5 easy changes that will make you a better Gospel Soloist

If you’ve been to a musical or other “program” where there will be lots of Gospel music, you’ve seen more than a few people come up and sing a solo. When it’s good, it’s powerful and electric, and spirit-filled. It super-charges the whole audience. But sometimes a really good singer can have a not so good performance. And often it can leave not only the audience but the singer scratching his/her head wondering “what just happened there?” So in today’s blog I’d like to share 5 very simple tips that will make an already good soloist a better one; not by changing your singing, but by changing  “experience”. You’ll see what I mean. Here we go!


1. Always have at least one song ready- more if possible

It may not be exactly “P.C” of me to say this, but it has always kinda bugged me a little when soloists- meaning people who are always being called on to sing a solo- don’t have a clue what to sing. So you go through this whole awkward thing where you have to watch them fidget around and go whisper to the musician for what seems like way too long. And everybody’s waiting and nobody really knows what to do, and the moment is kinda dragging on, and the soloist looks completely caught off-guard. It’s just awkward all around!

If you’ve ever sang a solo at your church, you might as well assume that you’ll be asked to do so again, at any time. So a good thing to do is just always have a song ready in case you’re called. If you’re smart you’ll have more than one, because at a musical someone could very well sing the song you planned on doing. Seems really obvious, I know. But it wouldn’t be on the list if I didn’t see it happen all the time. So if I may state the obvious once again, a soloist should always have a solo ready- even if you’re not scheduled to be on program.


2. Know what key you do your favorite song(s) in.


Nothing feels better than when you can walk up and tell the musician what you’re singing and what key to put you in.  First of all it makes that conversation over there at the organ much shorter- which means it’s much less awkward for everybody. You walk up, tell the organist the song and the key and go on over there and do your thing. NICE! Now, if you’re intimidated at the thought of learning keys, there’s no need to be. First of  all you can learn your keys on the piano in 7 minutes. But an even easier thing to do is simply ask the musician.  The next time you sing a solo and you like how it feels for you right there, simply lean over and ask the musician what key that is. Make a note of it and every time you sing that song you’ll know exactly what key to tell the musician to play it in.

Have you ever seen or experienced that embarrassing thing where the soloist starts singing then halfway through the song he suddenly realizes he started way too high? I don’t know which is worse, when they keep going or when they stop and start over. But both are completely avoidable by just knowing what key you sing your most popular songs in.

3. Choose a well-known song for your solo

Yes, I know you listen to all kinds of Christian and inspirational music, not just Gospel. And that’s great! But it’s important to know the audience you’re singing for and what they’re most likely to be familiar with.  This is not nearly as important for the audience’s sake as it is for the musician’s sake. If, for example, you’re singing at an African-American church and you decide you’ll take that beautiful Contemporary Christian song you heard on the other station the other day and sing it as a solo, there’s a good chance the musician will have never heard the song. Which means both of you will struggle and stumble through the entire performance.

You singing mostly a cappella and the musician desperately trying to follow you but using chord progressions that don’t really follow the original because he’s never heard it. So now you’re thrown off because what he’s playing doesn’t sound like what you’re used to. And he’s thrown off because he’s flying blind trying to accompany you on a song he’s never heard. The whole thing is just “uncomfortable” for everybody. Choosing well-known songs for your solo will insure a smooth, seamless experience for everyone.

4. Testify, don’t apologize!

Here’s another thing that always kinda irks me a little.  That is when a soloist comes up and spends two minutes talking about how completely unprepared they are to sing, and how they’re gonna “attempt” to “try” to “take a stab at” (insert song title here).  And then almost every time they’ll quote the scripture that says “be ye also ready” as proof that they know they should but still aren’t, lol! God gets no glory from that, singers. What the audience wants and needs a soloist to do when they come to that microphone is give them something that connects you-and will connect them- to what you’re about to sing about. What does this song mean to you? Why do you love to sing it? Why or how does it minister to you? What’s the message you want to impart to them in the song? Stop coming down front and apologizing for how “not ready” you are. And stop saying you’re gonna “try” and “attempt”. Go up there, give your testimony and then sing to the glory and honor of God.


5. Don’t over-sing!

I realize that things like this are very subjective. One person’s opinion of over-singing may not be someone else’s. But here’s one thing that almost everyone sees universally. TIME. A solo shouldn’t last 10 minutes, gang. After you’ve gone back to that bridge for the 4th time, I think you’ve made your point. It is far better to leave the audience wanting more than wishing you’d end it already. So we kinda walked through a typical “not so good” soloist performance under item number 1. It was awkward, uncomfortable for the audience  and took way too long to get started. Let’s now compare that to a typical soloist performance using these 5 changes.

The MC calls your name to come up for a solo. On your way to the front you stop by the organ and whisper the name of your song and the key you like to do it in. Takes about 5 seconds. You walk up to the microphone, give honor and greetings where appropriate and begin a brief testimony or words about the song. You give the nod for the musician, who is already doing soft music in the exact key you need him to be in because you told him. You sing your song and the Holy Spirit moves mightily. You go sit down.  :O)


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20 Responses to 5 easy changes that will make you a better Gospel Soloist

  1. Jacqui Baldwin says:

    Hi I just discovered you and the information is soooooo needed. You’ve helped me. I want more ☺️

  2. Carlette boyd says:

    Found information very helpful and will use it to he a better praise n worship leader.

  3. Nnenna says:

    Awesome information. Quite spot on. Thanks Ron.

  4. Lynn says:

    Thank you Ron I love to sing and I agree it is time that I learn more about the technical aspects of singing. I don’t know what key I sing in. I can’t imagine how challenging it is for an organist to figure it out in front of a congregation of expectant listeners. Their anxiety is multiplied if they’ve never played for me before. I am called on to much to not understand the basics of my ministry. Thank you I really appreciate what I am learning from you.

  5. DReed says:

    I’m elated because at least 2 of the things on this list the Lord revealed to me in prayer this morning while asking him to anoint me to sing for Him in church services. I’ve been asking the Lord for help in doing the right things and in decent order because I am called on a lot to sing by my Pastor lately. So this was a complete blessing in more ways than one!

  6. shameil says:

    Hello those are very helpful tips I’ve been in the choir for many years now now they relized I can sing so now its every other Sunday and I learning how to dirrect the choir thank you so much .

  7. Alyce says:

    Firing on all cylinders, as usual! Am co-signing all of it!

  8. Tiffany Hayes says:

    This article is great! Yes, we should be ready and be prepared and professional. I’ve been caught off guard as well at times. But I learned quick to be sure to have a list of songs to choose from when I need to. When someone may have song something another singer was going to, I’ve heard the singer come up and say, “Well, I’m not sure what I’m going to sing because my song has already been done”. That tends to irk me when I hear it…lol. People don’t have to know that was the song you were going to sing if you don’t mention it and come forth with another song. Thanks for such a great article.

  9. Sharnia says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed these practical, raw tips. That number four…yes…Yes…YES…please.

  10. Karen Gibson says:

    I am smiling as I write this for two reasons. Firstly I am so excited I found this page and secondly #1 hit me hard!! Lol. My husband always asks, “Why don’t you have songs ready!” I say nobody has asked me? And I’m asked and I say “I don’t have a song with me.” So sad. I am so excited to read more and learn how to take my ministry to the next level. God bless you!

  11. Nikita says:

    I’m guilty! This happens to me EVERY time I attend my inlaws’ church…we’re talking once or twice a year for 20 years. I guess I keep hoping that one day I’ll get a call in advance. Lol! Thank you, Ron! I needed that rebuke and exhortation.

  12. Gina Roberts says:

    I agree with #4 and 5…especially #5!! Soloist are there to glorify God, not themselves. If the motivations and heart of the soloist are in alignment with God’s will, then, He won’t send anyone whom He has not prepared and fully equipped for the task. Faith moves the Lord and your faith in the task at hand in Christ will channel God’s presence to the audience…

  13. Dana says:

    Oh, so true! #4 (Testify, don’t apologize) has always irked me. Hush and sing already!

    Thank you for your light yet informative articles. Love reading them!

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