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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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« Any tips for shy or nervous filkers? | Main | What are 'one shots'? »

What if I have no musical ability?

First of all, most people have -some- musical ability. At the very least, you can appreciate and derive enjoyment of music. If you can't, then you wouldn't be interested in filking in the first place. A strong interest in music and motivation in improving your own skills is important. I taught piano lessons for many years and this was definitely a key factor in the progress of my students.

If you want to be part of the filking community but are worried that you'll be pressured to perform, don't be. There are far more listeners in the community than performers. If someone asks you if you want to perform something in the filk circle and you don't want to, Just Say No.

If you want to perform but are afraid that you have no musical ability, then be assured that you have picked one of the best venues to help improve your musical and performance abilities. The filking community is well-known for its encouragement of newcomers and those who are insecure about their musical talents.

The best way to improve your musical ability, however, is to PRACTICE. For a lucky few, musical ability seems to come naturally. For the rest of us, we have to work at it. :-)

Things you can do to improve your musical abilities:

  • Sing in the shower, when no one can hear and the acoustics are great.
  • Sing along with the car radio.
  • Do a lot of LISTENING to all kinds of music.
  • Consider taking lessons, either from a paid professional (if you can afford it), or getting a few tips from a musically talented friend. Sometimes local schools will offer group courses which are more affordable (and fun).
  • Push yourself. Don't be afraid of trying new things.
  • Practicepracticepractice.

The most important thing is to have fun. If you're not enjoying yourself, what's the point?

Joe Kesselman points out:
"Note that not everything performed as filk needs to be music. Many of us perform some spoken-word pieces (poetry or storytelling or dramatic readings); I've known some who perform nothing but. So if you don't feel up to performing music, that doesn't necessarily mean you can't take a turn performing.

Also: You don't necessarily have to be "musical" to write lyrics to someone else's tune (though it doesn't hurt)... and if you don't think you can do justice to them yourself, you can often find someone else who'd be willing to be your instrument. Similarly, if you need an instrumental accompaniment you can often find that too simply by asking. It helps a bit if you ask in advance, so they've got a chance to try it through once or twice to make sure they know how it scans before they perform it... but some folks will be willing to wing it if you're willing to let them do so."

Comments? Suggestions? Please post below.

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