUEST 03 Feb 10 - 09:43 AM
MikeL2 03 Feb 10 - 09:44 AM
Tug the Cox 03 Feb 10 - 09:51 AM
Will Fly 03 Feb 10 - 10:00 AM
Leadfingers 03 Feb 10 - 10:12 AM
Nancy King 03 Feb 10 - 10:12 AM
Bernard 03 Feb 10 - 10:14 AM
Hamish 03 Feb 10 - 10:24 AM
Marje 03 Feb 10 - 10:25 AM
Maryrrf 03 Feb 10 - 10:28 AM
Howard Jones 03 Feb 10 - 10:37 AM
RTim 03 Feb 10 - 10:38 AM
Soldier boy 03 Feb 10 - 10:51 AM
Backwoodsman 03 Feb 10 - 11:00 AM
doncatterall 03 Feb 10 - 11:08 AM
Blackcatter 03 Feb 10 - 11:25 AM
Bernard 03 Feb 10 - 11:27 AM
GUEST 03 Feb 10 - 11:38 AM
GUEST,muppett 03 Feb 10 - 11:52 AM
Joe Nicholson 03 Feb 10 - 11:54 AM
Soldier boy 03 Feb 10 - 12:02 PM
GUEST 03 Feb 10 - 12:05 PM
Bert 03 Feb 10 - 12:09 PM
Bill D 03 Feb 10 - 12:16 PM
Bernard 03 Feb 10 - 12:16 PM
Tattie Bogle 03 Feb 10 - 12:21 PM
Jack Campin 03 Feb 10 - 12:33 PM
Bill D 03 Feb 10 - 12:33 PM
mg 03 Feb 10 - 12:44 PM
GUEST,Auld timer 03 Feb 10 - 12:54 PM
jacqui.c 03 Feb 10 - 01:24 PM
GUEST,zpc 03 Feb 10 - 01:42 PM
GUEST,Kendall 03 Feb 10 - 01:49 PM
VirginiaTam 03 Feb 10 - 01:57 PM
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Subject: Is it OK to sing from a song book?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 09:40 PM

I'm approaching this question in a kind of apologetic and nervous/fearful manner because I worry about the response I might get!

I love the folk scene and have, over many years, found so many folkie friends who make my life so much richer; more than they may ever imagine.

I love a good singaround with these friends and many others and until recent years I used to stay in the background and just join in the popular choruses with all my heart.

But in the last two or three Years I have raised my head over the parapet and started to actually sing a song; usually in informal singarounds in a pub etc or in M.C directed singarounds where they go round the room and ask you if you want to do a song. Usually in "fringe" sessions at folk festivals in the UK.

I am not a good or a confident singer but I kind of get by and no one has yet said I was rubbish.

But the point of this thread is that I find it very hard to commit a song to memory and have to resort to my trusted old song book (To which I am adding songs all the time) to read from when I am delivering a song.

In some circles this seems to be OK but in others people have told me that it is frowned upon/ looked down upon because if I was really serious about singing I should learn the song by heart so I can lift my head and my voice and sing to the audience and not down to the book.

I do understand where thy are coming from in terms of giving the full effect to the volume of your voice and 'engaging' with your audience but is it really such a sin and frowned upon to sing from a song book?

I'm still pretty much a 'virgin' in the singing community and find this whole thing a bit bewildering and frankly intimidating.

So any advice and guidance here from 'old hands' and anybody else on the folk scene would be very much welcomed.

Thank you.

Chris


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Beer
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 10:00 PM

Chris.
This has been discussed before and I wish I could remember the thread. However your question is one that has bothered me over the years for I do the same thing. It started out innocently enough where by I thought it would be a great idea to start writing down words to songs. Only to realize that I stopped memorizing them. It is something I wish I had never done. However I am now in my early sixties and don't give a shit if someone is upset because I didn't memorize a number. I play in festivals, coffee house and pubs with my words and no one has complained. I do agree that it would be great not to use the paper stuff but many many musicians use them. Even the accomplished ones use karaoke machines on the stage pointing at then like monitors.

Bottom line. Just enjoy yourself. You can still pour your heart out in a song even if you are reading the lyrics.
Beer (adrien)


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Artful Codger
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 10:29 PM

I semi-know tons more songs than I could possibly commit fully to memory, and of the hundreds I've learned by heart, if I don't keep actively singing them, I space on large chunks. I see nothing wrong with using a book--it's about singing the song, not testing your memory skills. As others have said (quoting Martin Carthy?), the only way to dishonor a song is not to sing it. (I think there are plenty of other ways, but you get my point.) As long as you are otherwise prepared to do the song justice, have at it! Those who would snub their noses have their priorities screwed up. And probably keep singing the same songs ad nauseum.

On the other hand, "poor memory" often means that one just hasn't learned a good approach for memorizing songs, or hasn't applied it systematically. I'll bet there are lots of songs you do know by heart, putting the lie to "poor memory". (Which is not to say that because there are tried-and-true methods for memorizing, you should have to memorize every song before you perform it informally--that's just hogwash.)

There are multiple threads here giving tips on how to memorize lyrics, so we needn't digress into that here, though some kinds souls might refresh those threads, or link them here.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Artful Codger
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 10:45 PM

On the third hand, song books don't hold up well in the shower, and it's hard to read lyrics while driving, walking the dog, grocery shopping or weeding the gardens. So I find it's well worth the bother to memorize the good songs, and be free to sing them wherever the feeling strikes.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Janie
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 10:54 PM

Hi Chris,

Don't know if you have looked at other threads on the topic, but boy, is this one a controversial issue!

I have the same problem with remembering lyrics -have had it for several years now. If you love sharing the music and participating in song circles, I hope you do not let the distaste some have for those of us who need the lyrics in front of us from stopping you. Every voice that yearns to be raised in song deserves to be raised in song, in my opinion.

Having said that, I read about some song circles here on Mudcat where I would never be welcomed or valued because of my need for printed lyrics. If I knew in advance that needing the lyrics is anathema, that is not a song circle I would attend.    However, from what I can discern, most of these circles are composed of serious musicians interested only in playing and singing with other accomplished musicians. That is fine, and I understand that. I am grateful, though, for the number of fine musicians and singers in the world of folk music who value and encourage participation of us lesser mortals. My own singing has come a long way as the result of their encouragement and respect for the authenticity of my voice and desire to participate and sing, even though I am clearly not trained or professional. I'm like Auntie Bertha with the the guiless natural and spontaneous voice, singing on the front porch to keep myself company while stringing beans.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Dave Swan
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 10:56 PM

If you respect the tradition and the song, even if it's only one song, learn it and put the paper down. If you need more time to learn the song, take it.

D


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Neil D
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 10:57 PM

It's easier than singing from a math book.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Melissa
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 11:00 PM

It seems like the easiest way to tell whether books are welcome at various places would be to pay attention to whether others bring books (and keep an eye on the rest of the group to see how many rolling eyeballs).
I would think a place that provided a stand would probably have it for using..not purely decorative.

IF you're using a book, be sure to remember that they baffle sound. In front of your face, your voice is murfled and it's not much better when it's in front of an instrument.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: JohnB
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 11:11 PM

NO definitely NOT in some circles.
YES no problem in others.
And nair the twain shall meet.
Personally I don't, have many songs tucked away back there, which liberal applications of alcohol occasionally free up and they pour forth.
If you HAVE to, I would suggest that you go more for a "card" system, just write the first few words of each verse on a card and keep it hidden under the table or such for when you need it.
If you can't do anything without a book, use it, BUT do not let it affect the quality of performance by sticking your head into it and not interacting with your audience.
I have a friend who is a bit "techy" he uses an "i" thing which gives a wierd illumination to his face in darkened song circles.
JohnB


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: katlaughing
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 11:16 PM

Choirs use books all of the time and have been trained to project their voices, not hold the book up too high, and engage with their audience. If you know the song fairly well, have practised it enough, you will only have to glance at the book every once in awhile and can do the same.

Janie, that's been my take on some of what I've read here, too. Me, I just love to hear the music...I don't care if someone is using a book.

kat


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Songbob
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 11:16 PM

What I think is most frowned on is "singing from THE book," especially when THE book is a commonly-available book and no OTHER book is considered "correct." That is, some song circles use Rise Up Singing or The Folksinger's Wordbook (an earlier version of same, I think), and they treat it like a hymnal. If you want to sing a version that is different from the book's, you'll get pushback, if not actual argument.

Now, singing from a memory-aid, to me is different. I don't always recall the songs I want to do, and have been known to use a print-out (or to "look it up on my fingers" during a break, to make sure I can recall the thing), and don't get too worked up if someone has a sheet for their own use.

Part of it is the group dynamic; I'm used to the FSGW open sing "manual," which says you don't chide someone for using a book, but we're resistant to following the book if the song is one of our well-known ones where we differ from the book. I haven't been to too many sings where a book -- any book -- is used as an "authority," but I have been to at least one or two. I usually don't go back.

Actually, I just remembered that with the Civil War Comrades, the reenactment trio I'm in, we often use lyric sheets onstage, to avoid the dreaded "version creep," where one of us knows a different word or two in the choruses, where we're supposed to be singing together.

Bob


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Janie
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 11:45 PM

I don't know what the "scene" is in Folk Clubs, or at the Press Room or Shanty Sings in New England. I've been attending the FSGW Getaway for several years, and it was the experience of my first few years at the Getaway that gave my music BS voice back to me after it had been silenced for almost 20 years.   Especially at Ramblewood, the sing around in the "Mudcat Cabin," where every one was encouraged and not judged, where we went pretty strictly around the circle, and willingness to share was valued over the ability to carry a tune, much less performance quality. No one was judged because of lack of scholarly knowledge or voice training, and pretty much what anyone wanted to sing was accepted. So encouraging and validating, and powerful.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Acorn4
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 09:32 AM

Personally I would prefer someone to use words rather than try to bumble through a song from memory and end up forgetting the last verse or leaving one out.

I do actually try to learn words and have sort of accepted it as a challenge being now post 60. The first few times use words to establish key/check audience response.

The one thing I can't do is use words and try to sing through a mike - I have to do that from memory - the "bear of little brain" can't handle that aspect on multi-tasking.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 09:35 AM

I am no fan of using books but I have no problem if someone else does - As long as they can still sing the song as if they mean it and understand what it is all about - lyrically and musicaly. There is nothing worse than seeing someone just going through the motions parrot fasion. Not accusing anyone here, of course, but I have seem it often enough.

Have you tried just with prompts of key words on a card? First line of each verse or first couple of words of each line? If you still find you need a book make sure you don't make some basic mistakes like -

- Singing into the book instead of for your audience
- Not knowing what you are going to sing and pending time going though your book 'live'
- Forgetting the tune
- Loosing where you are up to

I only do about a dozen songs and could probably do with using a book to get more but I would rather repeat myself every few weeks than use a book. The club may not, but I would:-)

Good luck anyway

Dave


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Raggytash
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 09:39 AM

Chris

I think there is a vast difference from singing "from" the book, i.e reading the words and then singing them, which means that someone has made little attempt to learn the words and having a book there as a crutch to lean on. The former normally means that little or no emphasis can be placed on the nuances of the song, which an audienec quickly picks up on and tend not to enjoy the rendition. The latter is merely there as a reminder of first lines etc, I try not to use a book but do so occasionally with a new song, and place the book discreetly on the seat besides me.
I find one way to learn new songs is to write the words long-hand and then type them, but the only way really is to sing them at home over and over again until they're indelibly written in the old grey matter, it has been known for me to sing a song 200 times at home before taking it before an audience. (ask Christine about Red Velvet Steering Wheel Cover Driver, it sends her daft)

chhers

Nick


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 09:43 AM

Chris-

It's a good question to ask before doing it in any singing session/circle.

When I'm learning a new song, I often bring a song sheet along as a reminder, but in the group I sing with, the Press Room sea music sessions, the emphasis is to know what you're singing without such aids. I'd be embarrassed if I couldn't deliver the song without the sheet the second time around.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 09:43 AM

Well now, if you just want to get there and experience the effect of singing with your peers, of course it is OK. Folkies are nothing if not tolerant.

However - if you want to get the maximum from yourself, put all the expression, physicality, artistry and sheer pizzaz into a performance - well the world is your oyster - if you can maximise the mindspace by having the words/tune memorised. Visual duties require huge amounts of brainpower that could be released, hence the tendency to close one's eyes when singing. If you point your head downwards the sound doesn't project in the right direction, it alters the larynx and muscles around the neck.

As a singist - the choice is yours, but it is not easy weaning yourself off the page, but the rewards are more than worth it. Make it your goal rather than the starting point.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: MikeL2
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 09:44 AM

hi

This is a thread that has been ( sorta) covered before.

I have never had any difficulty in memorising the words to sings that I want to sing......and many others that I didn't deliberately memorise....they just stick.

However what sometimes I did find difficult was remembering how to start to song off. eg the first line. So I used to carry a book with all the first lines of the songs that I had painstakingly recorded and filed over the years.

When I had decided what I was going to sing on any particular night I made out a card with the first lines of the songs that I wanted to sing.
I made a see-through pouch that I attached to the back of my guitar and I had no problems with consulting it if I had a problem. I would just twitter ( not computer ) away while I found what I wanted.

With regards to your question. If the difference is that without the book you wouldn't get up to sing then by all means use it. If it were me I would get a telescopic music stand ( I have one ) and would make it obvious that I was going to use the book. Use it as part of your props. Don't be guilty about it - just give it your best and most of all ENJOY IT. That way you will find that most of the audience will enjoy it too.

Regards

Mike


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Tug the Cox
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 09:51 AM

I'm no fan of the practice, and would personnally avoid it. I see little merit in doing it as anm 'act' at a club, but if it is the only way someone can join inn an informal or semi formal singaround, then its better than excluding people.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Will Fly
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 10:00 AM

Could I offer a middle way here, SB - which is to memorise as much as you can of the songs that you want to sing for a floor spot. In many clubs it's around than 2 or 3 songs. Take the words with you and place them on a music stand where you can see them if you have to, i.e. if the words start to desert you. That way, you can train your memory but have a fallback if age really is taking its toll.

I'm blessed, most of the time, with an excellent memory (for 65) and can still learn a song fairly quickly and remember it in performance. I would never use a word sheet in a performance, but I can understand if some people have genuine difficulty without one. What I dislike - and I'm sure you don't count in this respect - is singers who just can't be arsed to learn the stuff, and sing from a folder of songs out of sheer laziness.

My own memory for people's names is, however, getting worse. This is very common, I'm told, and doesn't mean any loss of... of... oh, you knwo what I mean...


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 10:12 AM

As Mr Gnome pointed out , there is a VAST difference in having the words (Or Cue Cards) handy , than Singing AT the book , holding it between you and the audience !There are two local to me clubs I have stopped going to because so many of the 'floor singers' did just that the last time I visited .
Personally , I think that you cant do a song full justice unless you KNOW the song , though I accept that a lot of people dont have as good a memory for lyrics as some of us .


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Nancy King
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 10:12 AM

I would always prefer to sing from memory and not from a book or notes, but I have difficulty memorizing, so often need help. In a "performance" situation, I would NEVER use such a crutch, but in an informal sing-around, I often bring along a page from my own song notebook. Our Open Sing group is quite tolerant of this, fortunately. I think it's a lot better to have the words available to refer to if needed than to stop, mumble, gaze at the ceiling, etc.

BUT the important thing here is that one should basically know the song in the first place. Just picking something that seems like it might fit in, and then trying to sing it out of the book when you don't really know how it goes is quite dreadful. And it happens all too often.

I agree with Bob that The Book (Rise Up Singing or the equivalent) should NOT be used as a hymnal ("I'm going to sing Thingamajig, on page whatever..."). One of the most interesting aspects of traditional music is that there ARE different versions of songs, and insisting on using the one in The Book seems counter-productive. Who decided which version went into the book, anyway?

Just my two cents' worth...

Nancy


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Bernard
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 10:14 AM

I would agree that 'reading' a song rather than using the words as a 'crutch' is an insult to the song and to your audience.

However, it's worse to get part way through a song, forget where you are and either make a vain attempt to get back into it, or to switch to a completely different song.

Too often the performer's 'needs' seem to be given priority over the needs of the audience. Admittedly, the nature of the session does play a part, but we often hear people whingeing on about encouraging new singers without considering that there is possibly a new audience who also needs encouragement.

My gripe is with singers who should know better - they've been singing for years, yet haven't the manners to learn a single song!!

If you're going to sing a song in public you owe it to yourself to be adequately prepared... don't attempt a song you haven't learned unless your abilities will carry you through.

I'm not suggesting that every singer should be a polished professional, just that they should appreciate the audience's perspective and prepare accordingly.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Hamish
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 10:24 AM

Go and see a choir at a posh recital and they'll all have their songbooks. Duncan Mcfarlane who is a pretty big name in the UK folk scene these days has a little unobtrusive ring binder with the words attached to his mic stand - and he wrote more than half of the songs! (The give away is the fact that he wears his reading glasses on the end of his nose.) I think that says it's okay.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Marje
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 10:25 AM

Luckily, "The Book" isn't an issue in the UK - there is no set text that people all use. Songbooks tend to be personal notebooks or files where people complie or write out their own versions of the songs.

I'll add my support to those who say by all means use a cue-card or a few notes that you can have handy if necessary, but don't sing FROM the book. I don't like it when a singer stands holding a book as if they were singing in church, reading every word, including repeats and choruses. That's just lazy, and almost never leads to a good delivery of the song. On the other hand, having a few notes (beginning of lines/verses; tricky words like place-names that you keep forgetting, etc) could get you out of trouble. You may not have to look at it, just keep it handy. And the act of creating those notes - asking yourself "Which bits do I know, and which do I tend to forget?" actually helps you learn the song, and perhaps realise that you do actually know big chunks of it.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Maryrrf
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 10:28 AM

I would second what one poster above said i.e. it's okay in some sessions but frowned on in others - try to find out in advance which type you're going to and take your cue from that. I do think if you're going to sing in public you should work at the song, even if you need to use your book to help you, until you only need to glance at the lyrics, and not have your eyes glued to the book while singing. I always have a songbook with me when I do pub gigs, so I can do requests. I used to be able to retain at any given point well over 100 songs in my repertoire - enough to do a 4 hour stint without repeating a song. Now I find my memory doesn't hold as much, or maybe I just have accumulated too much information over the years and I'm running out of space! So the "pub songs book" comes in handy.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 10:37 AM

I would venture to suggest that the reason you have difficulty committing words to memory is because you are used to resorting to the song book. You have no incentive to learn the words.

I find the best way to learn a song is to sing it. Make sure you know and understand the story the song is telling. Sing it through a few times with the words and then try it without. You won't remember it all, so go back to the book to fill in the gaps, and try again. Repeat as necessary until you've got it all. Then keep singing it - in the car, in the shower - until it's fixed.

I find the worst way is to try to learn a line at a time, like we learned poetry at school. Learn it as a story, as a whole, rather than thinking of it as a succession of words you have to learn.

Don't worry about getting it word-perfect, either. As long as you're telling the story right, and have got any key words and phrased right, it usually doesn't matter too much if you begin a line with "and" or "but".

I'm with those who believe you have a responsibility to the song, to the audience, and to yourself to be properly prepared. That means learning the song. If you're properly prepared, you'll be more confident and less likely to make mistakes. If you need a few prompt cards, fine, but use them discreetly.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: RTim
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 10:38 AM

What about musicians that often play from sheet music, and they only have to play the same tune over and over!

I use a book containing first lines of verses, as an aid to remembering - but I do know around 300 songs, and as I get older (now 63) I find it more difficult to learn songs, but there are some I have known for 40 years but seldom sing and always remember.
I would however, NEVER do a paid gig singing from my notes - but I will certainly put the songs first lines on my gig list - and Practice before the gig until I am tired of the songs!!
Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 10:51 AM

Wow guys and gals! Thank you so much for all your comments
and sound wisdom and also your very polite and well considered suggestions.

I was kind of expecting a hail of bullets and some caustic and negative over-intellectualized verbal personal attacks like you sometimes see here on Mudcat from a few poisonous individuals.
(Or am I tempting fate - and should I duck now?!!)

Anyway I hope they stay away. You have all (or very nearly all so far) been incredibly understanding and encouraging and as I said, very polite. So thank you very much indeed.


I do very much take on board that using a book can become a crutch that you feel you cannot do without (like cigarettes!) and that kicking the habit can become harder and harder the more you rely on it.
I currently have 55 songs and a few monologues in my song book and a wish list that just keeps on growing. So I think I really should try very very hard to make the effort and set myself an initial goal of learning say just 2 favourite songs and then see how it goes once I have got the hang of it.
Here's hoping my 55 year old brain can stir up the old grey cells again!

Thanks everyone.

Chris


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Backwoodsman
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 11:00 AM

I used to claim that I 'Can't learn lyrics' and I used to work from a book (a ring-binder actually), but I realised after a while that:-

1) It's difficult enough to multitask with two elements - playing and singing. Adding a third element - reading - made it all too much like bloody hard work.

2) Making eye-contact with the audience, a very important part of performing IMHO, is impossible while your eyes are fixed on words from a book.

3) In subdued light, reading becomes very difficult.

So I started to record myself 'doing' the song, put it on a CD, play it in the car, singing along to it over and over. EUREKA! I remembered the lyrics after maybe a dozen runs through the song.

So now, until a song is engraved indelibly on my memory, I have a cue-card, like others have mentioned, with first lines of verses. Once it's stored in memory, I put the cards away.

I do believe it's made me a better and more confident performer.

But I don't object to others reading the words (except those who still stumble over the words even when reading them, or those who 'do' the same three or four 60's pop songs every time, and still have to read the words).


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: doncatterall
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 11:08 AM

When I revived the local folk club 18 months ago several performers turned up with folders/books which they sang from. One person had a vast repertoire of excellent self penned songs that he needed the words for. I made the point ( in a light hearted way) that if a song's worth singing then it's worth learning.
There is now only the odd occasion when a crib sheet comes out, usually with an apology from the performer.
If the words are forgotten (and it happens to us all) we are very forgiving and make a joke of it without any disrespect to the song or the singer.
Last week I sang a song for the first time in public that I liked and had wanted to sing for many years but had trouble remembering. I spent a few days determined to learn by constant repetition around the house and at the club had the words printed on a piece of paper folded in the palm of my hand which I did not need - SUCCESS!!
I have about 60 songs committed to memory but will always run through the ones I intend to perform before leaving home.
I agree that to sing a song with feeling putting your own stamp on it will vastly improve your performance and only comes once you know it by heart.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Blackcatter
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 11:25 AM

I do gigs on a semi-regular basis - 2-3 times a month. all paid and usually with a partner. We always have our lead sheets in front of us on music stands. The stands are low and the print is large so our heads aren't buried in the books.

If I did this as a living and did a regular set list that was unchanged from gig to gig, the aid of the lead sheets would not be needed, BUT we need the lead sheets to remind us occasionally of:

lyrics
starting a song
key & capo position
additional instruments (tin whistle, harmonica, drum, spoons, jews harp, etc.
key for the additional instruments
tempo
parts for each of us
notes about the songs in case people ask


We've got some 60 songs that we regularly pull from and probably another 60 that we can do if someone requests. There is no way with everything else in our busy lives that we can keep all that info in our heads. sorry - if you can, bully for you, but it's not possible for everyone.

As for informal song circle and open-mic nights. These are places for amateurs to have a chance to enjoy what it feels like to perform in public. Telling people they have to do everything YOU do is insensitive and is one of the reasons why amateurs don't come out as often as they could.

I've been co-running a monthly open mic for 16 years and we get all sorts of people up on stage. The last thing we would ever do is tell them they can't have the 'safety' or 'aid' of the words. We are well know for being a safe place for very good performers to try new material. Sometimes they use music and words to aid them.


People here might have forgotten that just performing in public is a huge step for some people in the first place. Anything that can be done to make them comfortable should be done.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Bernard
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 11:27 AM

Playing a recording over and over, whether in the car or at home, is an extremely sound (sorry!!) method of learning reinforcment. Either singing along to someone else, or a recording of yourself, both work really well.

Everyone has 'blanks' sometime or another, and how you deal with it is very important, I believe. Stuttering back and forth trying to remember a line is uncomfortable for both you and your audience, so covering up by an impromptu instrumental verse (tricky if you're singing unaccompanied!), or repeating a chorus are both methods I use to try to jog the memory.

I have occasionally had a problem with songs I may have been singing for forty years - my mind wanders and I forget where I am! However, it's usually precipitated by an outside influence such as someone very noisy near the door... so I can divert attention from my failing by directing a gentle rebuke to the miscreant, then saying 'Now where was I?'...!

It's better to make light of a memory lapse rather than show you're really embarrassed... easier said than done, though.

Learning a song from scratch does take time and effort, and you should never attempt it in public until you've allowed it to percolate through your mind for a while.

Harvey Andrews finds he has to read his new songs for the first few public airings nowadays, which he works in as part of the act - he explains how he used to write a song, read it before going to sleep, then it would sink in overnight and he'd wake up in the morning to find he'd completely memorised it.

Then he explains that he still uses the same method, but finds his brain crashes overnight, so he wakes to find he has even forgotten what he was trying to remember...!

Been there!


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 11:38 AM

Hi Soldier Boy,
With 55 songs in your songbook, I think you are more into collecting songs than learning them. I know, I'm like that too. Chances are you only get to sing one or two at the club. Pick those two and leave the rest behind. If they are songs no-one else sings or knows, repeat them week after week until they are well bedded in, then add another. The more the song means something to you personally, or that you can identify with, the easier it is to learn. Comic songs are probably easier to learn as they are like telling a long joke.
Another trick is to sit beside a mate that knows your songs nad can give you a prompt when things get rough.
I've seen some people use books where it is accepted. However, the spend as much time selecting a song from it as they do singing. Be decisive it what you plan to sing and go for it


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,muppett
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 11:52 AM

Chris if you want to use a book, use a book, I've been doing it for years and folk (including you ) have often pulled me leg when I've turned up without them. One point though, I hand write all my songs into them, so I'm a bit choosy as to which ones I sing in public as the handwriting is sometimes bad, depending when and where I wrote them.

My books are only A5 size as well so they are too small to hide behind.

Finally if using a book means more folk can participate in the joys of singing, whether they are good or bad then bring them on, rather that then listening to piped wanabe pop idols

Go for it Chris


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Joe Nicholson
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 11:54 AM

Is it ok to sing from a book? Yes if you must but much better if you don't.You can do better with the tune and express the meaning of the song if you have learned it.I hear some people boast about how many songs they know and yet rarely get through a song without a stumble sometimes even using a book. So the trick is to learn the bloody song.If necsassery limit the number of somgs in your repetoire to the quantity within your learning capacity.You do not have to sing a new song evey session. I am getting on a bit now and stuggle to remember songs so I do have all mine in a folder. I know what I am going to sing and some times If it's one I havn't sung for a while I give it a quick read through before I start. But that's all

Joe Nicholson


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Soldier boy
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 12:02 PM

Ey up Muppett me owld mucca. Cheers.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 12:05 PM

I have a friend who has a problem with folkies anyway, and he often refers to them as "Those fucking book people".

If you have a new song and can't wait to share it, by all means, use a cheat sheet. I have no problem with that; but there are people who know two songs and they sing those same two songs at every gathering. BORING!


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Bert
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 12:09 PM

As Kat says, choirs do it all the time.

Personally I find that I perform worse if I use a book. I am much more likely to lose my place while looking at the audience than I am to forget a song.

If it works for you then go for it, but try to wean yourself from it if you can.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Bill D
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 12:16 PM

one person said:"Have you tried just with prompts of key words on a card?"

That can be a great help. I am not a regular 'performer', so there are sometimes songs I am inspired to do that I have not 'refreshed' recently, and a help sheet is nice.

When listening, I have ONE rule: IF I can close my eyes and not tell whether or not you are using a cheat-sheet, I am happy.So, if you really 'almost' know the song and just want a little crutch in case of verse order, etc., it should be fine...but then, go home and practice.
If you are just reading, it usually shows up as pauses, breaks, corrected words...etc...which don't make for pleasant listening. (Same goes for the tune...if you have to also refer to the tune as well as the words, it just won't work, except as a short demo to explain to someone about a song you are learning.)


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Bernard
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 12:16 PM

What I find REALLY irritating is those people who only sing the same two or three songs week in, week out, yet still have to spend the first minute or so of their turn finding the song in their book... then they forget the tune and take ages getting started, then lose their place in the words... grrrr!!

Isn't it wonderful being perfect?!!


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 12:21 PM

AS Bernard says, some people, myself included, learn songs more easily by singing them over and over again, rather than sitting down with the text of the lyrics, so for me it has to be the car Cd player.
I have used the same method for learning lines from plays, which involves having to record yourself reading ALL the characters and then leaving gaps for your own part!
I would prefer to sing MORE songs, if using the words for some of them, rather than restrict myself only to those I can definitely do from memory: hopefully the former eventually become the latter.
And I prefer the term "comfort zone" for performing within a discreet sight of the words, available if needed, rather than a "crutch" - whether the words are in a neat folder on a music stand or on a crumpled piece of paper in your pocket or behind your back: it removes a lot of the anxiety about forgetting the words........which fear makes you almost certainly forget the words!


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 12:33 PM

Singing from a book is a skill like any other. If you don't practice you won't be able to do it fluently. Since there are far more songs out there than you could possibly memorize, it's worth learning how to carry off a song from a book in case you need a new one in a hurry.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: Bill D
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 12:33 PM

One of the reasons a lot of singers close their eyes when singing, is that, even for 'pros', it is easy to get distracted by what the audience is doing. The question is, when you are at home, alone, can you do the whole song without a sheet? If so, then closing your eyes might help...if not, maybe just lots or repetition is in order.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: mg
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 12:44 PM

I have no problem with people using their own books or even the blue book, for themselves. I have a huge problem, unless the group was formed specifically to do this, with people coming into established groups and telling people to go to a song on such and such a page and it being a group reading experience. Then they try to push extra copies on you. That is the problem I have. If a group wants to get together and do that, fine. But don't do it when an established group hates it. Any questions, ask. If it is a group that really hates that, find or form another group. The two schools of thought are basically incompatible. One group will th ink the other is ruining their music, which is why they get together, and the other group will think the others are musical snobs,, not democratic, not supportive. Both sides are right. mg


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,Auld timer
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 12:54 PM

Don't sing from a book or paper. This acts as a barier between you and your audence. Learn the song, learn the difference in the verses, learn how the tune has to alter to fit the words in different verses, learn how your breathing has to change to fit this change, learn the song. That is what the audence is listening to.

NOT how good(or otherwise)you can read, they want to hear you sing. Honest they realy do, want to hear you sing.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: jacqui.c
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 01:24 PM

When I started singing in public, at singarounds, ten years ago I always used a book. It gave me a bit of courage to have the words in front of me and meant that I could concentrate on getting the tune right.

Over the years I have developed more confidence and have been able to remember the words of more songs, but I do still like having the book to hand, just in case.

So far as learning songs - I take the words with me when I take the dog for a walk and find that, over the course of 3/4 hour I can learn a short song, say up to four verses. I start with the first verse and, when I've got that one in, go on to the second verse, learn that and then sing both verses together. I'll do the same with the next two verses and then try putting the whole thing together - that works for me,but we all have different ways of learning.

Like some of the other posters I would rather see someone using a book than to have someone who gets part way through a song and then spends the next ten minutes trying to stumble through the rest of it because they can't remember the words, and that I have seen in the past year an occasion which resulted in other people not getting a chance to sing in an hour's session. Similarly, those who have a very limited repertoire and sing the same few songs week after week for many years or those who sing to the book with no feeling in their voices.

For me there is always the push to do better, to increase the range of my voice and the number of songs that I can sing, with or without the words to hand. I think, for any of us, there is always room for improvement - it just depends how much work you will or can put into the craft.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,zpc
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 01:42 PM

The 'witch' and I pretty much always used songbooks if we had an actual audience - oddly enough, though I'm the one with the chronic memory problems, I was also reliably the one who knew the words! We mostly used the books to a) remind us what songs we knew, and b) sort out what order verses came in & - as others in the thread - make sure we were both on the same version...

But on the other hand, we could (and did) do most of our regular repertoire walking down the street with no aids whatsoever, just with the occasional wrong-verse stumble or 'la la la something' line substituted...


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: GUEST,Kendall
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 01:49 PM

As far as stumbling around trying to find the song in the book or trying to remember the tune, learn the damn song, then sing it!

Something that bugs me is the performer who waits until he/she gets on stage before tuning. Especially if they are limited to one or two songs. No one wants to listen to you tune and make small talk while you do it.


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Subject: RE: Is it Ok to sing from a song book?
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 01:57 PM

Really damned annoying that I can get through a good number of songs without help when I am singing at home. But let people be around me and I get a severe case of ASHA (Amateur Singer's Hysterical Amnesia).

I guess I can do about 5 or 6 in public without help of cheat sheets. So I use my book of words to ease my sheer terror that I will forget words in mid song.

If anyone wants to complain, I just won't return. No one has so far. I think anyone who would make comment, to be pretty rude and an insufferable snob.

I like that rehearsal tip Jacqui. Think I will try that.


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