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How do you feel about musicians reading lyrics on stage?


  

17 members have voted

  1. 1. How do you feel about musicians reading lyrics on stage?

    • Don't mind at all.
      9
    • Hate it. Learn the songs, jerk!
      2
    • Could care less either way.
      6


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Personally, I have never cared.  I have seen artists do it, and haven't thought twice about it..  However, I know many people frown upon it..  "Why would I pay money to see someone that is essentially cheating?".. etc.. 

 

Reason I ask is that the lead singer in my band backed out of a big show we have coming up, so I am on lead vocals..  There are about 20 songs that I need to learn in a week.. Not going to happen..  So I'm going to need to read from a song book.. Hopefully one that is out of view.

 

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What if I don't mind at all and could not care less?

 

 

Then I think the appropriate choice would be "could care less either way".

 

"Don't mind at all' is for the people that want to express their feelings that they really don't mind it.

 

"Could care less either way" is for the people that really could care less, and don't really want to express their feelings about it, but still want to vote.  People that like to be a part of things!  

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If it's covers, I don't really care unless it's really distracting.  If it looks like you're reading a book while you're singing, yeah that's distracting.

 

If it's your own material, then I expect you to know the words since it's supposedly something meaningful / emotional, etc.

 

For the record - If you're Bruce Springsteen and you have a zillion songs and play different songs every set and you're 64 years old and still play for 3 hours... then you get a pass in my book and you can do whatever the hell you want as long as you show up within a couple hours of my house every so often.

 

Since it seems you're asking in the context of covers, I'll go with "don't mind at all". 

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If it's covers, I don't really care unless it's really distracting.  If it looks like you're reading a book while you're singing, yeah that's distracting.

 

If it's your own material, then I expect you to know the words since it's supposedly something meaningful / emotional, etc.

 

For the record - If you're Bruce Springsteen and you have a zillion songs and play different songs every set and you're 64 years old and still play for 3 hours... then you get a pass in my book and you can do whatever the hell you want as long as you show up within a couple hours of my house every so often.

 

Since it seems you're asking in the context of covers, I'll go with "don't mind at all". 

 

Thanks for your feedback.  I agree, there's a big difference between occasionally referencing lyrics, and reading them line by line, having your head buried in them.  I'll just be referencing, so I think it'll be ok.  

 

I've seen artists forget lyrics many times...  Glenn Frey skipped an entire verse of "Take It Easy" when I saw the Eagles in 94..  I know Tweedy has done it.  And I bet they wish they had a reference to bail them out.  The other members can't always step in there, because in my experience, lyrical brain farts are contagious on stage... 

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What's up with your lead singer - not very cool backing out of a gig.

 

I don't know, he's been sketching out a lot lately.  "Forgot that I had plans that weekend", excuses like that.. We're already auditioning a replacement.. It sucks because he's been with the band for like 15 years, one of the founding members.  

 

Drummers and lead singers are always flakey.. 

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I have some friends in a cover band that learn about 5 new songs a week and are up in teh 100's.  They have a big book of lyrics that's very visible on stage, some of them have the chords on them as well.  Nobody seems to care and they get plenty of work.  I say go for it and don't worry.

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Ok, I'll play devil's advocate here. 

 

For me, it's not so much cheating as it is uninspiring, dry, clinical.  It becomes more of a paint-by-numbers excercise that leaves less room for the things that give music (or any art form) its worth: the element of humanity.  Yes, bring on the fuck ups I say. I will like you more for trying and failing than copping out from the get go.

 

Sure, it's probably different when you're playing in a cover band and you're expected to deliver the goods juke-box style, so in your particular case, I can't blame you. Just don't bury your head in it.  Or get google glass.

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Clinical, good word.  

 

We do some stuff juke-box style, but most of the tunes, we do our own versions..  So that leaves even more room for lyrical variations (fuck ups).  

 

I won't be burying my head.. Just occasional reference.. And google glass.. If they come in black wayfarers, I'm sold!  

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If anything about it had anything to do with 'covets band' or 'hired entertainment' it matters not at all. If it's a band doing their own thing than it's not cool. Basically, if you're playing mainly for money who cares? If you're playing for art than you should know your own songs by heart.

 

This matches with the pattern that most bands who play mostly originals tend to play with 2-3 other bands, should probably be playing 25-40 minute sets (unless headlining) and probably will be paid very little. Hired cover bands playing music the crowd shpuld know will probably need to fill 1-3 hours and should hopefully be paid a decent amount.

 

Also worth considering: gigs are fun, but no one gig is all that important. Small bands go through weird stress over shows they could have easily not played.

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If anything about it had anything to do with 'covets band' or 'hired entertainment' it matters not at all. If it's a band doing their own thing than it's not cool. Basically, if you're playing mainly for money who cares? If you're playing for art than you should know your own songs by heart.

 

This matches with the pattern that most bands who play mostly originals tend to play with 2-3 other bands, should probably be playing 25-40 minute sets (unless headlining) and probably will be paid very little. Hired cover bands playing music the crowd shpuld know will probably need to fill 1-3 hours and should hopefully be paid a decent amount.

 

Also worth considering: gigs are fun, but no one gig is all that important. Small bands go through weird stress over shows they could have easily not played.

 

Well said, and I couldn't agree more.  This show is for my cover song, money making band..  I also have an original material band, and I wouldn't be caught dead reading lyrics on stage for them..  I've never had a problem remembering lyrics for songs I have written.  I guess because you write them down, commit to memory, sing them over and over and over.. I can remember lyrics to songs I wrote 20 years ago when I was a kid. 

 

Now if I were a 70 something Bob Dylan, trying to remember lyrics to songs I wrote 50 years ago, that's a different story.. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Well I played the show, but couldn't read my lyrics due to poor stage lighting (and my ageing eyesight).  So this whole thing was moot anyway!

 

But the responses were interesting and helpful nonetheless.  

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Paul McCartney has little screens with the words on them like a teleprompter. I watched some documentary where he was angry with the tech for missing one word in "Yesterday". I thought it was very funny, also as I type this it occurs to me that it was probably staged. 

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  • 1 year later...

Play a few open mics most weeks and always have lyrics with me on a stand...the fear that I'd forget, I know not very professional, but just use them as a reference.....always to the side so I can make eye contact with the crowd. If I was touring most nights maybe the lyrics would become ingrained , but when watching rock bands they always have earplugs, are these lyric prompters?. I was watching aerosmith the other night he was using an auto cue...but the performance was still great. So yeh I don't mind at all!

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i don't mind floor-mounted devices but music stands suck! they get in the way of my photos.

i've seen a few people use them... as mentioned, Gira uses them mainly because on tour he tends to play very new material that's not been released yet. i saw Johnny Lydon use one for PiL, and Thurston Moore when he played Psychic Hearts (though to his defense, the record was over 15 years old and i am sure most of those songs were never played live).

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  • 3 months later...

Lucinda Williams reads lyrics from a notebook and flips pages between songs. I never understood how Garcia could remember 14 verses of Visions of Johanna while Springsteen needs a teleprompter for lyrics he's sung for 30 years or in some cases just recently wrote. It does seem to detract from the feeling a bit, but I couldn't blame you for using one if you don't sing much.

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I have mixed feelings about this.  I don't like to see the singer who wrote the lyrics reading lyrics.  I find that lazy, and it generally makes for a less engaging performance.  (With exceptions for people with long careers and lengthy songbooks, or people subbing on the gig).

 

On the other hand, nobody scoffs at a jazz combo or an orchestra reading off of sheet music. 

 

I see no difference between the two.

 

Why should a rock or pop singer be expected to memorize their music, but jazz and classical musicians have sheet music and far more training almost without exception, but they aren't expected to memorize music they've played and studied hundreds or thousands of times?  Hell, an orchestra even has a conductor guiding them through the music at all times.

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As someone who plays out infrequently and practices with my band (at best) once a week, I still work off a binder of lyrics, mainly for reference's sake. I've always had issues memorizing lyrics, and when I was acting, lines. Always envious of those who have a photographic memory. So I judge performers less harshly in this regard. Still, those of us who do use some type of lyrical prompting best be rehearsed enough so all that we need to do is glance down for a reminder. I don't care for performers who nose down continually and disengage themselves from the audience.

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