Debbie Ridpath Ohi reads, writes and illustrates for young people. Every few weeks, she shares new art, writing and resources; subscribe below. Browse the archives here.

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« Why doesn't the filk community notice/appreciate me? | Main | What if I have no musical ability? »
Sunday
Apr082007

Any tips for shy or nervous filkers?

I've heard comments like the following many times at filk conventions:

  • "I've written a song, but I'm too nervous to sing it."
  • "Everyone's so good! There's no way I'm going to perform in THAT circle."
  • "My song didn't really follow any of the songs that were going on, so I didn't sing it."
  • "I tried to jump in a few times with my song, but no one heard me and other people began singing their songs instead. I finally gave up."


One of the main things to remember is that the filk community is MUCH more accepting of those with less-than-perfect voices than other communities and venues. If you want to sing in public at all, an open filk circle is one of the best places to start. No one will laugh or show impatience if you make mistakes or sing off-key. In fact, filkers tend to notice unusually shy or nervous performers, and go out of their way to support and encourage them.

I sat in filk circles for months before I worked up the nerve to start playing my flute. I even carried my flute with me (closed up in the case) and sat in the back of the circle, never opening the case. I finally forced myself to start noodling along with some people's songs, as quietly as I possibly could, and was shocked to find that people actually LIKED my flute playing. Then Clif Flynt and Mary Ellen Wessels started dragging me up on stage in their performances, and things were never quite the same after that. :-)

Anyway, here are a few tips to help those who are unusually shy or nervous about performing in public, or for those not confident in their performance skills:

Sing with confidence. If you happen to sing a wrong note, at least you sang it with gusto! Holding back will weaken your performance. If you're too quiet, then people won't be able to hear the lyrics.

It's ok to tell people you're nervous before you start singing, if you think it will help. On the other hand, don't go overboard with warnings about how bad a singer you are, how everyone's probably going to run screaming from the room, and so on.

Keep your introduction short (if you're giving an introduction to your song) or people might get impatient.

Don't pick a 48-verse ballad. Few performers can successfully pull off "pizza songs" (songs so long that you can order a pizza and have it arrive before the song ends)...you need a very strong song and/or lots of variety and/or audience participation and/or schtick to hold the audience's full attention throughout.

Focus on friendly faces.

Opt for smaller filk circles or a bardic circle (if one's available). Trying to start a song in a huge chaos filk circle can be intimidating and demoralizing.

======================================

Advice from other filkers...

From SMAP:

"Good advice. Especially about:

1. singing out –we can’t appreciate your efforts if we can’t hear them and we DO want to hear them.

2. keeping the intro short. — You’ve got a room full of filkers eager to jump in. A 20-minute intro to a 2-minute song just makes them twitch.

3. only apologize for your nervousness, (self-perceived) lack of talent, etc. ONCE. — Other filkers can understand your reservations. They’ll be sympathetic ’cause they’ve all been there at least once in their history. But anything beyond a quick, “I’ve never done this before,” or “I haven’t got this quite perfect yet,” starts to slide over into the overlong intro. And after the one apology, they’ve been warned. ;-)

It can be especially difficult for a quiet/polite filker to jump in at a chaos filk. Even those of us who are not shy sometimes find it hard to get a song in edgewise there. You’re best bet is a room using the Pick-Play-Pass protocol where they move systematically through the circle and every person there is asked to pick a song they want to hear someone else sing, play/sing something themselves, or just pass. This guarantees that even the shyest filker is given the opportunity to participate. (Unfortunately, I’ve seldom found this protocol used outside of DragonCon.)"

From Maedbh7:

"If you’re nervous, introduce your song with “Hi. My name is_. I’m new. My song is called _. Here goes.” Describing to us your newness, nervousness or absence of training sets us up to expect mediocrity. Instead, don’t prejudge your performance before we hear it; let us make up our own minds.

If you are having trouble getting recognized, make a loud, attention-getting noise on your instrument of choice. If you sing, stand up; this will get our attention *and* increase your abdomen’s ability to make bigger volumes of sound. If you’ve tried both of these, obtain an ‘interesting noise-making device’ such as a whizzer or a duck call or any other attention-getting sound that is pleasing to the ear (or at least not deafening or grating).

Finally, an under-utilized strategy for creating a safe space to be shy and still filk: host your own New Filker’s First & Best theme filk. At cons that have “themed filk” rooms (OVFF is one such) take a time slot and call it New Filker’s First & Best and specify that it is a theme filk for new filkers to try out their best material. Sing your best thing to welcome the other shy folks in, then pas the buck to the next nervous person. Be prepared to sing at least 3 times, even if one is a cover, one is your own and one ‘isn’t filk’ (whatever that means). Even if only 2 other people show up, if you each sing 3 times, that’s 30 - 45 mins right there. -H…"


Comments? Suggestions? Please post below.

Reader Comments (5)

Good advice. Especially about:
1. singing out --we can't appreciate your efforts if we can't hear them and we DO want to hear them.
2. keeping the intro short. -- You've got a room full of filkers eager to jump in. A 20-minute intro to a 2-minute song just makes them twitch.
3. only apologize for your nervousness, (self-perceived) lack of talent, etc. ONCE. -- Other filkers can understand your reservations. They'll be sympathetic 'cause they've all been there at least once in their history. But anything beyond a quick, "I've never done this before," or "I haven't got this quite perfect yet," starts to slide over into the overlong intro. And after the one apology, they've been warned. ;-)

It can be especially difficult for a quiet/polite filker to jump in at a chaos filk. Even those of us who are not shy sometimes find it hard to get a song in edgewise there. You're best bet is a room using the Pick-Play-Pass protocol where they move systematically through the circle and every person there is asked to pick a song they want to hear someone else sing, play/sing something themselves, or just pass. This guarantees that even the shyest filker is given the opportunity to participate. (Unfortunately, I've seldom found this protocol used outside of DragonCon.)

April 8, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSmap

[...] RSS ← Any tips for shy or nervous filkers? [...]

If you're nervous, introduce your song with "Hi. My name is_. I'm new. My song is called _. Here goes." Describing to us your newness, nervousness or absence of training sets us up to expect mediocrity. Instead, don't prejudge your performance before we hear it; let us make up our own minds.

If you are having trouble getting recognized, make a loud, attention-getting noise on your instrument of choice. If you sing, stand up; this will get our attention *and* increase your abdomen's ability to make bigger volumes of sound. If you've tried both of these, obtain an 'interesting noise-making device' such as a whizzer or a duck call or any other attention-getting sound that is pleasing to the ear (or at least not deafening or grating).

Finally, an under-utilized strategy for creating a safe space to be shy and still filk: host your own New Filker's First & Best theme filk. At cons that have "themed filk" rooms (OVFF is one such) take a time slot and call it New Filker's First & Best and specify that it is a theme filk for new filkers to try out their best material. Sing your best thing to welcome the other shy folks in, then pas the buck to the next nervous person. Be prepared to sing at least 3 times, even if one is a cover, one is your own and one 'isn't filk' (whatever that means). Even if only 2 other people show up, if you each sing 3 times, that's 30 - 45 mins right there. -H...

April 8, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMaedbh7

'One of main things' -> 'One of many things' or 'One of the main things'.

'worked up the nervous' -> 'worked up the nerve'.

April 8, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

SMAP and Maedbh7: Thanks, I've added your tips to the FAQ.

Rebecca: Thanks for pointing out those typos! I've fixed them.

April 8, 2007 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

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