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Learning Tracks for Heritage of Harmony Songbook-To make or not to make

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A request has been made that each of the 57 songs from the Heritage of Harmony Songbook should have learning tracks made for them. This project will likely cost any where from $6000-9000 of unbudgeted spending and take almost a year to complete. Before we react one way or another based on one member’s request, here are several questions:

1. Have we become so reliant on learning tracks as a Society that there are no other means to learn these relatively easy songs? (Sounds like a separate blog question if you ask me!)
2. Is there a great demand for these tracks other than this one request?
3. Considering the cost to create these, should they also be on the website for free download with no possibility to recoup some of the expenses or should there be a nominal fee?
4. These arrangements have existed in songbook form for 20 years. Why now should tracks be made? Is it because the music is free?

26 thoughts on “Learning Tracks for Heritage of Harmony Songbook-To make or not to make

  1. In this instantaneous reward Society amid the ranks of those who perceive themselves to be too busy to be bothered with anything as traditional as “learning music from a sheet of paper and a piano” we may need to be prepared for this kind of request. I know I got in the middle of someone seeing something in the Marketplace and assuming that in addition to all the songs on a CD there would be all the learning media.

    I for one say make it available (not necessarily these songs, but many of our simple songs, and perhaps get chapters singing simpler songs better. Thus, making them more attractive and perhaps getting into better habits up front.

    Now that I said that, perhaps learning tracks should be sent for all the songs we send to new forming chapters. Get them on the right track up front.

    1. I think one has to understand the value of having around
      in the first place. Many an occasion has come along when
      fellow BHS members have run across each other from different chapter and states. The one thing they have in common is to be able to sign together are “Pole cats. In addition, the quicker an new member can learn a few Pole Cats” the sooner he can experience the thrill of singing in a pick up quartet. These experience are the glue that sticks
      and remains forever.(personal experience) Cost is not an issue when it comes to value so I’m quite sure members would be happy to pay.
      Thanks for the opportunity to share and happy to see you and your family so often on Face book. Lucky guy..

      Bill Ennis

  2. Rick, I have been asked several times if there were learning media for the polecats. Yes, I don’t like it when a question is answered with a question and changes the subject, but… wouldn’t learning media for the polecats do two things: 1) Teach new members the basics very quickly and 2) introduce new members to the value and speed of learning through using this media?
    Just a thought from the Membership side…

    Charlie D.

  3. Charlie-I assume you mean “free” learning tracks since the Polecat book already has learning CDs for each voice part. Since the Polecat book is included in the new member kit, maybe this kit should also include the respective learning CD??? Whaddaya think?

  4. It would be a great addition to the new members kit if the Polecat learning CD was included. Most of our new guys go into a Polecat class (where they not only learn the Polecats, but they get to quartet them), and they ask for the CD.
    Many people learn rather easily from a CD, and these guys want to be ready to shine the next week.
    Let’s do it!

  5. I understand that this would be a huge project when you consider 4 CDs (4 parts) for 57 songs but I believe it would be worth it. Maybe the book could be broken down into quarters and a CD released every year or two until a complete set is available.
    I have been singing with BHS for 5 years. I can’t read music. If it were not for the learning CDs I don’t know if I would have been able to continue. There is only so much learning that you can do at your weekly chorus meeting. We need this method to allow us to continue learning on OUR time.
    With the current budget problems across the country, more and more schools are dropping the arts (to include music) from their class choices. This means even fewer people being able to read music. If we are going to grow as a society, we can’t depend on just recruiting music majors. The learning CD is a great tool to attract those of us out here that don’t read music but have a pretty good voice and can sing it if we hear it.
    I don’t feel that we need to include the Polecat learning CD with the new membership package for free. It only costs $5 at Harmony Marketplace. Maybe include a coupon for 1/2 off for the new member (we should at least recoup the price of the disc).
    Finally, I feel that any music the Society sells ought to have a learning CD available for it. It’s not like we have to store CDs for all our songs, just have the music files for each song in a database and make the CDs as required to meet orders (maybe stocking the better sellers).
    Sorry to be so longwinded but there were a lot of points that have been made that I wanted to address.

  6. I have kind of a silly proposition. Why don’t we ask the members to make learning tracks FOR us? Why don’t we hold a “contest” – submit a learning track for a particular song, and you win something – ad space in a district program, or highlighted links on the society’s or district’s webpage – to promote your chapter or service? If you go on youtube, you can find hundreds of examples of people singing tags and songs; some of them are quite talented but “undiscovered” by the barbershop community at large. (I think of a member of my chapter, David Ammirata, who makes GREAT learning tracks but is unknown outside of the Montclair chapter.)

    It’s ridiculously easy to create learning tracks these days. Every Mac computer has “garage band,” which is an instant multi-track recorder, and software is available for PC that does the same thing for little to no cost. I cannot imagine that some people out there wouldn’t take a couple of hours of free time and throw down a learning track for some of the Heritage of Harmony songs that sounds quite good.

    Granted, it won’t be TimTrax. “Very good” isn’t as good as “amazing,” true. But, “very good” might be sufficient for a free or low-cost learning material.

  7. Chuck, what software would you recommend for a PC to create learning tapes? I’ve found them helpful andwant to learn to do that. I’ve been in BHS for almost a year now, and am “hooked” and I want to learn all I can. thanks

  8. Providing a teaching and learning tool for the H of H Songbook is a great idea and a wonderful means to perpetuate this treasure trove of very harmonizable old songs. ( Thank you Burt Szabo). But expecting the Society to find $6-9 K to produce CD’s, within the restraints of the declining budget is not realistic. But perhaps MP3’s( or the most current technology), produced by some volunteer quartets and available for purchase on the Society’s website, would not require that level of expenditure.
    In long ago yesteryear, the Staff Infection Qt. ( Kenosa staff) produced a series of 49 tapes ( remember those ?) called the Preview Series, each had 6 songs and came with the arrangement. ( Could we get Dave Stevens to do a reprise appearance?? Ah….if only….) I have the complete set and have offered them to innumerable beginning quartets with the suggestion that they start with some simple, harmonizable songs. An idea that never sold in Sheboygan. They always went to the latest contest arrangement they could find, way beyond their abilities, with the predictable results.
    I have recently joined a Quartet Chapter that has four copies of the H of H books, which we use every night. Great harmony…. quick to find some chords, resulting in gratifying success in finding that we can actually ring some, on occasion. What a concept !! ( Here’s a key to member renewals Charlie)
    The Qt. Chapter leadership were just discussing(last night) using the Preview Series to create some learning tools for new singers. But, if tracks for the H of H book become available, we might be the first buyers. BYW….thanks Nashville(Rick and Joe ) for making 60 + of the H of H arrangements available to the members. For Free no less !!! Re: the other thread-‘What am I getting for my dues’.

  9. I say getting as many new members involved quickly using good technique is a great goal. Should people have to buy them? Absolutely. If you consider that at $20.00 a copy it would only take 450 to cover the $9000.00 production fees it seems like a worthwhile project.

    Learning tracks can do nothing but help us grow in my humble opinion.

  10. Thanks for all of the feedback. I appreciate all of you who have said you’d gladly pay for these. I should have been clearer in my original post. People are requesting these be made available FREE…like the sheet music. So it’s nice to know that if offered for a fee, you’d feel they were a good enough resource to purchase.

  11. I don’t think learning CDs should be free in general, but I do think a free CD should accompany the Polecat book that each new member receives. This is a recruiting/retention issue. Most new members start (or should start) with Polecats. Make it as easy as possible.

  12. As a relatively new member to the society in my late 20s, I say YES, YES YES! As a guy who doesn’t read music, learning tracks are invaluable to my experience as a barbershopper. Also, my discovery of barbershop and my love of it has only inspired me further to LEARN to read music. So in the meantime, Learning CDs give me the ability to get further hooked on Barbershop WHILE learning to read music—they definitely don’t prevent me from learning to read.

    I’d definitely pay for this. Well worth my money.

  13. Many of us drive to and from work every day. In my case, it’s a 30 minute drive. With learning CD’s, that’s a possible hour of learning/day. Adds up! I think the leaning tracks are great.

  14. For several years I subscribed to the” Music Premier” series.There is no comparison between
    learning by listening,while not singing,getting the
    lead melody(Hum first) Because they are correct,
    a quartet is better than a chorus in the learning
    stage. If you happen to be driving, no peeking
    at the music until your in “PARK”
    You will learn the words, the story,and the
    emotions, of the “Chart” (When did that begin?)
    Not when I First signed up 50+ yrs ago
    PS: Remember, you can “Fifth Wheel” anytime
    with a CD.

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  16. What a topic. I direct a chorus, and over the years there is quite a dependency on learning tracks. With that said…the idea of having learning tracks for the Heritage of Harmony series is a FANTASTIC idea. Should they be free? Absolutely not. Someone commented earlier that if the cds were 20$ each and the society sold 450 of them…you’d recoup the budget of 9000$ already. I see a profit in this…but not just financial. The idea of singing some incredible yet simple harmonies will probably help people understand what barbershop music started out as. We may even see some of these songs sang at barbershop shows and conventions. Would that be such a bad thing? I’m PROUD to be a barbershopper. Let HoH live on through learning tracks.

  17. I can’t address the need for learning tracks for these particular songs. My purpose in responding is to address the learning of music from the point of view of members who do a lot of traveling by car–a situation in which it would be very difficult to “learn music from a sheet of paper and a piano”.

    If you were to really think about it, time is probably one of our greatest resources–simply because we have so little of it. Those who want to learn how to sing a song need to use some of that precious resource. The question then becomes how do you budget some of that resource and what technique do you use.

    You can use the sheet music and a piano and rehearse the song by yourself; follow the quartet method in a quartet, ensemble or chorus; listen to a quartet/ensemble/chorus who has recorded the arrangement you are trying to learn and (by reading the sheet music) overlay your part on top of the recording. These and many similar approaches to learning need to be done in an environment where you need to dedicate your time to one thing and one thing only–the learning of the song.

    Can these ways be used if you are driving in a car and you are the driver? Although I have seen people that appear as if they are watching a TV or reading a book while behind a steering wheel I don’t think it is too wise a thing to do. However, singing along with learning tracks and gradually fading out the voice part that you are attempting to learn is something that can be done while driving–that is, as long as you don’t attempt to rehearse choreography movements at the same time while driving. The sam goes for directors who spread their arms apart for emphasis in certai parts of a song. That could be a little difficult while driving and make the driver learn the art of using their knees on the steering wheel instead of their hands…Of course I am joking.

    However, for those of us who have to drive quite a bit on a regular basis learning tracks are a God-send. I travel 2 hours a day, 5 days a week between my home and my office. That’s 10 hours a week of dead time that I can’t be doing anything else except listen to a radio, tape, CD, etc. Because of learning tracks I usually spend 8 or more of those 10 hours learning new songs and practicing old song in the repertoires of the quartets, ensembles, and choruses that I am a member of. Because I am able to spend that time learning while driving, I don’t have to spend that much time out of the remaining hours of a week while I am at home learning and reviewing my music.

    To ensure that I am learning the notes and words correctly I will record myself singing my part along with the track with the other three voices (without listening to the track with my voice part on it) and then compare my recording to the notes and words that are on the arrangement. This helps me to identify areas on the arrangement where I have not learned th notes/words correctly by simply singing along with the learning tracks.

    So, I am all for learning tracks and consider them to be one of the best ways to learn a song.

    Now, the learning process in the car doesn’t always have to start with the 4 part tracks we are familar with. If I do not have the part learning tracks yet and want to get a jump on learning the lyrics I may listen to a recording artist who has recorded the song and sing along with the melody line in order to learn the lyrics. Then when the learning tracks arrive I learn the notes to my voice part.

    In summary, there are many ways to learn music. But, perhaps the best way to learn it when driving a car is by using learning tracks. Of course, this method also works well when riding a lawn mover, jogging, performing work around the house (e.g., painting), etc.

    Now that I reflect on it, if it weren’t for learning tracks, I probably would be singing in the Society today–simply because the time that I am not at a rehearsal, driving to/from work (or a rehearsal), or performing work around the house is spken for by my family. its those hours that I need to spend with them and not on music.


  18. Almost anyone with a modern computer and a microphone can use Audacity to produce learning tracks. It is free and well suited to the job. Other tools are out there for purchase at wildly varied prices.

    I believe the copyright on the HoH texts rests with the Society. If the society will grant the right to record them, any quartet with the aspiration to do so could crank out individual part tracks for a song. If the society grants that right on the condition that the quartet allows the society to freely distribute the tracks then the incremental cost of building a set of such tracks goes to zero and all members can have access for the cost of download bandwidth.

    There is no need to centralize the production of CDs, packaging, etc. in this post-CD era. Let the physical media fade into history. They are not what makes it barbershop.

  19. The answer really is simple: Stop threatening to enforce the copyright restrictions on the HOH arrangements. This will encourage barbershoppers to produce learning tracks, as well as performance videos on YouTube. The result: More barbershop harmony.

    It is nice that the spots for these songs can be downloaded for free. But to restrict their use continues to inhibit rather than encourage the spread of barbershop.

    BTW: Audacity works great. And it is FREE. It is a wonderful example of intellectual property being SHARED to make the world a better place. It is a good example to follow.

  20. I think the learning CD’s are great. The truth is that most Barbershoppers do not read music well, if at all. I’d like to suggest the use of shape-note music. Most of you are probably unfamiliar with shape notes, but to simplify the explanation, each note in the scale (do-re-mi, etc.) is designated by a unique shape. Shape-notes can be learned in a week-end and once learned, reading music is (almost) a breeze. Has the Society ever considered shape-notes? Our church hymnal uses shape-notes. In my experience, besides learning CD’s, there is no better tool for learning acapella music than shape-notes.

  21. I have no issue with paying 8 bucks for the Heritage of Harmony learning CD. I have tried to order it. They say it’s a free download on the website. Website still has it listed as $8, and the society stopped answering my emails about it, and won’t send me a link to where these learning tracks might be found.

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