Vocal Preparation

The other night I was at a music practice and was reminded about vocal preparation.

 

We were preparing for a Christmas presentation and being a Thursday, everyone was nearing the end of a “full on” week.  We have busy lifestyles and I know that in my business things start to become manic at this time of year. Needless to say, I have had no time to even think about singing or practising outside of the designated commitments.

 

It was interesting to hear our music director giving instructions to singers about voice conservation and vocal preparation.

So I thought I can feel a blogpost coming on…

The Importance of Vocal Preparation and Warming Up

 

vocal preparationI have been a singer ever since I could string a row of words into a sentence. I remember my first big part, I guess I was about 6 or 7 years old and I had to audition for the part. In the end it was between me and this girl, and I got the gig.  The only other thing I remembered about my first brush with fame was that I swallowed in the middle of a line! … nerves…

 

I have sung to congregations as small as a hand full and as large as 10,000. Every time I have done so has been a privilege.

 

Because I was young and I sang constantly, I never saw the need to practise or warm up. The vocal preparation warm ups to me back then seemed a little silly at best and a complete waste of time at worst.

 

Of course, now that I am a little older, I have also become somewhat wiser… Or at least I’d like to think that.

 

So Now Vocal Preparation Seems More Important!

 

When you sing all the time, your vocal chords and throat muscles are constantly being stretched and exercised.  And like any muscle there are keys to keeping your throat and vocal chords in good shape.

I want to share with you what I have learned about vocal preparation over the years.

Ignoring Vocal Preparation- How to Kill your Voice!

 

Some years ago, when my children were still in primary school, our family went to a large Christian convention. There we were among thousands of adoring followers, and pretty soon swept up with the proceedings. Everyone was excited. So was I. So excited in fact that I couldn’t contain myself, and soon I too was screaming at the top of my lungs until something went’ pop. That day I lost the top 1/3 of my vocal range. And it didn’t come back For a long time.

 

How Not to Kill Your Voice

 

This is my number one point; don’t strain your voice. Don’t abuse it by throwing your voice into compromising situations without the correct vocal preparation. Last week I sang Using a mike that was faulty. The result: voice strain. For the past few days I have had a rough throat.

I have been sucking on vitamin C and drinking heaps of water.

Learn how to be loud

 

Don’t scream and shout. If you need to raise your voice, do it with your head voice.

 

If you can yell high pitched ( bit like a siren) this should not affect your  voice. You need to exercise extreme caution at all times when raising your voice. Voice projection is a skill that can be learnt.

Diet

 

What goes past your gums is really important to the quality of your voice.

 

I know that different people respond differently to each other but I have learnt that the majority of people are at least the same.

 

High protein and low dairy are what I eat. Dairy gives me the gurgles. If I have anything like cheese, milk, yoghurt or ice-cream, I end up with that much phlegm I could start a collection service.

 

I also think it’s really important that you watch your food intake prior to singing. Personally I never sing on a full stomach. This means if I am leading worship on a Sunday morning, I fast until after the service.  If I am doing an evening gig, I make sure there is at least 4-6 hours of no food intake before I sing.

 

There are drinks we definitely should be staying away from before and during singing: like coffee, alcohol and milk drinks. I have already explained about dairy. Alcohol is to be avoided not least because of the altered state it can produce but also because it is a diuretic which can de-lubricate your voice. Coffee has the same effect. I love coffee, but can’t drink it before I sing.

 

Lastly it’s really important to lubricate your voice while singing. But here is a big important key: Don’t drink sweet drinks, don’t drink coffee, don’t drink cold. The best thing is water at room temperature or slightly warm.

 

Vocal Preparation Involves Vocal Warm Ups.

 

There are a number of vocal preparation exercises that work really well as warm ups and stretches:

 

I like sirens. This is a technique whereby you start low and wail like a siren, increasing pitch to the most comfortable pitch and then ease back down to the lowest you can go. Repeat this any number of times, gradually pushing your voice both higher and lower. You’ll be amazed at the progress you make.

 

Breathing is another good one. One singing teacher I had years ago would get us to fill our lungs with as much air as possible, and then in a very controlled manner pronouncing each letter accurately,  recite the alphabet as many times as possible. Again the more you do this the better you will become. Give each letter no more or less time than it takes to pronounce it properly.

 

Another good beginning warm up is humming scales.  The good thing with this exercise is that you don’t have to do this at the top of your voice, so you don’t annoy or scare anyone, especially at 6.00am.  The humming exercise involves humming harmonic scales, increasing one semi-tone at a time until you reach your top register.

 

Don’t Sing Tired. 

 

I really want to encourage you to be conscious of your rest patterns. Like most other parts of your body, your voice involves the use of muscles, and these need to be well rested to be at the top of your game, so vocal preparation is more than just right before you sing.

 

If you are a singer, your voice is your instrument. You never heard of a violinist leaving his Stradivarius lying around e exposed to the elements, not being cared for?? Treat your voice like that Stradivarius! A good example is Celine Dion. Check out what she did and does  to preserve and protect her voice.

 

You are blessed to be a blessing, use the God given gift to His Glory and make sure you have adequate vocal preparation!

 

God bless you,

Have a great week!

 

Erick

Vocal preparation

Worship Team Training is a far more complex role than most worship leaders realize! They start off thinking that all they have to do is sing and the rest will follow, but over the years I have learned many things about worship team training and handling my musicians and singers. In creating and working with different worship teams I have also made hundreds of mistakes, most if which I do not want you to make when you are worship team training. I would like to share with you a couple of things I’ve been taught, in the hope that you’ll be able to duck these little bumps along your own journey.

Worship Team Training is More Than a Passion

worship team trainingWorship leading needs to be a passion for the worship leader, but for most of your band and singers and that is why worship team training is so essential.  However, you may be dispirited to find that they are not as passionate as you when it comes to your worship leading!

We must not forget the members of the worship groups are volunteers. I know there are some churches that have paid musicians and singers but ninety percent of us have volunteers. In that we must remember that while we must have a group of basic rules of our teams, we mustn’t be harsh in our worship leading policies.

Worship Team Training is More Than Rules

Here is what I mean by that. If your rules are too strict and or they are too controlling you will have trouble keeping volunteers, no matter how good your worship team training or how big the church. This is a mistake that I made early on and soon found out very quickly that a volunteers heart is to serve not be proscribed by a handful of rules. As I recall scripture has something to say about rules that are too stern. Are we going to act like Pharisees, or are we going to stand up and act like true worship leaders!

The best leaders lead by motivation, not by orders and rules. If you want the very best from your worship team training, become a worship leader of the highest order, and inspire the adulation and devotion of those you lead in your Worship Leading ministry.

Worship Team Training and Team Requirements

Another point to consider is that we have got to be open to changing to the requirements of the team. Remember this is a worship leading ministry. For instance, say your drummer just got a new job. And part of that job needs him to take some night classes. He still wants to be on the team but his classes happen to be on the booked walk through nights. He knows that he must rehearse as part of your worship team training to be on the team. What do you do?

Simply ask the remainder of the team if there is another night or time that they could meet. Almost all of the time you will be able to work something out for your worship team training. I have done this for many different situations. Whether it be childcare or job related or what ever. The point is this is a Worship Leading ministry. Adapt to the requirements of the people as long as it will not hinder or affect the worship team training or dynamics in a negative way.

Another common mistake many worship leaders is making worship team training too structured. Yes you want the band to be musically tight. And you have new songs you want to work on. But make sure you have fun too. Often the team just wants to fellowship awhile before worship team training or before you rehearse. Often you might want to jam together on a good chord progression for fun. As an important point I can see these jam sessions making the musicians tighter.

Again, helping your team enjoy worship team training and rehearsal is a key to having great dynamics within your team. We must never forget that. People must come before music. Don’t only get together for worship team training, rehearsals and the service. Do not simply rehearse and serve together, you need to play together also. Have parties. Go on barbecues. Have a games night or go out together. Simply put, have fun together away from the band setting and away from worship team training. Fellowship together. This is a superb way to get to know one another and to build friendships and trust.

Remember, all work and no play will make the singers and musicians stay away.  There is more to worship leading than worship team training, rehearsals and the service!

As a praise and worship leader you need to set your direction from the outset.

As a praise and worship leader, you have two distinct directions in which you must lead. The first is that you must lead the congregation into worship, into a greater sense of God’s presence, but the second aspect of praise and worship leading is that you must lead your band and singers in a way that promotes unity, and in a manner of excellence. In this article, I would like to do with the second aspect of leadership: that is, how you lead your band and singers.
There are many different styles of a praise and worship leader, and some are more effective than others. Many people try to lead by enforcing rules and regulations, and while people are babies, there is a pervading sense of fear and read within the band and singers. This is not the style of leadership that I recommend when it comes to being an effective praise and worship leader.
When leading I much prefer to be an inspirational praise and worship leader, that is one who leads by inspiring others to greater heights, and does not drive them into submission in a climate of fear.

How do I quickly and effectively begin to inspire those around me to follow me as praise and worship leader?

Here’s a few suggestions that I believe will yield much fruit. If you take them to heart and make them part of your praise and worship leader style:

praise and worship leader1. Pray effectively.

As a praise and worship leader, you need to be praying for each individual member of your band and singers, you need to pray before every practice and service, and above all, you need to pray that the Lord will prosper them, their gifts and their lives as they serve him in worship.
Most importantly, make sure you pray together often, because prayer brings unity in the Spirit.

2. Get organized.

If you turn up at music practice, and you do not have a clear direction for the band and singers, they will very quickly lose faith in your leadership. You need to be prepared, choosing the songs in advance, knowing the type of arrangement is that you wish to pursue, and knowing who it is on your team for that week so that you can structure the songs effectively.
3. Make sure that you listen to your band and singers.

If you wish to start on the wrong foot as a praise and worship leader, start by completely ignoring their opinions, and you’ll certainly set up a dictatorial style of  leadership, which in the end will not lead to inspirational worship leading on your part. The members of your band and singers must feel that they can offer opinion, and I always start by redirecting this to them. I tell them that I value their opinion, I encourage them to offer opinion, but I also state that this does not mean that I will always accept and act upon their opinions regarding the worship. But they need to feel that they have a voice, and that they get a hearing from you.

4. Keep a fun atmosphere.

People love having fun. Most often, my band members and singers tell me that music practice is one of their most enjoyable nights of the week, because whatever I do I keep the farm, light-hearted, but still serious and productive atmosphere. Plus, my group sees that while I can have fun, and be a really nice guy, I still have a serious agenda and can make the tough decisions is necessary.

5. Do not tolerate disunity.

I can put up with many things in my worship team, but disunity is not one of them. If there is tension between the members, if there is ill feeling between the members, all directed at myself, this must be dealt with effectively. I tried to do this, based on Biblical principles, so I start by talking to them privately, if this does no good. I will talk to them directly in front of the band. In my experience, I have only ever had to do this once, because I believe most problems can be solved one on one.

6. Don’t play the manipulation game.

Sometimes one member of the team will threaten to resign because they are uncomfortable with changes you have brought in. If this happens, smile sweetly, wish them the best, and accept the resignation, even if they are a key person of the team. If people are genuinely uncomfortable with changes you’ve made, then approaching you are talking to you is the correct avenue for first resolution, not resigning on the spot. Most often an early resignation like this is an attempt to manipulate you.
In the same way, be straight as a praise and worship leader with your team members and do not manipulate them. You don’t like being manipulated, and either today.

7. Introduce major changes with care.

Sometimes when you take over as worship leader, the band really needs a change of focus, a change of direction, a change of format and a change of worship leading style. Other times, the team has been doing pretty well before you became worship leader, so any changes you introduce to a successful worship team should be more gradual. If you are introducing changes, make sure your pastor is in agreement with these, and asking to support you as you introduce these changes.

Also, make sure that at least half of your worship team is excited by the changes, otherwise you may have real difficulty in making these changes stick, and may alienate most of your band, and lesser your effectiveness as a praise and worship leader.