First published in the Pacific American Singer newsletter, volume 7, number 4, October 2000.
At an American Singer Canary competition the judge does have thefinal say on the winners, but he doesn't have the final say if yourbird should be off to the pet store the next day. We have all hadbirds that are rated low with one judge and are rated higher atanother show with another judge. This year we have 4 different showsin California with 8 different judges to give their differentopinions on your birds. If you take each one's judgement to heart youwill go nuts! Why does this difference occur? It is the nature of theAmerican Singer Judging Standard. It does not require certain toursand notes to be sung like the Rollers, Waterslagers, and Timbrados.The majority of the points depend on the Judge's personal opinion ifyour birds' song is superior or not. Since people come from differentbackgrounds and environments, their likes and dislikes will alsodiffer. This goes for the Exhibitor too. It can be frustrating andstressful at the shows watching someone judge your birds and to hearfellow breeders comment on your birds. Especially if they arenegative comments. Let me give you a few insights and techniques onhow to understand and benefit from a American Singer Show.
The information I am giving you is based on my own personalexperiences. I have been on both sides of winning and losing, andunderstand the confusion that can come about when your trying tofigure out what is required to win at the shows. The first thing youhave to do is realize that you really need to be your own judge. Bybeing you own judge and focusing on what makes a good song in yourAmerican Singers, you will have a better sense on what to breed for.Depending on your own judgement about which birds have the bettersong will also relieve the stress of being at the mercy someoneelse's opinion. If you realize improvements are needed in your birdsat the shows, you will have left the show with valuable informationand then you can find out how to improve your birds for the nextbreeding season. Since you are at the show it is an ideal opportunityto ask fellow breeders about how to improve or add a trait in yourbirds.
Depending on you own opinion is key because others just might bewrong! I have had birds that couldn't even place in a group of 7judged, but would win BOS the next day with another judge. I've hearda judge say that he didn't like that sound a particular bird (afellow breeder's) was singing, but place that same bird in the BOSranks the next year with the same sound! It is also unfortunate whenyou hear a fellow breeder announce to everyone how much he hates aparticular bird. This is very hurtful since the breeder of that birdspent many hours of care and had great hopes for that bird. So ifthis happens to you take heart, I have this happen to me many times.The best thing to do is ignore that insensitive person and realizethat it is only one opinion and not a general consensus. One funnyexample is that I had this bird that was very loud for thatparticular room it was being judged in, I could see the judge smirkand some of the observers give a little chuckle and comments, wellthat bird sounded perfect and won at a show which was in a very largeroom. Just think if I was so embarrassed that I kept that bird athome! Some of my winners are descendants of birds that some judgesand fellow breeders did not like, but I understood the good points ofthese birds and incorporated them in my breeding program.
The best thing to do is to learn the basics of song and analyzehow your bird is performing at the shows and compare your birds toothers. When you are at the competition imagine that you are theJudge and that you have to sort through a 100+ birds to find the bestone. If you can do this, it will give you a whole differentperspective. Let's go over the different categories that song isjudged on and I will also give you some insights on how a judge mayview these.
Performance/freedom: The bird needs to sings 10 times to get hismaximum 10 points for freedom. Point qualification can vary fromjudge to judge. Some accept a note or two sung, others require at ashort song as a minimum for one freedom point. Performance usuallymeans if the bird is relaxed and sings freely with no distractionsand stays on the top perches to sing. Negatives are not singing,hiding behind a cup, staying on the bottom, eating and drinkingexcessively, preening themselves too much, and being jumpy. The idealbird sings constantly on the top perches and faces the Judge and justwants to out do his fellow birds. He just wants to show off!
Volume: Some Judges will penalize the bird quite severely so ithas no chance of placing if a bird's volume is too low or too high.So what is too low or too high? Well it's really unknown. Asmentioned before, a loud bird may sound perfect in a large room, abird that is too soft may sound just right in a small room will hardwalls to bounce the sound. It also depends on the Judge's personalpreference. Your best bet is to have a variety of birds withdifferent volumes entered. On a side note this is a benefit to yourbreeding program to have soft to loud birds so you have birds tocorrect your volume if required.
Tone: There are "Tone" judges where this is the number onepriority with them. Their view is that if the bird doesn't have goodtone the song will not be outstanding. From my experience, this isthe toughest trait to develop and maintain. I think these judges knowthis and value it. I have a hard time defining this so I rely on themusical definition of tone. Tone - A note; the basis of music.Tonality - The term used to describe the organization of the melodicand harmonic elements to give a feeling of a key center or a tonicpitch. I think "Tonality" is closer to what describes what tone meansin AS terms. I think the easiest way to understand a good tone bird,is to listen to a bird that is med. to high volume. The tone qualityis easier to identify this way. Usually the bird's song should be "onkey" and not sound "off key" or sour in his song. Along with this thebird must have a fullness to the sound, but not mushy. A bird withgood tone has notes that are easy to hear and you are not trying todecide where the bird is trying to go. A bird's tone can also be toothin. Thin is where the bird hits the notes but that's it. It is likeyou pluck on a very tight guitar string and it goes "pink!", thestring doesn't vibrate after its plucked, it just gives you thatnote. As you know in string instruments, the complete sound dependson the string continuing to vibrate and how the housing it isattached to reverberates the sound to give its "fullness andrichness". This analogous to the birds vocal cords and its cavity(made of the chest cavity, throat, and nasal cavity) that it's soundreverberates in. This is how the physical structure of your bird canaffect its song.
Variety: This one is tough to pin down on what a Judge wants. Thisis highly subjective. There are several ways I can explain variety.Variety can be based on how many different tours or phrases can besung by a bird. For some judges it also depends how the variety oftours are put together. Does it make logical sense how one tour orphrase follows another? Can the bird put all tours or phrasestogether in the right combination where it makes a pleasant and anenjoyable song? Sometimes too many sounds can make the songconfusing. Other Judges don't care, so the more tours the better nomatter how it's put together. Variety can also appear with in asingle tour. For example, within a roll tour it can be varied bychanging it's beat and have a range of different notes, but somejudges will not see this any different that a bird that sings a rollwith one constant note and beat. Also if a judge doesn't like acertain tour or phrase a bird sings in his song, he can be severelypenalized and not be placed in the final standings. Other judges seeit as one fault and may only minus a point or two. Sometimes some ofthe faults I see in my own birds are not perceived as faults to thejudges. This is why it is smart not to throw out a bird in yourbreeding program if it has a fault in his song. Especially if therest of his song is exceptional. You can maybe eliminate that faultin your breeding program and produce a great bird! Other associatedfaults with variety are Holding where the bird holds on to a note ora phrase too long so it becomes irritating to the Judge, Repeatingwhere a bird repeats the phrase often, and Cutting-Off where a birdsuddenly stops the song before it should end in the opinion of theJudge. Lack of variety may also cause a fault of a song that is tooshort by the opinion of the Judge.
Range: This is the ability of the bird to sing high to low notes.The wider the margin the better. Low ranges seems to be the hardestto obtain and most pleasant to listen to so many Judges seemed tofavor the bird that can go into the low range, but also can sing upto med. to med.-high notes too. Of course the bird that can sing veryhigh to very low would be ideal but this is hard to breed for anddoesn't appear often. One common fault that can occur in the lowrange is a muddy sound. If you breed birds for the low range watchout for this.
I hope that this information can give you better insight at theshows. Be your own judge to decide if your birds are good and be opento appreciate the attributes of your fellow breeder's AmericanSingers. Good luck at the shows and if you don't win, well there isalways next year with a new set of young birds and Judges!
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