Floorsinging for Beginners
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1. Choice of Material
- Play/sing folk music - it's strange how many forget to do this. [I remember with particular fondness a singer who said "I'm sorry, I don't know any folk songs" as an introduction to "House of the Rising Sun". - DH]
- Sing something entertaining and different - there's too many miserable old b******'s around doing floor spots with the same dreary old 6 songs they have to choose from, and if you're lucky you may be the the only one who's not dreary/boring/miserable/sad/repetitious/whatever - if you are you'll be welcome back, and if you are entertaining you can get away with a few stumbles. Next time you go to that club, do different songs. Though I'm not sure why you'd want to go back to a club full of dreary, boring, miserable, sad, repetitious singers....
- Choose something short with a good positive tune for your first song. In fact, short songs are a good policy until you've had plenty of practice in front of an audience and built up your confidence. Don't set yourself unrealistic targets. The shorter it is, the likelier you are to remember the words!
- When you choose a chorus song, make sure your version is the one the club usually sings, it's very unnerving to have the audience bugger off into their own version if you're a novice and if you are you won't get them back.
- If it's your first time on the floor/stage, whatever, I suspect a tragic ballad is probably not a good idea anyway, unless it's one that you're committed to - a lot of them are long, and it seems a hell of a long time up there with knocking knees, sweaty palms etc.
- Have a number of songs you can sing at the drop of a hat just in case the person in front of you sings the song you were going to. And you never know, you might be asked for another one or two later on.
- Sing a song with a chorus so the audience can join in and give you a break. But beware 'chorus relaxation' - if you stop concentrating, when it comes to the verse, you'll have forgotten it!
- Are you learning the right songs for you? Are they easy to remember, and will the audience remember them and you when you've finished? Audiences like familiar songs, in general, but the more familiar the song is, the more likely it is that there are a plethora of good versions out there already. Don't sing a song which doesn't suit you because it's a great song. Don't sing an unsingable song because it appeals ideologically.
- Get to know the club first. See what sort of material seems to go best. Don't panic if it's not the sort of material you can do well: sometimes songs which contrast with the usual fare are appreciated, especially if done well. On the other hand, if you offer an audience which is used to listening rather than singing an obscure and difficult sea-shanty, you're likely to find yourself singing it all by yourself, which is rarely a satisfying experience.
- Think about whether a song might be contentious. Some very traditional clubs hate -anything- modern or foreign (I remember clubs where you could see the faces fall when someone carried a guitar in). In some social contexts, it might be -very- unwise to do a hunting song or even a whaling song. There are many fine Irish songs which can't be divorced from their political context, and that can cause considerable offence in some circles.
- NOW YOU'VE LEARNED A FEW SONGS..... NOW YOU NEED TO LEARN HOW TO PERFORM THEM.... time you got out a bit more! The most intimidating audiences are family and friends... CAN YOU SING FAR AWAY..... the further you are away from home, the better you are appreciated..
- FOLK CLUBS AND SINGAROUND SESSIONS are usually friendly, supportive environments. There's a lot of them about waiting for you to drop in and try out your songs. You'll hear other good ones too and people are very willing to pass them on.