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Working on singing

Jim Carroll 24 Jan 19 - 04:06 AM
Joe Offer 24 Jan 19 - 04:13 AM
GUEST 24 Jan 19 - 04:17 AM
Jim Carroll 24 Jan 19 - 04:25 AM
Dave the Gnome 24 Jan 19 - 04:40 AM
Johnny J 24 Jan 19 - 05:02 AM
Stanron 24 Jan 19 - 05:43 AM
Andy7 24 Jan 19 - 05:53 AM
Jim Carroll 24 Jan 19 - 06:06 AM
Dave the Gnome 24 Jan 19 - 06:13 AM
GUEST 24 Jan 19 - 07:08 AM
GUEST 24 Jan 19 - 07:10 AM
Jim Carroll 24 Jan 19 - 07:27 AM
Big Al Whittle 24 Jan 19 - 07:28 AM
Big Al Whittle 24 Jan 19 - 07:31 AM
FreddyHeadey 24 Jan 19 - 08:21 AM
Jim Carroll 24 Jan 19 - 08:54 AM
The Sandman 24 Jan 19 - 11:49 AM
The Sandman 24 Jan 19 - 12:01 PM
radriano 24 Jan 19 - 12:13 PM
Anne Neilson 24 Jan 19 - 12:14 PM
Jim Carroll 24 Jan 19 - 12:18 PM
The Sandman 24 Jan 19 - 12:25 PM
beachcomber 24 Jan 19 - 01:00 PM
StephenH 24 Jan 19 - 01:35 PM
The Sandman 24 Jan 19 - 01:41 PM
wysiwyg 24 Jan 19 - 01:59 PM
Andy7 24 Jan 19 - 02:00 PM
Jim Carroll 24 Jan 19 - 02:59 PM
The Sandman 24 Jan 19 - 04:19 PM
Big Al Whittle 25 Jan 19 - 03:12 AM
Stringsinger 25 Jan 19 - 02:22 PM
Jim Carroll 27 Jan 19 - 03:00 AM
Leadfingers 27 Jan 19 - 04:35 AM
leeneia 28 Jan 19 - 12:51 AM
Will Fly 28 Jan 19 - 06:25 AM
GUEST,Guest G-Force 29 Jan 19 - 11:51 AM
Jim Carroll 31 Jan 19 - 11:19 AM
Richard Mellish 31 Jan 19 - 04:56 PM
The Sandman 31 Jan 19 - 05:56 PM
The Sandman 31 Jan 19 - 05:58 PM
Jim Carroll 01 Feb 19 - 03:12 AM
GUEST 01 Feb 19 - 03:36 AM
Jim Carroll 01 Feb 19 - 03:59 AM
GUEST,Jane Bernal 01 Feb 19 - 05:11 AM
Jim Carroll 01 Feb 19 - 06:22 AM
GUEST,Jane Bernal 02 Feb 19 - 01:31 PM
Big Al Whittle 03 Feb 19 - 05:20 AM
Jim Carroll 03 Feb 19 - 05:41 AM
Richard Mellish 03 Feb 19 - 07:50 AM
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Subject: Lyr Add: Working on singing
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 24 Jan 19 - 04:06 AM

I wonder if it might be possible to discuss this without the old usual
Jim Carroll

Quote we used in a talk Pat and I gave some years ago at Salford

"3. Now you might say that working and training to develop your voice to sing Nine Maidens A-milking Did Go or Lord Randall is calculated to destroy your original joy in singing, at least that’s the argument that’s put to me from time to time, or has been put to me from time to time by singers who should know better.
The better you can do a thing the more you enjoy it. Anybody who’s ever tried to sing and got up in front of an audience and made a bloody mess of it knows that you’re not enjoying it when you’re making a balls of it, but you are enjoying it when it’s working, when all the things you want to happen are happening. And that can happen without training, sure it can, but it’s hit or miss. If you’re training it can happen more, that’s the difference. It can’t happen every time, not with anybody, although your training can stand you in good stead, it’s something to fall back on, a technique, you know. It’s something that will at least make sure that you’re not absolutely diabolical
The objective, really for the singer is to create a situation where when he starts to sing he’s no longer worried about technique, he’s done all that, and he can give the whole of his or her attention to the song itself she can give her or he can give his whole attention to the sheer act of enjoying the song."
Private interview with MacColl - 1980


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: Joe Offer
Date: 24 Jan 19 - 04:13 AM

There's a lot of Truth in that, Jim. I find that when I am enjoying what I sing, my audience usually enjoys it just as much.


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: GUEST
Date: 24 Jan 19 - 04:17 AM

I find my voice is now worse than it was a few years ago. It's definitely not fun to see that happen. And I have no idea about how to train it.


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 24 Jan 19 - 04:25 AM

If this develps into anything, I'll be would love to see a discussion on how various people approach working on singing
Jim


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 24 Jan 19 - 04:40 AM

I know my voice will never be up to much but I work on my songs, even ones that I have done for years, by singing them. Seems to make sense to me. You train for a run by running. You train for a performance by performing!

The converse seems to underline the point. I have been learning to play accordion for years and while I can squeeze a few tunes out, I am simply not ready to perform them in public due to lack of practise. While I can always find time to sing, sitting with the chest piano every day seems to elude me :-(


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: Johnny J
Date: 24 Jan 19 - 05:02 AM

I'm not necessarily suggesting that singers should be "trained" as such but it does seem that less is expected of them in comparison to instrument players.

Most people would expect to put a bit of effort into learning the basics, at least, relating to the mechanics of the instrument and to practise the tune, piece of music, accompaniment or whetever. Or to have developed the skills to pick up a tune or "join in" instinctively.
Of course,this doesn't necessarily mean formal training either. Many of us are self taught.

Perhaps it's because "singing" is perceived as a very natural thing to do that people seem to have the expectation and sense of entitlement to get up and perform or are encouraged to do so by others more so than instrumentalists?

However, a poor performance by a singer is no less unpleasant for the listener. Of course, I'm not arguing that everyone should be perfect but just trying to illustrate a point.


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: Stanron
Date: 24 Jan 19 - 05:43 AM

Three iceberg tips are pitch, clarity and voice timbre. Below these tips are large submerged areas that will reward further investigation.

Underlying all three is breath control. Poor breath control will make pitch difficult. Long sung notes are all vowels, and you can't produce them properly if you haven't enough air. When you breath can change the meaning of the lyric narrative.

Of the three the one that makes the most difference to me is clarity. If I can't make out the lyrics I fall asleep. Lack of lyric clarity usually comes from poor consonant delivery. The long notes are all vowels. What defines these are the consonants that precede and follow them. Long vowels followed by poor consonant delivery result in meaningless sounds. This can be OK if a listener already knows the lyrics but if not the result may as well be in a foreign language. Not only must end consonants be clear, they must be separate from following start consonants. Take the phrase "your eyes". Nearly every time you hear this in a pop song it sounds like "your rise". It drives me bonkers! All it needs is a little bit of breath reversal, or just stoppage, between the two syllables and the meaning is clear.

A good example, and a fond memory, was Paul Connor, the Manchester, or was it Salford?, poet. He couldn't hold a tune but it didn't matter. His poems and songs were good enough to make melody secondary. His diction was always crystal clear. He used to take the mickey out of himself. I can see him now, a dramatic pose, arm outstretched, palm upwards as if holding a skull, saying " I Am An Ack Tor!" in exaggerated thespian manner. I think he did work as an extra on Coronation Street. He made sure his excellent material never suffered from poor delivery.

For male voices there is the chest voice and the head voice. In an untrained voice they tend to be separated by a 'break'. Either you learn how to bridge between that break or you stay in just one voice or the other. Either way you will have a top comfortable note and all songs will be sung in a key that accommodates that top note.

Voice timbre is something that can be worked on. Think of Nat King Cole. He had a throaty delivery that came across as warm and intimate. Compare that with Ethel Merman. There will be other, different, kinds of voice delivery. You might like to employ different ones for dramatic effect. They certainly are worth investigation.


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: Andy7
Date: 24 Jan 19 - 05:53 AM

My old singing teacher used to recommend singing, and making a variety of other sounds, while moving the whole body around in different ways - balancing on a rocking board, bouncing up and down on a large ball, rolling round on the floor. It seemed to work well.

This was just for practice, of course - not for a performance!


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 24 Jan 19 - 06:06 AM

I should have confessed an interest in this, though I'm sure those who know me are aware of it anyway
I have been involved in singing workshops throughout my singing life and have helped run a couple
I know what works for me - I was wondering how others approached the question
Ireland is experiencing a great renaissance in traditional music at present and there are indications of a revival in interest in singing - I'm trying to get our local movers and shakers to get something happening here in the way of catering for new singers (with a little success) and I don't want to impose my own views on it without finding out what others are doing

I think Dave's "runner" is an interesting analogy - if you just want to run for a bus and don't mind coughing your lungs up for most of your journey, just running might do the trick
The amount of work you need o put into it depends on what you want to get out of it - runners who want to be good at it train, the more they train, the better they become
I can see no reason why that should not be true of singing.

I stopped singing for a long time and experienced the same problems as Guests - when I started up again, I found I'd lost a lot - nothing to do with age, just lack of use
In The Critics Group we were given exercises to find our 'natural' voice ans push the boundaries in order to handle different songs
The range I thought I was losing is now back to where it was when I stopped singing

I was persuaded quite early on that the voice could be regarded as a tool-box rather than an end in itself - learn to use all the tools in the box and you can carve masterpieces
If all you want to do is chop firewood all you have to learn is not to cut off your fingers
Jim


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 24 Jan 19 - 06:13 AM

I quite like the idea of rolling round on the floor while singing at the folk club. Adds a whole new dimension :-)

I know exactly what you mean about Paul Conner, Stanron. He was indeed an actor who delivered and entertained, whatever he was doing!

You reminded me. I attended a presentation delivery course by another actor, John Brand. Best known for "Wilkinson. The name on the worlds finest blade. " The course was really good and he made the point that any presentation relied on good delivery or people would just not understand what you were trying to "sell". It is also important that you respect your audience and make sure that you deliver in an acceptable manner. Exactly the same things apply to any performance.

In my opinion.


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: GUEST
Date: 24 Jan 19 - 07:08 AM

I am a runner, and I do train for running by running. But I mean if I want to perform in a race I don't just practice racing, I practice running at different tempos for different lengths of time, and do a lot of warming up, warming down, and stretching.

I know you can do wonderful things to your body through stretching and exercises, and solve issues not only with running, but also with hands and arms and things related to musical instrument playing.

I know less about voice training though as I never had any problem until recently with doing exactly what I wanted to do so never bothered learning.


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: GUEST
Date: 24 Jan 19 - 07:10 AM

But on enunciation of words, I mean if I don't put a gap between the your and ears while speaking, I'm not going to put one in while singing either.


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 24 Jan 19 - 07:27 AM

"I practice running at different tempos for different lengths of time"
Pretty much the same as singing - you learn all the paces and speeds and efforts - MacColl used Laben's scale of movement and applied them to singing brilliantly
A far as traditional singing, the old singers sang more or less as they spoke (barring old age, etc) and their enunciation and phrasing were as close to those used in speaking as the music and poetic rhythms would allow - the ones we interviewed described how they would put almost imperceptible notes or gaps in to maintain both the rhythm and the narrative sense - the old Clare farmer, Tom Lenihan (recognised locally as 'the traditional singer' went in great detail about this

One of the most important aspects of singing is learning to relax - tension can distort both voice production and breath control
Once you work out a technique for this you can apply it to almost anything - I use it all the time for driving, especially along narrow country lanes
Jim


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 24 Jan 19 - 07:28 AM

The trouble is of course if you work at it, it looks effortless.

And that's what people don't understand.

They say - well its because you're super talented. Well I suppose the diligence required is a sort of talent.

But they see the pleasure generated within yourself and within the audience, and they they think - well I can have a bit of that reading from an exercise book.

You don't want to discourage anyone. Martin Carthy says, the only thing you can do that hurts these songs is ignore them and don't sing them.

And I think maybe... but you can also put other people off folk music - by not working at it hard enough.


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 24 Jan 19 - 07:31 AM

Thinking further, perhaps it is that there's a different sort of club nowadays, where people just go for the joy of singing - seeing their friends and partners singing.


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: FreddyHeadey
Date: 24 Jan 19 - 08:21 AM

enunciation
There's a happy medium
I recorded myself singing in varying degrees of preciseness and the version that sounded the best(clear but relaxed) was one which, in the mouth, felt quite exagerated.
It's worth listening to yourself.


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 24 Jan 19 - 08:54 AM

"The trouble is of course if you work at it, it looks effortless."
Trouble !!
That's what it's supposed to be Al
The most important person to satisfy with your singing is yourself - make it work for you and you stand a fair chance of taking the listener with you - don't and all you're likely to get is sympathy
I'm afraid that while I recognise and admire Martin's talents and dedication, I seldom enjoy his singing - I find his phrasing idiosyncratic and his accompaniments intrusive - not for me. I'm afraid

Freddy
If you believe your speech is sloppy and indistinct, you need to work at it - mine was and to an extent, still is, so I spent hours trying to make it clearer when I sang
It was one of the points first raised when I first sang for criticism at the Group - I listened to the recording recently and cringed
Think of the best of our traditional singers - Harry Cox - murder to follow until you get used to it - Walter to a lesser extent

Bert Lloyd was known for his 'silly grin' when he sang some songs - he used it to achieve a hard tone that was not a feature of his natural voice
Jim


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: The Sandman
Date: 24 Jan 19 - 11:49 AM

"Bert Lloyd was known for his 'silly grin' when he sang some songs - he used it to achieve a hard tone that was not a feature of his natural voice
Jim " I have respect for Lloyd for many things, but his style for me does not work, I would rather listen to MacColl, or better still singers like phil tanner, just a subjective opinion


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: The Sandman
Date: 24 Jan 19 - 12:01 PM

You suggested learning rocky road to dublin, that was imo an excellent suggestion to help with breathing technique


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: radriano
Date: 24 Jan 19 - 12:13 PM

Jim, thanks for starting this thread. Lots of good information here.

I feel like I'm a fairly good singer but I really have to work on it. There are times when everything I try to sing sounds awful to me and when that happens I just put singing aside that day. Makes it hard to practice singing sometimes. Breath control is extremely important, I agree. I'd agree with almost everything that's been said here.

Haven't been on Mudcat for quite a while. Hello to everyone!


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: Anne Neilson
Date: 24 Jan 19 - 12:14 PM

Interesting thread, Jim.

I sang until a few years ago, when I suffered considerable difficulties -- couldn't produce a consistent, tuneful tone and was often croaky and broken at the best. After lengthy investigations it was determined that silent acid reflux (giving none of the associated heartburn or indigestion pain) had damaged my vocal cords, which were bowed -- or, as we Glaswegians would say, bowly. (Think of knees that don't meet in the middle when you try to stand straight.)

Other things were going on in my life and I soon found that I had lost the joy I used to find in singing: what was the point when pitching was inconsistent, breathing was unreliable and I would have been embarrassed to attempt public sharing of songs I love?

However, I'm beginning to feel that I've turned a corner and I'd be pleased to learn any good advice from other Mudcatters.

After 60 years of singing and listening, I'm comfortable with phrasing, enunciation and interpretation -- but I'm needing to motivate myself to get back into the practice, especially since pitching is no longer a problem.
So I'd be delighted to pick up any hints that are offered, and to get myself back into training.


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 24 Jan 19 - 12:18 PM

There are plenty of other breath control exercises Dick - best to use one you don't intend to add to your reperoirs
As far as Bert is concerned - À chacun son goût
I found him entertaining enough without him being my favourite and his ability to adapt a song was unsurpassed
I have a collection of his superb radio programmes here - I can't think of another broadcaster who gave us access to so many unique, varied, thought-provoking and enjoyable examples of traditional song - you would forgive him anything in return for 'Folk Music Virtuoso, 'The Lament' and 'Songs of the People'      
Compared to what's on offer today... no contest, as far as I'm concerned
Jim


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: The Sandman
Date: 24 Jan 19 - 12:25 PM

however i do think his PERFORMANCE OF THE TWO MAGICIANS WAS VERY GOOD.


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: beachcomber
Date: 24 Jan 19 - 01:00 PM

A most interesting thread, this.
I did play banjo or guitar as an accompanist, for some 10 years in a part-time, semi-professional way but gave up C. 1990s when the kids came along.
Lately I began to attend a local singing night which has regular members as well as a variety of casual attenders. I was sometimes asked to sing, as some people there remembered that I had been with a group, but singing had never been my forte, and also, I found that I was confined to singing the same three or four songs for which I have the lyrics.
I have had to work hard at this "new" skill and now, after some months, I have recovered my confidence and will sing "at the drop of a hat " for them.
I found that achievable by reverting to the repertoire of songs that we played with the group. I feel now, that I can attempt to learn some of the newer songs and my only obstacle is finding time and space for practise in a busy household. As one poster, almost, said, you have to be happy with your performance before inflicting it on others :-)


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: StephenH
Date: 24 Jan 19 - 01:35 PM

Lots of helpful comments here, and many have said things which I would have.
Whenever i have an upcoming opportunity to sing in public, i always take it
very seriously and practice my repertoire beforehand. The songs i sing are ones that I love and want everyone to hear, so I make sure that I do them justice to the best of my ability. Otherwise, why bother? Singing in a casual setting means relaxing standards a bit, but you still want to do the song justice.
My biggest faults are not relaxing my body/breathing properly. It's
something i have to consciously work on. Experiences singing in a musical and with a short-term choir certainly provided me with valuable tools to improve my singing - even if I did find some of the exercises a bit daft.


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: The Sandman
Date: 24 Jan 19 - 01:41 PM

it is also a good idea to take a deep breath before singing , it sends oxygen to the brain and helps relaxation ,yawning is also good    When you yawn, the larynx (a.k.a. voice box) lowers. Lowering the larynx a bit creates a larger resonating space above it. (Lowering it too far doesn't help the sound, and actually can cause strain, so we often aim for "letting the larynx sit comfortably low"; its position at the beginning of a yawn is more appropriate than its position during a yawn.)
    When you yawn, your soft palate rises to close off the nasal passage. The nose, being full of hair and mucus, is a terrible resonator, and closing it off lets us make better use of the pharyngeal resonating space (i.e., the back of the mouth).
    When you yawn, the muscles at the sides of your mouth are relaxed. Avoid ice as it contricts the vocal chords


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: wysiwyg
Date: 24 Jan 19 - 01:59 PM

Jim Carroll,

I have had good success adding emulative singing to remembered classical vocal training. Then I look for what's not working smoothly, and apply more classical training to the spot.

Example: I'll hear a must-sing song sung well on a recording, try to sing alongs as if I'd perform it-- then analyze which notes or phrasing aren't working. (I remember oOne year working on an item from Seamus Kennedy's reperoire and hearing how much more voice training bed glad than I'd had then!)

From there I might shift to a more comfortable key, and try again, and look for what vocal technique is getting
stressed.

Do I need to breathe that line differently?

Do I need to /shape use my mouth differently?

Do I need to smooth that spotit where my current "natural full voice" breaks to falsetto?

Do I need to relax?

Rethink my neck/head position?

Sing more softly? Ad infinitum.

Then-- do I need to pay a voice coach through this?
.
.

I can only do "all that" and more for a song that's worth it. Then-- maybe-- someday
--there it is, in MY repertoire.


~Susan


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: Andy7
Date: 24 Jan 19 - 02:00 PM

Try songs out at a variety of pitches as you're learning them; different songs can suit different parts of your voice - and different also on different days, of course.

Even fairly experienced singers often still have weaker notes at the 'join' of 2 different 'voices'. Mine is the G below middle C; so I always try to avoid pitching songs such that there are long held notes on that G.

Another good tip is, to reach notes at the higher end of your range, hold your head slightly down (in a natural, relaxed position). It's tempting to look up towards the ceiling/sky when trying to reach high notes, but that constricts the breathing mechanism and actually makes singing them more difficult.


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 24 Jan 19 - 02:59 PM

I think the best thing to do with any song is to first talk it through as if you verse telling it in narrative verse - that tends to sort out the phrasing and the breathing - the older singers tended to sing the punctuation - micro-gap for comma, slightly larger for semi-colon... etc
Can'st say I've heard it in Scotland, but the older sean nós singers talked about "telling a song" rather than singing it
I've been organizing some of our old recordings and have recently ben working on Sam Larner's recordings made for 'Singing the Fishing' and noticed again how he constantly moves from singing to speaking with nor perceivable gap   
We recorded 70-odd year old Tom Lenihan from Clare singing 'Willie Reilly and his Collen Bawn' and when he finished we asked him to tell us the story in his own words - he grinned and said "I just have"
This area was once a rich song/story area - I once sang MacColl's Tenant Farmer a a local singing session standing at the bar and when I reached the verse about turning the farmer out and selling off his belongings an old farmer next to me roared in my ear "the bastard" - I nearly vaulted the bar
The words really were the thing for the old crowd
We recorded two elderly brothers on The Burren - they gave us about fifteen songs between them eight of them were to the same tune - after the seventh rendition of one tune he old man turned to us and said "doesn't that song have a great air?" completely unaware that it had been sung half a dozen times before

I seem to remember your having quite a strong voice Annie - I hope you have overcome your difficulties
One of the problems some women have is, I believe, a self imposed one - the head voice which, I was once told, "sounds feminine"
It's fine if you can master it, but it causes two main problems - 1. The gear change when rising up and down the scale and are forced to move from head to chest to produce the sound
2. It takes a hell of a lot of air to produce and so makes long lines difficult

Sorry - I really din't mean to bang on but I don't get much chance to air my thoughts nowadays

If anybody is interested I will be happy to dig out some of the old singing and vowel exercises and post them on PCloud
Off to numb my mind with THE SKY BOX Dick - Black KKlansman awaits
Thanks for all these ideas
Jim


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: The Sandman
Date: 24 Jan 19 - 04:19 PM

Practise the following diaphragmbreathing exercises take a deep breath hold for as long as you can release slowly then take a dep breath and do a[ pah] short cleansing breath


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 25 Jan 19 - 03:12 AM

Yes the Rocky Road is a great song. As you say - breath control is tricky on that one -as is The Galway Races. Its that bouncy thing, whilst still keeping the intimacy. I love Paddy Reilly's version. The Dubs used to make it look so easy, I have had to say to their critics - you try it - see how easy it is. The voice is like a bodhran - swinging the melody round.

trouble is, theres some pretty weird interpretations.

I remember my Dad used to have an old 78 of it by Count John MacCormack with The Old Bog Road on the other side. Then there was that Brendan Something who used to do that one and The Blaydon Races. He was a big hit round the Teacher Training Colleges in the 1960s. Very fruity! I think that sort of thing turned me to drink.


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: Stringsinger
Date: 25 Jan 19 - 02:22 PM

One terrible example is watching Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger sing. They threw
their heads back and strained their vocal cords. Unfortunately many folkies
followed that model. It can lead to nodes, polyps, and loss of voice.

Excessive "belting" or shouting can lead to trouble as well. Some people have
cast iron vocal cords like the blues singers and gospel shouters but normally
this can be hard on the cords.

Many people try to sing too loud and lose the natural timbre of their voices.


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 27 Jan 19 - 03:00 AM

"One terrible example is watching Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger... "
Both Woodie and Pete were 'performers' rather than 'fireside singers, and as such they were, in my opinion, very effective in what they did
Their imitators made the mistake of not distinguishing between the two
Our oral traditions evolved via domestic situations where the singers and storytellers did their thing to family and friends amid intimate and familiar surroundings
Having said that, if you manage to familiariarise yourself with your own voice and learn to use it you can handle the whole range, from tender lyrical pieces to shanties and work songs

The Critics Group used exercises to do this - starting from ones to find the natural voice based on four vowel-type sounds, then singing exercises to learn to handle different aspects of tunes
1. Rocky Road to Dublin; a verse and refrain sung in one breath at speed for breath control and accuracy of articulation; mouth music - Tail Toddle double chorus and verse sung in one breath covers more-or-less the same territory
2. Gilbert and Sullivan 'First we polish off some batches" (from the Gondoliers) for accuracy of pronunciation at speed
3. 2 pieces from Wagner's Ring - "Tis Ended" for handling large intervals and 'By Evil Craft" to sing minute intervals - down to quarter-tones
Coupled with relaxation exercise to make you aware of and control tension, this covered the technical work that we, as singers, needed to understand your voice, put it into shape and keep it there
It takes a short time to learn them and, once learned, they stay with you forever - as I am still finding half a century later
The only problem with them is remembering they are exercises and not objects in themselves
Jim


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: Leadfingers
Date: 27 Jan 19 - 04:35 AM

A number of performers have used (as a reply to the comment " You are Very Talented") YES , and the more I practice the more talented I get !!


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: leeneia
Date: 28 Jan 19 - 12:51 AM

I agree that throwing the head back is hardly going to lead to good singing.

Another bad thing I often see is pop singers with a deep scowl on the face. Try it. It closes everything up inside the head.


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: Will Fly
Date: 28 Jan 19 - 06:25 AM

I can't add much to what's been written here, but I'll just make a couple of comments from personal experience.

The important thing for any singer, in my view, is to find your key in which to perform the song. Check the song's range from lowest to highest note and then find a key which matches that range with your vocal range. I've lost count of the times I've heard singers start off too high or too low and then strain in one register or another.

Be aware that practise at home (say) can be quite different from singing the same song in public. It's easy to sing in a relaxed way - at home, for example - where there's no audience to project to. However, when performing that same song with perhaps greater volume and projection in front of an audience, you may find it's pitched too low. So practise at full volume, regardless of where you are.

Just my 2-penn'orth.


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: GUEST,Guest G-Force
Date: 29 Jan 19 - 11:51 AM

Sorry, seem to have lost our login. This is all very good stuff and most constructive and helpful. Like many of you my voice deteriorated as I got older but I've just managed to keep it going by singing every single day. I have to use eye drops and need to count the seconds while I keep my eyes closed. If it's my only chance that day I sing my seconds, counting up and down the scales, and with thirds, fifths and semitones. No doubt it sounds terrible to the neighbours but it really helps. You just have to persist.


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 31 Jan 19 - 11:19 AM

I've found this a valuable and enjoyable exchange of ideas but what I have missed is a suggestion of an overall 'cunning plan' of how to tackle work on singing
The nearly ten- years of the Critics Group produced one that satisfied my requirements so I'll put up a summary of one of the ways it tackled requests for advice from singers
This is a description of an evening at one of the very earliest days of the group - I would very much appreciate comments
It comes from a talk Pat and I did at a week-end in Salford commemorating Ewan's work
I'm posting this now to give it time to run (hopefully) - I'm not going to be around from Sunday till Wednesday
Jim Carroll

The Group’s work would cover many aspects of songs and singing, but a constant throughout its existence was ‘the group criticism’, where a singer would be asked to present a number of songs for discussion, sometimes performed as if at a folk club, complete with presentation, accompaniments, introductions, etc.
This would be discussed and comments would be made on how successful it had been and in what way it could be improved, if at all.
MacColl’s main role would be that of chairman, summing up the points that had been made and adding his own to them. These would often include in depth observations on specific aspects raised by the singing or the songs.
Here is part of MacColl’s observations of the song Annach Cuain following Luke Kelly’s performance rendering at a group meeting

SELECTIONS ON DISCUSSION OF ANNAGH DUIN - SOUND CLIP

Luke was in London in 1964 and became an enthusiastic member of the Group. He was a great admirer of MacColl and fully appreciated the value of the work being undertaken.
One evening that year was devoted to a performance by Luke when he sang nine songs such as he might present to a folk club audience. Most of the Critics Group meetings were recorded, hence these examples.

LUKE’S PERFORMANCE - SOUND CLIP

At one point, one or maybe two songs from the performance would be selected and a working session would take place, the singer responding to and trying out suggestions made by group members, to see if the singing could be enhanced in any way. These, were just that, suggestions, and were in no way considered instructions set in stone.
Invariable the singer would be given a number of alternative approaches to try out, and would be asked to bring back the results at a later date to see if the songs had been helped in any way by the discussion, or if had led the singer to handle the songs differently.
These critical sessions were very much a two-way process, with both the singer and the group in general benefitting from the discussion by having to consider the singing in detail.
The evenings would usually finish with a discourse by Ma``cColl, both informative and inspirational, on a general aspect of folksong and singing

EDOM O’ GORDON AND OTHER BALLADS? - SOUND CLIP


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 31 Jan 19 - 04:56 PM

How do we get the sound clips?


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: The Sandman
Date: 31 Jan 19 - 05:56 PM

people would learn something from listening to his advice


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: The Sandman
Date: 31 Jan 19 - 05:58 PM

And thankyou Jim for passing on advice learned from those sessions


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 01 Feb 19 - 03:12 AM

T have the recordings of the examples which I am happy to pass on - I have the whole evening session (a couple of hours of it
Maddeningly, Luke's actual performance was never recorded - in the early days of the group recording tape was in short supply so economising led to the actual performances not being recorded - just the discussion and work later that soon altered as the group got on its feet
I do have the scripts of the two talks we gave at the Ewan week-ends at Salford, (one on Ewan, the other on Water Pardon) - happy to pass them on, but we're off to Dublin (not in the green, of course) on Sunday and will not be back till Wednesday, so it will have to wait
I seem to remember a Muddcatter saying that they were at one of the talks
I deliberately put this up to give time for people to decide what they think of the method
Jim


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: GUEST
Date: 01 Feb 19 - 03:36 AM

Thanks Jim, yes I do think this thread would benefit from actual advice / cunning plan.

The piece you've posted gives a glimpse of what might be going on at those group meetings. It would be good to hear the sound clips. Without them I'm afraid I am still quite in the dark about the nature of the kind of constructive criticism that was being offered. I mean I have no idea at all about what they might be talking about.

Beyond this, the kind of working on singing that I would love to hear more about would be vocal exercises aimed at strengthening or retaining the voice. I am guessing this is not what is covered in the critics group session.


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 01 Feb 19 - 03:59 AM

I've been promising myself that I'd put together a 'learner pack' of the exercises with their rationale, and examples of them in action for a long time now
I'm hoping to get some of these ideas used locally - Ireland has some way to go singing-wise to catch up with the phenomenal success that music is now experiencing
I believe most people can sing and, given the effort, can sing as well, if not better than many of 'the names
We had a lovely experience one when we took blind Traveller, Mary Delaney, (discussed on the 'What Will We Do' thread) to The Singers Club one night
She sat though the residents' performances and after each, whispered her opinion of them into my ear (she loved Frankie Armstrong's singing)
If you think people don't criticise your singing after you perform - dream on
You may as well make use of that criticism as far as I'm concerned
Working in the way that we did meant that everybody involved learned something from each session - the singer being worked on - of course - the fact that you were being asked to think abot what the singers was doing meant that you began to understand the workings of your own voice and apply what you have learned to your own performances
One thing I found was that, while I have never been as good a singer as I wanted to be, the very first time I ever sang for criticism got rid on any nervousness I had about singing to an audience - I have never been nervous since
Will put something together when we get back from Dublin (our trip will include a visit to the Cobblestone Club whicdh is run entirely by young singers who have fairly recently come to traditional singing and are now as good, if not batter, than most clubs on the scene today)
Jim


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: GUEST,Jane Bernal
Date: 01 Feb 19 - 05:11 AM

It would be good to hear from some other woman singers. We tend to use our voices differently. Some of us are quieter and have to work harder to be heard over a chatty audience. Breath control is terrifically important. I've been singing all my life but from my early 20s to mid-fifties mostly round the house or to small children (I did have a busy day job too, but it did not give me much opportunity to sing.) In my late fifties I had a set of ten singing lessons from the late great Niall Timmins that transformed my singing. Lots of good tips but it was the daily breathing exercises that really made the difference. That and discovering a whole octave below the mezzo-soprano voice they told me I had at school. For me the words have always been the thing, I think I was doing OK on those even before the lessons. I'd have taken more but Niall fell ill and died that summer. Like others on this thread, I certainly notice when singers with lovely voices sing mellifluous vowels but lose the meaning because the consonants are not clear. Some of them are classically trained too.


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 01 Feb 19 - 06:22 AM

Don't want to dominate this Jane - but...
I don't know where you are but some months ago women singers from the Goilín singing club in Dublin organised a workshop/discussion for women singers - 40 women turned up
This coming Sunday there is to be a meeting of women singers in The Cobbestone Pub in Smithfield Dublin

Frankie Armstrong is the person who springs to mind when the topic of women singers comes up - she set up classes to develop womens' voices
I have not enough information to know what Frankie is doing now but it's worth googling her name   
PLENTY MORE THAN THIS ON LINE
Jim


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: GUEST,Jane Bernal
Date: 02 Feb 19 - 01:31 PM

Thanks, Jim, you are not dominating it at all, just trying to be helpful. I'm in Cornwall, though I do hope to get to the Goilin one day. Even more after reading your post. Went to one of Frankie's workshops long ago and it was good. What I like about this thread is the way different people contribute ideas about what worked for them. Most of the contributors have been men, and I'd like to hear from some other women as well. Not a gender specific point but I find going through the lyrics without the tune, as if they were speech makes them easier to learn and helps work out phrasing, emphasis and pauses to draw breath.
I'm with you on criticism too. I like it if people tell me when I am singing well, unless they say it every single time, when I conclude they either were not listening, or would not know good singing from bad. Niall told me his did not like the way the top of my vocal range sounded. He taught me better ways to pitch my singing, so that I didn't squawk, got me to reduce the volume on high notes, and introduced me to my lower register. His criticism made his praise worth hearing. I have not quite got the nerve to criticise anyone else yet. Not even the woman with the fantastic soprano voice who might as well sing the phone book for all the words I can hear her sing.


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 03 Feb 19 - 05:20 AM

I always like the Mike Harding story about the guy who stopped him one day on the streets of Manchester.

'Mike,can you take a piece of constructive criticism...?'
'Yes, of course.'
'You're crap, mate!'


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 03 Feb 19 - 05:41 AM

Jane
I hope you didn't miss the point I made about women's head voice; a common problem
When I first heard Frankie Armstrong she sang using a fairly breathy tone - now she runs classes trying to persuade women to use and control all areas of their voice - I hope the Goilín wemen are discussing the same
We're off to Dublin shortly - missed the Goilín but we're lucky enough top catch tonight's Cobblestones singing - organised ad run by mainly young singers new to the scene - many singing traditional songs superbly
It looks like we ma be able to start things going her in Clare, once one of teh best singing counties but fallen by the wayside since the old singers died off
Fingers crossed   

Not helpful when you're tryingto encourage people to talk about learning to sing Al -Mildly amusing but not helpful
Jim


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Subject: RE: Working on singing
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 03 Feb 19 - 07:50 AM

Jane mentioned "got me to reduce the volume on high notes".

I think that's important.

Some otherwise good singers, including some highly respected (but now deceased) traditional singers, get/got very loud on the top notes while being much quieter on the lower notes. In a live performance in a small room it doesn't much matter unless the loud is painfully so (which it is with some singers whom I will forbear to name). If I'm listening to a recording in my car I have to keep turning the volume up and down to be able to understand the words on the quiet bits without the loud being too loud.


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