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Why sing harmony?

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Saro 27 Jul 06 - 04:39 PM
GUEST,mg 27 Jul 06 - 04:46 PM
Joe Offer 27 Jul 06 - 05:07 PM
Saro 27 Jul 06 - 05:12 PM
Mrs.Duck 27 Jul 06 - 05:17 PM
Drumshanty 27 Jul 06 - 05:23 PM
Gwenzilla 27 Jul 06 - 06:55 PM
McGrath of Harlow 27 Jul 06 - 06:57 PM
Kaleea 27 Jul 06 - 07:07 PM
Herga Kitty 27 Jul 06 - 07:57 PM
Richard Bridge 27 Jul 06 - 08:38 PM
Herga Kitty 27 Jul 06 - 08:46 PM
frogprince 27 Jul 06 - 08:54 PM
Herga Kitty 27 Jul 06 - 09:05 PM
frogprince 27 Jul 06 - 09:28 PM
michaelr 27 Jul 06 - 10:44 PM
Greg B 27 Jul 06 - 11:21 PM
JohnB 27 Jul 06 - 11:31 PM
Liath 28 Jul 06 - 03:54 AM
Sooz 28 Jul 06 - 04:02 AM
Dave the Gnome 28 Jul 06 - 05:10 AM
Sooz 28 Jul 06 - 05:14 AM
GUEST,Neovo 28 Jul 06 - 05:37 AM
Grab 28 Jul 06 - 05:46 AM
Dave the Gnome 28 Jul 06 - 05:46 AM
Dave the Gnome 28 Jul 06 - 06:05 AM
Marje 28 Jul 06 - 06:48 AM
GUEST,The black belt caterpillar wrestler 28 Jul 06 - 07:36 AM
Greg B 28 Jul 06 - 08:09 AM
Dave the Gnome 28 Jul 06 - 08:52 AM
Saro 28 Jul 06 - 11:05 AM
GUEST,Russ 28 Jul 06 - 11:52 AM
BTMP 28 Jul 06 - 12:09 PM
GUEST,Janie 28 Jul 06 - 01:23 PM
Georgiansilver 28 Jul 06 - 01:33 PM
MartinRyan 28 Jul 06 - 02:42 PM
Sue the Borderer 28 Jul 06 - 04:54 PM
GUEST 28 Jul 06 - 04:56 PM
Bert 28 Jul 06 - 04:58 PM
Genie 28 Jul 06 - 05:05 PM
Genie 28 Jul 06 - 05:09 PM
Scoville 28 Jul 06 - 05:12 PM
Genie 28 Jul 06 - 05:16 PM
Bert 28 Jul 06 - 05:40 PM
Artful Codger 28 Jul 06 - 11:44 PM
Ferrara 29 Jul 06 - 11:45 AM
Ferrara 29 Jul 06 - 12:05 PM
Marje 29 Jul 06 - 12:07 PM
Ferrara 29 Jul 06 - 02:36 PM
Rumncoke 29 Jul 06 - 05:07 PM
GUEST,Frank Hamilton 30 Jul 06 - 11:02 AM
Herga Kitty 30 Jul 06 - 01:09 PM
Saro 30 Jul 06 - 01:15 PM
MartinRyan 30 Jul 06 - 02:01 PM
GUEST,Rowan 30 Jul 06 - 11:46 PM
GUEST,Russ 31 Jul 06 - 11:11 AM
Wilfried Schaum 01 Aug 06 - 05:47 AM
GUEST,IBO 27 Sep 06 - 01:36 PM
GUEST,Jim 27 Sep 06 - 03:24 PM
MMario 27 Sep 06 - 03:30 PM
GUEST,IBO 27 Sep 06 - 03:30 PM
jack halyard 27 Sep 06 - 04:23 PM
chrisgl 27 Sep 06 - 04:52 PM
GUEST,Shimrod 27 Sep 06 - 05:52 PM
Forsh 27 Sep 06 - 06:41 PM
GUEST,Rowan 27 Sep 06 - 07:25 PM
GUEST,IBO 27 Sep 06 - 07:28 PM
Joe Offer 28 Sep 06 - 03:14 AM
George Papavgeris 28 Sep 06 - 04:12 AM
Rumncoke 28 Sep 06 - 04:50 AM
ositojuanito 28 Sep 06 - 05:16 AM
MMario 28 Sep 06 - 08:14 AM
GUEST,The Tasman 28 Sep 06 - 09:08 AM
chrisgl 28 Sep 06 - 02:36 PM
Abuwood 29 Sep 06 - 03:38 AM
Carol 29 Sep 06 - 03:59 AM
GUEST 29 Sep 06 - 04:11 AM
Singing Referee 29 Sep 06 - 08:54 AM
The Fooles Troupe 30 Sep 06 - 01:32 AM
stallion 30 Sep 06 - 04:41 AM
Marje 03 Oct 06 - 12:14 PM
Desert Dancer 03 Oct 06 - 03:45 PM
PoppaGator 04 Oct 06 - 02:56 AM
GUEST,Steve-Cooperator 04 Oct 06 - 06:25 AM
Herga Kitty 04 Oct 06 - 06:29 PM
The Sandman 05 Oct 06 - 12:38 PM
closet-folkie 05 Oct 06 - 01:28 PM
GUEST,Steve-Cooperator 05 Oct 06 - 03:23 PM
PoppaGator 05 Oct 06 - 08:15 PM
Desert Dancer 06 Oct 06 - 01:21 AM
The Sandman 06 Oct 06 - 11:12 AM
Dave'sWife 06 Oct 06 - 11:50 AM
GUEST,jacko 18 Dec 06 - 05:44 PM
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Subject: Why sing harmony?
From: Saro
Date: 27 Jul 06 - 04:39 PM

This is a question for those who love singing harmony - why do you (well that should be "we" really) do it? What is it that draws you towards harmonising songs, what's the appeal for you? is it a musical thing...an emotional thing...to do with being part of a group...or what?
Here's hoping for some interesting thoughts.
Saro


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 27 Jul 06 - 04:46 PM

It sounds pretty to me. mg


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 27 Jul 06 - 05:07 PM

My wife Christina never could sing, but she joined the church choir because I was in it (somewhat to my chagrin). We have a terrific choir director, and she realized right away that Christina was trying to sing in the wrong range. Now Christina is singing alto, and feeling really good about it.
For once in her life, she really feels like she can sing. And the altos have taken her under their wings - and they especially like it because Christina is a chiropractor and gives massages to the whole choir...
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Saro
Date: 27 Jul 06 - 05:12 PM

How lovely for her! Yes, i suppose "because the tune doesn't suit my vocal range" is a really good reason which i nhadn't thought of!
saro


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Mrs.Duck
Date: 27 Jul 06 - 05:17 PM

Harmony is a bit like a vocal accompaniment. Done properly it enhances the melody.


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Drumshanty
Date: 27 Jul 06 - 05:23 PM

A good question, and one that's been on my mind this past while. I sing in a group with three other people and, during the past year, it's become clear to us that people expect harmonies if they see more than one person singing. And they seem to expect those harmonies to be quite elaborate.

However, I believe that a harmony should complement and enhance the melody, not drown it out. I find it frustrating trying to hear the actual melody of a song that has been harmonied too elaborately to my ears.

Some of our songs have no harmonies, or not many, because we believe that the words and the way in which we sing them are better at getting the song across.

So why sing them? For me, it's a group thing. There is a wonderful feeling to be had when we make a pretty sound! And it's also wonderful when I am singing alone, and the audience or the people I am singing with join in with all sorts of harmonies that seem to make the song into something else.


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Gwenzilla
Date: 27 Jul 06 - 06:55 PM

I love to sing in harmony because for me there's nothing like the feeling of being part of a rich, layered, larger sound. We are all individual, isolated within ourselves, apart from other human beings. There are some very beautiful activities and experiences that can make us feel part of a greater whole, at one with our fellow human beings, sweetly and perfectly at one and in tune with another person. One of those things is good harmony singing.


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 27 Jul 06 - 06:57 PM

When you can't reach some note beacuse it's a bit high or too low, singig a harmony is a good way to solve the difficulty, and it sounds good too. And if everone sings the melody notes it gets a bit crowded in there, so it seems natural to find a harmony where there's a bit more space.

Actually what tends to happen a lot of the time in folk clubs and so forth isn't so much the kind of harmony singing where people are aimig for block chords, like barbershop singers, but rather people evolving different melody lines that come together at times and move apart. And part of that is because where people pick up songs orally (which includes listening to records), we tend to pick up and pass on variants, either because the variants were there in what we were listening to, or because our memories and are ears aren't all that accurate.


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Kaleea
Date: 27 Jul 06 - 07:07 PM

I began to sing harmony as a child. The melody was pretty. Then, I began to harmonize--and experienced a rush I had not known before as two voices blended to become something different which was even more beautiful.
I have always preferred to sing & play in an ensemble. This is always more fun to me. A fiddle, combined with my pennywhistle, becomes a separate instrument that is unlike any other--and there are certainly many beautiful combinations of instruments.
And, yes, although I sing Soprano, I still prefer to sing harmony.


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Herga Kitty
Date: 27 Jul 06 - 07:57 PM

Saro

Yes you're right, it's an interesting subject, particularly because it raises the issue of "folk or art?" But the other issues are about getting the song across and story, tune, texture.

If I understand correctly, harmony singing in the UK is not typically traditional apart from the Copper family (and Ron's bass lines were pretty basic).

I sing harmonies because it's a compulsion.

I learned to sing from sheet music in choirs when I was at school, but found I was instinctively wanting to sing harmony on hymns in school assemblies.

Then I was introduced to the Herga folk club (in the heyday of the Young Tradition, and round about the time of the Watersons' first farewell tour)and discovered that improvising harmonies was a) an accepted thing to do in folk clubs, and b) (especially where there are fabulous acoustics like the Bracknell South Hill Park Cellar) utterly exhilarating. Also, in the 1970s, we had Jim Mageean and Johnny Collins most Mondays at Herga, and great opportunities for adding harmonies.

I agree with Kevin that a lot of the time harmonies are the result of people singing in keys that don't feel comfortable for you to sing the tune.

I've sometimes thought that CBS and Artisan are/ were so polished that they're more art than folk.

I very much enjoyed your workshop with the rest of CMR at Chippenham last year, when you explained your approach to harmonies (especially the Snows of Winter). As you pointed out, having 3 singers gives several possible combinations for 1. 2 or 3 singers at any one time.

i love the Anchor Middle Bar at Sidmouth (if anything the February reunion is better than the August festival) because it's dedicated to unaccompanied singing and provides opportunities for vocal harmonies. (Ditto the Wareham Wail.)

Kitty


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 27 Jul 06 - 08:38 PM

Just 'cos a song is accompanied is no reason not to sing harmony.


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Herga Kitty
Date: 27 Jul 06 - 08:46 PM

Richard - I have a sneaking feeling that my harmonies quite often come from picking up notes in the instrumental accompaniments!

Kitty


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: frogprince
Date: 27 Jul 06 - 08:54 PM

"I've sometimes thought that CBS and Artisan are/ were so polished that they're more art than folk."

You mean there's a distinction between folk singing and art? And the distinction is, if you do it too good, it's art?   ; )


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Herga Kitty
Date: 27 Jul 06 - 09:05 PM

Yes, frogprince, I think there's a distinction, though I'm not entirely clear what the boundaries are. The Living Tradition review of a CD I recorded in 1997/8 concluded that I was a singer who sang folk songs, but not a folk singer.

Kitty


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: frogprince
Date: 27 Jul 06 - 09:28 PM

Must say, I've never thought of it that way. When I listen with chills running up my spine, to Sweet Honey in the Rock, or to Anne Hills, Cindy Mangsen, and Priscilla Herdman, I think of what they do as fine musical art, and I don't think of them as violating the folk tradition.
Now I have heard people sing folk songs as opera. Art, perhaps, but not my kinda art.


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: michaelr
Date: 27 Jul 06 - 10:44 PM

Because it FEELS good!

My band began as a trio, with a female lead singer, myself on guitar, and a fiddler. I've always sung low harmonies (being a highish baritone). Then the fiddler joined in, with a range somewhat higher than mine. Then we got a conga player who loves singing bass. Then we got a bass player who sings great tenor!

There is nothing like the feeling I get when we're all singing on the chorus of some great song. I love it!

Cheers,
Michael


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Greg B
Date: 27 Jul 06 - 11:21 PM

Ever feel the plates in your skull start to vibrate
with the sound of the people around you?

That's why.


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: JohnB
Date: 27 Jul 06 - 11:31 PM

I just LOVE those dirty nasty chords that finish a song COMPLETELY, the one's that make the hairs on the back of your neck stand out.
There is also something in an unacompanied human voice which can shut up the noisiest Pub around and soemehow, somewhy, if it's good they listen, instruments can NOT do this.
When any of the above happens, you don't have to ask why or how, it's just Muckin Fagik.
JohnB


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Liath
Date: 28 Jul 06 - 03:54 AM

All of the above. It's a great way of fitting stuff into your vocal range.

I think harmonising with voice is no different to any kind of instrumental accompaniment. It can enhance the melody and enrich the sound for the listener. Whether or not any kind of accompaniment is traditional is something I'm sure we can argue about 'til the cows come home ;-)

Like any other sort of accompaniment, there's a time and a place for it - and I do think harmonisers should make sure it's OK to jump in on an unaccompanied song. Sometimes I love harmonies, but at other times, I really just want to sing stark and solo. Unless you really click musically with someone, it can be tricky to harmonise sympathetically.


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Sooz
Date: 28 Jul 06 - 04:02 AM

If I hear a group of singers singing in unison, I always wonder why. Singing in harmony comes naturally to me and like Kitty, I couldn't resist harmonising in school assemblies!


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 28 Jul 06 - 05:10 AM

I think it is a perfectly natural thing to do and agree with all the above. I remember having an argument with a member of some 'shanty crew', who were incidentaly landlocked but shall remain nameless. He was stating categoricaly that sailors would never have sung harmony because the shanties were work songs, because they were not trained to sing harmony and all sorts of nonsense.

If we do it because it sounds good, it's easy and it's natural then I am pretty sure that our ancesters would have done the same:-)

Cheers

DtG


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Sooz
Date: 28 Jul 06 - 05:14 AM

Quite.
Just off to Saddleworth now - looking forward to Monday Dave!


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: GUEST,Neovo
Date: 28 Jul 06 - 05:37 AM

All of the above and more. I think this is one of those "If you have to ask the question you won't understand the answer" things.


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Grab
Date: 28 Jul 06 - 05:46 AM

Dave, I can well believe that they wouldn't have sung work-songs in harmony, any more than soldiers would harmonise on a jody. But they may well have harmonised in the pubs - plenty of what we call "shanties" because of their nautical subject are actually drinking songs that wouldn't get sung at sea.

And I'd be very surprised if there was no tradition of harmonising in Britain. For centuries, the church was the high point of musical theory, and the religious songs of the mediaeval period definitely have harmony elements. Musical notation was pioneered by church singers as a way of recording how the melody and harmony lines were supposed to go. So it'd be quite surprising if other "home-made" music didn't include harmonies.

Graham.


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 28 Jul 06 - 05:46 AM

Seez you, Sooz.


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 28 Jul 06 - 06:05 AM

There were the foc'sle shanties as well, Graham, which were not work songs. Even those that were were for work likely to have some harmony in them simply because the 'chants' were needed to keep time and, as said, singing in your own register is easier than singing in someone elses! Unless the whole crew were in the same register it is far more likely that you would be able to hear some tenors, barritones and bases in there with the odd alto thrown in for good measure:-)

They may of course of sung the dots in unison but the ranges would have applied. My opinion is that even the notes would have been different between different singers. There are people who will naturaly sing 3rds, 5ths and etc. as well and to have none of them amongst a whole cross section of crew is unlikely. Of course none of this applied to the Royal Navy after a certain date that escapes me at the moment...

Cheers

DtG


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Marje
Date: 28 Jul 06 - 06:48 AM

I'm not convinced that there is no real tradition of harmony singing in the UK.

I know Vaughan Williams declared that the English tradition was a single melody line, not harmonised, but he happened to collect most of his songs from individual, mostly elderly people singing solo in their homes. As far as I know he didn't really look into how singing was used in farms, on ships, in factories, at feasts and festivals, or in groups of families and friends at leisure.I agree with Graham above - church music was so much in the blood of many (most?) people in Britain that it would be very surprising if there weren't other harmony traditions like those of the Coppers, whose harmonies are very churchy.

This applies, I think, in Scotland and England but probably less in Ireland; Irish traditional singing often uses ornamentation as an alternative to harmony. This does happen in English and Scots songs too, but there are also an awful lot of big solid melodies and chorus songs that are just crying out for harmonies, and I'm pretty certain they'd have been sung in harmony, especially before the widespread use of pianos, accordions, guitars etc which put in the chords and harmonies for you.

I don't think I can add anything about why we do it, it's all been said so well already. I'd just add that since so many of us feel that it's very natural, almost instinctive, it would be astonishing if it had only just become prevalent in the last generation or two.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: GUEST,The black belt caterpillar wrestler
Date: 28 Jul 06 - 07:36 AM

When it comes to the English music tradition don't forget that for most people Church music and folk music were two sides of the same coin. The church musicians were the barn dance band. Look at the complexity of some of the West gallery music and then you will realise that there was plenty of harmony singing around available to all.
Am I unusual in experiencing a tune as a chord sequence around a melody, whether or not the chords are actually being played? For me the harmonies are there ready to be sung, and probably nearer my register!


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Greg B
Date: 28 Jul 06 - 08:09 AM

>There were the foc'sle shanties as well

I know of many fo'c's'le songs, but I believe
there doesn't exist a single "foc'sle shanty."

What work to be done in the crew's quarters that
would need a song to keep the pace eludes me at
the moment, unless someone knows a dolphin-flogging
chanty.

On the other hand, I think it absurd to assert that
people who lacked instruments (because they were poor)
or the free hands to play them (because they were working)
wouldn't exploit the full capabilities of the one instrument
available to them, the human voice.


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 28 Jul 06 - 08:52 AM

We all know what can be done to a regular rhytm in a hammock, Greg:-)

It's mine and I'll wash as fast as I want...

:D (tG)


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Saro
Date: 28 Jul 06 - 11:05 AM

My response to GUEST,Neovo is that I don't at all think it is a situation where if you have to ask the question, you won't understand the answer. Mind you, I didn't "have" to ask the question, I just wanted to ask it, and the responses are a great insight into people's way of experiencing and enjoying music. For me, there's a real physical thrill created by some combinations of notes, and even more when we can create a harmony that replicates in sound something of the same emotion that the words create at a particular point in a song. When all thse factors come together, it is the nearest thing to heaven. I'm sure one day there'll be a way of physically measuring the way every cell in the body responds to particular chords - or maybe there is already, in which case I expect someone will point me in the right direction!
OK, that's probably marked me down as completely round the twist, I dare say, but it is nice to know that my particular form of insanity is shared with a lot of others...
Best wishes
Saro


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 28 Jul 06 - 11:52 AM

Harmony is theoretically wonderful.

But...

I don't sing harmony for a number of reasons. Mainly because given the people I sing with regularyly there is no need for yet another harmony singer.

A personal observation:
Lead singers often at least profess modesty. In my experience it is not unusual for a lead singer or the person who starts the song to apologize in advance for real or imagined shortcomings.
I have never met a harmony singer who was the least uncertain about his/her harmonizing abilities. Why is this?

A number of harmony singers of my acquaintance sing harmony for what to are TO ME (the nonharmony singer) not the best reasons. As one person put it, "When you sing harmony you don't have to know the tune." She then proceeded to make it crystal clear that she did not know the tune.

A number of harmony singers of my acquaintance apparently follow the rule "anything goes." TO ME (the nonharmony singer), and to MY ears, that is not the best approach.

Russ (the last GUEST standing)


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: BTMP
Date: 28 Jul 06 - 12:09 PM

I love singing along with CDs while I'm driving or putzing around the house. It's great to be singing a baritone line with, for example, the Louvin Brothers, whose wonderful duets usually leave out a harmony part for me to jump on. Also, most singers are really average as far as pure vocal talent goes, but when you get 3 or 4 'average' singers together and they are singing harmony, it truly can be a great experience, more so, perhaps than singing individually. It just makes you feel good.   -btmp


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: GUEST,Janie
Date: 28 Jul 06 - 01:23 PM

Like Michael R and others have said, harmony singing is so visceral it is literally a rush to sing or to hear. It also can add so much to the emotional interpretation of a song.

Interesting observation Russ. That has not been my experience, however. For myself, whether I am singing the melody line or a harmony, when it goes off I always assume it was me who lost pitch.

Janie


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Georgiansilver
Date: 28 Jul 06 - 01:33 PM

Some years ago I recorded myself singing and whilst playing it back I begun singing in harmony with myself. The next step was recording me singing harmony to my own song on tape...I got a real buzz from it and I tend to sing harmony wherever possible now..as to why, I can't tell you as I have no idea why I get such a buzz from it.
Best wishes, MIke.


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: MartinRyan
Date: 28 Jul 06 - 02:42 PM

Most of the time (not always) when I sing harmony, my objective is to make an invisible but not inaudible contribution to something I'm enjoying listening to i.e. to blend in a sound that contributes to what the lead singer is doing, without distracting from it.

The exceptions are with singers I know well, where we are used to harmonising a song which we know between us - and shanty singing, which is a different matter!

As ever, the song itself is what matters - it's just as easy to destroy a song with poor harmony as it is with inappropriate phrasing, decoration or whatever in the melody line. Call it "taste", "experience" or whatever - it comes down to being able to listen and learn....

Regards


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Sue the Borderer
Date: 28 Jul 06 - 04:54 PM

Just thinking about some of those wonderful scrunchy harmonies makes my fingers and toes curl and raises my neck-hairs! (Haven't quite managed to move the plates in my skull yet)

I'm trying really hard not to be envious of Kitty, Sooz and Kaleea etc to whom it all seems to come naturally. For me it's been a huge struggle. When I first started singing at the local folk club (about 6 years ago now) I liked the sound people were making, but couldn't work out how it was done or where I might 'fit in'.

I remember my excitement a couple of years later when watching (and listening) to Grace Notes; for the first time ever I could follow what each person was singing; instead of just being a huge jumble of sound, I could pick out the separate threads. Mind you, I could only do it one at a time, cos I had to be watching their mouths move!

Then a lengthy 'do it quietly and hope no-one will hear' sort of stage until now, just occasionally 'going for it', with a little bit more confidence - and getting it right! That's such a buzz


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: GUEST
Date: 28 Jul 06 - 04:56 PM


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Bert
Date: 28 Jul 06 - 04:58 PM

A polite request to harmony singers. If you want to sing your harmony along with another singer, Please ask first.

While I love to hear good harmony, for various reasons I find that if someone sings harmony along with me it is very distracting and can often cause me to lose the tune completely.


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Genie
Date: 28 Jul 06 - 05:05 PM

Why do I sing harmony? Lots of times I don't even realize I'm doing it. LOL

Some songs are hard to harmonize and in that case I seldom try. But others seem to have such obvious/natural harmonies that I go into them spontaneously and may not even realize I'm not singing the melody unless someone points it out to me.   That can be because the song and a common harmony are familiar to me (e.g., Amazing Grace or Puff, The Magic Dragon) or it can happen with a song I've never heard before.

I agree with Mary (mg).   When I sing harmony it's because I like the way it sounds. §;-D

Genie


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Genie
Date: 28 Jul 06 - 05:09 PM

Bert, with all due respect, I think it would be cumbersome in most song circles and sing-alongs for people to ask before every song, "Is harmony OK?"   If it's a setting where it's not "understood" whether you're supposed to sing along or not, of course it's good to ask if you may. But where the normal mode is for people to join in or if the singer has invited people to sing along, it makes more sense to me that if they don't want harmonies (or other back-up types of vocals), they should specify that.

:)

Genie


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Scoville
Date: 28 Jul 06 - 05:12 PM

Why not?

That, and I'm one of those weird slightly-high-register altos that is definitely not a soprano but whose comfortable range is a couple of notes higher than a normal alto. I can't keep up with either the altos or the sopranos and it's often easier to find something in between.


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Genie
Date: 28 Jul 06 - 05:16 PM

I would add one case where spontaneous harmonizing is probably not a good idea.   That's when someone is introducing a NEW song or new tune.

Too often, I find when someone is presenting a new song that has familiar, common chords, when the group starts to sing along and starts adding harmonies from the get-go, nobody really learns the TUNE. So it ends up sounding like a dozen other songs that have similar chord patterns (e.g., Goodnight, Irene and Roll On Columbia would end up sounding identical).   
In that case, I think it helps if everyone tries to stick to the melody until people have got that down. Then they can add harmonies later.

But, as has been said, harmony (or melody transpositions) can be the only way you can sing a song that's really in a bad key for you.


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Bert
Date: 28 Jul 06 - 05:40 PM

Good point Genie.


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Artful Codger
Date: 28 Jul 06 - 11:44 PM

In addition to the above reasons, there is frequently greater freedom in a harmony part than in a melody part.

I mostly sing solo unaccompanied, but in a "harmonic" style, which is to say that I flex the melody to include harmony notes, and will even integrate snatches of harmony lines into a melody line, once the melody is established enough to "ghost" in the listener's mind.

If several people sing together, I generally prefer that they sing harmony because otherwise the melody "averages out": the singers all stick to the least common denominator, which is dull. It is easy to over-ornament in a harmony situation, but when people sing their own lines, they're more prone to add touches that make a song much more than what can be written on a page - or sung by a group in unison.

For this reason, I also prefer small groups to large ones. I've always been a fan of close harmonies, particularly when three or four people give the illusion of a more massive sound, or weave intricate progressions that nevertheless sound just right. In small groups, you have more opportunity for harmonic experimentation - a simple change of harmony can transform a song.

Of course, harmony singing is, like most things, a two-edged sword: it can enhance or detract, and only sensitivity and skill (and occasionally chance) determine which direction it will take a piece. Just because you have four or more people does NOT mean that you should always have full chords, and that everyone should be singing pretty much all the time. However, in informal groups one must bow to the spirit of democracy, the tyrrany of mediocrity.

If you want a song you're performing or leading to NOT be harmonized, you can just announce, "This song sounds best in unison", or, "Please hang off on the harmonies till the third verse." If you have the luxury, you might propose that you sing a few verses first, then return to the beginning so they can all sing in harmony. Simple directions put everyone on the same page.


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Ferrara
Date: 29 Jul 06 - 11:45 AM

I "learned" other people's harmonies (written harmonies on hymns, Ian & Sylvia's harmonies etc) very naturally, and sang them happily. But I didn't really start adding spontaneous harmonies until I joined the Folklore Society of Greater Washington and found that a lot of melodies on chorus songs were out of my range. :-) Now I thoroughly enjoy the challenge of finding a "good" harmony.

But what I like best is to lead a song that has a strong chorus or refrain, and to get back really fine harmonies and strong singing on the chorus. There is nothing like having a song be transformed, I guess I would describe it as taken to its full potential, by a group of people singing it together.


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Ferrara
Date: 29 Jul 06 - 12:05 PM

Here are a couple of observations (not pronouncements!) about harmony singing in Britain in earlier centuries.

I have heard that to some extent it was a regional thing. In some regions, you sang harmonies, in others no. In some areas, only the lead singer sang refrains and choruses -- They didn't expect to have any audience participation at all. This tradition was carried on, for example, in Sodom Laurel, NC, where Sheila Kaye Adams was raised. I believe Norman Kennedy said the tradition where he came from was to sing along on choruses, but in unison. If I'm wrong I apologize. I do know he said, categorically, that he prefers no harmony singing on his choruses. Lou Killen, on the other hand, said that where he comes from they certainly do sing harmonies.

Maybe there's also a difference in the type of songs from region so region. Love songs and ballads are one thing but livelier songs may have been treated differently. It's hard to imagine that a harvest song in the pub, or accompanying the last hay wagon home, had no harmonies! In fact as I think of it, I suspect the songs that invite the best harmonies mostly came from regions where harmony singing was prevalent. These are all suggestions & theories folks, just throwing out ideas for discussion (or not).

About shanties, I read something once that made me suspect they were actually frowned on in some quarters. How much difference that made to the seamen is another question. What I read was a quote from a British writer who had heard a crew singing shanties and said it was all well sung, except for one problem -- there were black sailors from the West Indies in the crew, and they "could not be taught to stay on the tune." !!!!!!! It makes me sigh, both at the arrogance of it, and at the ignorance. Surely the West Indian sailors were perfectly capable of singing the tune but sang harmonies because it was what they liked. I have wondered how much their singing encouraged other sailors to harmonize.


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Marje
Date: 29 Jul 06 - 12:07 PM

I have to say that my experience is quite the opposite of Bert's (above) - if I'm leading a song I find it really helpful and supportive if others are singing harmonies. It's a great feeling to be able to lean into the harmonies, and for me in enhances the whole thing. I suppose we all need, as individuals, to make our likes and dislikes known to those we sing with, so nobody gets upset.

For those who like to learn from recordings of harmony groups but struggle to identify the parts, one tip is to listen on stereo headphones. With any luck you'll hear the separate voices sounding in (apparently) different areas of your head, and it's much easier to pick out individual parts or notes that way.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Ferrara
Date: 29 Jul 06 - 02:36 PM

I always like people to sing harmonies on refrains and choruses, but I don't think it's appropriate to sing harmony (or to sing at all) on the verses unless it is a very well known song where lots of people know not just the verses, but the same version as the singer.

It's similar to the situation where people try to back up a singer with an instrument. They may not have the same timing as the singer, or the same phrasing and feeling, and they just interfere with what the singer is doing. Sometimes they throw the singer off complete, sometimes it just turns into a different type of song.

It depends a lot on context or the specific song and venue. You just have to be sensitive. I remember once I started to sing Janie Voss' "Standing Behind Some Man." Songster Bob on guitar, Pauline L on fiddle, and various others started backing me up. It is in straight 3/4 time and has straightforward chords, it isn't a ballad that needs expressive timing and phrasing and therefore might be unsuitable for accompaniment, and it was a great jam. What a good time. That still stands out in my memory, especially Pauline's fiddle line.

And I have friends who know the accompaniment to some of my favorite songs and I'd be disappointed if they didn't join in. Other times, I've occasionally asked someone not to accompany me because it just didn't fit.

I suspect harmony is almost a complete parallel. Also, there are some singers who have trouble holding the tune if someone sings a harmony.


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Rumncoke
Date: 29 Jul 06 - 05:07 PM

I have a 'difficult' voice - I never met anyone who can sing the same range - though I know there was someone who sang exactly one octave lower.

I met three quarters of a quartet several times when their ship was in Portsmouth, Hampshire England. They went under the name of Crow's Nest.

They came and sang at one of the pubs where I used to sing with the usual suspects, and when I started to sing they got very enthusiastic. They were so pleased, having lost the man to another ship, to find someone who not only sang the same way, but knew a lot their songs.

I supose I am lucky in that once I get started I can hold a tune - I remember very well going to Cecil Sharpe House and spending the day in the library, then in the evening went to a folk club in one of the cellars.

The two hosts seemed to find it presumptious that someone asked if I could sing, before even asking me if I wanted to. I was told to be brief, so I sang 'Westering Home' - it being but 2 verses.

By the end of the first verse they were both howling out slightly different tune and words, and having to hold eachother up because they were laughing so much. It is no wonder that the EFDSS went into decline after that - the distaff side of the family have Gipsy blood and if they curse someone it is usually good - or rather bad, for about 13 years....

Singing along can be wonderful but it can also be vindictive.


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 11:02 AM

The reason to sing harmonies is to bring overtones to the vocal ensembles. These overtones are felt often rather than heard and create a sense of harmonious feelings in the listener. For those that are sensitive to music, they create excitement in their use in a vocal ensemble. They express dynamics(louds and softs)which add to the dimension of a song emotionally. For one who is more sophisticated in music, unison singing all the way through a song can be boring. Harmonies are a way to express musical ideas that may enhance the text of a song.

To avoid harmonies in sea chanteys seems to me to be academically rigid. It seems to me that on shipboard, men engaged in hard labor would find relief in the music by instituting harmonies.

Shipboard recordings while men are working would be hard to do. When ashore,actual sailors would have to be counted on to provide information as to what happens when they are using chanteys for work.

Frank


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Herga Kitty
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 01:09 PM

I spent yesterday at El Greko's, recording harmonies for Les Sullivan's next CD. I enjoyed the singing, just hope others will enjoy listening (and joining in if they feel like it!)

Kitty


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Saro
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 01:15 PM

Kitty, I'm sure they will!
Sarah


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: MartinRyan
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 02:01 PM

Frank

Exactly! Overtones is(/are) what I meant earlier by being "invisible but not inaudible".

Regards


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: GUEST,Rowan
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 11:46 PM

Why sing harmony?
Why sing?
For me the answer to each contains much the same elements; "because I can", "because it feels good", "because it seems to create good results", "because others like it" are all parts of the answers. Almost all of the posts above have said the relevant bits better than I but there are some experiences I have been reminded of by a few of the posts.

Some songs, for me, cry out for multiple voices. They might sound terrific sung solo and might sound terrific, but different, if accompanied by instruments. A small group may sing them with transcendental effect and a massed choir have a similarly transforming effect but by different means. I've been fortunate to have experienced all of these, in a wide variety of settings. Sorry for the pun.

Most of the people who've posted here seem to share lots of experience and bring that experience to bear in their comments but every now and then you realise you're in the company of newcomers or people who have a different view of the things you've taken for granted. Sometimes this opens your eyes and sometimes you just want to close your ears. Learning to take the bad with the good is an ongoing process although I confess to trying to encourage beginners with (hopefully) helpful advice.

The ones that are difficult are those people who don't seem to 'hear' the way we'd like them to. Like the 'hippies' (for want of a better term) for whom structure seemed to be anathema and, whenever you started on a song or a tune, regarded this as an invitation to improvise harmonies. Sigh! Often such people would turn up at a woolshed (or "bush") dance where the evening would be full of traditional dances (couples, long sets, quadrilles, circles etc) and they'd want to do their free-form imitations of Isidora Duncan. As an MC I could usually be successful in getting them to keep such efforts to the back of the hall and out of the way of the sets. Singing sessions (and tune sessions) required more diplomacy.

Over the years some of the 'hippies' picked up the skills of dealing with structure and turned their improvisation skills to good use with great harmony but I'm not sure they were aware of the forbearance that was required. I'm certainly not going to remind them. I'm just pleased they're keeping the harmonies going.


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 11:11 AM

Rowan,

A fiddler friend of mine still uses the term "hippie dancing" to refer to the phenomenon you describe. It is still happening today, long after the disappearance of the hippies.


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 05:47 AM

A question which never occurred to me. I do it because I enjoy it in company, and it gives fuller sound.
A little experience and practising is needed, of course.
In Germany we have a folk tradition in harmony: The Handmaidens' Third. The harmony is paralleling the tune with a third higher, or a fourth, if a third sounds unharmonic.
Peasant girls working as handmaidens in the towns used it when working and singing together their old songs, and a wonderful sound it is, indeed, when young fresh girls sing about love.
In Iceland the parallels were in the fifth in times of old.

Now I'm compelled to sing harmonies in church because the songs are to high for me. When I know the bass part I sing it - or I have to go an octava down.


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: GUEST,IBO
Date: 27 Sep 06 - 01:36 PM

BECAUSE IT ENHANCES THE MUSIC ENORMOUSLY.FOR A GUITARIST LIKE MYSELF IT IS NATURAL TO WANT TO HEAR VOICES BLEND LIKE THE STRINGS.I CANNOT UNDERSTAND WHY SOME VOCALISTS HAVE DIFFICULTY WITH HARMONIES.THEY MUST HAVE A HEARING PROBLEM.


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: GUEST,Jim
Date: 27 Sep 06 - 03:24 PM

Guest IBO,
I can see why people have trouble with harmonies. It took me a long time to be able to hear harmonies, but when it came it was a quantum leap. One day I couldn't do it and then I could. I still have trouble hearing what bluegrass singers call "baritone", the fifth interval. The "tenor" or third is what comes to me. I have to memorize the baritone if I want to sing it.


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: MMario
Date: 27 Sep 06 - 03:30 PM

Guest IBO shouted: CANNOT UNDERSTAND WHY SOME VOCALISTS HAVE DIFFICULTY WITH HARMONIES.THEY MUST HAVE A HEARING PROBLEM.

?? how does that follow - I can *HEAR* harmonies perfectly well. I can even (for an individual note) usually *SING* a member of the chord that is appropriate. What I cannot do is instinctively select harmononic notes consecutivly that blend individually and make sense in regards to the melody line. That isn't a hearing problem.


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: GUEST,IBO
Date: 27 Sep 06 - 03:30 PM

SORRY JIM,I WASNT BEING CLEVER,MAYBE THE FACT THAT I PLAY GUITAR AND BANJO HAS HELPED ME WITH HARMONIES.I CANT UNDERSTAND TWO SINGERS,AND I HAVE SEEN THIS MANY TIMES,SINGING THE EXACT SAME MELODY.SURELY ONE VOICE WOULD DO.REMEMBER BACCARA,YES SIR I CAN BOOGIE?


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: jack halyard
Date: 27 Sep 06 - 04:23 PM

I agree that a sing in which great harmony happens is one of lifes glorious moments. However, another aspect of harmony for a songwriter is that it defines the emotional intent of a song. Just the basic difference between minor and major can darken or lighten a passage.
I tend to sing a melodic sort of harmony line rather than block chords, so that the part shifts through interesting clashes or unexpected chords until it arrives at the expected chord.

Songs like "Anderson's Coast" have recognisable harmonies implied in them, and I tend to write choruses in this way because I've had some great times in singing sessions and want to hear my own songs given that treatment. For those of you who have heard the flood sequence in "Yarri of Wiradjuri", however, I've used a fairly strange sort of "Beyond modal"line that I deliberately intended to create a mood of dark menace.
While it's in shanty form, I'm not sure it's something that folk's will sing in the pub. Good 'ealth! Jack Halyard


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: chrisgl
Date: 27 Sep 06 - 04:52 PM

Joe Offer said > Christina was trying to sing in the wrong range

This is brilliant. I've always believed that most everyone can sing and it's kind of come home to roost with my daughter's boyfriend who has always been told he cannot sing... Having heard his speaking voice (!) I strongly beileve this isn't the case and Joe's comment accords with what I've been thinking. Great! Thank you.

To bring me back on thread, _part_ of singing harmony must be due to a mismatch of vocal range which a creative person will turn to the good. _Then_ you uncover the emotional impact it can have on a song or tune.

But to be done properly the harmonist (?) must be sensitive to the song. The harmony must enhance not swamp - else, surely it isn't harmony any longer, just a not very good tune ;)

chris :-)


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 27 Sep 06 - 05:52 PM

Back in July 'Marje' wrote:

"I'm not convinced that there is no real tradition of harmony singing in the UK.

I know Vaughan Williams declared that the English tradition was a single melody line, not harmonised, but he happened to collect most of his songs from individual, mostly elderly people singing solo in their homes."

I suspect that if there had been a 'real tradition of harmony singing in the UK' that Vaughan Williams would have noticed (and noted) that those 'elderly people' (Henry Burstow, Harriet & Peter Verrall, James Carter etc., etc.) had a tendency to turn everything into a grim and mournful dirge - much as many modern, harmony-loving folk club singers/audiences tend to. Instead those elderly people left us a glorious legacy of (single line) tunes which are often, in my opinion, ruined by attempts to harmonise them.


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Forsh
Date: 27 Sep 06 - 06:41 PM

I can't do it, I try, but I just aint any good at it. I prefer to mouth the words and listen to others, It feels kinda spiritually uplifting, makes me feel good, and it sounds great when done well! Old Forsh was great with his mates in Rumbylowe.


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: GUEST,Rowan
Date: 27 Sep 06 - 07:25 PM

Alan Forshaw was great when he sang, whether with anybody or everybody.

Cheer, Rowan


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: GUEST,IBO
Date: 27 Sep 06 - 07:28 PM

MAY THE FORSH BE WITH YOU


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 28 Sep 06 - 03:14 AM

I have difficulty catching onto harmonies, and I wonder if it could be due to my hearing problem. I have a hearing loss which makes me unable to distinguish voices in a crowd, and all I hear is a din unless everybody is saying or singing the same thing. Sometimes, I can't even tell if people are singing harmony. I can pick up the melody of songs very quickly, but I have lots of trouble with harmonies and usually lapse back to the melody.
I think I'm pretty good singing melody, but maybe not...
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 28 Sep 06 - 04:12 AM

I'm a harmony slut. The minute I hear a melody I automatically and instinctively (and Nessie will say, sometimes embarrassingly, i.e. when a main guest is singing) I start harmonising under my breath. I've always done it. At the age of 7 I remember being taught in class a 2-part kiddies' song and asking the teacher if I could do the "third part" which I could hear in my head.

I don't know why I do it, or "how can I keep from harmonising" as it were. It's an affliction. Thankfully at Herga there are at least 3-4 others similarly afflicted (your secret is safe with me Kitty, Mike, George C...) so I can hide in the crowd.


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Rumncoke
Date: 28 Sep 06 - 04:50 AM

Since my previous message I have been to Sidmouth folk week where I did some shape note singing from the Sacred Harp, and some West gallery music.

I went along to the workshops more in hope than with any great expectation of being able to join in.

I was quite surprised to be able to fit into the Altos, and to find I actually enjoyed the music if not the words.

The Sacred Harp harmonies can be powerful but rather wild. I do not know the musical terms to describe how they are related, but some are more outlaws than inlaws by comparison with the sounds I am used to, which are the uncontrived sound of folk club choruses.

Having sung with Altos I find that their part is written in the upper part of my range, and that many people think I sing too low for a woman. I know I could sing lower than the teenagers in the rock band I was associated with, but I assume that men's voices start higher then expand and deepen with age, and bulk.

I am much with the sentiments of

'Let every man so pitch his song
To help his neighbour sing along.
To each and all contentment bring
When all men sing.'

If it is the melody or a harmony, it is the singing together which creates something more than the sum of the parts


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: ositojuanito
Date: 28 Sep 06 - 05:16 AM

it's nice to double track a self-harmony, or is that not Folk Music?


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: MMario
Date: 28 Sep 06 - 08:14 AM

Harmony is one of the things that stuns me about various folk gatherings I have attended - and most especially the Getaway weekend. To hear people listen to a new or "new to them" song and by the second chorus or verse they are harmonizing - beautifully!


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: GUEST,The Tasman
Date: 28 Sep 06 - 09:08 AM

The men of The Abartobonga tribe in Tsueli, Africa can harmonise with themselves. How`s that for flash?


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: chrisgl
Date: 28 Sep 06 - 02:36 PM

Joe Offer said > I have difficulty catching onto harmonies, and I wonder if it could be due to my hearing problem.

My wife is deaf in one ear and is unable to hear properly in crowded situations, parties and such. But she tells me she _can_ hear most harmonies (tho' not to be able to work out who is singing what - that's a stereo hearing thing)

How are you with a mono radio and harmonic singing on it?

I can hear harmony but can't usually whip up something ad lib, as it were. Sometimes I can hear something but simply can't match the notes myself. It's wierd. Not to say annoying!

I suspect it's all a function of the brain and so some can ond others can't with several degrees in between

I wonder if it's something that can be taught?


chris :-)


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Abuwood
Date: 29 Sep 06 - 03:38 AM

Interesting thread - I agree I go for harmony most times for voice preservation and I think idleness in not learning the correct tune but finding something that fits. Like Pap, I can often sing along with the singer using a harmony - what is the correct folk etiquette for this?

I guess this is why I hate amplifed music so much. I love to sing next to others singing harmony and vary the harmony to chase the 'gaps' in the music, when you hit the right chord it stands the hair up on the back of your neck!


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Carol
Date: 29 Sep 06 - 03:59 AM

Sorry but I sometimes find harmonies too contrived and not very melodic, I can think of a few performers who I prefer singing solo rather than together in 'harmony'. It does not always 'add' to a song, just as songs do not always benefit from a guitar accompaniment.

As an unaccompanied singer I'm probably very, very, biased, but my most admired singers are/were Cockersdale, Beggars Velvet and then we go on to the 'single' singers like Stan Rogers/ Carolyn Robson etc., so I reckon I like a mixture!


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: GUEST
Date: 29 Sep 06 - 04:11 AM

I'm with El Greko. I just can't help it! I sang in choirs from the age of 8, boy soprano (treble) at first and I soon loved to do those descant harmonies. Later as my voice broke I migrated through tenor to bass in choral work but naturally I'm in between (baritone). That sometimes gives me a problem singing along the melody line with many performers, so I just lapse into harmony quite naturally. Normally, by the second chorus of a song I'm hearing for the first time I'm away, and humming a harmony under my breath during the verse!

Having come back to folk music as a solo performer about 4 years ago, for the last 2 I've been singing in a duo with Christine Connolley (Moses here) and we fight over who will sing the harmony almost every time we learn a new song!


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Singing Referee
Date: 29 Sep 06 - 08:54 AM

That was me!


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 30 Sep 06 - 01:32 AM

I'm with George - but from childhood and choirs, I can also instinctively do 'counterpoint bassline' and well as 'instinctive harmony' - which is why I prefer ensemble work rather than solo - except as an instrumentalist!

My 'natural' instrument is pipe organ...


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: stallion
Date: 30 Sep 06 - 04:41 AM

Last night I had my bottom metaphorically smacked by Martin, after one song he leaned over and whispered in my ear " you should really only resolve the minor chord at the very end of the song" Que? I just sing, in mitigation it was in a very noisy session in a very noisy pub and no one was bothering to pitch any song with an instrument, recipe for strained vocal chords!


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Marje
Date: 03 Oct 06 - 12:14 PM

Thank you, George (up thataway somewhere) for reassuring me that I'm not alone. As someone else suggested further back, for me each note has a set of related notes just hanging there in the air around it and just asking to be sung. I do have to know the tune first, though, and will always sing or hum the tune through first if it's not totally familiar to me. And when harmonies start I don't ignore the tune - I can hear both or several parts going on at once, just like seeing two or three colours at once.

For us it's not a case of how or why to do it, the hard thing is how to not do it when it isn't appropriate. Harmonisers Anonymous, that's us. Well, not so anonymous really because we give ourselves away all the time.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 03 Oct 06 - 03:45 PM

GuestIBO wrote:

"I CANT UNDERSTAND TWO SINGERS, AND I HAVE SEEN THIS MANY TIMES, SINGING THE EXACT SAME MELODY. SURELY ONE VOICE WOULD DO."

There's a lot to be said for unison singing, too -- maybe that's for another thread. There are some fine examples in the tradition and revival (that I'm afraid I can't lay my hands on at the moment since I'm at work).

Variety... something about spice... life... y'know what I mean?

~ Becky in Tucson


[IBO - I know you've got shift-lock problems, but it's apparent you could add spaces to your punctuation. Given the way the all caps make everything look the same, attention to spacing would be appreciated! :-) ]


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 04 Oct 06 - 02:56 AM

To avoid harmonies in sea chanteys seems to me to be academically rigid. It seems to me that on shipboard, men engaged in hard labor would find relief in the music by instituting harmonies.


Amen, brother! It seems obvious to me that, throughout history just as today, there have always been people who love to sing harmony and have done so, blissfully ignorant of any folk-establishment "rules" regulating what notes they may or may not have been allowed to sing.

I firmly believe that various individuals involved in group singing, in church or at work, onshore or at sea, have often contributed inadvertant harmonies, as well as technically dissonant accents, while other individuals have sung straight melodies, strict thirds and/or fifths, etc. When the overall group sound is an expression of shared joy (or, at least, satisfaction, in the case of work songs), it all sounds good to me.

I enjoy improvising harmonies, often do it quite well, but also sometimes miss badly. So what? I do, of course, restrain myself in obvious "performance" situations where group participation is not welcome, especially when the performer is working in a hushed environment. With loud, highly amplified music, especially outdoors, I feel completely free to sound off if and when the spirit moves me.


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: GUEST,Steve-Cooperator
Date: 04 Oct 06 - 06:25 AM

There are good harmonies; there are bad harmonies. Unless one if an exceptional singer, that means knowing the proper tune, listening to the lead line, staying in time and staying sober... I have been to sessions where attempts at harmonising resemble more a cacophony.
Also while harmonising can lead to a pleasant sound, it is often at the expense of the power and driving force behind the rhythms (YT were the exeception rather than the rule here)which is why I feel shanties lose a lot when they are harmoniesed.


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Herga Kitty
Date: 04 Oct 06 - 06:29 PM

Steve - what do you mean by good and bad harmonies? Chordal or dissonant? Gutsy or twee? I thought shanties sung in harmony by Jim and Johnny, the Keelers and the Wilsons (yes, I know there are overlaps in these combinations) were pretty oomphy and OK.

And I'm not into purity of tunes, because it quite often seems natural to modulate into harmony alternatives.

Kitty


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: The Sandman
Date: 05 Oct 06 - 12:38 PM

why not. 1.if your harmonies do not fit with the booked guest artists.2 if you are tone deaf.3 if you have no sense of rhythm.4 if you are completely drunk and unable to walk straight, you might think you can still sing in harmony   but probably cant.
to kitty,
this talk of modulating into harmony alternatives, might be alright but modulating generally refers to changing keys,could be dodgy, if the other singer stays in the original key and you modulate to another.


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: closet-folkie
Date: 05 Oct 06 - 01:28 PM

I'm with George here, and it might be a good time to ask him if he'd mind me nicking "Harmony Sluts" for a band name!

Steve Robinson


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: GUEST,Steve-Cooperator
Date: 05 Oct 06 - 03:23 PM

I'm not really referring to harmonies beibg bad bad to bad harmonising.


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 05 Oct 06 - 08:15 PM

The real question, as far as I'm concerned, is:

Why sing in unison? (Why bother?)


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 06 Oct 06 - 01:21 AM

For the unity, PoppaG.

~ B in T


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: The Sandman
Date: 06 Oct 06 - 11:12 AM

tosteve.
in my opinion,because two people are singing two different notes,I cant see why they cant do it ryhthmically.
It probably means they should do some breathing and diaphragm exercises, so they can sing with more attack.
unfortunately some shanty groups are failed solo singers who think of safety in numbers,rather than examining and correcting faults in their own singing .


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: Dave'sWife
Date: 06 Oct 06 - 11:50 AM

Why I become a harmony singer is the way many people do - be the younger sibling in a family act!

There is something quite compelling about hearing two or more siblings sing in harmony. Since I was 4 years younger than my sister who was quite the 'STAR' of our family, I was relagated to Harmony and back-up guitar. Oddly enough, I turned out to have a much greater vocal range in the end. My sister is a true Alto (and a good one I might add) with my natural range used to be soprano before I iniured my voice trying to perform in a difficult Opera. (The Pariahs by Leonard Kastle). Now I'm a Mezzo.

Anyway - instead of getting all depressed about always being the harmony singer, I found it made me a better singer overall to have to conform to someone else's phrasing and learn to anticipate their improvisations. It becomes second nature after a while and you can do it with just aboit anybody although there are always partners you prefer for whatever reason.

A good harmony singer doesn't strive to be heard or noticed, only to augment the lead performerance, providing depth when it's called for or delicacy when appropriate. I prefer not to sing every line in harmony when singing with a strong partner. There are, however, some songs that lend themselves nicely to being sung with two parts all the way through and those are wonderful. Any of the Louvin brothers repetoire for example.

There are some real standout harmony singers who do the things I describe above. Off hand I can only think of Cheryl White at the moment. Vince Gill, when he wants to can also disappear into a harmony part. I don't recall the name of Buck Owens' late haromny singer, but he too was one of those heavenly match ups.

I never used to like to show off when singing harmony with my sister but because of her limited upper range, she often pushed me to sing her through a key change or upward chord progression in certain songs. I considered that to be a bit too much but she still expects it when we sing together. old habits die hard I suppose. In our singing relationship, she'll always be the boss.

Sadly, I have no one to sing harmony with anymore. Once a harmoniser always a harmoniser! I hear the harmonies instinctively when listening to music that cries out for it here and there and I'll often sing it along with a record.

Anyone know any Los Angeles area folkies in need of a harmony singer - send them my way!


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Subject: RE: Why sing harmony?
From: GUEST,jacko
Date: 18 Dec 06 - 05:44 PM

Hello mudcats...I am a trombone player and singer,
and have done some studying about 'perfect' intonation,
ie a C sung in a G chord will not be the exact same C, intonation
wise, as a C sung in a F chord for instance.....(it may be just
a few hertz sharper or flatter.....and that good singers tend to
hear this intuitively and maximize their harmonies for these chordal
changes...when these harmonies are maximized, the overtones created are vastly increased, and the music really opens up.....so,
to me harmonizing 'perfectly' is just another stairway to heaven.....
jackie the trombone player.....
www.jackiesauriol.com


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