“In the beginning was the voice. Voice is sounding breath, the audible sign of life.”
Of all the instruments on the planet the human voice may be the most unique and certainly dynamic. Singing can be done by two year olds who are learning to speak or by the millionaire pop star who has spent a career engaging their voice. You can sing in different languages. Most genres of music employ the voice as the primary instrument in a mix. All in all, singing and singers are about as important to music as energy to the athlete. We need to find the best way to use singing as worship leaders.
As the earliest instrument we have, the human voice has undergone much development over thousands of years. There isn’t a culture to have ever existed that didn’t sing. Because there are no bones in the human larynx archaeological remains offers little understanding to what may have been the earliest sounds of man’s voice. Yet, cultural remains do prove that singing was a form of promulgating the individual, social group or religion. This proves true today as well.
You are thinking by now, is this a poorly drawn up history lesson or are we going to speak in a practical sense? Yes! Singers on worship teams are vital and important today. What is interesting is that most every worship service you go to will have a singer. You may not have a single instrument playing, but if the congregation is singing, there is likely a singer on stage who is leading. In the most progressive churches today there is still singing. Singers are everywhere! But, what makes a good one?
As the worship leader for your team you may be the gatekeeper for who joins or stays on your team. When adding singers to the team you need to be selective. Taking time with your decision in the short run will pay dividends in the long run. There are several key things to look for when auditioning a new singer. As an aside, there are so many more singers in life than there are musicians. If you are struggling to find singers, ask around. There may be talent waiting to be called upon. You simply need to be bold.
The first thing to look for in singing talent is literally do they have singing talent. Is their pitch perfect, close and correctible or dog howling at the moon-bad? The first category means the person may be workable. The last defines itself. For those who fall in between you need to determine if their pitch was close and correctible or was it close and they were not hearing it needed correcting. The former moves on to the next round of audition. The latter is released. You must also evaluate their timbre, or the tonal quality of their voice and their overall skill level. Have they participated in this type of team before. If they are completely new to this scene, do they have other experience that will lend it to this one. If the answer is no, but their pitch and tone are impeccable you may still be able to pass them along. The important thing is that you are evaluating the type of training regiment you are going to need to enact.
The next thing you may want to evaluate is how they carry themselves in an audition. Are they dressed appropriately? Do they appear to have the right attitude that you want hanging around your team? The interview or audition is the perfect time to be certain of this. You do not want to pass anyone onto your team knowing that they aren’t going to fit in. You hurt this person, your team and your reputation. It’s better to take questionable people slowly and be sure. I realize that this is a bit controversial: judging others. Remember, you are called to be the shepherd of your team. You better know which is a sheep and which is a goat.
For your established team (and as a part of your new person orientation) you should be sure of how the vocal team is used at your church. Know the pastor’s vision and anyone else’s above you who will ultimately be held responsible for your decisions. If your church is conservative in their approach, then making any progressive changes will need to happen slow and be intentional. The reason for this is plain to see. Your church is used to worshiping the way they do. Big spike changes don’t facilitate congregational worship times. They facilitate frustration. It’s important to always have a bigger vision than just your department or team when any major change is being considered. You certainly can progress, but it should be at the right pace.
All vocalists on stage should blend. Much like if a guitar string were out of tune then the whole instrument is out of tune, the blending of multiple voices needs to be done with skill. Assuming that the sound man will do the blending is lazy and wrong. The better input you give the sound person the better their output. Blending is the act of confirming tone, pitch and dynamics are added together at the right levels for the songs being produced. If the tenor is always twice as loud as the leader then the blend is off. Fix it.
The best worship team singers are ones who take coaching. Perspectives other than our own are critical components to success. You’ll never grow at a positive growth rate without some form of input. I recommend inviting voices into your rehearsal that you trust. Let them make suggestions. Take those suggestions. Look at the adjustments as short term adjustments for a longterm gain. Even the best singers take voice lessons. There is always something new to learn.
I find that worship teams that have been intentional about who they put on their platforms thrive. These are people of character and talent. The vocal mix sounds pristine and pure. Those congregations worship God with intensity. To God be the glory!
How do you organize your vocal team? Are you making sure that each person is who should be on the team? Do you have an overflow of talent? Need more talent? Have you been reaching out to invite new members in? What type of training do you provide? I would love to hear! Comment or private message…