Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Fake the Frets


I know, I know--you are probably wondering why I have called you all here. This is why:

You are watching a great movie and one of the characters decides to play a musical instrument.  Maybe it is a guitar.  Or a banjo.  A violin or a piano.  Just some musical instrument. 

Suddenly this actor starts to play some awesome, technically interesting music.  Enthralled you watch as he/she plays away, and you wish that you could play like that. 

Well, hold on a minute, pilgrim. 

Maybe you can.  If you look very carefully at the movements of the hands, arms, and fingers, you will see something: 
The actor is faking the frets.

With the piano, the camera can cut away and film some talented pianist take over the keyboard.  But with a stringed instrument?  It is impossible to ‘act’ the changing of the fingers on the strings. 

This has become a real issue with me, as you can tell.  While there are several movies from which to choose, the two that have disappointed me are “Songcatcher” and “O Brother! Where Art Thou?”.  Both are excellent movies with music as the key focus of the movie. 

In "Songcatcher", a professor of musicology at the turn of the 20th century sets about to document the songs of the Appalachian Mountains.  In this segment, singer Iris DeMent (Rose Gentry) does a cameo appearance. Awesome performance.  Muse Watson is a fine (one of my favorites) actor playing her husband Parley Gentry playing the violin.  But, he is not. 

Muse Watson with Iris DeMent in "Songcatcher": source

More information about "Songcatcher" can be found here.

Iris DeMent singing Pretty Saro from Songcatcher

 Then there is "O Brother! Where Art Thou?"  Another excellent movie, by the Cohen Brothers, based on The Odyssey.  I really wanted the actors to be actually singing.

The guitarist looks like he does an incredible job, but he is not the guitarist we hear.  Actually these are the musicians as per Wikipedia: "The original band soon became popular after the film release, and the country and folk musicians who were dubbed into the film, such as John Hartford, Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch, Chris Sharp, and others, joined together to perform the music from the film in a Down from the Mountain concert tour which was filmed for TV and DVD.[5]" Perhaps I am disappointed because over the years, I have endowed these actors with super-normal talents. I have assumed that they can sing, dance, play an instrument, talk coherently without a script, have a degree of intelligence, or are able to behave well.  Obviously I am wrong on many counts.. While this is a rant, and I know it, I just wanted to see if anyone else finds Faking the Frets disappointing?


  1. I tend to concentrate on the story and the acting more than anything. If it is well written, I become involved. If the acting is good, I believe in the people being portrayed. If both elements are there, I will accept that the guy playing the guitar with his toes is really making that music.

  2. Yeah I tend to focus on the story and stuff too, they fake everything else, not like they really shoot each other lol plus if banjos play, fake or not, run haha

  3. I'm with you! I SO want them to be performing their own music. My biggest disappointment of all time? Finding out that Christopher Plummer didn't sing his role of Captain Von Trapp in Sound of Music. Waahhh!!!

  4. I just googled "did Cary Grant play the harp in 'The Bishop's Wife.'" THE HARPIST'S ARMS WERE SUPERIMPOSED. Shattered faith.

  5. I usually don't pay too much attention unless it is so blatantly obvious that I can tell they are way off. Usually I feel like the actors do a pretty credible job of pretending to play. But maybe that's because I'm not paying enough attention.

    I guess I'm more bothered when actors have the singing dubbed in and it's real obvious.

    Tossing It Out

  6. Dear Susan, I admit this doesn't bother me. If the acting shows the actor to be a master of his/her craft then I'm content. Just learning to practice the craft of writing asks enough of me. I don't really believe that there are a large horde of Renaissance people who can do everything. I'm pleased when someone mastered one art form. Peace.

  7. Interesting post, making me think about whether I care or not about the "faking" of playing music. I guess I never thought about it very much. I don't like it when there is fake singing, and it is obvious, but I think I always kind of assumed that, since these folks are actors, they are "acting" like they can play an instrument . . . therefore, I didn't expect them to actually know how!

    Probably this is partially due to the fact that I can't play a single instrument, and have watched (and listened) to my daughters attempting to learn various instruments over the years. I know how hard it is!!!

    I found the comments Interesting to read on this subject, also! Good, thoughtful post, Susan!


Go won' t hurt...I'd love to hear what you think!