Tuesday, July 29, 2008

finding your singing voice

Theory one: most modern church worship music has been written by very gifted people who sing WAY better than me. If it’s too complex, too good, people find it difficult to enter in.

Theory two: this type of music is best done by a band. With amplification, and with technology, this now offers a different type of worship experience. It’s more like sonic participation. They sing, those gathered listen. They are so loud, those gathered can’t hear themselves sing.

Result: people can lose their congregational singing voice.

So I found this article interesting.

“THIS IS AN article about singing. It’s about you singing. I am writing this because I want to encourage you to sing. A few years ago my friend and I realised that we both loved singing but didn’t do enough of it. So we started a weekly acapella group with just four members. After a year we invited others to join. We didn’t insist on musical experience – in fact some of our members had never sung before. Now the group has ballooned to around fifteen people.”

I’m fascinated by the hints they offer:

1. Some drinks, some snacks, some sheets of lyrics, a strict starting time and a warm up.
2. Song choice. “The songs that seem to work really well for us are those based around the basic chords of blues and rock and country music” .. C, F and G; G, C and D.
3. Song choice: Again! Songs that don’t have big empty spaces between vocal line, songs with rhythm, songs with tone!
4. I quote again, “We have a simple rule in the group: we never perform for anyone else, and we never record ourselves.”

Implications for worship? Start worship with snacks. Chose some single songs. Throw away the musical instruments. Find someone with a good voice. Enjoy!

And we just might rediscover community worship!!

Full article here.

Posted by steve at 06:35 PM


  1. in my experience, if you sing enough simple songs together as a community, what tends to happen is that the community begins to write their own simple songs too – which is very, very exciting !

    Comment by julie — July 29, 2008 @ 10:34 pm

  2. My experience has been a little different. When we planted a storefront church a number of years ago, most of the folks who gathered with us had never been to church before, or perhaps not for twenty or thirty years. A few had sung kareoke in bars, but for most, their entire singing experience was having sung ‘Happy Birthday’ once or twice a year at family gatherings. They were really uncomfortable with the sound of their own voices, and if the music was too quiet, they wouldn’t sing. It’s taken many years for them to feel comfortable singing in public.

    Comment by wilsonian — July 30, 2008 @ 11:15 am

  3. I’m doing research on why we sing as part of our worship, and something that occurred to me was that in the loud, can’t hear yourself band led gatherings people sing louder and join in with songs they don’t know, learning them quicker BECAUSE they can’t hear themselves, and therefore trust that the person next to them can’t either = no fear of embarrassment.

    This is by no means an ideal, in fact it makes me a little sad. As a singer, i love to be able to sing and hear harmonies…but i fear as singing in education declined (in the UK at least) over the past 20 years, so have people’s confidence in their own voice.

    Comment by Ruth — August 1, 2008 @ 6:19 am

  4. Steve

    On of the best (and most scariest) times of worship for me was at a camp. We all stood holding each others shoulders and sung without any instruments. Wonderful, rich, highly intimate/community building. But on the other hand very scary, and took guts to do. But I would highly recommend it.

    There is something about simple harmony by the human voice that is very beautiful.

    Comment by david whyte — August 1, 2008 @ 10:47 pm

  5. Just found this interesting article on the web about the death of singing…


    Comment by david whyte — August 1, 2008 @ 10:57 pm

  6. In Scotland out new hymn book is full of songs set to folk tunes and other well known hymn tunes. They also seem to be a little more relevant with a clean up of some wording and hymns which express the world as it is today as opposed to 1736. I find it helps to have a conductor and a practice. Singing through the songs, particularly the new ones, before the service starts puts people at ease.

    I totally agree about the ‘performance’ of hymns being something that kills communal singing.

    Our latest TV talent show is Last Choir Standing. Perhaps communal singing is making a come back.

    Comment by stewart cutler — August 2, 2008 @ 11:41 am

  7. We’ve been through an interesting time as a fellowship with worship over the last few years.

    Until about 6-7 years ago we had a reasonably extensive worship team: 2 guitars, bass, drums, keyboards, flute, violin, and usually 2 or 3 singers plus leader. This band served a typical gathering of around 150-200.

    Now I know the guys in the band were worshipping – it wasn’t a performance for us at all, but for the people out front it was becoming easier to just step back and watch. Some got quite upset that they felt it was all too big, too organised, too tight.

    So we went down to 1 guitar or sometimes a guitar and keyboard. An emphsis was placed on the whole church participating, bringing songs, scriptures, prophetic words and generally becoming much more pro-active.

    This has made our meetings much more ‘challenging’ to older people, but people do participate much more fully. We are also aware of God’s presence guiding and shaping the meetings more than we used to – it seems easier for Him to take over than it used to be. And people do sing out rather than spectate.

    Comment by Toni — August 7, 2008 @ 5:46 am

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