Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Men and singing 1: 15 myths debunked

A few weeks ago I started a discussion here on Why men won’t sing.

At around the same time I sent out an email to everyone on my mailing list asking for advice on how to get more men singing.

rugby singing

time for another song by willposh

I have been overwhelmed by the responses I got, so many, many thanks to all of you who took the time to respond. Many people wrote long and thoughtful replies which it is taking me some time to read through.

I did promise that I would feedback the responses as a post on this blog. Well, it’s coming, but it might take a little longer than I thought!

This will be the first in a series of posts analysing all the responses I received and throwing some more ideas into the pot.

First off I thought I’d identify a few myths (in no particular order) that seem to keep cropping up. Do let me know if you agree or not!

myth 1: men sing at sports games

Men don’t sing at football matches or rugby matches or ball games, they chant – sometimes in rhythm (which is quite tricky to do). Another way of describing it is shouting (roughly) in tune . But it’s not singing as we know it. It’s rather like that scene in Cabaret where Liza Minnelli stands under a railway bridge and screams her head off as a train passes above her. It’s just a way of letting off steam.

myth 2: bass parts are always boring

Many men complain that the bass parts are just a drone or a load of ‘dum dums’. “Basses never get the tune” they moan.

I did a little survey of the 30+ songs we did in our recent concert. Hardly any of them were drones, in several cases the men got the tune. In any case, with a well-written arrangement, every part will feel like the tune. And if it’s not a familiar song, who knows which bit is the tune any way?

myth 3: men’s confidence is easily destroyed

And women are supremely confident all the time? Both men and women are often under-confident about singing or any other thing that they don’t think they’re very good at. But the women step forward and give it a go regardless. Why not the men?

myth 4: men are shy, vulnerable creatures ...

... who are afraid of getting things wrong or standing out in a crowd

Yeah, right! You really believe that men (who will posture, compete, show off, be loud, draw attention to themselves, etc. at the drop of a hat) are shrinking violets?

myth 5: men are scared of women

At least they seem to be scared of women en masse. I hear this a lot. I have spent most of my life being in the minority in mixed groups. So much so that I don’t notice it any more. What is there to be scared of exactly? This is just another myth that perpetuates the ridiculous idea that men are small frightened creatures who need to be protected from the harsh world out there!

myth 6: men don’t leave the house much ...

... and if they do it’s to go down to the pub.

Apparently 52 pubs a week are closing in the UK. More men than women tend to go to pubs, so it’s clear that men are deserting pubs in their thousands. Where do they go? Do they stay at home and open a six-pack? Are you seriously telling me that men don’t need stimulation (evening classes, cinema, fishing) and are happy to sit in front of the box every evening?

myth 7: singing is not a macho activity

Try telling that to the New Zealand boys doing the haka! Or the Shouting Men from Finland. Or Only Men Aloud. Or the Zulus surrounding the British at Rourke’s Drift in the movie Zulu. Or the seriously macho Corsican guys in their quartets. Or the Sicilian tenores who look like they should be in the mafia.

myth 8: there are ‘men’s songs’ ...

... and there are ‘women’s songs’

Oh, please! Don’t get me started!!! Women like pink and fluffy and men like blue and rugged? Most of the male group songs that have topped the charts have been wishy washy ballads (see Westlife, Boyzone, etc. or Il Divo and the like). Women who top the charts tend to be raunchy and gutsy (Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Madonna). You think men like hard rock and women like ballads? Think again!

myth 9: men only like challenges ...

... and are very competitive

Sure, they might have that tendency. In which case why not try singing. They seem to think it’s difficult so there’s a challenge for you! And why not compete to be the best (singer, choir, performance)?

myth 10: men don’t like being part of a group

Try telling that to a bunch of football supporters – or bowls club or stag party or army squad or stock exchange floor or rugby team.

myth 11: men don’t like commitment

In which case there would be far less marriages out there! Again it’s assuming that men are wishy washy and can’t make their minds up or put their money where their mouth is. If that were the case, businesses would be folding daily. Maybe they don’t like certain commitments. I guess it’s about priorities and men don’t prioritise singing (or the arts or socialising or sharing their feelings).

myth 12: men are put off singing when their voices break

I’ve talked to loads of blokes about this and most of them can’t remember their voices breaking. Most of us go through this quite quickly and move on. The idea of a squeaky uncontrollable voice that wavers up and down for months on end to the ridicule of all your mates is a bit of a stereotype and tends to happen just in movies (or to a minority of lads). In any case, it’s just a small thing in a long life and soon forgotten.

myth 13: men have more work commitments than women

I have met loads of high up female executives, consultants, and business leaders in my choirs and singing workshops. They attend regularly and are always keen and on time. On the other hand, I often hear that a bloke “can’t make it tonight, I have to work late”. How come there’s one rule for women and another for men? If the blokes really want to come singing, they’ll find a way.

myth 14: men find harmony singing harder than women

Oh, yeah??!! Nonsense!

myth 15: if you introduce singing to boys at primary school they will continue to sing throughout life

I sang at primary school. We had loads of music and singing at school when I was a kid. I joined the primary school choir and I was in the local church choir. When I went to big school at 11 I pretty much stopped singing (except for the school song on founder’s day and a bit of camp fire singing at boy scouts). I only took up singing again in my late 30s. I meet lots of people – both men and women – who start singing again in their 40s and 50s even though they sang regularly at school.

do you agree?

Well, that’s a few myths debunked I hope. Do you agree? I’d love to hear from you.

Next week I’ll share some of the ideas that you came up with for how to get more men singing (Men and singing 2: your collective wisdom).


Chris Rowbury's website:

Chris Rowbury


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