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 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.
Sunday
Apr082007

What are 'one shots'?

"One-shots" are opportunities for filkers to perform one song of their choosing in a concert setting. Some conventions also offer "two-shots" or even "three-shots".

"One-shots" are meant to be a showcase for those who do not have concerts at that particular convention. They are also a great opportunity for those who want to strengthen their performance skills.

It's generally bad form for guests to do one-shots since they already have their own concert and do not need a showcase.

You usually sign up for one-shots at the convention (though in rare cases, you can sign up before). If the con offers one-shots, there is a sign-up sheet at the registration table. Some cons offer "two-shots" or "two-fers".

Comments? Suggestions? Please post below.
Sunday
Apr082007

What is 'Frank Hayes disease'?

When a performer forgets lyrics or guitar chords, filkers will sometimes call out, "Frank Hayes disease, give generously!" Those of you not familiar with Frank Hayes might be curious about this strange affliction.

Frank Hayes is indeed a real person. Here's his Wikipedia entry.

From a Duckon bio years ago: "By 1983 or so, my ability to forget had reached legendary status," Frank writes. "Some filkers claimed they got temporary amnesia just from sitting in the same room as me. On one amazing (but true) occasion, Heather Alexander borrowed a guitar, not knowing it was mine--and promptly forgot a song she had known for years."

Comments? Suggestions? Please post below.
Sunday
Apr082007

What is 'ose'?

A song that is "ose" is morose, very sad. Men dying in space, puppies being run over, lovers dying in each other's arms, world annihilations, that sort of thing.

It's generally not a good idea to have too many "ose" songs in a row, or people will start falling asleep (if it's very late at night) or slitting their wrists.

Whenever I hear the word "ose", I tend to think of two songs: Clif Flynt's Ian The Grim (quintessential "ose" song) and Paul Kwinn's Stop Singing Ose Or I'll Kill You (very funny song about ose songs).

Comments? Suggestions? Please post below.
Sunday
Apr082007

What is 'found filk'?

'Found filk' refers to songs that were written outside of the filk context, but are appropriate for singing within a filk environment because of particular content, especially that related to science fiction and fantasy. Here is a list of some sf references in music.

Comments? Suggestions? Please post below.