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Stage Fright - Phil's Rambling Rants
January 14th, 2006
12:42 am

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Stage Fright
Over on her blog, ohiblather posted some thoughts about overcoming stage fright.  She acknowledges people who have helped her overcome her own stage fright (which it's hard to believe was a problem for her, because she seems so outgoing and eager), and invites others to do the same.  It makes me think about myself a bit, so I'm going to post a little bit about my own feelings, even though I'm not directly answering her question.

I don't feel the kind of stage fright that other people describe when they use the phrase.  When I do a song, I don't feel the kind of immediate nervousness that makes my voice quaver and my hands shake.  But I do feel anxiety about whether people really want to hear me which limits my willingness to perform.  In an open filk, when I don't have a song that I think fits the mood, I am reluctant to jump in with a song that goes in a different direction.  More to the point, I never sign up for one shots or ask for a concert.  When I hear the one shots at a con, there are always some of the performances that make me think "I can do better than that; I really need to find the guts to sign up."  But then I think about how I don't write my own songs, and most of the stuff I steal people already know well, or else it's not really filk, and the voice that says "Nobody wants to hear *you* sing that song" wins out.

A big part of my reluctance to do a one-shot is that I don't write my own songs.  I decided a long time ago that I would rather hear a good cover than a bad original, and when I sing myself I'd rather sing someone else's good song than my own crummy song.  Combine that with the fact that I have very little urge to write songs of my own, and what urge I have usually dries up after I've come up with two lines, and I only do covers.  I'm sure that I could force myself to finish a song, but if I have to force it, I don't have any expectation that it will be something that deserves to be sung.  Unfortunately, while the choice of a good cover over a bad original is the right one for me, it doesn't seem like it's one the community approves of -- a really terrible original always seems to get a more sympathetic reaction than I get with a lot of the covers I do in open filk.

Does anyone have any comments in general?  If anyone wants to encourage me to sign up to perform on stage, do you have any specific suggestions about what song(s) I should do?  If you really feel that filk should be for original songs and I shouldn't take up a one-shot slot for a cover, or that I'm too crummy a performer to presume, but you aren't willing to say it to my face, you can comment anonymously.

Edit: I did not intend to screen comments. Really. It got set by accident, and is (I trust) fixed now.

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From:tollers
Date:January 15th, 2006 03:30 am (UTC)
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Rob Wynne's golden-retriever parody of "Whisky in the Jar"

Ooh... tell me more. As a retriever person and a fan of Celtic music, I must know of this song! :-)
From:vixyish
Date:January 15th, 2006 10:19 am (UTC)
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Going against the grain is also good advice. I often say that I love weird covers; what I usually mean by this is that I love covers that deviate sufficiently from the original to be interesting. They don't have to be actually weird; it's just an easy shorthand. Taking something that's usually done by the opposite gender, or in a different range, or with different instrumentation than you do, and making it work. Right this moment I've got a cover in the works that's usually done by a pretty deep gravelly growly baritone male, with a full band and sort of cha-cha percussion, and singing it myself in a nice sexy smooth low-end soprano with only a single guitar for accompaniment.

Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, but it usually intrigues people to hear something old done in a new way.
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From:tigertoy
Date:January 16th, 2006 01:00 am (UTC)
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Although I certainly do hear covers that don't work from time to time, I personally really like hearing distinct versions of songs I'm familiar with. Unfortunately, I get the feeling that my average audience doesn't feel the same way -- when I do a song they are familiar with (from other people's versions) I often seem to get a worse reaction than when I do something they haven't heard before. I've had people specifically tell me I'm doing the song "wrong" because I'm not doing it the same as it is on their record.

I figure the only time a filker should strive to sound just like the record is when they're doing a parody; if they're doing the song straight, if I want to hear the record, I can play the record. But it doesn't seem like other people feel the same way.
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From:tigertoy
Date:January 16th, 2006 08:07 pm (UTC)
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I could ignore the specific comments (which are quite few); what I can't ignore is the inattention and no more than polite applause. (Filk audiences are too nice and supportive to throw fruit, boo, or even not applaud, but there's still a big difference between the applause for something they really like and the applause when they're just trying to be generally supportive.)
From:(Anonymous)
Date:January 17th, 2006 03:12 am (UTC)
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Sometimes that apparent inattention may come from politesse. Sometimes it's from thinking things through, or being forced to think about a song instead of just enjoying a rollicking ride.
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From:poltr1
Date:January 14th, 2006 01:37 pm (UTC)
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There are folks out there (not in the filk community) who have made careers out of doing nothing but cover songs. And there are folks who have written lots of songs but rarely perform them (e.g. Kanef).

I have a similar problem with the self-confidence issue. There are times I think I sound like crap. I need to practice more. I'm afraid of interrupting someone. And no one is a harsher critic of me than myself.

There are a few organizations that have helped me with the self-condifence issue. One is Toastmasters International. While it's geared toward public speaking, communication, and leadership, its concepts can certainly tranfer to the filk arena. If I ever start holding house filks, I want to pattern the agenda after Toastmasters.

I've also noted that filkers are rarely hecklers. If they don't like a song or a performer, they'll either remain quiet, or leave.

But what really comes through isn't the song, the music, or the voice. It's the passion. What songs do you feel strongly about? The passion will come through. (This is why I like Joe Ellis' "And The Sky Full Of Stars" so much -- I can put a lot of emotion in my voice as I sing it.)

"Bad performance" is correctible. Keep practicing. And keep going. Never mind what your audience says.

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From:phillip2637
Date:January 14th, 2006 03:40 pm (UTC)
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I have exactly the opposite worry. I figure that doing other people's songs is guaranteed to earn me unfortunate comparisions with better performers, so I write things, hoping that others will pick them up and see some merit in them.

(My little dream is that I'll be sitting in an audience one day when someone who hasn't a clue who I am decides to play a song I've written.)

My opinion, FWIW, is that song interpretation is a valuable musical skill that deserves recognition along with all the others. I've heard you at two cons -- I haven't been around long -- and enjoyed what you do. I'll bet that your music would also be appreciated during a one-shot...they aren't called songwriting contests, after all. :-)
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From:singlemaltsilk
Date:January 14th, 2006 05:35 pm (UTC)
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This is liable to veer off a bit into 'what's a one-shot for?' land, but... I think that, if you'd like to do a one-shot, and cover a song in it, you should. To my mind, the one-shot isn't just for new material, or original material, though I love hearing new songs and performers; it's also a place for people like you (and me) to take 'the next step', and try out the move from circle to stage, see how it fits.

If you'd like to do a one-shot, I'd like to see you do it, Tigertoy. With that in mind, I hope you'll consider signing up for the Performance Master Class at Capricon this year. A juried one shot on Saturday for a panel including quadrivium,min0taur, Moonwulf and others, with the option of taking their suggestions and putting them to use in concert on Sunday.

Promise me you'll think about it?
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From:tigertoy
Date:January 14th, 2006 09:44 pm (UTC)
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I will certainly think about it. I very much like juried one-shots.

The hard part for me will be choosing a song that I care about but that people don't hear all the time, and practicing it enough that I think I really have it performance ready. I need to find something that people aren't used to hearing from me, and whip it into shape.
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From:khadagan
Date:January 14th, 2006 11:46 pm (UTC)
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A lot of the older things don't get much airing these days. Why not dig one out of the vault and dust it off? Judging from what I've heard from you, you've got the voice and guitar skill to carry off whatever you put your mind to.

Hugs -- Khadagan
From:vixyish
Date:January 14th, 2006 05:51 pm (UTC)
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I do covers all the time, so naturally I say "go covers go!" And I think you should sign up, and your choice of song should be whatever *you* think you sound best on.

I have something similar going on. I was raised by professional musicians and started singing roughly about the time I started speaking, so I've never been afraid to perform. But songwriting, that's hard. When people compliment my singing voice, I'm flattered and grateful, but I feel like it's something I had no control over-- I was just born like this, so it's not something I actually achieved. When someone compliments a song I wrote, then I'm over the moon!

And that's the nervous part for me. I seem to write songs at the rate of approximately one per year, and a large part of that is fear. I don't get around to finishing things, I find excuses to procrastinate, I get too busy, I get distracted, I get blocks, all because I am too scared that it won't be good enough. If it's not finished, then nobody can ever tell that it would've been crap, right? Having actually written a few good songs doesn't help, either, because that just adds more pressure-- I feel like they were just flukes, and I'm afraid I won't ever write anything up to that standard again.

That's partly why I do a lot of covers too-- so I'll actually have something to do. (The other part is just that if I hear a song I really love and love to sing along with, it thrills me that I now have an actual forum in which to sing it.) So I sympathize.

I suppose the advice for both of us is just to sit down and DO it. :)
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From:vixyish
Date:January 16th, 2006 05:25 am (UTC)
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Oh hm. Lots of ideas there. Thanks!
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From:beige_alert
Date:January 15th, 2006 02:05 am (UTC)
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You sing lots of stuff I've never heard anywhere else. You might think of it as old material everyone knows by famous people who made great studio recordings you can't hope to match, but if it was written 20 years ago by someone way out on the east or west coast, and that recording is out of print, and no one else has sung it publicly in the Milwaukee/Chicago/Champaign area in a decade, well, it isn't really a problem if it isn't actually original and new, is it? It might be new for a good fraction of the audience. Anyway, you are certainly a strong enough performer that you don't have to try to compensate for a marginal performance with novelty.
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From:pwl1
Date:January 15th, 2006 10:03 pm (UTC)

Stage Fright

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Your second paragraph describes almost exactly how I feel! (Except that I also get the shakes sometimes too.)

It's reassuring to know that there are others who feel the same way.
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