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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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Welcome to my Filk FAQ! If you stumbled here accidentally and aren't sure what this is all about, feel free to read What Is Filk? first. You can also browse all entries here.

Friday
Feb292008

What are 'two-fers'?

Two-fers are sort of like one-shots, except you perform two songs in a row rather than just one.
Saturday
May262007

Where can I find recorded samples of filk online?

I'm curious about filk but have never heard it. Where can I find recorded samples of filk online?

Here are a few sources:

Results of searching for "filk" on CDbaby

Results of searching for "filk" on YouTube

The FilkArchive, created and maintained by Martin Gordon-Kerr, is a great place to hear some samples. You have to register with the site to upload and download music. There is also a FilkRadio station.

Filk.com's Filk Radio station: Part of DAG Productions, run by Eric Gerds.

Planet Christo Radio is run by Chris Conway, and sometimes plays filk.

The Virtual Filksing, with a focus on Julia Ecklar restorations, and Leslie Fish. Service from Prometheus Music (but is no longer accepting uploads).

Pegasus Awards page: You can find MP3s of currently nominated songs (after nomination process has been finalized) as well as some MP3s of archived songs.

Some filkers keep samples online. If you're a filker with recorded samples (MP3s, etc.) of your work online, please do post the URL below.

Also, if you know other filk radio stations, please do post them below!
Sunday
Apr292007

What is an "Interfilk wench"?

From Erica Neely:

"An Interfilk wench is someone who acts as a runner at an Interfilk auction; the term is not gender-specific – we’ve had some great male wenches! The wench’s official job is to show the item to anyone interested in bidding in it. The wench’s unofficial job is to entice people into bidding, generally through some kind of schtick. (Note that sometimes the schtick is cooked up with the help of the auctioneer – there’s interplay between the wenches and the auctioneers, just as there is between the wenches and the audience.)

A lot of wenches dress up, but that’s entirely up to you. Wenching is much more about having the right attitude than about the clothes you wear; be comfortable about how you look and have fun! One important thing to remember, though, is to respect people’s comfort zones. When you’re doing schtick, make sure that both you and the person receiving it are comfortable with what you’re doing – there may be some people you know you can tease further than others, and there may be some people who give off clear “Please don’t sit on my lap” vibes. Respect that. Don’t do (or wear) anything to make yourself or the bidder uncomfortable. (Or, for that matter, the audience. This is a family show; you shouldn’t be doing anything too outrageous.)

You’ll see a lot of the same people wenching, at least if you go to OVFF or FKO. By this point, we’ve sort of developed a crack Interfilk Auction team. You get Judith Hayman organizing the actual giving-of-item-to-wenches part of it. Bill Roper, Steve Simmons, John Hall, and Mark Bernstein are our usual auctioneers (except at OVFF, where we have a professional auctioneer in order to comply with Ohio law.) Persis Thorndike and Trace Hagemann usually handle the record-keeping (and money-collecting!) part of it. And pretty often you’ll see me being head wench and helping Judith keep the flow of items and wenches running smoothly. You’ll also frequently see the same people wenching (notably Kathleen Sloan, who is known to bid against herself and to wench people she’s bidding against.)

Does this mean new people can’t wench? Of course not! We’re happy to have new people. But one thing people should realize is that there is an ideal number of wenches for an auction, and that number hovers around 5. Fewer than that and the wenches’ feet will fall off – you need a break occasionally, at the very least so you can give your item to Persis and Trace and go get a new one! Much more than that, however, and you end up trying to herd too many cats; it’s hard to maintain order and keep things flowing smoothly if you’re trying to manage 12 wenches! This is why Judith and I are trying to get people to let us know in advance if they’re interested in wenching; this avoids people showing up to the auction expecting to wench and getting upset because they can’t.

That is, in fact, one of the biggest problems we’ve been having lately. Wenching is a service – it is a way of contributing to Interfilk. MEW was one of the first people who started doing a lot of schtick with it, and I picked it up when I started wenching. (I actually started wenching because I was a poor graduate student and couldn’t afford to bid on anything; I figured that this was at least some way I could contribute.) The ultimate goal of wenching, therefore, should be ensuring that the auctions run smoothly (and profitably!) and are fun for the people attending them. Wenching is not really about the wench. If there are a lot of volunteers for the auction and we can’t use all of them…people should be thrilled! It means that lots of people are trying to help Interfilk! It doesn’t mean we hate you personally or there’s a conspiracy to keep you from wenching, honest. So if you’re interested in wenching, the thing I recommend above all else is to volunteer nicely and to be willing to take the answer “I’m sorry, but we have enough people this time” without making a fuss. If we can’t use you at one con, there’s a good chance that we’ll try to make space for you in the future, knowing that you’re interested; don’t give up!"

From Judith Hayman:

"Erica has distilled most of our 2-3 years of discussing this into this entry. I would like to reinforce that ATTITUDE is everything. The object is not to show off a pretty face or body but to show off the item being auctioned. It’s sales. The auction should be about as X-rated as Bambi. Wenching is also about acting. It means letting go of your self-image and unbending a little to get into the part. We don’t ask you to wench because we think you’re gorgeous and will make the audience pant, but because you have a twinkle in your eye that makes people laugh and thereby makes the item seem even more attractive than it is — despite being offered by, for example, an overweight middle-aged lady like myself."


Related pages:

What is Interfilk?

Monday
Apr232007

How can I become the sort of performer that musicians want to accompany? 

"I want to be the sort of performer that others can and want to play along with. What skills do I need to have/polish that will make it easier for other musicians to accompany me? Are countless hours fumbling through Irish sessions and filk jams/preserves the only way to get there?"

Margaret Middleton:

"Probably the main thing that would help other musicians play along with you is if you know what key you’re playing in. For a guitarist using a capo, this requires a bit of concentration, but it is worth it.

The next thing would be to be able to play in consistent time, including the pauses between verses. I can nudge someone to stay in the key they began in, if they are singing a-capella, but inconsistent timekeeping will provoke me to fling up my hands in despair very quickly."

Gary McGath:

"Assuming you have adequate basic musical skills and can stay on key, the main thing is to be able to play/sing and listen at the same time. This takes work, but not a professional commitment.

Too many people, when they’re performing with a group, try not to listen to others performing different parts because it throws them off. It’s necessary to develop a kind of stereo musical thinking, where you know at the same time what you’re doing, what the other person is doing, and how they fit together. Practicing against a recording is one way to work on this until you feel confident enough to do it with your group."

blind lemming chiffon:

"Ditto on (1) rhythm and (2) key. It’s also good to have knowledge of a few of the common chord progressions. The only thing I’d add is developing an understanding of when to “hang back” which where I come from means playing soft chords or another rhythm part while someone else sings or does an instrumental solo. It’s important not to drown out or overshadow and to get a sense of who the spotlight is on - and if you’re going to play on stage with someone, if time allows do at least a little bit of rehearsing and work out what the parts are and who gets a solo when."

Cat Faber:

"Both Margaret and Gary have good points. I would add another, that’s good for basic performance skills but particularly important for playing with people

Learn to be able to make a mistake and get back on the piece as it’s flowing. People playing with you will appreciate not having to stop for you, and you can learn to use what they’re playing as a way to help you play through mistakes without losing your timing.

Playing along with recorded music might be a way to practice this on your own."

Mich:

"I like the contributions so far! I’m not sure of the context of the question, but I can offer another point of view by describing what, as an piano accompanist, I value in a soloist who wants me to accompany them!

For me, a crucial skill that a performer should have to make me want to accompany them (rather than politely decline) is bizarrely not a musical one but the ability to organise themselves and to know what they need from the accompanist!

A really helpful performer will:

* contact me a goodly period of time before the performance (YMMV, but generally the harder it’s likely to be, the more time I’d like to have as I’m not a confident sight-reader) and ask if I can do it. Asking (rather than assuming) is important, especially in filk where we’re all doing it for love.

* give me sheet music, or chords+lyrics+recording. If you just give me a recording without chords and lyrics I will have to work them out from scratch so I’ll need more chocolate, I mean time!

Unless there’s a really good reason why it’s easier for me to get hold of it, please don’t ask me to try to find the sheet music/recording on your behalf; it’s not fair! I may be accompanying a number of people.

Also, tell me if there are any radical differences between the version you plan to sing and the version you’ve given me.

* let me know when the set is!

* if you’re not used to having a live accompanist (and, in an ideal world, even if you are!) please do arrange a time with me to practise, especially as the sheet music version of your piece may not be the same as the recording that you’ve been practising with…which leads me to…

* please practise your piece! The most soul-destroying thing for me is to take ages learning an accompaniment so I can do the best I can for you and then find on the day that you haven’t practised your part.

I hope none of this sounds harsh; I wouldn’t accompany people if I didn’t enjoy supporting them so they can make great music!

Mich x"



Comments? Suggestions? Please post below:
Monday
Apr232007

Any advice for instrumental accompanists?

One of the parts of filking I've always enjoyed is playing music with other people. Before I joined Urban Tapestry, my sole instrument in the filk circle was the flute. I remember being incredibly nervous about it at first, not knowing (1) whether I was good enough to play along with other people and (2) if they wanted me to.

I've learned a lot about instrumental accompaniment over the years, and I'm still learning. Some things I've learned:

Don't assume it's ok to play along, even if it's just a casual filk circle. Some people prefer performing solo. Some may be very nervous, and your accompaniment could throw them off. I usually play it by ear. If it's someone I've never accompanied before, then I'll listen and watch first. If I think I can add an appropriate accompaniment and the performer seems confident, then I'll start noodling very quietly and watch the performer for a signal...a nod, for example, meaning that it's ok. I usually don't try accompanying people I don't know unless they seem to encourage other people in the circle to sing or play along.

Remember that you're backing up the main performer, not taking over. If you're playing while they're singing, make sure you're playing quietly enough that you don't drown out their words. Match the accompaniment to the performer and music -- if their style is simple, for example, ease off those impressive "twiddles" you've been dying to show off. The focus should be on the main performer, NOT you.

If there are other accompanists, give them room. If there's another flute or other melody instrument playing, I may opt not to play, especially if the person is someone known to accompany the performer on a regular basis. If it's more of a jam session with room for other accompanists, I listen to them and try to play around them. If they play high, I try playing low. If they play busy melodies, I stick to longer notes that complement rather than compete with theirs.

Remember that if someone is doing a piece a capella, they may actually prefer NO musical accompaniment. Some songs are traditionally sung a capella, and the feel of the music may change completely if you start strumming along on guitar. In my experience as a listener (others feel free to chime in!), I've noticed that most a capella singers don't seem to mind. Some, however, do. My tip: If you see someone singing a capella and you're aware that the individual IS capable of accompanying himself or herself, then it's likely the person is singing a capella on purpose. If you notice them shake their heads slightly when you start playing, STOP playing.

If unsure, don't play. If you're not sure if the performer minds or not, DON'T play. Ditto if you're not sure if your accompaniment is working with the piece.

Conversely, if you're a performer who doesn't mind people playing or singing along with you, do say so.

Practice: improve your craft



Pick a recording of some musician you like and try playing along. Record yourself playing against the music, and then listen to see how well you're doing.

Advice from other musicians:



Heather Rose Jones:

"It depends. When I'm accompanying on the harp, I have three basic modes: a "walking bass" type line (especially good with blues-type tunes); rhythmic chording (works only on songs with fairly "folk style" chords -- no accidentals); or a melody/descant line. (I'm not quite up to doing more than one mode at a time when I'm improvising.) On the flute, I tend to vary it a lot more within a piece: start out with some fairly slow-moving bass to get settled into the key and chord progression (and to have a chance for the performer to warn me off, if they want, without it being a big deal); move on into some melody and parallel harmonies; and then work up a little descant if the tune calls for it. If there are other accompanists, I'll spend more time going back to the moving bass to leave more "room" for others to play in, and I generally avoid doing more than maybe half a verse on melody, since there isn't much musical point to it, usually. Once in a blue moon, if the piece is right and the performer gives me the nod, I've had a chance to do a bit of serious soloing. Heaven. But as far as I'm concerned, that's purely the performer's call. I'm a lot more comfortable doing fancy stuff on the flute than on the harp -- it's my first instrument, and I don't have to think much while I'm playing it."

Jeff Bohnhoff:

"I tend to jump in very infrequently. I will do it if the performer is someone I know, and I am absolutely certain that they won't mind, or if they have asked me to play along in advance. Even then, I'll only play something if I feel that it can add something and not detract from the song or performer. I almost never play along with someone I don't know. If you do play along, it's *not* OK if what you are playing is taking attention away from the performer and/or the song."

Joe Bethancourt:

"I try to do the same sort of accompaniment that I would do for myself: to embellish and add to the lyric line and vocals. I try to keep away from what the performer of the song is doing on their instrument, and re-enforce their instrumental line.

Don't try to accompany folks who are "star-struck" over themselves. (I name no names ..... ) If it is obviously beyond your capacity, don't try. Learn to hear the chordal changes. Learn basic chordal patterns. Learn to find keys by ear. Let their instrument have priority of sound. Don't overpower their voice. Keep it simple.

(can you tell I do this professionally?)

Common chordal patterns:

I vi IV V (C Am F G)
vi V (Am G common in Irish music)
I iii IV V (C Em F G)

and so forth..... each style has a distictive chordal pattern, and many writers use a preferential pattern very commonly, for example Leslie Fish."

Comments? Suggestions? Please post below.