Talk:Patter song

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Are "People Who Died" by Jim Carroll, "88 Lines About 44 Women" by The Nails and "Pepper" by the Butthole Surfers patter songs? Esquizombi 00:46, 14 March 2006 (UTC)

they are if you can find a reliable source which says they are :-) Just zis Guy you know? 19:10, 14 March 2006 (UTC)
True enough (though I note the ones on the page aren't sourced, but I don't think it would be hard to source them). What I mean is, would they seem to fit the definition?
[links to copyvio websites removed]

Esquizombi 20:37, 14 March 2006 (UTC)

There's a simple test. Try singing them faster. If the effect is pleasing and the music doesn't seem to be working against you ("A pattern for professors of monarchical autonomy" is a good example of a song that may otherwise seem a patter song, but which the music runs into snags when speeded up) then it's a patter song.
Not that the impossibility of singing it ever stopped Beethoven speeding up anyway :-) Just zis Guy you know? 21:17, 4 April 2006 (UTC)
True, but it doesn't count as a patter song unless specifically designed to be, well, pattered. Just being fast isn't sufficient.
Hey, you opera people, where are you? What about the Vendetta song from Barber of Seville, and the similar song from Nozze? I know there are more Mozart and Rossini examples. Leporello's list song? Finch 'an dall' vino (sp?)? Nothing from Verdi? Doesn't Don Pasquale have a patter song? I'm just a casual opera fan, but I'm sure there are more. --Ssilvers 23:19, 24 May 2006 (UTC)
Which one from Nozze? Non piu andrai? I'm working on that now for a concert, as it happens, along with When I Was A Lad. I wonder if I Bought Me A Cat counts? Just zis Guy you know? 15:07, 24 June 2006 (UTC)

I propose Wakko's_America as a piece of modern patter song that should be listed -- aardvarkoffnords 14:53 23 June 2006 (UTC) is wakko's america. It is a patter song. MotherFunctor 22:41, 7 August 2006 (UTC)

Split proposal

As this article has evolved, it has been taken over by its Gilbert & Sullivan content. Gilbert & Sullivan did not invent the patter song. It was a well established form in grand opera before either of them was born. Yet, because "G&S folk" have been largely the ones editing the article, the historical patter song has been pushed to the bottom, and marginalized.

I would suggest a split, with "patter song" describing the form in a general way, and "Gilbert & Sullivan patter song" containing the G&S-specific content. Marc Shepherd 15:25, 27 July 2006 (UTC)

I disagree. The article needs more background and explanation to put the G&S patter songs in proper context. An article on them by themselves would obscure even more the historical antecedents. IMO, what needs to happen is for people who have more knowledge of early patter songs in opera, or someone who wants to do the research, to step in and improve the article. I think the last thing Wikipedia needs is a bunch of little articles on similar subjects that don't give the reader an overview of the topic that puts it in context. --Ssilvers 15:32, 27 July 2006 (UTC)
Perhaps I didn't express myself clearly enough, but "an overview of the topic that puts it in context" is precisely what this article lacks. As it has been more-or-less dominated by people who have predominently a G&S perspective, it has become basically a G&S-specific article, with the historical perspective increasingly marginalized. Having said that, maybe it can be rescued, so I changed "split" to "expand." What we'll probably get is more anecdotes from amateur G&S, but let's see what happens. Marc Shepherd 15:35, 27 July 2006 (UTC)


I reformatted the page, as I could tell that it would quickly degenerate into chaos without an alphabetical filing method. I hope no one minds and that it assists users in locating items of interest. If additions are sorted first by composer, then work title, then song title, then the appearance will remain user friendly. Also, please link only the first mention of a composer or work. I hope Gilbert & Sullivan fans do not curse me for filing G&S under Sullivan -- that exception to the conventions of filing always has bothered me. Ivan Velikii 00:57, 29 October 2006 (UTC)

I can see Ssilvers is determined to maintain the primacy of Gilbert & Sullivan in the crowded arena of patter song. 05:48, 29 October 2006 (UTC)

Most of the patter songs listed are G&S. Indeed, the Edward German examples listed are derivative of G&S, as are the Lehrer and Animaniacs entries. So, it's not a crowded arena at all. Without the G&S and G&S adaptations, it is a sparse arena with tumbleweeds blowing down main street. :-)

If you look above, I have asked the Wikipedia community for many months to list patter songs by other composers, and they have come up with no new ones. I made requests on the Opera Project talk page for people to post more examples from opera. I think there are probably quite a few more examples out there, but I don't know them. It appears that G&S is the most prominent example of patter song, and the article should acknowledge this fact. -- Ssilvers 13:49, 29 October 2006 (UTC)

Definition of Patter Song

Reading the description at the top of the article (with which I generally agree), I feel that an awful lot of those listed here really aren't patter songs at all, and that particularly goes for the majority of the G&S ones. Actually, I'd say that only the Major-General's song and the end of the Nightmare Song, plus the Ruddigore trio, are genuine patter-songs. Simply listing everything sung by the Grossmith character just devalues the term and negates the definition. Neither Don Giovanni's nor Papageno's arias qualify (IMNSHO), either, and the others listed under Opera typically have a fast patter section only at the end.

I have this urge to tweak the definition a bit and then do a lot of slashing and burning here, following Wikipedia's Be Bold tenet, but I thought I'd better see what other people think.--GuillaumeTell 17:53, 6 November 2006 (UTC)

I just trimmed a few of the G&Ss, but I feel that the ones that are left are pretty defensibly patter. I'm happy to go through it with you song by song, but I have sung them all. If you think any of them are not patter, then perhaps you have not heard them conducted correctly. It seems to me that the problem is exactly the opposite: Many of the opera patter songs are not listed. I think that Don G's 'Finch an dal' vino' is arguably patter, especially if taken fast, but I don't feel strongly. I agree about Papageno, although the duet with Papagena has passages that might qualify. What about Figaro's song from Marriage about women (3rd act?) --Ssilvers 18:14, 6 November 2006 (UTC)
Here's the definition of patter song in the Oxford Dictionary of Opera: "A comic song in which the greatest number of words, delivered rapidly in conversational style, is fitted into the shortest space of time, with the music supporting their inflection". Is that really true of "I've got a little list" or "So go to him and say to him" or "A private buffoon is a light-hearted loon" or.... None of these, nor most of the rest, is meant to be sung at high speed. And is the following true of them? "... rapid succession of rhythmic patterns that each have a syllable of text to be sung by the singer. The text often features tongue-twisting rhyming text, with alliterative words that are intended to be entertaining to listen to at rapid speed..." That's what it says in the patter song article here.
There isn't enough patter in the Papageno/Papagena duet. The only proper patter songs in the Opera list are "La vendetta" and the two Rossinis (last section only in each case), and, I suppose, Dulcamara's number, though again that isn't intended to be all that fast. I do have one to add to the list, though - the duet "Cheti, cheti in giardino" for Don Pasquale and Malatesta - again, last section only. --GuillaumeTell 18:49, 6 November 2006 (UTC)

Go ahead and fix the opera entries. As for "I've got a little list", it depends how fast it is taken. People often try to rewrite it, and then they sing it slower so you can get the words. But G&S intended it to be taken fast. This is probably the most borderline case still on the G&S list, though. "So go to him and say to him": Again, it should go like the wind. Actually, "When I go out of door" from Patience is also patter. "A private buffoon is a light-hearted loon": This is a classic patter song. It is wall to wall patter, beginning to end. Just say the title fast! -- Ssilvers 19:12, 6 November 2006 (UTC)

OK, I'll fix the opera entries, and I have every intention of altering the text of the article itself. I would be interested to know what is your evidence for G&S's views on the speeds of the above numbers (I don't have any G&S scores). And I would also be very interested to hear the views of others, especially on the subject of the two definitions which I quote above. --GuillaumeTell 21:36, 6 November 2006 (UTC)

I believe that Sullivan's metronome markings are in the original manuscripts. The standard scores have metronome markings. If you listen to the earliest recordings, I think you will find the tempi of these numbers quite brisk. I hope others weigh in on your question. I think that either definition is OK, but I'm not sure I agree with "conversational style" from the first definition, or "rhythmic patterns that each have a syllable of text" in the second. I think what it means to say is that there is one syllable per note (no melismas). Regards, -- Ssilvers 21:46, 6 November 2006 (UTC)


In case anyone is reading this, I've rewritten the entire article, though retaining a fair amount of what was there before, in order to provide more information about the relationship between G&S and the works of earlier composers. I left the list as it was but turned it into a separate article (List of patter songs).--GuillaumeTell 21:48, 8 November 2006 (UTC)

Great job. I made a few minor changes and also moved the reference to Grossmith to the previous section. Most of the changes were to reflect that your three examples do not include several blazingly fast "classic" patter songs (even eliminating the ones that are part blazingly fast patter and part something else) certainly including the following:
  • "Henceforth all the crimes that I find in the Times" (Robin)
  • "My name is John Wellington Wells" (J. W. Wells)
  • "Oh! A private buffoon is a light-hearted loon" (Jack Point)
  • "In enterprise of martial kind" (Duke of Plaza-Toro)

The "moderately fast" ones that are undoubtedly patter songs, but are classic "catalogue" songs (again eliminating the ones that merely have a section with patter) include:

  • "Rising early in the morning... First you polish off some batches of political dispatches" (Giuseppe)
  • "I've got a little list" (Ko-Ko)
  • "If you want a receipt for that popular mystery" (Colonel Calverly)
  • "If you give me your attention, I will tell you what I am" (King Gama)
  • "My boy, you may take it from me" (Robin)

--Ssilvers 23:52, 8 November 2006 (UTC)

Point of fact: Gilbert's main interest in Donizetti seems to have been L'elisir d'amore, given: A. Dulcamara, his first successful play. B. An Elixir of Love (short story) and The Sorcerer - the latter of which is particularly notable for roughly following the structure of L'elisir. The Mountebanks burlesques L'elisir in one of its major plots, almost ridiculously so.

Hence, I'd say "Udite, udite, rustici!" is a much better choice of patter song to lead into the next section with. A transition by way of "My name is John Wellington Wells" might be particularly appropriate. Adam Cuerden talk 17:39, 9 November 2006 (UTC)

Incorrect implication

OK, GT moved Grossmith back to the previous position which implies that most of the G&S patter songs are of what GT considers the slower kind, rather than the faster kind, which is just wrong. The dividing of the two sections does not work. I'll try it another way, but Grossmith belongs just as much with both sections. -- Ssilvers 21:41, 9 November 2006 (UTC)

G&S Patter songs

...The description here given is, frankly, somewhat bizarre in parts. Why is so much unlisted? Adam Cuerden talk 01:42, 26 November 2006 (UTC)

Other appearances of "Unitelligible Patter" rhyme

I've noticed that it seems to be common practice for stage productions of G&S operettas to slip the line from Rudigore into other shows as well. I know I've heard it tacked onto songs from Penzance, HMS Pinafore, and the Mikado at least. (It fits in rather well with the Major General song.) It does seem as though Rudigore isn't performed nearly as often as those three, but that line has been reused many times. Since the verse is about patter songs in general, and not at all relevant to the plot of any of the plays, it might deserve a mention here as one that's been reused in other places. I've also heard a slight variation to the text - instead of "and if it is, it doesn't matter", it's "and so it really doesn't matter". Lurlock (talk) 13:39, 12 April 2009 (UTC)

The Joseph Papp production of Pirates on Broadway interpolated songs from other G&S shows into Pirates, including the matter patter number from Ruddigore. This has been copied in some productions. We mention that it was used in Thoroughly Modern Millie in the List of patter songs article, which is where the information belongs. -- Ssilvers (talk) 16:03, 12 April 2009 (UTC)

Great example

Major-General, with new and imho great lyrics, performed as it should according to this article: here. I think it should be added as a contemporary example. Joepnl (talk) 04:25, 23 December 2010 (UTC)

Hi. If this is Notable (for example, if it has been discussed in major newspapers), it could be mentioned at Major-General's Song, but we don't need such parodies/pastiches in this article. Best regards, and happy holidays! -- Ssilvers (talk) 05:50, 23 December 2010 (UTC)

self-contradictory trivia

The following has recently been added: "The voice synthesizer Vocaloid can be used to create songs at speeds which are considered impossible for humans to sing, such as The Disappearance of Hatsune Miku (although fans have created covers which equal the original in speed)." The mention of a machine that can sing faster than humans except for those humans who have sung just as fast seems hardly worth mentioning. It has been deleted once and I have deleted it again pending any consensus to the contrary. Tim riley (talk) 22:11, 1 May 2014 (UTC)

I agree that this has little or nothing to do with the topic, patter song, and no WP:Reliable source was given that stated how this is important to a reader's understanding of the topic. -- Ssilvers (talk) 23:31, 1 May 2014 (UTC)
I agree that no RS described Disappearance Hatsune Miku as patter song. However I disagree that it unimportant for understanding of the topic. Patter ong is characterizes by fast tempo. I specifically created a section for similar notable exampes of very fast tempo singing. It is usually instructive to mention related topics, because there is nothing isolated in the world.Staszek Lem (talk) 04:17, 2 May 2014 (UTC)

I also fail to understand why my addition was deleted, which referred to a example which was described as a cross-over of patter and rap, which is directly related to the article topic. Especially keeping in mind that some sources relate rap to patter. Staszek Lem (talk) 04:17, 2 May 2014 (UTC)

You said that "some sources relate rap to patter". If you can find WP:Reliable sources that specifically relate any rock or rap songs to patter, we could cite them. -- Ssilvers (talk) 15:57, 2 May 2014 (UTC)

I agree with Tim. A machine that can sing quicker than a human, apart from those humans who have already sung faster in the first place, is really not worth mentioning in this article. Cassiantotalk 19:14, 2 May 2014 (UTC)


The references are a bit higgledy-piggledy, with some books listed under "Notes" and others under "References". Would anyone mind if I tidied them up, moving the bibliographical info for Balthazar, Fiss, MacDowell and Shaw down to the References section? Tim riley (talk) 18:02, 2 May 2014 (UTC)

"Be Our Guest!" -- Ssilvers (talk) 19:31, 2 May 2014 (UTC)
It sounds like a good idea to me. There is presently a discussion of a similar problem with the references in List of musical works in unusual time signatures, and I am reminded that a year of so ago the same thing emerged for the references to Noise in music. Perhaps you will find some useful thoughts in the Talk pages to those two articles.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 21:54, 2 May 2014 (UTC)
I say! I've just looked at the unusual time sigs article and boggled at the magnitude of such a task. Happily it's no great labour here, and I'll attend to it tomorrow. Thanks to Ssilvers and Jerome for comments above. Tim riley (talk) 22:22, 2 May 2014 (UTC)
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