Using a music stand To Thread - Forum Home

The Mudcat Café TM
102 messages

Using a music stand

02 Jan 03 - 09:58 AM (#857202)
Subject: Using a music stand
From: IanN

Recently I've noticed a lot more artists than I have in the past using music stands and referring to sheet music & lyrics when playing. I've always thought this was frowned upon and as such have strived (without much success) not to rely on them myself. I feel much more comfortable with something to refer to
and, although I hardly look at my notes, it makes me much less nervous and therefore perform better.

The calibre of artists I've seen using a stand recently makes me wonder if I should give up my quest to be "stand-free".



02 Jan 03 - 10:03 AM (#857204)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Naemanson

Lou and Peter Berryman use a stand. I was amazed to see it but they didn't worry about it at all.

Once, at Mystic Seaport, I saw one of those high caliber musicians using a cute little stand that sat down low, about ankle level. It was unobtrusive yet kept the words available for emergency use. The musician? Rick Fielding.

02 Jan 03 - 10:09 AM (#857205)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: mooman

I don't use one myself but Lady McMoo prefers to have her words to hand as she always worries about forgetting them. As Naemanson describes for Rick, she uses it set low down with the words printed nice and big so as not to be obtrusive or to form a "barrier" with the audience.



02 Jan 03 - 10:41 AM (#857217)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Kudzuman

I never use one anymore except at Christmas since I only sing those tunes during a short period every year. I never understood why it seemed such a horrible thing to use one among folk music performers. I remember using one early on for reminding me of words and another performer said, "Great set. Get rid of the stand." I saw Tom Paxton use one once and nobody complained to him about it, so go for it and poopoo on the snobs.


02 Jan 03 - 11:07 AM (#857224)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: dick greenhaus

Nothing to do with snobbery. If you're communicating with the audience through a song, reading from a printed copy is obviously an impediment. If you're just trying to show off the beauty of your voice or instrument, go ahead and read. Or, in other terms, think of performing a folk song as a fom of acting. It's nuch more difficult to be convincing when you're reading from a script.

02 Jan 03 - 11:09 AM (#857227)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Sorcha

Depends on the venue. Almost always at Christmas because the only Christmas songs we "know" are the over used ones. Almost impossible to use a stand outside in the wind.......

02 Jan 03 - 11:38 AM (#857240)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Jim Krause

I habitually don't use a music stand because I can't see well enough to read such small print at that distance. I memorize like crazy. I have thought about using a music stand of some sort to prop up my set lists. I have abandoned that idea in favor of affixing them to the side of my guitar where I can surreptitously look down and remind myself of the next number in the set.

02 Jan 03 - 12:07 PM (#857267)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: John MacKenzie

I bought one last year, still can't get a note out of it!
{I'll get my coat now!}.....Giok

02 Jan 03 - 12:28 PM (#857287)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Bee-dubya-ell

The only time I've ever used a stand is at open mike sessions or song circles when debuting very recently written songs. I've always prefaced such use with something like, "I just wrote this yesterday, so I don't really have it memorized yet. I'm gonna use this cheat sheet because I'd rather do that than screw it up." It let's the audience know that it is the exception rather than the rule. Even then, I will only do so with my own songs. If I'm going to do someone else's song in public I'll be sure that I have it thoroughly memorized first.

BTW, the best song memorization technique I've ever found is singing-while-driving. I go through the song at home with the lyrics sheets enough times to get it to the point where I'm confident that all the words can at least be dredged up from memory. Then, while driving, I'll sing it until I get stuck, figure out what comes after the sticky point, start over again, get stuck again, etc. By the time I've made the 80 mile round-trip into town and back I've got it down.


02 Jan 03 - 12:31 PM (#857291)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: van lingle

I use one when I'm accompanying someone and I'm not too familiar with the material. I place it at my right just slightly ahead of my guitar at about a 90 degree angle to the audience so it's not too obvious. I try to keep my head pointed toward the audience and just roll my eyes to the stand as needed. Other than being described as "shifty-eyed" by a friend it seems to have worked pretty well. vl

02 Jan 03 - 01:09 PM (#857329)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: black walnut

I think that the audience would rather that I have the words there on a little stand, and not use them, than to not have the words there and need them.   

I used to think it was a big problem and would get in the way and that someday I'd better give up the terrible habit, but then last year David Francey told me that he always has his words with him (on a stool beside him), just for security, and that made me feel much better about it. He told me just to ignore those who say that it's wrong. Who am I to argue?

(good one, Giok)


02 Jan 03 - 04:01 PM (#857373)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Zhenya

I saw John Renbourn use one at a concert a few years ago with Robin Williamson. (who didn't use one.) I remember being a little surprised at this (probably why I recall the fact at all), having had it drilled into me in tin whistle 101 that I should memorize every note. But really, it didn't detract from his performance at all. So if you'd rather use one, you're in good company.

02 Jan 03 - 04:04 PM (#857374)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Kudzuman

I noticed Maddy Prior in a concert some 8 or so years ago had all her music on a stool. An occassional glance didn't make me feel like she wasn't interacting with her audience enough as Dick Greenhaus mentioned. She wasn't "reading" from her lyrics, just seemed to use them from time to time as a reminder. I suppose when someone like Pavarotti uses sheets to sing an operatic theater piece (definitely should be some audience interaction there since it is "high" theatre) he should be chastised most roundly. Ah well, as I said I never use one anymore and thus new songs sometimes sit around until they are firmly entrenched in the memory with no chance of skipping a verse (some of those 20 verse English and Celtic Ballads are a challenge though!). I've seen some great performers lose lines of a song and I wouldn't have minded if they had had their music there as a backup. Just my 2p.


02 Jan 03 - 04:13 PM (#857380)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Clinton Hammond

I have a great music stand, that I cobbled together from old clamp-on-the-mic-stand mic holders and such... It hold my 5.5 X *.5" lyric book just nice between me and the mic stand, just below the boom hinge... Looking at the pics of me using it, it puts the book, laying nearly flat on it's back, just below guitar level... The print is usually about 14 or 16 point TImes New Roman, so I can easliy read it if I need to... I looked all over trying to find one like this, and when I couldn't find one, I had to make it...

Hopefully sometime in the next few days I'll have pics up of it on my web site...

There's one local guy who SITS behind a short almost 'podium', with his binder nearly at eye level... his eyes glued to it the entire time he's singing... that's over the top if ya ask me...

But he gets gigs, so he can't be that bad eh...


02 Jan 03 - 04:49 PM (#857415)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Cluin

Depends whom I'm playing with. With some guys, who can take a bit more improvisation, I prefer not to use the hard copy. You definitely play better when it's in your head and heart alone.

But when I play with others, (like our 5 piece band, Blarney), I use one, more as a road map than anything, since none of the stuff is that difficult to play by ear. But these guys are pretty stuck on hard arrangements and get flustered if you don't stick to the plan...

"Okay, we open with a fiddle intro as the last two lines of the chorus, then sing verse, verse chorus, verse, vhorus, fiddle break as a verse, sing another chorus, last verse and chorus, a capella chorus, then one more chorus and the fiddle takes us out with 4 more bars..."

Same thing every goddamn time. You'd think I could set it on autopilot and go, except we don't play that much and the leader likes to change the sets around a lot.

02 Jan 03 - 04:55 PM (#857421)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Clinton Hammond

"You definitely play better when it's in your head and heart alone."

Abso-frigg'n-lootly mate!


02 Jan 03 - 05:06 PM (#857433)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: fiddler

Depends on the gig! (I'm with you Sorch)

The folk 'genre' does tend frown on them - most learn music by ear (or lots anyway). Performance can be different without them -depands on what why wher and how!

Me - I've got classical roots and was taught never to learn music but to use the dots and the notes therin to blah de blah de blah!!! so I'm open to anything! I use one for Barn dance Celidh Gigs often.

I play better without dots but can't get my head round it - my music teacher left some legacy then.

Also NOTE even with dots don't play drunk - After new years eve - don't even take instruments :-) or should it be :-(


02 Jan 03 - 06:50 PM (#857506)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Thomas the Rhymer

Those folks and these folks will take a stand
And many see dot to play in the band
Then there are those who will Harrumphingly grumble
Just waiting and watching for sight readers to stumble...

Like artists who paint with a modern conception
Proven performers get better receptions
But when you ask of me advise or O.K?
"The judgemental resent all that 'stand' in their way"!

02 Jan 03 - 07:13 PM (#857515)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton

I don't think it's always harmful if you use it as a device to trigger a verse occasionally. Reading the whole song off the page is more problematic because the focus isn't on communication.
I think Dick is right, it's best not to use it if you actually don't have to.

What I find problematic are song sessions where people bring out songbooks to sing from. This takes away from the listening to one another particularly if people are singing together.


02 Jan 03 - 07:16 PM (#857518)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Banjer

With my short memory I'm lucky to remember where I put my stand!!! Also in some jams I've seen a stand kept handy just in case someone says let' do such or such and the rest reply that they don't remember or know that song. Out comes the sheet and on the stand for those who would like to follow along. That's how we learn sometimes!

02 Jan 03 - 07:32 PM (#857528)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Cluin

Good one, Thomas.

And yeah, the book is usually nearby to grab whenever there's a request or desire to do a certain song which isn't locked into the memory.

I've blanked on the next verse or flubbed a line or chord progression more times than I can remember. But it's never been a great tragedy as far as I can recall. It's just part of the performance and you can often make it work for you. Sometimes it can be the thing that really connects you to your audience. Had lots of people come up to me on the break and either commisserate laughingly or offer encouragement or say how much they were enjoying themselves. Anybody who's going to carp on your little blunders is probably unreachable anyway.

02 Jan 03 - 07:39 PM (#857535)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Thomas the Rhymer

Yeh... like folk music is for people to sing along with... Who are we fooling? Folksongs are all about being quiet and paying strict attention to face muscle nuances and party line politics... of who knows who, and big money influences... if anyone is caught even glancing in the general direction of any written material whatsoever,... ?^)

When Pierre Bensusan 'used' a music stand for his encore in my local city of Seattle, after playing some of the most beautiful and technically excellent guitar I've ever heard, ... the hecklers came off rather badly...

02 Jan 03 - 07:41 PM (#857538)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Mudlark

I use a stand when playing in sessions because the range of music isn't all "mine," but "ours." But for songs I sing alone, I never feel emotionally with them, the good ones, until I can sing them easily "by heart"-- a very descriptive phrase, if you ask me.

It is also surprising to me that using song sheets, even for months, I don't learn the song...still have to refer to wordsm chords. Seems, for me, there is no other way than slogging thru memorization.

02 Jan 03 - 07:47 PM (#857542)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: dick greenhaus

The on;y real rule is "whatever works " and the only judge of that is your audience.

02 Jan 03 - 07:50 PM (#857544)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: CraigS

I sometimes find it difficult to remember the words of songs I actually know if I haven't sung them for a long time, so if someone asks for them I write them out in a quiet moment - not in full, but the first couple of words of each line, and the rhymes at the end are usually enough to block amnesia. The thing about a stand is that it says in so many cases that the performer hasn't learned the song, and so is not in a position to give his full attention to the interpretation. And incidentally, Kudzuman, you will never see Pavarotti working from paper in public - he can't read music well enough!

02 Jan 03 - 08:06 PM (#857560)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Malachy

I've never used a stand..and dont really like to see others use them.That's just my opinion.
But then again... there is always one song that you have a mental block with (or is that just me?) I am guilty of sticking some 'prompts' on the guitar myself.
In the end if you're performing you need to do whatever makes you comfortable.

02 Jan 03 - 08:06 PM (#857562)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: GUEST,Bill Campbell

I agree with Dick Greenhaus above. That is this - is it about showing off how well you can sing/play or, is it about establishing communication with your audience? Kind of like Shakespearean actors running about on stage with scripts in hand. They won't forget their lines, but something is lost in the communication with the audience. Learn the words/notes before you try to perform. If you can't get off the music, don't play.

02 Jan 03 - 08:43 PM (#857573)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Big Mick

We have a reputation for having great rapport with our audiences. I usually work with a standoff on my mic stand that I picked up at Elderly. It is just big enough to hold my 5" x 8" note cards. On those cards are time signature, key, capo position/chordshapes (if applicable), chord progressions if needed, and key words (memory joggers) for each verse. I also have a Peterson music stand that has full size verses and chords. I usually only use something in this book if it is a song that is so new that my memory joggers won't do the trick.

For those that use full lyrics with chords appropriately placed above the lyrics, I would advise that you don't do this. You never really learn the chord progressions this way. You become fixated on the words instead of hearing the changes.


02 Jan 03 - 09:17 PM (#857581)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Cap't Bob

I use a music stand to hold things such as the capo, song list, harmonica, etc. I have the same problem as Jim K. ~ not being able to see the words unless wearing my reading glasses and they make me sort of dizzy.


02 Jan 03 - 09:53 PM (#857595)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Thomas the Rhymer

Although I'd like to be much better at connecting/communicating with the audiences I encounter on a personal level, the stark reality of my performances is a form of connection. I'm more interested in connecting with the audience with the music that in being a standup comic with a guitar... No offense meant, cause I do love standup comics! I am content with the subliminal charge that people often get from the focused and heartfelt performance of deeply shared feelings. I have achieved this with a music stand, especially with a freshly written song...but much more often without any music stands anywhere nearby ...(unless firmly mounted to the roof and wired in as a TV antenna)...ttr

03 Jan 03 - 12:02 AM (#857631)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Mark Cohen

This discussion keeps coming up, and people keep coming up with new and interesting points of view and ideas. (A good argument against the "Just go back and read the old thread" school.) But one idea keeps coming up that I wish would stay down: "If you can't get off the music, don't play." I think it's reasonable to suggest that it's helpful to learn songs and not depend on music. But if somebody has trouble memorizing songs, or gets stage fright, and sometimes forgets lyrics and chords...and if she enjoys playing and singing, and if people enjoy listening to her play and sing in whatever place she and they choose to come together...then who among us has the right to say to that person, "Don't play"?   


03 Jan 03 - 12:22 AM (#857641)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Thomas the Rhymer

Aloha Mark! Beautifully put, and I could'nt agree with you more. Are'nt we supposed to be bringing people out, rather than turning them away? ttr

03 Jan 03 - 03:39 AM (#857668)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Steve Parkes

I have the problem now that best position for the music/words would put it in the "dead ground" of my bifocals. But I don't like using words anyway (I have no probs learning tunes), as it's too distractng for me and must be off-putting for everyone else. And I find that, if I take my eyes off the paper, I have to stop and search for the place, so it's far from being a help as an aide-memoire. I always carry a list of keys & capo positions, and maybe I should include 1st lines too ... or maybe I should practice more!


03 Jan 03 - 06:35 AM (#857696)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand

Thank you also Mark Cohen.As a 'closet' guitar and banjo player, acknowledged by my immediate circle as pretty good, nerves and a seeming inability to memorise lyrics (probably caused by the nerves)and the attitude of "if its not down tight- don't play in sessions" prevents me from taking part or performing in public.
However that's my problem and I've givien up trying to resolve it.

03 Jan 03 - 08:23 AM (#857724)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Allan C.

I have to agree for the most part with Dick Greenhaus, Cluin and others that it seems difficult (to me) to portray the sense and sentiment of a ballad, for instance, while reading it from a sheet. I agree in part with Sorcha's comment about Christmas music. We only sing them a very few times per year and so they are not planted very firmly in our memories - except for the ones that are inculcated through repetition since childhood. I had two new-to-me seasonal songs that I wanted to perform recently and tussled with whether to use a cheat sheet. I opted to all but beat the songs into my head instead and was glad for having done so.

I admire Mick's compromise of the mini-stand attached to the mike. Somewhere among my collection of stuff, I have a device that hooks onto the sound hole of the guitar. Because of the manner of leverage it uses, it is even sturdy enough to hold a normal size book. It can also be equipped with a small reading light! If I were to use it or the device Mick mentioned, one thing I would include in my notes would be the first word or two of the song. I can't tell you how many times I have played the introductory notes to a song whose title was firmly in my mind but then fumbled when trying to recall the first line of the durn thing!

If I can unbury the book holder thing, I will post the info on where I found it.

Should these devices be used? It depends greatly upon the venue and audience, I am sure. In the old days, I would have been laughed out of the Cellar Door Sunday night hootnanny had I appeared with notes in hand. However, Janie and I readily used hand-held lyrics at the Getaway without suffering censure.

I am sitting here chuckling out loud at the memory of the story about...well...

For those of you who haven't heard it, I will quote from a post made a couple of years ago by Ferrara:

Here's another classic piece of Getaway evening concert silliness which I have heard mentioned on folk radio programs in far-off areas. Bill and I weren't at the Getaway that year. Before our time, dammit.

A singer got up to do a long, obscure and not too tuneful or exciting ballad. Worse, he hadn't thoroughly learned it. So he taped the very long lyrics sheet to the mike stand and started reading and singing the song. He had gotten through two or three verses when Nan Goland, in the front row, casually reached up with her cigarette lighter and set the bottom of the cheat sheet on fire. Not a sound from anybody but the singer til he got through another verse or two and suddenly realized his lyrics were on fire. The room - including the singer, I think - broke up. End of song. Beginning of legend.

03 Jan 03 - 09:48 AM (#857733)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: black walnut

Well said, Mark.


03 Jan 03 - 10:16 AM (#857747)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Willie-O

Allan, that killed me--and I can comPLETEly see Nan doing that. What a wicked sense of humour she has.

But generally I'd say, if you're grievously offended by the sight of a music stand, you should exercise your option to turn around and exit by the same door you came in through. Don't forget to ask for a refund, and tell the door person why.

What, are we all supposed to remember every line we ever knew? Good on ya if ya can, but most of us are getting to the age where the opposite is true...


now what the hell was I talking about?


03 Jan 03 - 01:53 PM (#857859)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: fiddler

As for dots in a session - never - never - but thats only me!!!

I've never noticed any - I don't sing in public anymore - but I'd never use words for that!

It's just the dots thing - but I am getting better - then again as I get older that gets harder!!

ho hum


03 Jan 03 - 02:22 PM (#857886)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: bbc

I've been following this thread w/ interest. From the perspective of a person who does not perform professionally & is a relatively inexperienced instrumentalist, I had recently come to the conclusion that, if I took a stand w/ me, I might actually play in song circles. I have several songs I like & might be able to play, but I lack the confidence to try w/out words & chords in front of me. Since I had recently seen some professionals I respect using stands, I figured it would be ok for me, as well. Here's the dilemma--for those of you who find stands unacceptable, it's fine to say I should master the music before I perform it. Practically speaking, though, it probably won't happen or, at least, not w/out the preliminary step of me starting to sing publicly & having a positive experience to build on. The most probable result, if I come to the conclusion that I can't sing in folk music circles w/ a stand is that I won't sing there & will continue to limit my music to church & school, where I feel that I *can* use a stand. Although I could see the humor in the story Allan C. related, putting myself in the singer's position, I found it devastatingly cruel--the kind of thing that might stop me singing altogether. After enduring the ballad, saying a word to the singer privately would have been much kinder. Just my 2 cents'.



03 Jan 03 - 02:23 PM (#857888)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: GUEST,Mac Tattie

Memory joggers and lists of songs and tunes are fine BUT if you are incapable of, or can't be bothered, LEARNING the words or tunes then DON'T inpose yourself on an audence. If you haven't learned you haven't understood. If you want to sing from a book or notepad then sing to your self, or bring enough coppies of your songs to hand out to your audence so they can read and sing allong with you. See how you like being the other side of a papper wall. If you want to sing WITH an audence leave the book at home. cheers

03 Jan 03 - 02:31 PM (#857890)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: fiddler


Different Music but some really moving Arias and big orchestral bits are perfromed from the scripts and scores!

Folk folk were alwyas tolerant - lets keep it that way! for some it works for others not for some it is no more than a prop that they will leave behind!


03 Jan 03 - 02:41 PM (#857894)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Allan C.

Just a follow-up note on the flaming lyrics story. It is not at all something I would have done nor would I have condoned. Perhaps I should have posted it to the Laughing at Inapprotriate Times thread. Had I been the singer, I am not at all sure how I might have reacted. Had I been in the audience, I am certain I would have laughed inappropriately.

03 Jan 03 - 02:50 PM (#857896)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: GUEST,Paul S

Bunch of snobs.

I have a pretty good memory for chords and lyrics, so I've never felt the need to use a music stand on stage - but so what if I did? If someone needs to jog their memory once in a while, but pulls off a good performance while doing so, why should any of us care?

There are some people who just can't memorize things. They still have a right to perform without suffering ridicule, scorn, or some arsehole burning their lyrics.

I thought folkies were supposed to be tolerant.


03 Jan 03 - 03:06 PM (#857912)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: C-flat

It's perfectly acceptable to see a jazz quartet doing their stuff with their heads buried in their music but I suppose it's the instruments that are talking. For a singer/musician it's a slighty different situation. An element of personal communication is required to successfully deliver a song, which you're not likely to accomplish through the top of your head.
I've no objection to seeing music stands, as long as they don't get in the way of the music, but I think the user has to be well disciplined to avoid staring at a piece he or she probably knows anyway but can't resist the lure of the "safety net".
To bbc I would say, if it gives you the confidence to play in public then go for it! Song Circles are the grass roots of music and should be supportive of anyone prepared to share their music with them. It's a different matter if you're paying to see an established performer who hasn't learned their act well enough, maybe then there's reason to gripe.

03 Jan 03 - 03:10 PM (#857915)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: GUEST,Claire

I have to admit to having a very strong preference for No Stand, both when I perform and when I watch a performer.   I feel that I do not "have" the song, or truly understand the song, until I know all the words. This is really important to me, so I typically sing a song many many times til I bring it "out" and then I will sing it for someone I know - and by golly the words are still rough off the tongue. Then I practice more.

If I mess up the words, both I and my audiences seem to be pretty forgiving. But, I take percautions by being well prepared and singing through every song for a gig within 24 hours of doing the gig - even for songs I have sung hundreds of times. That said, I have a book with all my songs, and if someone desparately wants one that I am unsure of, then I will use the book for cues. The type is small, 10 pt, and I will also use it (rarely) to remind myself of the lyrics, before I sing a song on my own.

I also memorize my songs in the car - as a carpooling mom - that is often my only free time.

A word to bbc. Try practicing only one song until you are truly comfortable with it. Then take only that song to the song session. I don't think you will need your music stand.

One more thing. If you are singing with a band, you have the added responsibility of communicating through body language with the band. That is almost impossible if you have your head stuck to the page.

For those of you using stands.... more power to you, for even getting out there and singing or playing in the first place. It is just not my cup of tea.


03 Jan 03 - 04:01 PM (#857958)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton

I think it's preferable to sing from memory but not always an indicator of the best performance of a song. I have seen exceptions when a well-rehearsed performance becomes mechanical and a lyric sheet attached to a mic has created an exciting reading. I believe this has more to do with the experience and artistry of the performer than it does with the process of memorizing.

But I think it's important to memorize as much as you can, since generally speaking, it helps you internalize the song.


03 Jan 03 - 04:01 PM (#857959)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Musicman

Music Stand???

i use it...
damn.. my song book is 2-3" thick!!... can't remember all those songs... specially when you get weird requests...

the trick i've found is as stated above.. to use it as a reference and keep your head out of it as much as possible....
i keep mine ahead of the mic stand and up high enough (not too high) that i can glance down at it without moving my head noticably... (works out just above waist high i think)... and often i'll make having it a part of the 'routine' of communicating with the audience...

what i find is... . if you are relaxed about it.. your audience will be relaxed about it....

I've seen both (stands and no-stands) dosn't make an impression on me....

as Dick says: whatever works.. do it..

my $.02CDN worth....


03 Jan 03 - 06:34 PM (#858063)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Kudzuman

For all those who condemn the use of stands, I wish they would run up and tell Maddy Prior or Tom Paxton that they really shouldn't use them and that their set sucked because of it. Hmmmmmmmmmmmm?


03 Jan 03 - 06:51 PM (#858072)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Spartacus

I condemn the use of stands. I would tell Tom Paxton and Maddy Prior to knock it off if I could.   (i just woke up from a nap, I'm a little grumpy) I don't think a set would "suck" more or less as a result of it, it just shows me that you didn't do your homework.   In the words of Bob Dylan..."I'll know my song well before I start singin'" Bob never used a stand. (that I know of)
Down with stands....unless you're 68 and you have a reason not to remember the words.   I saw a guy at a Dylan tribute show come out and bring the Bob Dylan Lyric Book....he sang "hurricane" and when he got to the end of a page...he stopped cold, turned the page, and kept going like nothing happened. Music stands are for people who play popular covers and cant possibly remember all of the words to the millions of 1-4-5 covers they play on any given night...and they seem to play every night and everywhere, too. I must be the only guy in the tri-state area who is so sick of "brown eyed girl", "friend of the devil", and anything by Jimmy Buffet that if we gathered up all of those recordings and left them on Galapagos Island, and they morphed into some sort of blue footed-overplayed-folk record-with a cheeseburger for a head, it would be the only thing that might make that music seem interesting again.
(whew....sorry....had to get that off of my chest)


03 Jan 03 - 10:56 PM (#858210)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: SlickerBill

Some of us are blessed with great memories and piles of confidence..and some of us are not. I've struggled with the stand thing for ages, preffering for the most part to go without but write large print cheat sheets and lay em out on the floor around me. I've gotten away from that as I've found that as I go on it seems more of a distraction. Having said that, being able to bring some cheats along got me up there in the first place. So, go on bbc and use a stand if you like and to hell with the purists with the great memories and intolerant attitudes. What I've found is that I need a stand to hold capos, picks, slides, harps, tuner, etc., so I have a stand low, forward, but off to the side a bit (about 11 o'clock) and flat so it's not that visible from the audience, and that from time to time I'll put little reminders for the odd tune I'm trying for the first time for example.

I do agree it is best to try to ween yourself off of the lyric sheet thing eventually for communication reasons cited above. But if taking a stand up will get you up there go for it. sb

03 Jan 03 - 11:20 PM (#858224)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: bbc

Thanks to those of you who offered encouraging words. I didn't write just for myself, but also because I hadn't seen that position expressed. I doubt I'm the only one who feels that way. I know one reason I haven't played in song circles in the past is that I had the strong impression that folks *would* be intolerant of me using a stand. I guess the basic question is what is the higher value--no stand or someone performing? Real life isn't perfect; we may not get both. I am speaking mostly of amateur performers like myself, however, not folks you've paid to see. For the record, I have absolutely no problem w/ the performers I've seen using stands; I thought they were great!



04 Jan 03 - 12:31 AM (#858251)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Mudlark

I would say, go for it, bbc, and if there is anyone there who seems disapproving of your stand, just grin 'em down.

As an's been years since I've seen live jazz, but was a real afficianado as a kid in LA in the 50's when West Coast Jazz was all the rage...and I never saw jazz combos, from Brubeck to Mulligan, using real sheet music. There may have been a few cheat cards drifting around that I didn't see, but most of those guys played with their eyes closed.

04 Jan 03 - 01:18 AM (#858271)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Kaleea

If we stop to consider why we are performing music, we must ask ourselves what is our purpose? For whom are we performing? Is it about sharing music with others who love our music? Will it hinder their enjoyment more if we use music on a stand? Will it enhance their enjoyment more if we do not & make mistakes? Will it enhance their enjoyment more if we are able to perform a much wider variety of music by using printed music or "cheat sheets" on a stand? As a Music Educator of over 30 years, and a music performer for more years than I can remember, this, I believe, is what should guide our decision.   There was once a singer who was considered one of the greatest Tenors of all times. He had a very busy schedule of performances, and a lively social life. During these many social occasions, as well as during many recitals, he always carried, in the inside pocket of his suit, a small bound book with lyrics to most all songs which he might be asked to sing. Other than during Opera performances, or command stage performances, this little book was ever in his hand. Even now, Himself (Pavarotti) and the other tenors of the 3 tenors are known to perform concerts using music on a stand. (Never during Operas!)

04 Jan 03 - 08:57 AM (#858382)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Allan C.

In a previous post I mentioned a songbook or music holder that mounts onto a guitar. Unfortunately, the company that sells them does not have a website. However, you can order their free catalog by phoning them at 800 227-2188 or contact them by mail at: Songs and Creations, Inc., PO Box 7, San Anselmo, CA 94979-0007. I don't remember the price, but you can be sure if I have it, it probably didn't cost much!

04 Jan 03 - 01:15 PM (#858556)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Mudlark

Thks, Allen, for the Songs/Creations number. I've just called to request a catalog and their voice message is a trip!

04 Jan 03 - 03:22 PM (#858647)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Don Firth

A folding music stand is very handy, and actually the easiest way to keep sheet music or crib sheets within your range of vision. The only people I know who even notice that someone is using a music stand are folkies, generally the ones who feel that if you know something about music, you can't be a folkie.

In the Fifties and Sixties I developed a repertoire of several hundred songs, all committed to memory, and I sang them regularly (i.e., forty, fifty, sixty songs several times a week, rotating the songs to keep them all fresh).   I did this for ten or twelve years, without benefit of music stand. I could do most of these songs in my sleep (which, in itself, could constitute a problem, but that's another matter).

But in the intervening decades, sometimes many months would go by when I didn't sing at all. Songs fade. Now, I find that some songs that I sang hundreds of times back then sit precariously in my memory. This is not necessarily creeping senility, it's just that I haven't sung some of them for years. Now, I have no qualms about keeping a notebook handy. I don't read the words as I'm singing. Whenever needed (which, fortunately, is not very often), I glance quickly at the words without breaking rhythm and keep right on singing. If this offends anyone, that's too bad. I think I've paid my dues, thank you!

What does get me grinding my teeth is when someone comes to a song circle with an armload of books, then says, "I just discovered this song yesterday, and I don't know the words yet and I'm not sure of the tune, but—" and then they expect you to sit there and suffer with them as they fumble and mumble for the next ten minutes. That's just being a slob. Another tooth-grinder is song circles that insist on using Rise Up Singing as if it were a hymnal.

Principle:—Do not attempt to sing a song before others until you have memorized it and have sung it all the way through at least two dozen times—from memory, without book or song-sheet—over a period of at least a week, preferably two. Then, you're ready. If, for one reason or another, you feel that your memory might be a touch precarious, keep the words in a handy notebook. Don't read the words while you are singing. If necessary, glance quickly at the words, and keep right on singing.

Yes, Pavarotti and others do use sheet music from time to time, sitting unobtrusively on a music stand, but this is usually when they are singing songs that they don't normally do very often. Nothing unprofessional about that. It would be a helluva lot more unprofessional to blow a song in front of an audience, especially on national TV.

Don Firth

04 Jan 03 - 04:06 PM (#858680)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: belfast

Christy Moore recently did a gig in the Short Strand, Belfast. I noticed he had music stand with him though he seldom looked at it. I reckon Christy to be one of the best live performers I have ever seen so I would say that if it's good enough for him ....

05 Jan 03 - 12:48 AM (#859009)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: raredance

The last two times I have seen Ann Reed she used a music stand. 15 years ago she didn't. Hers is a little box that clampls on the microphone stand. She has whatever information she needs on a stack of cards about 4 X 6. For the song currently being sung she sets that card up on end. The others lay in the bottom of the box. Some years ago at a John Gorka concert someone requested one of his songs that he obviously had not been doing recently. After the intermition he came out carrying a stack of the lyric sheets from his CDs. He proceeded to flip through and unfold the sheets until he found the song and then he sang it from the sheet. He must still have very good eyes, because I have trouble reading some of the CD inserts even up close in front of me. I wasn't put off by either of of these heretical events.

rich r

05 Jan 03 - 01:06 AM (#859015)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Stephen L. Rich

I've used music stand from time to time, but only at open stages (one has to break in new material somewhere). It hasn't yet presented a barrier between the audience and me. If one covers with enough music stand joke there's no problem.
I never, however, use on in a paid performance. It looks unproffessional. It makes a performer appear ill-prepared to be on stage.

Stephen Lee

06 Jan 03 - 01:12 AM (#859580)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: GUEST,Tom Hamilton

I use a chair sometimes or else I use a music stand, however I'm not very good at reading muisc.
however I would love to use a music stand at the Irvine folk club (Scotland)

06 Jan 03 - 07:41 AM (#859681)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Rapparee


The music stand is a double-reed slide instrument. See "The Definitive Biography of PDQ Bach" for its use (I don't remember what page the illustration is on). Its tone is, well, odd.

06 Jan 03 - 08:43 AM (#859701)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: breezy

Singing or performing in front of others requires strength of character.That is why we as young singers or reciters are encouraged to participate.If one starts later in life then one has to appreciate that it takes a long time to become a performer.
Maybe some folk are in too much of a hurry and unwilling to learn their lines, in that case they are are inflicting their egos on an undeserving audience,which I think is embarrassing.
Last week 2 singers turned up at a folk club ,erected an m-stand that totally blocked the view of the audience of their instumental techniques-not that they were muchanyway- and played with no feeling or emotion.
If I dont know a piece then it is not yet ready to be performed.
Try performing in front of a friend to check whether you know a song, I use an open mike session to try just that, once I start I dont ever stop,I never highlight an error if I can help it, I keep on going.
Using an m-stand an referring to the text is like using a crutch, dont see many football players with crutches on a pitch, so get the song fit to be sung then communicate it with heart and soul.
M-stands are for rehearsal,clasical bound musicians are fettered, we in folk can and should be free.
Dive off that board be brave, show some character, then let your personality shine through.
Happy new year

06 Jan 03 - 08:44 AM (#859703)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: GUEST,Davetnova

Perhaps all those who think using a music stand is a poor excuse for not learning the words/music also think that a capo is a poor excuse for not learning to play an instrument properly. After all fiddlers and mando players can do bflat quite easily.

06 Jan 03 - 09:17 AM (#859720)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: KingBrilliant

If you do need to have the paperwork available, I think that a music stand is easier to sing with than placing the paper on a table or chair - it allows you to keep your head up more & project better.
Ideally we would all prepare things to perfection before performing - but then its not an ideal world. If you are going to one or two pub sessions per week, with many of the same people present, then I think its better to use a sheet as an aide-memoir than to keep singing the same few songs at every occasion. Definitely the songs should be in a performable state though - its a bit cheap to just read-sing something you're not even familiar with.
Having said that - it is usually the case that the performance will be orders of magnitude better if the sheet can be dispensed with. Things that are good with the music stand can go on to become stunning without. I compromise by doing some with & some without. It tends to work out that there are some transient songs that I sing only a couple of times anyway, but anything that I really take to tends to stick & join the "by heart" repertoire.
I certainly don't think it should be frowned upon - we should judge the performance for what it is, not for whether or not a stand was used.


06 Jan 03 - 02:27 PM (#859975)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: GUEST,Claire

This is a classic mudcat thread, don't you think. To sum up: What I am hearing is a lot of people that feel it is unprofessional to use a stand while singing, but many are ok with a cheat sheet that you glance at, unobtrusively. Others feel they need the stand or want to use it because they want to be able to choose from a zillion songs that they know.

So... it is not really about the stand per say, is it?

It is really about the venue, type of performance, and how big a repertoire you want to bring to the gig. In a casual circle - anything may go - why restrict ourselves. You know your scene. Also, reading may be very different than an occassional glance or carrying a book for reference off stage.

However, let's face it. If you are seeking to professionally present and are being paid, it is best to know your material well enough to sing it without reading. Who would really dispute that? It might be ok for your favorite famous person to read their song, but what is your choice for your not-so-famous self? For those of us seeking to be professional, maybe only in a very local way, why not reach for this level of excellence? It might be worth rethinking our use of a stand. For those of us who have decided we want to use it, we are putting something between ourselves and our audiences. It is trade off. A zillion songs or just the 12 we ran through on the way to the gig. It is a choice.


06 Jan 03 - 02:48 PM (#859997)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Don Firth

I totally agree that it's best to do everything from memory and not use crib sheets. BUT—let me remind you that in opera houses and live theater, one of the less obtrusive bits of architecture is the prompter's box. You never notice it, but if it were not there, you quite probably would. It's quite a chore, even for someone like Luciano Pavarotti, to keep an entire opera score in his head, even though he keeps several dozen operas and a whole bunch of other stuff there. On those rare occasions when Pavarotti does have a lapse of memory, the prompter is there, and he's smooth enough at covering so nobody is the wiser. That's professionalism. Also, in solo vocal recitals, the piano accompanist has the sheet music right there in front of him/her, and can function as a prompter if need be.

For a solo performer who rarely if ever sings in a theater with a prompter's box and who is not accompanied by an assistant who sits at a piano or crawls into the cubby-hole with the crib-sheets and whispers cues when and if necessary, a music stand set to one side, but in easy view of the singer, is a good alternative.

But learn the goddam song first and be able to sing it through umpteen times—at home— without a crib sheet—before inflicting yourself on an unsuspecting public! Then, if history proves that you need to keep a crib sheet handy, do so. BUT—if you have to keep referring to it constantly as you sing, you might think about confining your performing to the bathtub. There, you are a folk singer. In public, in front of an audience, whether you are getting paid or not, that audience has a right to assume a certain degree of professionalism on your part. If you are there at all, that means your ego is large enough for you to assume that you have the right to demand their attention and take up their time. You owe them something. If you stand there and read your songs off a crib sheets, that's pretty unprofessional. If you have a music stand within view and you glance at it—occasionally—that is not unprofessional. After all, professionals do. Nuttin' wrong with it.

Don Firth

06 Jan 03 - 03:06 PM (#860009)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: GUEST,Claire

Don, funny you should write in just then. I almost started my last post by saying how much I agree with you, which I totally do. Your last post caught my eye and spurred me to add more to the thread.

There are certain types of venues, such as the music hall, where that is totally appropriate. And Pavaroti can do anything he wants as far as I am concerned.

My post was directed to choices that we make as traditional and folk singers. Like many mudcat threads, people write a lot about what they do and why, which is all very good, it gives perspective. Then some write in to say "do what ever you want - it is all great", which I find unhelpful, unless they define when it is all great (such as music hall prompter use). I just wanted to direct things a bit differently... gotta go.


07 Jan 03 - 03:36 AM (#860457)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: fiddler


I gotta add to the thread again!

As you see above I'm a defender of Music Stands!


Last night - new session - only about 11 musicians, I counted 5 music books on tables or stands (not me - I learned new tunes and played old ones by ear!!!!) The music was flat, slow and uninspired, when I played old Joe Clarke (sounds of severe vomiting off stage left by the Applacchian dancer) with a bluegrass banjo player who turned up the folk at the bar objected when I finished. that was about the level of interest for Joe (public).

So yes I stand by my previous statements - Sessions defineitely not - even for singers really - sessions are for learning and enjoyment with others not playing set piece tunes - how else would we ever get the number of A and B musics mixed up. If you want to practice and learn do it at home not in a bar with other musicians! For once I am being 'heavy'

I will go back again but may take Accorion next time too, to.....


07 Jan 03 - 12:52 PM (#860789)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: John P

It all depends on the performance. When I'm playing "my" music with my regular band, I don't use a music stand because before I go on stage with a song we've rehearsed it so many times that it is ingrained deeply in our brains. We don't leave the stands home because we are opposed to them, but because we don't need them. But I also go on stage a lot as an accompanist. In those cases I don't often have time to learn all the chords to all the tunes and I am perfectly comfortable with having a stand sitting nearby. Since I can't sight read anyway, it's usually a chord chart. I don't depend on the chart to tell me how to play the chords, just which chords to play when.

I often view written music as similar to a road map. The map will give you a pretty good hint about where to drive, but if you are driving with your eyes glued to the map instead of watching the road, you will crash and burn.

I have seen lots of musicians connect with the audience just fine with a music stand in front of them and I have seen lots of wooden performances with nary a stand in sight. It's all about the quality of the music and the performace and the communication with the audience, not about what props you have on stage with you. How about performers who don't use music stands but who tell the same jokes before the same songs in every performance? Are they connecting with the specific audience in a unique way? I always have a set list on the floor at my feet. Does this mean I don't what songs I know? I use an electronic tuner on stage. Does this mean I don't know how to tune my instruments? I rehearse most songs literally hundreds of times before I take them on stage, and the arrangement is very nearly the same from one performance to the next. Does this mean my performances lack spontaneity?

John Peekstok

07 Jan 03 - 02:43 PM (#860874)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Don Firth

Good points, John!

Don Firth

15 Jan 03 - 09:07 AM (#867367)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: IanN

Thanks everyone! I've been unable to log-on until now since I posted the message so It's been great reading all your responses.

BTW I got a new music stand for Christmas!

15 Jan 03 - 11:39 AM (#867459)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: GUEST,Chippinder

Its not the music stand per se, its the role it plays. An audience can tell whether the music stand (or whatever mechanism) is being used as an aide memoire in case a well-rehearsed piece needs prompting (perfectly acceptable) or whether, as seems increasingly the case, the artist(s) haven't bothered to try to learn their material and are relying on the dots, words, chords etc to get them through. This may sound contraversial but I'm afraid I feel insulted as a paying audience member if it is quite apparent that the paid (sometimes substantially) artist hasn't made any attempt to learn the material they are presenting.

In an environment specifically created to provide a "safe" learning space and encourage people to try out new pieces or pluck up the courage to have a go, music stands and the stuff that goes on them are perfectly acceptable - its part of the safe environment.

16 Jan 03 - 12:17 AM (#868015)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: dick greenhaus

While it seems too obvious to mention, I'll state it anyway.
There is an obvious corrolary to "Whatever works"

If it doesn't work, stop doing it.

20 Feb 03 - 01:52 PM (#894446)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand


I would like to add my 2 cents to this thread. I am one of those amateur performers out there that use a music stand during a concert or open mic. And I have been told a few times by fellow musicians, "Lose the music stand, when you sing a song in a concert". So I grin and took their opinion. And sometimes, I would tell them, "I like using the music stand, and it helps me if I lose my place in a song."

Now, I agree with some people in this thread, that singing with the lyrics in front of you takes away the air of the song. When you know the song off by heart, you put a lot of heart and soul into the song you are singing.

When I started to play in public, I had a very bad habit of reading my music. It took away from the song, and didn't sound good. It was because I had very bad stage fright, and I always forgot the words to a song. It was just a mental block. So it was great to have my music stand with me, and I could sing my song.

Well, after a number of concerts behind me, my confidence was starting to build. I still took my music stand to a concert. Before I go up on stage, I kept telling myself to stop looking at the lyrics while I am playing. Only look at the lyrics if I forgot my place in a song. I am taking it one step at a time, but eventually I will stop using the music stand all together. I don't think I am ready to lose the music stand at this time.

To all those amateur musicians like myself. Take the music stand with you to a concert. Don't listen to the other fellow musicians out there that say, "Lose the music stand". Whatever makes you feel comfortable. And if you think that someday won't need it, and then don't use it. It is entirely up to you.

Anyway, that my 2 cents worth on this discussion.


10 Jan 04 - 08:53 AM (#1089936)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: the lemonade lady

I still need stand and words sometimes for stuff I've only just learnt. Most of my songs are now so deeply embedded I get half way thru' a song and wonder how I got there, or wake up and find I'm still singing a song when I've been thinking about what to cook for supper tomorrow! Eyes open of course!


10 Jan 04 - 09:22 PM (#1090267)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: The Fooles Troupe

For those folk guitarists who put down those who use stands, I will in future tell them that tehy are poor players everytime I see them use a capo.... no more Mr Nice Guy!

Saw the Billy Joel 2001 concert - Mr Joo played his "concerto" material for him - with the pages in front of him, Billy had about a dozen 4 inch thick binders on the top of his electric piano - at one stage he muttered - "no that's not in the folders" - when he played, it was difficult to tell if he was looking at the musivc at all - often times, he had his eyes closed...

Always challenge those 'snob sob's to immediately get up and do what they want you to do (warning - some of them CAN do it!) or they get away with the "Do as I say, not as I do" game. No more Mr Nice Guy!

What would you think of a group who plays every week - no rehearsal allowed - someone just turns up with word sheets on which the chord names are printed - with verbal instructions from the guitar player - "up three" .... always read from the sheets, never learn anything off?


11 Jan 04 - 01:33 AM (#1090352)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Merritt

I think I've been hanging out on Mudcat for a couple of years. I've never heard this topic of using a music stand come up, via musicians or audience members, except on this forum. In my time on the planet I've seen amazing players/singers who use a music stand. I've seen incredible players/singers who don't.

- Merritt

11 Jan 04 - 01:33 PM (#1090375)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Clinton Hammond

From near the beginning of this thread

" Hopefully sometime in the next few days I'll have pics up of it on my web site... "

Best laid plans eh!


11 Jan 04 - 01:48 PM (#1090390)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Murray MacLeod

You never see Doc Watson use a music stand.

And if that's the way Doc wants to do it, that's the way I want to do it ....

11 Jan 04 - 02:53 PM (#1090460)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: PoppaGator

I hesitate to participate because I'm basically inactive as a performer these days. As an audience member, I can toss in my opinion that music stands are OK if used for occasional reference, but they are odious and obtrusive when performers rely on them too heavily. Who wants to witness someone reading every note or every word (or both) of a piece? Might as well attend a rehearsal!

Standards should be looser, of course, for situations where there is no perfomer/audience dichotomy, where everyone is a participant. But not totally loose -- as more than one of the above posts have pointed out, it's rude to put oneself forward at a session only to "read" a song that hasn't yet been thoroughly learned/internalised/interpreted.

A lot depends upon what's on the page: lyrics only, complete standard musical notation ("dots"), lyrics and chords, or just a simple set list.

Bands/groups generally need set lists, and that's no problem.

Someone wrote disparaginly of jazz combos reading from sheet music. WRONG! Those guys aren't reading anything, because they're improvising the entire perfomance. They require *charts* (not complete transcriptons) as a reference in order to stay "on the same page" with each other no matter how freely they play, to assure that they stay together when making transitions from verse to chorus to bridge to coda, etc.

Way back when, when I was a full-time (if not professional) performer, I was siging almost exclusively on the street; needless to say, a music stand was not part of my kit. I had a pretty large repertoire (at one time, I counted up to 200 tunes and quit without exhausting all the numbers I knew) and knew all the words. Of course, (a) I had no other life, and (b) if I made a mistake, sang verses out of order, etc., no one would be the wiser. Putting in a lot of time, of course, was the key to learning so much material so well. Couldn't do the same thing today, not hardly.

11 Jan 04 - 07:02 PM (#1090625)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: GUEST,Susanl

I'm probably not saying anything here that hasn't already been said. I never use lyrics or chord charts when I perform. I don't feel like the song is mine if I haven't memorized it and any song worth learning to me is worth the time to memorize it. There are many tricks for memorizing lyrics and chords that make it natural.

Having said that, there are many people who use music stands who are excellent performers and if they're able to be effective, then let them.

What I DON'T like is playing with people OR watching people perform who flip through books and never even try to memorize anything. They play the same hundred songs from song books but don't spend enough time on ONE at a time to memorize any.

If someone's put in the effort to memorize their songs and HAS them memorized but nerves or other factors get the better of them, so they find it necessary to use visual aids, then let them.

Superficial efforts are self-indulgent. Music stands or no music stands, I can hear when a performer has committed themselves to a song vs. a performer who just likes to play the song but hasn't worked hard enough to justify taking an audience's or other musicians' attention.

I don't think that's snobbery. I think it's wonderful when anyone makes music, but I think they should put more effort into making it than the effort required by the audience to listen to it.

11 Jan 04 - 08:19 PM (#1090692)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: The Fooles Troupe

I note that poeple who have never had an "official music lesson" as in doing exams such as AMEB or Trinity College, etc are only too ready to put down those who have. It is great to teach yourself an instrument.

When doing my formal music studies, there were several sections. Theory - where one had to memorise for each level, several tunes so that one could transpose them to another key and write it out, sometimes even adding harmonies. One was able to play the tune from memory without music on the piano too, incidentally.

The practical exam involved several sections.

There was the sight reading section - within the level for the grade, one had to play music sight unseen - one was allowed a few seconds to work out key, etc, then you had to play it - WITH EXPRESSION! thereby sinking the claims by non-formally-trained folkies that you can't play with expression while reading from sheet music - you were marked also on EXPRESION!

There was also the "play one of the practised set pieces with the music in front of you" section - WITH EXPRESSION! you were also marked on expression - thereby sinking etc.... :-)

There was also the "play one of the set pieces from memory" section, - where you were also marked on expression - thereby sinking.... etc.

The when I entered Eisteddfords, you were marked on "expression" too...

So my answer to those ignoramuses who claim that you CAN'T play with expression - or sing for that matter too - but I only did first grade singing - while reading from a printed page is BULLSHIT! - in the politest possible terms of course... :-)


11 Jan 04 - 09:17 PM (#1090743)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: MickyMan

I play out only sporadically, and I take pride in being able to connect with my audience through the singing of an appropriate song for them, personally. If I bring my three ring binder and music stand along I suddenly have about twenty times more material to pick from. These are songs that I know very well, having spent at least several hours working out each one(and the proper typing out with chord symbols is an integral part of the preparation process).
When I'm singing one or two predesignated songs that night I pretty much always memorize, and my cohorts and I use notes more and more as the years go on. The secret is to use a BIG font which enables you to get away from the paper and project the song out well. It's better to use a stand than to hold the paper by hand and bury your face in it.

11 Jan 04 - 11:28 PM (#1090820)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Mooh

I can memorize music reasonably well, though I expect I'm partly memorizing and partly playing by ear. I can't memorize verse at all and never have. It was the worst part of vocal competition when I was a kid, and still plagues me today. No lack of practice, 35+ years in choirs, reciting liturgy in church, playing "semi-pro" for 25+ years, and I still can't rely on my brain cells. Learning disability? Maybe.

In my case I believe my inabilities weren't helped by a period of drowning brain cells in beer, a major stress attack, and a couple of good sturdy blows to the head.

I use a stand, though I don't play to the stand, unless it's a one-off hired mercenary support musician type gig where I'm in the back line somewhere. I try to keep in unobtrusive, but I couldn't gig without it.

Peace, Mooh.

11 Jan 04 - 11:45 PM (#1090828)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Bassic

Here we go again, its the memory/intelectual/session snobs debate again :-( (Have you noticed how they are often the same people?)

Essentially I have the same experienc and problem as Mooh both as a musician and with my memory.

A poorly prepaired performance is just that, poorly prepaired. It matters not if there is a crib sheet, music score or words somewhere in sight of the performer. If it is ill prepaired and badly performed then music or no music becomes irelevant. The ability to memorise is not an acurate indicator of the quality of a performance. I know plenty of performers who have wonderful recall of songs/tunes but that is all they are, memory machines. Might as well get a machine to do it for all the difference it makes. I want to hear their musicianship and interpretation, their memory is irrelevant to me.

Why do people get so hung up about it? Oh, sorry just realised, its tradition isnt it! Of course, the "old boys" couldnt read could they, so that MUST be the way to do it. In that case it should be forbidden for anyone to sing or play traditional stuff that hasnt fought in at least one major war, fathered/given birth to at least 12 children, and been crippled by a minimum of two childhood diseases. And it also helps if they dont live past their 50th birthday or play an instrument made after 1900 etc etc etc.

If a "performance" is required, then if your memory is good enough for it not to take away from your concentration, then by all means perform from memory. If it isnt, then learn to perform with whatever aid memoir suites you best. (And I dont mean with it glued six inches infront of your nose!!) Performance is about interpretation and comunication, not about memory. Its just makes life easier if you have a good memory, thats all. Not better.

By implication, dislexics shouldnt write books (Churchil), the diabled shouldnt be atheletes (Tani Grey-Thompson), colour blind people should not be artists (John Constable) etc etc etc!!

Stop picking on us memory diadvantaged musicians!!

Sorry, I have stopped ranting now. I just object to the implication that if I dont have a good memory then I cant be a good performer/dont practice enough/am ill prepaired. (Those are often true by the way but my memory is the one area that doesnt improve significantly with practice and preparation).

A little tollerance, advice and encouragement please not blanket condemnation

12 Jan 04 - 01:05 AM (#1090860)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Cluin

A short question for those who never use a stand...

Would you use one in the recording studio?

12 Jan 04 - 01:16 AM (#1090864)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: GUEST,Susanl

I apoligize Bassic. You're right. Some people simply can't memorize something no matter what attempts they've made to do it. I wasn't thinking about those people when I insisted people have to memorize something. I was thinking about the people I know who can but who don't really try because their approach is superficial. There are a lot of those. There are also a lot of "human jukeboxes" that know a lot of tunes but don't play them "with feeling". But you're right that it's really about a prepared vs. an ill-prepared performance, not about music stands at all.

12 Jan 04 - 06:09 AM (#1090958)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: GUEST,Jim Knowledge

I `ad that Blind Pew in my cab once. I asked `im if `e objected to artists using music stands or "aide memoires"(pardon me French). `e said he couldn`t give a toss as long as it sounded good. Now that seemed to make good sense. I once `eard the Royal Philharmonic do a recital by memory. What a laugh!

12 Jan 04 - 07:57 AM (#1091010)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: treewind

Cluin: Recording studio? I wondered if anyone would mention that.

I use music and/or a stand:
(1) very occasionally when accompanying a song that I haven't learnt yet, in an informal session where it's not a proper performance.
(2) in concerts with a complex schedule and smart timing required between items like Martyn Wyndham Read's Song Links concerts and Maypoles to Mistletoe - you need to have the running order in front of you to know when you're on next and what instruments to have ready, also possibly as a prop if you've had to learn a song for the occasion which you wouldn't normally have in your repertoire. In "Song Links" John Kirkpatrick had the words in front of him e.g. for Moreton Bay, which is a long song with incredibly flowery lyrics, but we noticed that when he performed the same song in a solo set at Sidmouth last year he'd learnt the words - no music stand in sight!

(3) In a studio for sure! In my experience of recording there's a lot of stuff done at the last minute. I've had to sit down and play a cello part for a tune or song I've barely heard before. What works for me is to try things out, then when I hit on something that works scribble it down on some manuscript paper before I forget, then use that for a take. Even writing down the melody helps me to look ahead and plan an improvised bass line while I'm playing it. In a recording situation, precision is more important than spontaneity and I can play far better if 90% of my brain isn't desperately trying to remember what's going to happen in the next bar...
In the "Windsor Terrace" track of Sharp Practice Gina is playing recorder from dots I'd scribbled out about 10 minutes beforehand - a run though sight reading, slight debugging of my dots, another run-through and a couple of takes and that was it. Musicians who can read that well are a terrific asset when recording, though the downside is that good readers often find memorizing hard because they usually don't need to.
So my recording studio "must-have" list includes stand, manuscript paper, pencils and a rubber (um, that's eraser for our transatlatic friends...)

(4) in a ceilidh band. I don't like this but while there are tunes that other members of the band have introduced and which I haven't learnt yet I sometimes need it. I'd MUCH rather be watching the dancers and keeping an eye on the caller.

The rest of the time... I have no time at all for performers who rely on the words in front of them to such an extent that if you snatched it away at any moment they'd never know how the next line went, or who waste minutes shuffling through the book looking for something, as described earlier. I've never heard a good performance from someone who did that.


12 Jan 04 - 08:41 AM (#1091033)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: stevethesqueeze

And heres my ten penneth.

as a dance music player I would not play using a stand for our local childrens dance display team performances. generally the kids would perhaps do six or seven well rehearsed dances with perhaps twice that number of tunes to accompany them. In such cases both the dances and the tunes would be very famliar indeed and a stand would not be needed.

However when playing for a barn dance or tympath I would have a stand with some dots available just in case I needed to remember a tune. With unfamiliar musicians i might not have played that tune before and I can play well from the music.

If I am not on the squeezebox but playing art music say in a band or orchestra then I would need to have the music. I coulndt imagine playing classical music without that, in fact the score is the heart of that type of performance. There would be too many parts to remember them all.


12 Jan 04 - 09:32 AM (#1091074)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: MickyMan

Hey there Squeezy-Steve. Humor this ignorant yankees and clue me in as to what a "Tympath" is. In my mind's eye I see a woodland trail of forest greenery lined on every side by welcoming elves banging on symphonic tympani made from hollow trees. Am I close?

12 Jan 04 - 09:54 AM (#1091088)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: GUEST,Hugh Jampton

Nice One MickyMan,
                  You have just conjured up something that would sit very nicely in "The Hobbit"

12 Jan 04 - 10:35 AM (#1091120)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: PoppaGator

This is undoubtedly a gross overgeneralization, but working from a music stand would seem to be OK for most instrumental-only situations, but much less acceptable for singing (except maybe choral work). Delivering a song is a perfomance akin to acting, and as has already been noted, we don't accept actors in plays reading from (or even consulting) notes.

Of course, I agree with the general consensus that seem to be forming here: it's OK to use whatever you need to use, as long as you bring personal interpretation to your perfomance, along with some kind of direct relationship to the listeners.

Also: what *is* a tympath, anyway?

12 Jan 04 - 10:38 AM (#1091121)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Bassic


I am fortunate to have a fairly decent voice, and have done quite a lot of singing in choirs and as a boy chorister. In singarounds and at sessions, when people hear me sing harmonies or in choruses of other peoples songs, I often get asked why I never take a song to a session. They know its not nerves from my instrument playing, they know I can sing from hearing my voice in other peoples songs. Now you have the answer. Its because I am intimidated by the tyrany of the memory police!!

This summer, I heard Dave Webber and Anni Fentiman for the first time and was moved to try to learn "My Lady of Autumn" as it fitted my voice well and I liked it. Only 3 verses and a chorus to learn, nothing too hard in that you might think. I got the words from the Mudcat, spent the 4 hour journey home playing the track over and over on the CD player in the car, and the next 2 months practicing it daily. I found links in the lyrics to my own life experience (and so I felt connected to it emotionally) and spent hours writing out the words to try to get them to stick reliably in my memory.

I could "perform" the song within the first few minutes, with emotion, feeling, musicality and frasing, breathe in the right places etc etc etc.......................with the words in front of me. And I really enjoyed doing it. I have sung the song in public twice since without words. The first time I was word perfect but 90% of my concentration was on remembering the lyrics, the second time I fluffed the lines 2 or 3 times. I kept going by substituting other lines from the song but it made a mockery out of it to my mind. I have probably sung it 3 or 4 times with the words as a prompt and I believe have given the song a reasonable treatment, and probably only galanced at the first line of each verse during the preceding chorus.

My point is, its not due to lack of practice or lack of preparation, inability to "conect with the meaning" or lack of musical skill or training. Its simply a word memory issue. I know I am not alone in having this problem, it affects other areas of my life as well. All I ask is that people dont rush to make ill informed judgements about the worthiness of a performance based simply on the presence of some kind of aid memoir.

As for performance standards in general, that would make a fascinating topic for another thread (and I am sure it will have been "done to death" already). Technical perfection vs spontinaity, acuracy vs flexibility, improvisation vs control, heart vs head etc etc.

For myself, despite my formal music education, if I have to have a compromise in the music I perform/listen to, then its the technical side that is less critical to me, though I do get to a stage where this just interfears too much and I cant get past the technical flaws in a performance.

(Thanks GuestSusanl for thinking again about this issue, no need to apologise:-)

12 Jan 04 - 03:38 PM (#1091341)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Cluin


Yep. In the studio, definitely time is money. And you are often finalizing or altering arrangements there. Not to mention you are concentrating usually on one part or instrument at a time, often in separate booths or playing your part along to other pre-recorded parts coming through the headphones. Throw a click-track into the mix and you've got a lot of crap to deal with. If a stand is a crutch, so be it. You are trying fo your best, cleanest performance of the song or tune there and any extra help you need in that sterile environment is welcome.

It's very different from a live performance in front of an audience.

12 Jan 04 - 03:52 PM (#1091356)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: clansfolk

If it's good enough fer t'Halle it's good enough for me!

Tend to use one mainly for list and order of songs - but some word aide-whatsit's as well - also use one in the studio and to hang me sock to dry in the kitchen - a wonderful devic, and what fun folding and un-folding them - better than a deckchair!

There ain't no laws in music just common sense and politemess (sic)

12 Jan 04 - 04:08 PM (#1091369)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: PoppaGator

Bassic -- quite a story; I am moved to *absolute* sympathy!

I think you shouldn't feel "prohibited" from using whatever memory aid (notice, no psuedo-French from me) you need. If your perfomance is heartfelt, no one should worry that you may feel the need to glance at the first line of each stanza, or whatever. I'm sure your singing would be more than sufficiently genuine -- hell, your electronically-transmitted prose is moving enough; your actual live singing could only be moreso.

And if anyone gives you grief for using notes that you may or may not be observed to consult -- you've got to be confident enough to ignore them, or better yet to tell them off!

(In return, I expect you to be forgiving of me, and players like me, when we have to resort to using a capo.)

12 Jan 04 - 04:26 PM (#1091381)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: CarolC

I use a music stand, and I don't care one bit what anybody thinks about it. The stand doesn't interfere in any way in my ability to communicate the feelings that are inherent in the music I'm playing, and it helps me to remember pieces I would otherwise not be able to play. If people are that hung up on how others experience playing music, that's their problem.

12 Jan 04 - 04:28 PM (#1091383)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Clinton Hammond

I'm with ya CC, 100%!


12 Jan 04 - 04:31 PM (#1091385)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: Big Mick

Amen, Carol. Let's move on.

Hope you are glad to be home, BTW. Please give my regards to hubby.

All the best,


12 Jan 04 - 07:08 PM (#1091497)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: clansfolk

bring back the bouncing ball :-)

12 Jan 04 - 07:20 PM (#1091506)
Subject: RE: Using a music stand
From: CarolC

Thanks Mick. Will do.