Floorsinging for Beginners

[ This document is archived here with David Harley's permission. Please do not address any correspondance regarding any aspect of it to Dick Gaughan or Gaelweb as we are merely providing a home for it and are unable to handle any enquiries. Enquiries regarding this tipsheet should be posted to the newsgroup uk.music.folk ]

2. Practice makes Perfect?

  1. If you fluff, and you will sooner or later, it isn't the end of the world - think what you might say when you forget the words, and try to remember how trivial an issue it is when *you*'re in the audience and someone else cocks up.
  2. If you've not done it before, practice the song in a few rooms that are acoustically different. If you've only ever practiced in the bathroom and the folk club room is carpeted and has heavy curtains etc. you may find it difficult to set off at the correct pitch and volume.
  3. Also, practise with some of your attention distracted - because that's exactly what's going to happen when you stand up for the first few times in public.
  4. Singing while driving is a good way. If you can produce a perfect performance while negotiating roundabouts, avoiding wobby cyclists and braking hard for that bloody idiot in a BMW, a stationary folk club will seem like a haven of peace.
  5. Best place to learn songs, bar none: in the car. Worked for me. [Doesn't work for me, but then, I don't drive. Actually, it did when I shared car expenses with another musician. Nowadays, I have to settle for privacy of own flat when daughter is asleep or staying with her mother. On the other hand, it does ensure that I have somewhere to plug in my Ovation. - DH]
  6. Rehearse lots in the privacy of your own home before you start. Rehearse at full volume in a secure environment (on your own) if your partner, kids, neighbours object then someone has to go... find an empty room at work, school etc. If you practice in a small voice, so will you perform.
  7. LEARNING THE GAME... Write down the songs in your own songbook, it helps you to learn them. You might worry about being over-rehearsed. Actually, getting a difficult song to the state where you're confident enough with it to concentrate on the meaning and the quality of the performance rather than on getting through without forgetting the words is a good measure of your commitment to the song.
  8. LEND AN EAR... Learning by ear from tapes etc helps you absorb style and when you sing the song out you still have the source in your mind, like singing a duet. Learn the words whilst driving to work. On the other hand, there comes a time when you have to let go of other people's versions and sing it your own way. When you're starting out, that'll tend to be when you're well past the phase of mechanically learning the song. When you've put in some solo flying time, you'll be better able to hear a new song and think "I could do that -this- way instead of -that- way", but that's going to be different for each performer.
  9. SINGER OR THE SONG?....you've got to sell the song of course, but have faith in your choice of song, stand behind it, it's more important than you are, it'll still be around when you've gone.
  10. ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY...... If it's a traditional song it's been around for a long time and passed on by generations of singers who valued it greatly. You should feel privileged to be part of the chain, treat it with enormous respect. If it's a contemporary song.. do the writer a favour.. it took them a lot longer to write than it did for you to learn... you owe them a debt... pay up, get it right and give them credit. UNTIL YOU HAVE THE SONGS INSIDE YOU, YOU'RE JUST GOING THROUGH THE MOTIONS.... you know that, so does your audience.
  11. Practice playing your songs STANDING UP. Most people sing better that way, even though it can be difficult to get used to playing an instrument that way. In a club where there is no PA system, you will be heard (and seen) much better, in general, if you're standing, or, at a pinch, elevated on a stool. [If you're a classical guitarist, veena player, or double-bassoonist, you may regard this as a little rigid. This is a very singer-oriented tipsheet, though.]

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