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.

Sunday
Apr082007

What are the differences between the different filk conventions?

I've found filk conventions have different personalities, usually based on the people running the convention as well as regional differences. GAfilk, for example, is more of a "relaxacon" than other conventions, where the emphasis tends to be more on hanging out and socializing rather than intensive programming, and only a few concerts. OVFF usually has several tracks of programming at once, including workshops and many concerts throughout the weekend. I enjoy both types of conventions. :-)

What do YOU like about different filk conventions? Please focus on positive rather than negative; this is NOT an invitation to list pet peeves and complaints. What appeals to one person about a particular convention may not appeal to someone else. I reserve the right to remove any post that I consider inflammatory or negative. The purpose of this FAQ answer is to help promote the best aspects of each convention as well as explain some of the regional differences between conventions.

From Heather Borean (Jan.14/2005):

"It's funny, the FKO con-com had this conversation two or three con com meetings ago. We talked about the different atmosphere's at different cons, and we talked about FKO's atmosphere. We were wondering if we needed to change anything, or if perhaps for now we had the mix right. After FilKONtario (no number) someone said in Tapa (a since folded Apa) "Heather Borean threw a party for 87 of her closest friends over the weekend" We wanted a con where people would relax and have fun, but where they could enjoy some good music as well. Picking up some new hints ws a nice idea as well. Now personally I like the idea that Bill had with GaFilk, a relax-a-con. Someday I'll get to Atlanta and see if it feels like what I think it feels like. I'm not sure that any of that made sense, but basically, each con has it's own flavour, this is good, every one needs different things at different cons. Personally I like FKO's flavour, (but I might be biased.) I've sampled OVFF and Consonance and the east coast. I like them, and would love to keep experiencing them. And someday I'll taste a British or German filk con flavour."

From Sherman Dorn (Jan.14/2005):

"Let me start with a con that's no longer around: Musicon (Nashville, 1992-96) had the best darned consweet I've ever seen, bar none. It had a clever way to designate "concom member on call" (the red tunic), and it was my first filkcon. It was also the first Southern filkcon.

Gafilk is just a great relaxacon and my regional filk home.

OVFF is the Consumer Electronics Show of filkcons. Big. Impressive. It is the place you are most likely to think, "I didn't know someone could do this!" I met Daniel Glasser's Succubus there.

Consonance is the gathering filkcon for the west coast and the most likely place to see people who live from the SF Bay Area north to Vancouver."

From Mary (Jan.16/2005):

"OVFF: I like the fact that it has a lot of workshops. Wish I had the time to attend them. Hazards of helping to run the con.

GAFilk: Love the room to filker ratio. Lots of filk space, and the circles are small enough that people don't have to be competitive in order to get a chance to sing.

FKO: I really like the fact that you can usually find a filk room empty. People tend to cluster because the big room is plenty big, and there's a second really fairly big room (with a cool design to boot!), so the third filk room is open for random stuff, like voice lessons or a few people trading songs.

I've only been to the other filk cons a maximum of once, and all of those pretty long ago now - about 7-8 years, in fact. Thus, no clear memory about what's really good about those cons in particular. (Though the one in Van Nuys had a *really* pretty hotel when I was there....)"

From Zander (Jan.16/2006):

"I like the British filkcon because it's in Britain. Easier to get to.:)

FilkContinental has a wonderful relaxed atmosphere (which takes a lot of work from the concom and others) and man, that scenery!!!

OVFF 1993 was amazing, but a very long time ago, so see braider's post. Marcon 2000 was awesome but not strictly a filk con."

From Gary McGath:

"Re FilkContinental: Definitely. What other con takes place in a real castle?

I've only been to one Consonance, but the fannish musical was a definite feature, and I understand they at least try to make that a regular feature.

OVFF: The sheer quantity of music. Intimidating at times, but I like it."

From Margaret Middleton:

"GaFilk is the only specifically filk convention that I attend regularly. I've been to a couple of OVFF's recently, and one waaay-back (about #2 or 3, istr) and haven't been to a west coast filk con since Bayfilk I. So I don't have a large basis of comparison.

I definitely like the relaxacon atmosphere of GaFilk.
I like the nutritious consuite food offerings (the eating of which for most of the rest of the convention makes it possible for me to afford the banquet ticket price).
I LOOOVE the jazz band at the Banquet."

From 'JalapenoMan':

"Well, I attended GAfilk for the first time this year, but I have been going to OVFF for um, 10 years or more now. I like both approches. I finally did attend a banquet diner at GAfilk, and they do know how to do a good house band (almost the only reason I went - I am not very comfortable dancing). I realize that OVFF has the awards to hand out, but a small dinner entertainment might draw more to the banquet. Unfortunately, I think that would draw out the OVFF banquet into an even longer event, not necessarily a good thing.
The best thing is making sure there is a solid, interesting programing at the con to keep people interested and entertained. Personally, I look at a filk con registration (and hotel if out of the area) as a multiple concert ticket. Not only do I get to listen to the known people in filk, but I also get to hear the late night sharing from everyone. I that vein, I think that asking a "Big Name Filker" to hit some of the alternate rooms to get more variety going in open filks is a good thing. It happens informally now, but I think that would make the cons more interesting, and make it easier to get a first time con-goer interested in the overall idea of filk.
Wow, I didn't expect to write so much...."


Comments? Suggestions? Please post below:
Sunday
Apr082007

I'm going to my first OVFF! Any tips?

Seanan McGuire posted a great OVFF Survival Guide in her Livejournal for those planning to attend the convention for the first time. Seanan was Toastmaster at OVFF in 2005. She has kindly given permission for me to reprint her advice below:

--------------------------

A handy-dandy OVFF survival guide.


By Seanan McGuire


(Editor's note: This post was written in 2005. Prices and other details may have changed somewhat since then, so be sure to check the OVFF Web site for updated info.)

It has come to my attention that there are a lot of people who read this journal who will be attending OVFF for the first time this year. Hello, and welcome! Since I love you all, and want you to have the best convention experience that you possibly can, I've prepared this handy-dandy OVFF survival guide. See? It's both handy and dandy, and that means it must be good! This guide will include tips on:

* Reaching the convention alive.
* Getting a hotel room.
* Enjoying/surviving the con.
* Things to do.
* Eating food.
* Staying healthy and sane.

It will also be heavily biased towards my own opinions on all these things, because hello, so totally me. But I'm honest about my biases, and I'll be factual whenever it's fact, rather than opinion. (In short, don't expect me to falsify hotel room rates to suit my own ideas of 'fair', but don't expect me to recommend a good Indian place, either.)

Ready? Okay!

Introduction: What is OVFF?

Well, if you're reading this guide, I'm going to sort of assume you know the answer, but just for the sake of clarity, OVFF is the Ohio Valley Filk Festival, a large filk music convention held annually in Dublin, Ohio. Traditionally, OVFF has been held over Halloween weekend. This year, it's been bumped forward a weekend and is happening on the weekend of October 21st through the 23rd. Contrary to rumour, this is not because the convention hotel is haunted by evil spirits. It's just that we got tired of conflicting with the assorted Witches' Balls, and decided that changing weekends was better than being turned into a bunch of frogs.

Due to its central location, OVFF attracts filkers from both sides of the country, as well as Canada, and this sheer density of personality, talent, and amazing coolness then proceeds to act like a vortex, sucking filkers from around the world into its gaping maw. Which is really more complimentary than it sounds.

Basically, OVFF is a weekend-long party, a celebration of music and madness from all around the country and the world, an excuse to see your dearest friends, hear songs you've never heard before, meet new people, make new friends, and generally just a chance to get down with yourself in a way that is all too rare in the modern world. It's an exit, an escape, and a damn good time. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves music and doesn't live inside a plastic bubble. And if you live inside a plastic bubble, you're totally welcome to bring it with you.

You will need a membership to attend the convention. These can be purchased before the convention or at the convention. Memberships are cheaper before the convention, up until October 1st, at which point they start costing the same in advance or at the door. You will be able to put stickers on your badge if it makes you happy. This makes a lot of people happy. Your membership includes admission to all convention events, with the exception of the Pegasus Banquet. I will explain in more detail later.

Part I: Travel.

Unless you have a magical teleportation machine (and why aren't you sharing?), you'll probably have to travel at least a little to reach the convention. Let me help you figure out how to do that.

Where is OVFF?

OVFF is located in Dublin, Ohio, in the Clarion Dublin Hotel.

How do I get there?

You can reach OVFF through a variety of methods. Many people drive; I carpooled in from Indianapolis once, and know folks who drive from all over the East Coast. This is a convenient way of reaching the con if you need to bring more stuff than a plane allows, or just want to be more mobile during the convention. The hotel does provide parking, if you need a place to stow your car. At least one person is coming to this year's OVFF by Greyhound bus, although this method requires finding someone with one of the aforementioned cars to help you make it the rest of the way.

By far, the most common method of reaching OVFF is by plane. The nearest airport is Columbus, Ohio, airport code CMH. Most airlines run their specials to Ohio during the latter part of September. If you need a last-minute flight, you might want to try one of the following sites:

Cheap Tickets.
Travelocity.
Orbitz.

Obviously, none of these sites are endorsed by the convention, and no one can guarantee you any real luck, but I've found them to be useful. All three will offer to find you a hotel room; politely refuse. You're going to want to book your own room, through the convention hotel. This both helps you get a good rate, and helps OVFF guarantee their room block (we'll discuss this more a little later).

Plane fares will vary depending on where in the country or world you're starting out, and there's no way to guarantee that what you get will be 'the best'. I recommend determining what you want to pay, and what you can pay, and then watching the fares until they give you something you like. The final price jump usually happens about two weeks before the convention.

Once you have reached the airport, you're going to need to arrange for a ride, as there isn't a reliable shuttle. You can take a taxi -- and if you split it several ways, this isn't overly expensive -- or you can arrange for a private ride ahead of time. You're on your own with this one. I usually try to hook up with somebody who has a rental car, and recommend that if you have a large (three or more) group of people, you obtain at least one vehicle for your personal use. It'll make the con a lot easier on you.

How do I actually find the hotel?

You can use the address to pull driving directions off a variety of services (or get them from the OVFF website). Here:

600 Metro Place North,
Dublin, OH
USA 43217

The hotel is located on the northwest side of Columbus, Ohio, just south of Route 161 and Frantz Road, and just off of the I-270 outerbelt. If you're going the right way, you'll probably see a lot of Canada geese.

Also, any decent taxi or shuttle driver will be able to get you there without so much as blinking.

What if I get lost?

If you get lost, call someone. I recommend calling the hotel, since it knows where it is, and your friend who happens to already be at the convention, such as me, may not really know much beyond 'um, turn right so that you pass the big artificial lake'. The hotel phone number is:

(614) 764-2200

Please do not call them to ask where your marbles are. They honestly don't know.

Part II: Hotel.

If you're local or living in an RV, you won't need a hotel room, but you should still read this section, since you'll be spending a lot of time in the hotel, whether you're sleeping there or not. Seriously.

How do I get a hotel room?

To book your hotel room, call the Clarion Dublin Hotel, at:

(614) 764-2200

The convention room rate is $85.00 per night. This does not include taxes or tips. It doesn't change when you add extra people, either, so you can split it as many ways as you like. (Please note that the legal limit is four adults. Which means that if you have more people in your room than that, you really shouldn't talk about it where the hotel staff can hear you.)

Please note that the convention room rate is not guaranteed for rooms reserved after September 28th. If you make a reservation now, you'll be dealing with the national chain, and may or may not get the 'good' rate. You may want to ask around and see if you can find someone to room with. If you are making a new reservation, despite the lateness of the hour, we would like the rooms around 150 blocked with OVFF members so that we can make noise in that room later in the evening. When you call to reserve a room for OVFF, please request a specific room number. The most necessary rooms to block are:

154, 148, 155, 153, 252, 250, 248, 253, 251. Rooms 235-265 and 167-173 are smoking rooms, so if you have allergies, you don't want to be in one of these.

If the above rooms are already reserved, please request a room number nearby.

What do I get with my hotel room?

The standards, first off: a place to sleep, hot running water whenever you want it, and a place to store your stuff. That said, you also get access to the hotel pool and workout room, and two free tickets to the breakfast buffet for every night that you stay there. (Additional breakfasts can be purchased at the restaurant for $11 each.)

There is free wired Internet access in the rooms, and there are wifi hotspots located in the lobby and the restaurant.

Tell me more about the pool and workout room.

The pool is indoors, and heated, which makes it wonderful even during the chill of an Ohio October. There isn't a real shallow end, and there is no lifeguard on-duty, so it's not a good place to dump the kids and wander away from. There are deck chairs. I tend to lounge in them. There is no hot tub, which may not seem unusual to anyone who isn't from California, but is notable if you happen to be me.

They do not over-chlorinate, and the water has never turned my hair green.

The workout room is small, with the usual assortment of small hotel 'treadmill, television, resistance machine' equipment. But it's there, and you can use it, and it's better than running laps around the halls and frightening the maids.

I can't afford to room by myself.

OVFF is a great place to meet new people, sometimes by sharing a room with them! While the convention doesn't presently offer an official 'roommate dating service', you can often find people who need OVFF roommates by posting in your LJ, or by visiting one of the filk mailing lists. Filkers are generally very helpful people, and if there's someone out there willing to vouch for you not being insane, you can probably find someone to share with.

If you've never shared a hotel room before, please, be upfront with your needs, and with any disadvantages that might come from sharing with you. For example, I am a very light sleeper, and require quiet during my sleeping periods (possible disadvantage). I don't smoke or snore (advantages), although I will room with smokers. I need half a bed, and will share with members of either gender. By putting things clearly, I increase my odds of finding a roommate.

You mentioned that tips weren't included in the room rate. What tips?

Okay. Here's the thing: if you stay in a hotel room, someone has to clean up your mess. Even if you don't let the maids in once during your stay, they're going to have to clean the place after you go. Tip your maids. Tip them whatever you can. They're nice, hard-working people who spend their days wallowing in the filth of others, and given what I've seen filkers do to hotel rooms, they deserve a little love and compassion. Tip your maids. Tip them in quarters if you have to. Call it a charge to karma, and tip your maids.

Part III: Packing for OVFF.

So you've decided to come to the convention -- that rocks! Yay! You have a means of transportation, and you have a hotel room (or an RV). Now what happens?

Now you pack.

The weather outside.

The weather in Columbus in October is usually briskly chilly, but not freezing -- think a Seattle December, or a September in New Jersey. Now, please note the word 'usually'. I have seen snow at OVFF. I have seen sleeting rain at OVFF. I highly recommend checking the weather forecast before you go, and bringing a warm coat, Just In Case.

Also remember that cold is a very subjective thing. As a Californian, I chill at a rate which causes my hardier friends from Minnesota to laugh at me in a gently mocking way. If you come from a warm climate, bring extra warm clothing. I recommend hitting your local Target (or equivalent), and investing twenty dollars in thermal pants to wear beneath your jeans. You'll be substantially happier if you never have to explain that you're doing the potty dance because your legs are frozen solid. Scarves and gloves are your good, good friends.

Inside the hotel.

It's going to be warmer inside the hotel. Much, much warmer. Not 'oh good gods, I'm going to die of hot', but definitely cozy; I've been known to spend a good portion of the weekend in tank tops and thin pants. Bring clothes that you're comfortable sitting down and hanging out in, things that you like, and that wear well. Bring comfortable shoes or attractive socks that you feel like showing off when you inevitably kick your shoes off. Please remember that you'll be doing a lot of walking over the course of the weekend, and don't plan to spend three days solid wearing heels.

Just to make things more fun, sometimes they turn the air conditioning on, and then it gets colder inside the hotel. Much, much colder. Bring a sweater or light indoor jacket, just in case you get the chills. This happens especially in large rooms, such as the main concert room, and you don't want to miss the big events just because you're chilly!

Bring a swimsuit if you think you might want to swim. Nothing is sadder than seeing everyone else having fun in the pool, and not having the option, even if you want it.

The necessities.

It's silly of me to say all of this, but I'm saying it anyway, since some people have never been to a convention before:

Bring something comfortable to sleep in, not just your best lace teddy. Bring one pair of underwear more than you actually need, because you may sweat a lot, and clean clothes will make you feel better. Ditto socks. Girls, bring an extra bra. If you plan to work out, bring a set of workout clothing, and a plastic bag to put it in, to keep it away from the rest of your clothes.

There are stores in Columbus -- shocking, I know -- but you'll be happier if you don't have to shop, so bring your toiletries. This should include, minimum, a toothbrush, toothpaste, a hairbrush of some sort, and deodorant. The hotel will supply little soaps, shampoos and conditioners. I, personally, don't like to use these, and travel with my own shower gel, shampoo and conditioner. This is because I am very girly, but also because I like to have control over my cosmetics.

You can get travel-sized bottles of most common shampoos, conditioners, and shower gel brands at any given super- or drugstore, such as Target, WalMart, or Longs. They also sell little bottles that you can put any liquid cosmetic into, for handy travel purposes. Lush sells solid shampoos that are divine for taking to conventions, because they don't spill.

If you're a light sleeper, bring earplugs.

If you have a tendency to injure yourself, bring supplies. I never travel without an Ace bandage and a jar of muscle relaxant, such as Tiger Balm or Blue Emu Oil.

Pack your basic painkillers, such as aspirin and Midol. If your period is looming, pack supplies. And remember that your nutrition is likely to suffer during a convention; if you take any vitamins or dietary suppliments, be sure to measure them out before you go, and bring a supply for the weekend. If you have allergies or medical conditions which may require medication, be sure to bring whatever it is you need, as no one else is guaranteed to have them along, and no one wants to swell up like a blueberry because they accidentally ate the wrong thing.

The extras.

If you're a musician, remember to bring the things you need to make music, whatever they may be. You can probably find someone to loan you a guitar -- we're nice like that -- but no one is going to be able to loan you your personal songbook, or your magical lucky harmonic. Forgetting your music when you're going to a convention about music sort of sucks. Bring spare strings, if whatever you play has strings. If you're a guitarist, remember your capo and picks.

You may or may not have much downtime, but everyone needs to detox now and then. I recommend that you bring a book you want to read, a book you know you like, a portable music player of some sort, and a variety of music for the same. If you draw, bring a sketchbook, and if you write, bring a notebook. Bring a writing implement of some sort.

Also, there is a dealer's room, and it probably will have things you want. Bring cash and/or your checkbook, and decide ahead of time how much you have to spend. You'll be happier that way.

Part IV: OVFF!

Getting to the convention.

When you arrive at the convention, you're going to need to pick up your badge. Assuming that you've entered through the main lobby, you reach registration by going to the hallway at the back of the room, turning right, and then following the somewhat windy route all the way to the rear of the hotel. The registration desk is there. If you've already registered, they'll have your badge. If you haven't, you'll need to give them money. Either way, they're nice people, and they don't bite.

Registration opens on Friday, whenever they finish setting up, and will be open throughout the weekend. They may occasionally move into the main concert room (right next door), but when they do, they leave signs clearly posted, so that you can find them.

Registration is also where you'll get your program book, which includes a schedule for the weekend, and where you can sign up for the songwriting contests, trick or treat goody bags, and Sunday night dinner run. If you want to attend the Pegasus Banquet, you'll buy your ticket here.

Thursday night.

Thursday night is not officially a part of the convention. That being said, more and more people have taken to arriving early, so that they can hang out in the hotel lobby and see their friends arrive. This is a great time to meet people, since programming hasn't officially started yet, and no one has anything they absolutely have to be doing. Folks tend to start collecting around six or seven, and stay until they get tired.

Again, this is not an official convention function, and there's no guarantee that anyone will be there. But if you're around, drop by!

Friday morning and afternoon.

This is when the con really gets started, although programming doesn't kick in until mid-afternoon. People are around and in the halls, everyone's excited, everyone's rarin' to go. Most people arrive during this window. If you're looking for people to talk to, watch for the folks in the bright orange shirts saying 'New to Filk?'. They're our official greeters, and they'll be glad to chat. Otherwise, just say hello, engage people in conversation, and generally relax.

Somewhere in this window, the consuite will open. The consuite rules. It's basically a room set up for conversation and food, and people will gather there throughout the weekend. There are games. There are tables. There are free drinks. You can hang out as long as you like, meeting people, swapping stories, and having snacks. There is absolutely no bad here. If you don't know what to do with yourself, go to the consuite.

Friday night.

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines! By Friday night, programming is hopping, the consuite and registration are both open, and it's time for the Pegasus Concert. This is the event wherein all the nominees for this year's Pegasus Awards are presented for your listening pleasure, performed by folks who have come from near and far to entertain you. Pegasus ballots will be provided for at-con voting, and the folks responsible for counting the votes will spend the rest of the night making themselves crazy with numbers. Enormous fun.

For a full guide to Friday night programming, see your program book.

Saturday.

Saturday is the 'big' day at OVFF. Check your program book, because the offerings change from year to year. This is traditionally when you'll get the Guest of Honour, Interfilk, and Toastmaster concerts, as well as at least one of the songwriting contests. This is also when you'll get the Interfilk auction and the Pegasus Banquet. Let's look at both of those a little more deeply.

The auction.

Interfilk is the filk charity -- an organization dedicated to spreading filk and filkers around the country, cross-pollinating like some sort of crazed genetics project. To make this easier, they hold auctions at every North American filk convention, including OVFF.

At the surface, Interfilk auctions are simple. Items for the silent auction will be on display at the back of the main room on Friday night and on Saturday before the auction. If an item gets a certain number of bids, it goes to voice auction; if not, it goes to the highest bidder. The voice auction is hosted at OVFF by a state-certified auctioneer, who keeps things popping. Pretty easy, right?

Sure, except for the part where the items in the auction re-define 'weird'. We're fans, remember? Books, CDs, jewelry, fun T-shirts, and chocolate are common...but so are pre-release recordings, tapes of conventions, really weird books, oddly-shaped lemons...you name it, we've had it. This year, I'm donating (among other things) a My Little Pony that looks sort of like me, a book of poetry, and a songbook that doesn't exist yet. It gets bizarre, and the bidding gets pretty heated.

To drive the prices up, we have runners, called 'wenches': attractive female filkers dressed in skimpy clothing, carrying the items from bidder to bidder. If you bid enough, you may wind up with a wench in your lap. Be prepared.

If you'd like to make a donation to Interfilk, you can find information detailing how to do so on the Interfilk web site.

The banquet.

The one event not included in your OVFF membership is the Pegasus Banquet, where the Pegasus Awards for the year are announced, and any winners who actually happen to be present stare in stunned silence. A menu for the banquet -- it changes from year to year -- is generally available at Registration. Tickets are limited, so sign up early if you want to go. Ticket prices will be available at Registration.

Sunday.

By Sunday, no one has slept much. Many of us look shell-shocked but happy. For a full guide to Sunday programming, see your program book.

The Sunday night dinner run.

Every Sunday night, whoever's left at the convention goes out to dinner. I love this. This is brilliant. There will be a signup sheet at Registration, so that people without cars can find rides, and people with cars can offer them.

For the last several years, we've gone to BD's, which is the best Mongolian barbeque in the world. Come to this. You won't regret it.

Open filking.

Throughout the weekend, you'll find open filking. Big circles. Small circles. Short circles. Tall circles. Sitting in the hall circles. It's all there, it's all brilliant, and it's all waiting for you. Open filking will usually run straight through until dawn.

Do: find a circle that you're comfortable with. Big or small, whatever suits you is perfect. Sing, if you want to! If you're having trouble breaking in, ask someone for help. It can get rowdy, especially on Saturday night, but if you get someone to hit a power chord on their guitar, you can usually break in. Wait your turn. Don't come into a busy circle and expect to be the next one to sing. Pay attention to the mood. If everyone is singing sad songs, they may not welcome your happy song about cheery bunnies. Either wait for the mood to shift naturally, or go find a happy circle. Keep an eye on the time. If you want to make the yoga class at ten, go to bed before six.

Don't: stay in a circle that's making you miserable. That's why we have six of them going through most of the convention. Be afraid to start your own circle. If nothing makes you happy, grab five friends and an open room, and go to town! Be a filk-hog. As a rule of thumb, you want to wait until at least half the people in the room have had a chance to sing before you try to go again. Stay up too late -- you're likely to get carved into a jack-o-lantern if you turn into a pumpkin!

Big fun for everyone!

The Dead Dog.

Although the convention officially 'ends' on Sunday afternoon, we have one last big filk circle after the Sunday night dinner run: the Dead Dog, where we all cram into one little room and sing our happy hearts out. This circle starts huge and shrinks throughout the night, as people head home or off to bed. It's well-worth staying for.

Part V: Staying alive.

Wow. That's a lot of stuff, isn't it? Here are some tips for staying upright.

Pace yourself.

Look at the available events, and decide what you really want to do. Rank things, and come up with a basic game plan. You can do this daily, hourly, or just once, on Friday, but you really, really want to, because otherwise, you'll blink and realize that you haven't eaten or slept in three days. And that would be a bad thing. Very bad.

Sleep.

The human body needs more sleep than it gets on a regular basis. Note that a filk convention is anything but 'a regular basis'. Know your own needs. I can't function on less than six hours; if I need to be up and active by ten, I have to go to bed by four, period. If you can manage four hours, more power to you. Just be aware of what you, personally, require, and make sure that you get it.

Eat.

As a rule of thumb, the rule is 'six and two' -- you either need six hours of sleep, and two meals, or two hours of sleep, and six meals. Make sure you eat. Better yet, make sure you eat food. Candy corn is tasty, but not nutritious. You need to eat green things, things made with protein, and things that are not sugar. I'll try to help you out with that a little later on in this guide, but in the end, it's your responsibility.

Drink.

You need six glasses of water a day -- that's a liter and a half, minimum. You can get some of that from coffee and tea, but the fact of the matter is, you need water. The air in hotels is dehydrating, which means that it sucks the water out of you. Soda doesn't replace that. Try to drink some water every day, for the sake of your health. You'll feel substantially better if you do.

Bathe.

This is for you, and for everyone around you. Bathe. Go into your hotel room, turn on the hot water, and use it, combined with soap, to remove sweat and dead skin from your body. You'll feel better, and you'll smell better, and people will enjoy your company more. (A handy tip: I always pack a few extra outfits, and change my clothes if I start to feel overheated or grimy. It extends the wear of your clothing, and keeps you feeling better, longer.) You may find that you feel better when you shower three or four times a day, and hey! No one will stop you.

Monitor your mood.

Sometimes, the throng of people can be overwhelming, especially if you're naturally shy. It's okay to go off and be by yourself for a little while! No one will punish you. Take a nap, sit and read your book, or go for a cup of coffee, and let yourself relax. You don't have to be social all the time, and a few little breaks will help you feel like you've really lived the convention.

Part VI: Food.

Now, first off, I'd like to note that I am possibly the pickiest eater in the entire cosmos, and as such, this section will not help if what you want is, say, excellent Indian food. The convention provides a list of local restaurants that's going to be a lot more useful to you. No, this isn't about what to eat; it's about how to eat. There's a difference.

Meals.

Eat meals. Actual meals, not just snacks. This isn't just going to fuel your body; it's going to give your psyche a chance to snag a few vital minutes of downtime, and leave you feeling refreshed and ready for the rest of the convention.

TIP: Most people treat dinner as their largest meal of the day. Most people are also fairly sedentary in the evenings. The activity at a filk convention is likely to run long after midnight, and sometimes even all the way to dawn. Don't overeat at dinner, as 'I missed the concerts due to food coma' is a little mortifying to admit. If you cut your meal in half and bring part of it back to the hotel in a to-go box, you not only keep yourself from dozing off, you have a handy midnight snack for that late-night sugar crash!

Eating at the hotel.

You'll probably eat at least one meal at the hotel, if only because you get free breakfast with your room. Yum! The hotel restaurant is also open for lunch and dinner, and sells the usual assortment of Americana and hotel-food classics -- salads, burgers, steaks and such. If you need food now, the hotel is a good way to get it.

Please check the posted hours carefully, as the restaurant does close down for several hours before the dinner rush.

The breakfast buffet.

The hotel's breakfast buffet is pretty comprehensive, and includes fruit, yogurt, small boxes of cereal, scrambled eggs, breakfast meats, milk, coffee, orange juice, fresh-made waffles, and omelets on demand. It isn't kosher, obviously, but it's filling, friendly, and a great way to socialize with other convention-goers in the early morning, since tables tend to fill and deflate in a great, slow pulse as people enter and exit.

TIP: Please, please, tip your waitress. Just because the breakfast is free, that doesn't mean that the staff isn't working hard to help you, and they do remember people who don't acknowledge their efforts. If you enjoy having your cup refilled every time it empties, reward the people who take care of you!

Organizing a food run.

There comes a time in every life where you just need to get out of the hotel. You can go by yourself if you have a car, or -- assuming that it's a normal mealtime -- you can try to put together a food run. Usually, just saying 'I'm going to _____' in a public place is enough to create a food run. You can also try arranging things ahead of time.

When making a food run, remember to take into account driving time, distance, number of people, and time of day. Hitting Max and Irma's on Saturday night with a group of fifteen is a good way to guarantee yourself a long wait, so don't do it if you need to be back at the hotel in time for something specific. Make sure to have a destination in mind before you go, as the convention is usually more interesting than driving randomly through downtown Columbus. Seriously. Native guides are useful things to have; anyone who's been to a few OVFFs in the past will count as a native guide.

Bringing things back to the hotel.

The hotel prefers that outside food be kept in private sleeping rooms or in the con suite. If you make a food run -- say, to Tim Horton's for timbits -- you should be sure to keep your food in one of these two areas whenever possible. It's just polite.

And no, that doesn't mean you'll get in trouble if someone sees you eating a granola bar in the hallway. Just that we're trying to be civil and adhere to the hotel's demands.

Groceries.

Sometimes you just want a damn apple already. There are a variety of grocery stores in and around the Dublin/Columbus area. There's a Kroeger's in easy (long) walking distance, for your basic supplies, and a Whole Foods on Sawmill, if what you really want is a bottle of pomegranate juice and some rye bread. Be sure to check around if you're heading for the store, as folks may want to come with you. Mmmmm, pomegranate juice.

Snacks.

Snacks rock, especially in a convention setting. Snacks keep your blood sugar up, and mean that you don't go psycho and kill us all with a capo. Please, snack.

Nuts, lunch meat, cheese, soy-based granola bars, and peanut butter are all good sources of protein. Protein provides your body with long-burning energy that can last substantially longer than simple sugars. Luna Bars are a good source of tasty soy protein, and are available in a lot of flavours.

Sliced fruit, chocolate, baked goods, candy corn, jelly beans, and jelly are all good sources of sugar and carbohydrates. Sugar and carbohydrates will provide your body with a quick burst of energy that can equalize you faster than protein, and -- when eaten in tandem with protein -- may allow you to keep going long enough for your body to break down that pesky turkey sandwich.

Yes, I am aware that by this formula, I have just claimed that peanut M&Ms are the perfect food.

If you have specific taste in snacks, bring them with you. I'll be bringing Luna Bars and an assortment of single-serving cakes, because I know I'll eat them, and they'll get me through the space between meals. I'll also be hitting Whole Foods for a bag of Gala apples, because I've actually met me. Know what you're likely to want, and make sure you can get it. By the time you're hungry enough to eat the concom, you've gone too long between meals.

TIP: If you're allergic to peanuts, there are other kinds of nut butter in the world! Most are available at Whole Foods, and may satisfy a childhood craving you'd forgotten that you had.

Drinks.

I've said it before, I'll say it again: water. Man does not survive by caffeine alone, and neither does woman, child, or cat. As a rule of thumb, drink a glass of water for every can of soda or two cups of coffee that you consume. This will help keep you balanced and prevent you from dehydrating.

TIP: The con suite will have drinks, but it may not have your drink. I only drink Diet Dr Pepper. I will thus be buying a supply from Kroeger's, because warm soda is better than no soda at all. If you have specific drink needs, take responsibility for fulfilling them.

Conclusion.

I hope this is helpful; I know I've skipped a lot of things, but, well, I was sort of starting to daunt myself. I can't wait to see you at the convention.

We're all going to have a wonderful time!
Sunday
Apr082007

Any advice on choosing a guitar?

Please note that original question was posted in LJ and was: "I am a cadet at West Point in New York and am looking for information on how to choose a guitar to buy. I am making a Decision Support System for one of my classes and was hoping you could help. I read the article posted in your 'Urban Tapestry' website about choosing a guitar but was wondering if there are any other factors someone might think about when deciding what guitar to choose. Are there any other types of guitars, besides the ones listed (Classical, Flamenco, Acoustic, Electric, Semi-acoustic, 12-string, and base), that a new player could choose from? Which type of guitar would a person have the best chance of finding cheap, but its still a good guitar? I could use any information you are willing to share. If you could reply back as soon as possible, I would be most grateful. Thank you for your time and consideration."

----------------------

From Volker:

"First and foremost it depends on in which style of music you intend to play the guitar: thus a flamenco guitar is only moderately suited for a heavy metal group - and an e-guitar is not overly fitting for classical guitar concerts, neither are acoustic (steel-strung) guitars or 12strings.

Are you right- or lefthanded? Although there are a few players that can work with an "upside-down" guitar, choosing a guitar for your handiness is highly recommended unless the guitar is completely symmetrical.

How/where do you intend to mainly use the guitar? A guitar than can be used for camping in rain and sunshine is quite different to an original gut-string renaissance guitar that should not leave well-climated environment (but is nothing for a complete beginner either).

And there's of course the monetary aspect. New guitars start as low as $20 - these are probably only suitable for rainy camping, because the probable loss/destruction of the guitar due to wetness plus hot campfire won't hurt the purse too much. If you seriously consider learning guitar $300 for a "real" guitar will help a lot training your ears for the right tone.

But how to choose? Really do ask a friend or teacher who already is playing the style you want to learn to help you finding a solid (beginner's) guitar. They know what to look and listen for - and if you ask some time in advance they even can prepare and compare prices before visiting a shop. Plus they probably know the shops which have good prices and/or service you might have overlooked. Maybe they even know good sources for used guitars (former pupils or their own instruments), which are considerably cheaper than new instruments.

Basically: ask someone you trust and who knows the stuff you want to learn."

-----------------------

From Mary:

"First, consider: what do you plan to use the guitar for? Is this a guitar on which to learn, or is it a guitar with which to perform? If the latter, are we talking coffee houses or concert halls? There are plenty of relatively cheap guitars that are good for learning.

Play a lot of guitars in the store. Find out which ones feel good to your hands. The action (height of the strings, roughly) can be changed, but playing around can help you to figure out how high or low of action is good for you.

Listen to the sound quality. Some people like brighter sounds, some mellower. If you can't hear the difference, it might not yet make much difference which guitar you pick as a starter guitar (as long as the action is reasonable). String gauge (and newness) also makes a difference in the brightness of a guitar.

Tune the guitar. Make sure that the tuning pegs move smoothly. Play the guitar. Make sure the tuning holds. (Note that either just-put on strings or old strings will not sound great - just-put-on strings stretch, and don't hold tune for perhaps the first day unless you know how to help them stretch more quickly. Old strings will stay at the pitch they're set to, but tend to be difficult to tune to the right pitch).

If you want a really good guitar, I can now (after a fifteen minute lesson a few weeks ago from the guitar repair man) describe some of the finer points to look at. However, from the question I'm guessing that this is someone looking for a first guitar."

-----------------------

From Keris:

What braider said, plus I'd really put emphasis on picking a guitar which is what /you/ (the person buying it) want. My first (and only) 6-string acoustic only cost 115 pounds (about US$200 at the time) but was the one /I/ liked out of the range in the shop. Also note that things like action (how high the strings are off the frets), what weight and type of strings you like and to an extent the tuning can and should be adjusted by a person skilled at "setting up" the guitar after purchase. New guitars, particularly the low end 'production' models, often have very high action because it's easier to lower it to taste than to raise it. My guitar effectively tripled in value with a 50 pound ($90) setup by a guitar repairer recommended by the shop.

-----------------------

From Nate:

"You've gotten some really complicated (but absolutely right on target) answers from a lot of knowledgeable people. I'm going to go into the exact opposite space and simplify things a little, so you don't put so much time and effort into trying to decide that you eventually give up because it isn't worth said effort. Note: I have been playing guitar for 48 years, playing a *lot* of professional gigs for 38 of them (and some earlier than that) and have taught guitar for a local community college.

This will be your first guitar. I have had much better results teaching people on acoustic guitars (even if they and I all know that they'll be playing electric in six months) than starting on electrics. I've also had better results teaching people on cheap nylon-string guitars (sometimes called "classical guitars," sometimes called "nylon stringed folk guitars") than on cheap steel-strings. A cheap steel stringed guitar is likely to be extremely hard to play, putting grooves in your fingers and being hard to keep in tune. A cheap nylon string guitar will be far easier to play, and because there will be less tension on the neck, it's not going to warp and be harder to keep in tune over the first year you have it (or any other period of time). I would say that a $100 nylon string guitar will be on a par, for playability and sound, with a $250 steel string guitar. Note: Buying a guitar made for steel strings and putting nylon strings on it generally doesn't work, though there are a few exceptions; having a friend right there in your home town will help you decide if there is an exception there, or not.

And thanks immensely to vampirdaddy (whom I don't know) for mentioning the issue that you might be left-handed. It is standard for guitar teachers to tell lefties, "Play right-handed. Your left hand will be doing the fretting, which is the hard part, and you'll eventually be better off.)" Unfortunately, this is nonsense. I know a good number of left-handers who play right-handed; usually they are extremely musically frustrated people who have difficulty synchronizing rhythms with other musicians and can't improvise. Yeah, it works *occasionally* -- Glen Campbell is left-handed playing right, and when you connect with your first guitar teacher, he or she may have another example in your home town -- but there are far more uncomfortable and frustrated lefties who tried to play right-handed and found out that it only just barely worked. I don't know that much about the "upside down" variety, though a folkie I like and respect, Bill Staines, plays upside-down -- but Staines tells the lefties he talks to that they would be better off playing "full lefty," strings reversed to make the guitar a mirror image of a right-handed one, as it's less limiting.

As far as "base" -- don't even think about it at this point. This instrument is generally called "electric bass," and if you aren't sure that's what you want to play (unless some friends want you to be the bass player in their band), go with a regular guitar. You can learn bass later, once you know a bit more about what a bass is and does. It's *not* a good instrument with which you accompany your own favorite songs in a music circle; yeah, a circle with one good bass player can sound better than a circle without one, but the bassist needs to play well and have an excellent ear; it might go better to play guitar for six months or a year first, even if playing bass like Paul McCartney is your long-term goal -- learn to become a musician first, and *then* pick up the bass instrument, which will stretch your musicianship. So yeah, I'm going to be consistent -- buy a nylon string guitar and get someone to show you some stuff."

----------------------

From Bill R:

"Nate's advice sounds generally really, really good. I might differ with him on the nylon vs. steel string issue, but that really depends on what's available in the store.

Used. Used. Used. And how do you get a good used guitar?

Go to a store that isn't one of the chains (Guitar Center being a place to avoid), that does their own repairs, that stocks a fair variety of instruments, and that gives lessons. They'll have good clean used guitars available at good prices."

(From Nate, in response to the above: "Bill, I'm curious. I said a few different things on the nylon vs. steel string issue. Which of them might you differ on? I *think* I said I have had better luck teaching beginners with cheap nylon string guitars than beginners with cheap steel stringed guitars; I'm not sure how that's amenable to disagreement at all. I also said that a $100 nylon string guitar is equivalent to a $250 steel string guitar; if this is cause for disagreement, I'd like to know what you base this disagreement on. Something I did *not* say, but which we may very well agree on (perhaps to your surprise?) is that with the overwhelming majority of folksingers and related basic players going for steel strings, you may as well start with a steel string guitar and get used to it, and this way, you're far less likely to need to "upgrade" your guitar six months to a year down the line. But I'd like to keep the topic open, not because I want to use my experience to trump everybody else, but because I actually discuss teaching issues with other people quite seldom, leading me to feel I *need* outside input, just to keep my opinions a bit more balanced. Bill, please get back to me on this; I really do want to know.")_

Bill replies:

"Understanding your reasons for recommending starting on a nylon-string guitar, I tend to think it's better starting on a steel-string guitar in part because of the upgrade issue that you mention in this post. I think that you're correct about it being easier to find a new nylon-strung guitar of playable quality at a lower price than a playable steel-strung guitar, but the situation may be different when you're looking at used instruments, because the vast majority of used guitars that you're likely to see are steel-strung.

The other reason to recommend starting on a steel-string guitar is that the neck width on the nylon-strung guitar is going to be (usually) a lot wider than on the steel-strung guitar. I remember picking up Anne Passovoy's guitar and coming up way short of the right spot on a G chord. :) For someone with small hands, this could make a big difference.

The other thing that I've found is that even the cheese-slicer variety of steel-string guitar can be made playable by spending $25-$50 to have it set up correctly by a competent repair shop. If you bought the cheese-slicer there, they're likely to smile and do it, because they know that you'll upgrade that guitar later -- assuming that you survive the initial lessons, which you're more likely to do if the cheese-slicer is set up with lower action, etc.

Terry at the Guitar Works modified a couple of my friends cheese-slicers for me so that they were much more playable. Of course, I've brought a lot of friends in there looking for better guitars over the years. Which goes back to the point of finding a good non-chain store and establishing a relationship with them..."

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From Chris O.:

"Don't have time for a full answer, so here's the quick list of words that pop into my head to do with guitar choice:

Price (a major factor!)
Music Style (what kind of music, after all even if you choose six string electric you still have the choice of Strat, Telecaster, Les Paul, etc.)
Acoustic
Electric
Seven string electric
12 string (acoustic or electric)
semi-acoustic
pickups
materials (for acoustic, different woods, different compositions have different tones/sound)
string type (nylon/steel/bronze/silver)
cutaway (on an acoustic, allowing access to higher frets)
lap steel
pedal steel
resonator (dobro/national/resophonic etc.)
Hawaiian slack-key
Bottleneck guitar
travel (small bodied acoustic, small electric, folding electric guitars etc.)
auto tune (small motors that tune the guitar for you)
Tenor (four string, favoured by people like Martin Carthy OBE)
baritone/longneck (usually at least two more frets than a standard guitar so tunes down to a D rather than an E)
body size (if you look at Martin Guitars you'll find they come in at least four or five different body sizes from travel/baby/parlour up to the dreadnaught/grand auditorium sizes)
neck profile (very important, especially on electric guitars, but also for acoustic)
humidity (some guitars will handle excessively dry or moist areas better than others)
double neck (six+twelve, six+bass etc.)
synth control (midi or Roland controller), real guitar with sensors or specialist synth guitar like synthaxe or Casio DG-20
whether the guitar should be new, used or collectable
bass four string/five string/six string (etc.!)
fretted/fretless
chapman stick (electric guitar variant designed for hammering on with both hands)
harp guitar (multiple strings with resonators etc.)
Ashbory bass (a bass guitar with thick rubber bands for strings, sounds more like an acoustic upright bass than an electric bass guitar)
lute/other historic or world variant (Mexican Mariachi bands with the big acoustic bass guitars, portugese guittarre or however they are spelled, cuatro etc.)
round bodied (plastic) back (such as Ovation)
colour
built in amp & speaker
built in synth (Casio MG380 I think had a Casio VZ1 synth built-in)
light up fretboard (special guitars for people to learn to play)
buzz feiten tuning system (I may have his name slightly wrong, a way of spacing the frets to make the guitar more in tune all the way up the neck)
adjustable bridge
vibrator/tremolo bridge (the little stick on a Fender strat/the whammy bar)
b-bender/hipshot (a way of bending the note on a single string based on a lever on the back of the guitar)
drop-D level (a way of slackening a string on the guitar from E to D with a single flick, useful for doing a "drop D" tuning for one song in a set)
strap attachment points (some guitars, especially classical, have no way of attaching a strap built into the guitar ... some have an end pin, some have an end pin and a pin at the bottom of the neck, and a few even have a way of attaching the strap up at the top of the neck (otherwise use a shoelace!))

For an acoustic, standard round hole, tear drop hole on upper bout or multiple soundholes (like some of the ovations) or medieval style fretwork hole

And then I have a guitar that doesn't fit easily in the above categories, it's a Gibson Chet Atkins, which is very nearly a solid bodied electric guitar, but it has nylon strings, a sort of fake round soundhole and some sort of resonating chambers and a pickup in it.

Oh, and of course, once you decide on pickups in your acoustic or electric guitar you have to decide on what kind (brand, sound, humbucker or single coil, lace sensors etc.)

And there's another kind of jazz guitar called something like a Macaferri, with a triangular tailpiece (more like a mandolin/violin/bouzouki or even a semiacoustic) but with more of a classical/flamenco style body

And I don't know whether he will know the difference between acoustic, electro-acoustic and semi-acoustic. (Acoustic is just that, big empty wooden box with strings over it. ElectroAcoustic is the same, but there's some sort of pickup so that the acoustic sound can be sent to an amplifier. Either a microphone or a piezo pickup that picks up the vibrations in the wood/bridge.

SemiAcoustic guitars are usually the wider ones with the F-holes (like a violin) and usually have a pickup that works by picking up the vibrations of the string over the pickup (like an electric guitar)."
Sunday
Apr082007

Why doesn't the filk community notice/appreciate me?

From Erica's excellent LJ entry (and accompanying comments), posted here with permission:

"Folkmew did one of those anonymous posting things on her journal and someone posted this:

I feel envious, green with envy when other filkers are guests, have concerts or put out a CD. I'm happy for them, but want the same thing for myself. I feel like what I do in the community isn't noticed or appreciated. Most of the time I have these feeling under control, but sometimes I just want to stomp my feet and yell. Childish yes, but there it is.

I started writing a really long answer in response and decided to pull it over to my journal. Note that this is mostly geared towards people who are performers (or want to be!) I agree that we're not always good at recognizing our background people either, and I have thoughts about that too. But it sounded to me (possibly wrongly) that this person was a performer of some kind but was frustrated with the opportunities he or she was getting.

Guesting is unpredictable, and I don't have a clue how people become guests. Sorry - I'm no help there. But as for the others:

[Obligatory disclaimer: I am not a filk publisher nor do I run filk programming at any cons. However, I've done a lot of concerts in a lot of places, been on filk concoms (well, technically I'm on one now), and have personal experience in being really shy and trying to figure out how to get noticed. But this is just my opinion and experiences.]

If you haven't done many (or any) concerts before, try asking. If it's a big con like OVFF, they may not have a lot of room - and the schedule may be arranged many months in advance, so it might not be possible to get something close to the time. *But* other filk cons and general cons with filk tracks are often easier to get in. A local general con with a filk track is a great place to start concerts, if you have one near you; it's a way of getting your name out and getting people to think of you...and you can probably figure out who to contact, because it's probably someone in your area.

Because, frankly, if you're not getting concerts it may just be that people don't think of you - not that they're actively ignoring you. If you need help putting yourself forward (like if you don't know who to talk to or are intimidated or whatever) feel free to come talk to me and I'll see if I can help somehow! I don't know everybody, but I probably know someone who knows someone. *grin*

If you *have* offered repeatedly and been turned down, see if you can find out why and figure out what to work on. I've known people who didn't have enough material for a concert who did a joint set with someone else and kind of alternated songs; this also works if your material is narrow in range and you're worried about having too much of it all at once ("They'll kill themselves laughing - what should I do?") If you're worried about your performance abilities, try a Juried One Shot or even just getting someone who you trust and tell them you want an honest opinion...as long as you can handle it. (For what it's worth, I'm happy to do this, too.)

As for a CD...have you tried talking to someone who puts out CDs? I basically only did my first one because Phil and Lissa Allcock (hmm, and I think Annie Walker, come to think of it) listened to me going "Well, I'd like to do one, but I don't really know how or who to do it with" and they said "Oh, we can do that!" I'm doing my second one with Dodeka because I floated the idea to Bill Roper (several years ago - I didn't say I was *fast* at doing these.) So think about who is in your area that does CDs (again, I might have some names, if you have no clue) and try approaching them - it's not terribly likely that they'll wander up to you someday and say "Please do a CD with us;" you probably need to talk to them first.

Even if they turn you down, you might get some ideas as to why - are they worried about your material? Do you not have instrumentation and they're worried about an a cappella CD (didn't stop Seanan - she got people to help her!) Do you need backup singers but don't know how to get them? Trust me, we can solve this problem. (Oh, pick me, pick me! I'll sing for anyone! *grin*) Once you've broken the problem down, it's much more solvable - the trick is sometimes in figuring out how to get the input you need to get a handle on the problem. And then you may be able to approach them again, this time with a possible solution in mind - which may give you a better chance.

Don't feel like you need to stomp and yell - let me help! I agree that people sometimes need to be hit over the head so they notice others...and I'm happy to hit people over the head on others' behalf. Honest. I do it all the time - that's why I'm a teacher. *grin*"

Some related FAQ entries:

Tips on making friends at filk conventions?
Tips for shy or nervous filkers?
What is a filkhog? How can I avoid being one?
What are one-shots?
How can I get the most out of a filk convention?



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…"


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