vamp to play a chord progression over and over, perhaps as an intro or a simple accompaniment, or a timewaster until the other musicians are ready to jump in and play along.
Van Diemen's Land an island off Australia, now called Tasmania. It was another place where people were sent because of the transports and is mentioned in many songs.
Van Ronk, Dave (1936- ) Dave Van Ronk's recordings and appearances in the late 50s through the 80s exposed white audiences to the wealth of country blues and traditional songs that were formerly only available on old race records or specialty labels. While his voice is rough and some of his arrangements overly loud, in general he has a charming style. His finger-style guitar is complex and an inspiration to a whole generation of pickers, despite the fact that he claims to be a singer rather than a guitarist. He has also recorded a wide variety of songs by contemporary authors. Most of his albums were solo efforts, though he made a few with a jazz band (Red Onion Jazz Band), a jug band (Ragtime Jug Stompers), an electric band (Hudson Dusters), and even a full orchestra (to mixed reviews).
van Zandt, Townes (1944-1997) US singer-songwriter who was something of a cult figure in the 70s among folkies. Best known for his "Close Your Eyes and I'll Be There in the Morning", "Greensboro Woman", "Snow Don't Fall", "If You Needed Me", and "Pancho and Lefty". The latter two were hits for Emmy Lou Harris and Willie Nelson, respectively. He had a large number of albums on labels such as Tomato, Poppy, and Sugar Hill. There was a revival of his music in recent years among the folk community. He died of a heart attack in January, 1997.
variant if a song is a good one, the folk process will ensure that it appears all over the place in slightly different forms, but with each form retaining enough of the original that it's not considered a different song. Each of the versions would be a variant. See song family for examples of this.
The song "Gypsy Laddies" appears as "Raggle Taggle Gypsies", "Black Jack Davy", "Gypsy Dave", "Johnny Faa" and others. Even the sanitized "Whistling Gypsy", aka "Gypsy Rover" (written in modern times by Irish writer Leo McGuire) is a variant. See folk process and historical accuracy for more on this song family.
vaudeville the travelling minstrel shows of the 19th century US led to vaudeville's established variety-show circuit; it was popular until modern times - presumably television was its undoing (the Ed Sullivan show was said to be vaudeville's last gasp). Vaudeville was the US equivalent of Britain's music hall. It borrowed heavily from the folk tradition for song ideas (see Casey Jones). Sometimes the rewritten songs ended up back in the tradition. See also New Vaudeville Band.
vibraphone rarely if ever encountered in folk music. The vibes are an elaboration of the xylophone - tuned metal bars mounted in a frame and played with mallets. Vibrato can be obtained through a motorized mechanism of pipes and valves mounted under the bars.
vibrato in singing or playing, to vary the pitch of a note up and down rapidly. Some electric guitars have mechanical arms to vary the string tension, allowing vibrato on whole chords. Vibrato and tremolo are often confused.
vibrato arm a lever attached to the bridge of an electric guitar. Pushing and pulling it rapidly changes the tension of all the strings at once and produces an enormous amount of vibrato. Musicians see it as something of a gimmick; it was popular in the 60s.
vihuela a Spanish stringed instrument dating from medieval times. Somewhat like a guitar, it has various stringings from five to seven double courses of unison strings in lute tuning. It's used today by period musicians.
viol the viol family is the forerunner of the violin family. They are still made today for period players. They differ from the violin family chiefly in having six strings instead of four, and adjustable gut frets on the neck.
viola like a larger violin, and with a deeper, warmer tone. The viola is tuned in fifths: C G D A, with the D being one tone above middle C.
viola da gamba the forerunner of the modern cello, and it looks like a cello on a diet. It's a member of the viol family. Used occasionally on folk recordings.
violin a violin and a fiddle are the same thing, though fiddle is the usual term in folk. Sometimes folkies with secret training will zip off a piece by Bach, and due to the awe this inspires, they become "violinists" for at least a day.
The violin is tuned in fifths: GDAE, with the G being the one below middle C.
violin family there are four primary members of the violin family, differing only in size and the fact that the cello and bass are played in an upright position. From smallest to largest: violin, viola, cello, and bass.
virelais a late medieval song style from France, similar to the ballade except that it has a multi-line chorus.
virginal an early harpsichord, small, and with one string per note. It was a copy of the compact clavichord, but with the then-new plucking mechanism instead of the clavichord's metal knife-edge.
vocables the sounds that make up words, without regard to meaning. Whether you sing "And did these feet in ancient times..." or "Ree-bop! Doodly aw!", you're singing vocables. See also scat singing, mouth music, nonsense syllables.
vocal styles you'll find an astounding range of styles in folk music. Some have the "bel canto" purity of the best pop singers, and some just let it wail. Bob Dylan's early records caused one critic to say that he sounded like "a dog with his leg caught in barbed wire". When another singer released a similar sound, another critic said that he sounded like "Bob Dylan with his leg caught in barbed wire".
At the other end of the scale are the operatic folk, like Richard Dyer-Bennett or Canada's Alan Mills. England's Jake Thackeray had one critic saying that he sounded like "George Formby doing Noel Coward".
In between are the masses of superb folksingers who value expression above vocal rules, which is as it should be. An excellent folkmusic vocal is astoundingly complicated, although no rules have been written down as yet. It's an impossible job to explain the magic of a Roscoe Holcomb, which is why it remains magic despite the breaking of every rule in the formal book.
vocal ranges in order of increasing pitch, the vocal ranges are bass, baritone, tenor, alto and soprano. Most men are tenors and most women are altos. There are subdivisions of the groups, such as mezzo-soprano, but these are not encountered in folk music. There are also overlaps: a tenor, for instance, can often reach a competent alto range, or even a soprano range by using falsetto.
The ranges given in the individual entries are from a variety of musical dictionaries, of which no two agree. This isn't too surprising, considering the flexibility of human voices.
voice other than the obvious, this is also used in much the same way as register: to indicate a range of pitch. If an instrument has two reeds per note tuned an octave apart, for instance, you might refer to them as the upper and lower voice.
In organ and synthesizer playing, it refers to a tonal effect applied to all (or a range of) the notes.
volunteers no folk club, Ale or festival would be possible without the volunteers who work long hours for free, taking care of everything from food to staging to finding a performer just the right thumbpick. Bless 'em.
von Schmidt, Eric influential blues guitarist, singer and artist from the Boston/Cambridge folk scene of the 60s. His collection of blues and American traditional songs, plus his innovative guitar arrangements (many of which used open tuning) greatly inspired folk musicians like Tom Rush and Bob Dylan, who in turn inspired legions of beginning guitar pickers. He recorded a number of albums, including one with Farina, Richard.
His career no doubt got a boost from Dylan's mentioning him on "Baby Let Me Follow You Down" on Bob's first album ("I first heard this song from, uh, Ric von Schmidt..."). Dylan gave him yet another plug some years later - on Dylan's "Bringing It All Back Home" album, the cover photo plainly shows a copy of Ric's album, "The Folk Blues of Eric Von Schmidt".
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The Folk File: A Folkie's Dictionary Copyright © 1993-2009 Bill Markwick, All Rights Reserved.