I’m not sure many people in the Black church have heard this entire song because we tend to do only the chorus when it shows up in our churches. It’s one of the standards in the CCM community though, and for good reason. Take a few minutes to enjoy this one as you think about His love for you.[youtube Eiy3_KRKNaQ]
In a nutshell, insufficient breath control comes from bad technique. When you take vocal lessons your vocal technique improves , so you’ll usually see an improvement in your breath control. But often you can make some very simple changes and see an improvement almost right away.
1. Stop Holding Your Breath!
Very recently, with two separate students, we were working on a song in our voice lesson after having warmed up and gone through our normal vocal exercise routine. Both of them were really having trouble just finishing simple phrases without becoming winded and out of breath. These are phrases they were singing in a very comfortable area of their range.
I had them sing the phrases a few times, checking for all of the proper positioning and vocal techniques I had taught them. They were doing everything by the numbers, so I began to look deeper. Then it hit me. ” Do you realize that you’re holding your breath after you finish phrases?
“I’m what? Holding my breath when?!”
” When you finish a phrase,” I explained, “you hold your breath right up until the very slpit second you need to start the next phrase. Then you take this really quick gasp of air. That’s why you’re always winded. You’re not breathing!”
In both cases my students were completely unaware that they were doing this. Chances are you may be doing it too. It’s very common. Here’s what I told my students to do.
“You need to take full advantage of spaces between your lyrical phrases where you have an opportunity to breathe. As soon as you finish the last word of your phrase, start drawing in a very controlled, natural breath for the next phrase. This way you’re not starting lines already out of breath.”
“Try that line again, this time use that full space between the first line and the second line. Take a nice deep breath just like we’ve learned. Allowing your stomach to inflate, not raising your chest or shoulders. Let the diaphragm work. Go ahead.”
“OMG, that’s such a difference!”, was the answer I got from both of them after they tried it.
So now you try. Remember, in the average song you’ll have at least a second or two between one phrase and the next. Use that space to inhale for the next phrase. But don’t HEAVE! Proper breathing is done with a relaxed abdomen that rises as you breathe in and gradually falls as you exhale.
2. Breathe Where It Makes Sense!
Once you’ve made that adjustment, start looking closer at your lyrics and where you’re choosing to breathe. Often singers are simply choosing awkward places in the lyrics to try to take a breath.
Frequently you see singers taking quick intakes of air between words in the middle of sentences. These are not only awkward places to breathe, but you have almost no time to do so. So again, you’re gasping for a quick breath instead of a nice, relaxed inhale. If you pay attention to the natural flow of the lyrics, the most natural places to take a breath will start to become obvious. They will be the spaces you hear between one phrase and the next.
I hope you enjoyed this little tip! There’s so much more to learn about how to use your voice properly though. You can start with my free 5 day vocal training course. Get it when you join my mailing list below.
See you soon,
As I’m writing this blog today, it’s Sunday, August 7th, 2011. And I just finished watching a soon-to-be-famous episode of the Gospel talent show Sunday Best, which airs on BET. In this episode the judges asked the contestants to sing love songs. They explained at the beginning of the segment that Gospel artists are often asked to sing at weddings. When they are, they’re asked to sing a popular love song. So they asked each of the contestants to sing a popular love song often done at weddings.
My oh my, how the comments flooded the social networks! My Twitter time line was over-taken with a raging debate. On the one side, those who were upset and thought this was a complete compromise on the part of Sunday Best and everyone who participated. Many of the people on this side of the argument thought Gospel singers had no business singing love songs, and Sunday best certainly had no business making secular songs a part of the show.
On the other side were people who, like the judges and obviously the show’s producers, saw nothing wrong with Gospel artists doing a love song, since God is love and love is of God. Oh, and God kinda likes people getting married too.
I guess it’s obvious by the sarcasm in that last line where I fall on this issue. I think it’s not only “ok” for a Christian to sing a pure, clean, Godly love song like Here And Now, or Anita Baker’s Giving You The Best That I Got. It’s natural. These kinds of songs are about deep, committed, Godly love between a man and a woman; a married man and woman.
The show is about more than giving would-be Gospel artists a stage for their big break. I think the show really tries to prepare the contestants for the real world of being a Gospel artist. Many, many Gospel artists are one-dimensional and can only sing one kind of music. If they sing anything else it will also sound like a Sunday-morning squall session.
If you plan on being a full time artist yourself, you would do well to start now adding some depth to what you’re able to do. God is not bound by our small, simple-minded ideas of religion based purely on tradition rather than relationship. If you refuse to go anywhere or do anything that isn’t like your Sunday morning yell-fest, then what Good are you to God? Where can he send you except the next church? Who will you sing to except those who have already heard it last Sunday?
It’s not about compromising your walk with God. Love is of God. And there are many, many wonderful songs of love, peace and healing that aren’t necessarily “Gospel Songs”. I challenge you to make a list of a few of them. Look at the lyrics and really ask yourself what’s wrong with them? To close yourself off from ever doing anything that isn’t strictly a Gospel song is to close doors God is trying to open to expose His love through you to many more people. You think a couple of people didn’t know Yolanda Adams until they heard her do a clean secular song, then went and bought her Gospel Cd as a result? Yeah, just a few. The same is true with every other artist on the panel that night.
Let me ask you something. Are you married? Do you tell your spouse you love them? Did you do so at your wedding, at least? Do you feel as though you’re committing some kind of sin or compromising your walk with God when you do so? If you do believe that it’s wrong for Christians to sing about love, then you must on some level believe the love itself is wrong, right? If you don’t then what’s the problem you have with it? If your answer to these questions (or anything else you believe), is something like “that’s just what I was always taught”, then you my friend might just be basing your beliefs more on tradition and religion than relationship.
Thank God that when Jesus Christ Himself was here on Earth, He “compromised” and “lowered the standard”, or we would all be lost.
The Music Ministry Coach
I have to be honest with you. I’m not sure many people really know what they’re asking for when they’re seeking God for a hit song. A song everyone wants to hear you sing, everywhere you go. Sounds really glamorous doesn’t it? Well, as someone who has been there, let me tell you it isn’t.
I was asked to lead a song a few years ago that I liked ok enough, but I didn’t have a real spiritual connection with. It didn’t really resonate with me deeply. But it was churchy and up-beat, and I was a good fit for the lead. Besides, there was really nobody else at the time that could, so I stepped up to do it to keep us from having to scrap a song that everyone in the choir wanted us to do.
Well, I gave it my all and God came in and really blessed. And then something happened I wasn’t prepared for. The whole congregation fell in love with the song, especially the pastor. You see every time we did the song we were guaranteed some high-spirit churching. So for the next couple of months at least ( it felt like a couple of years) that song was requested at least 2, sometimes 3 times a month. And each time they expected me to do everything I did the first time I sang it.
It got to the point I was just really sick of doing the song. I still can’t bring myself to do it when they ask occasionally. But this brings up a pretty serious delimma, doesn’t it? I mean after all, this isn’t just any music, this is the Gospel we’re talking about. Songs might get old, but the Word Of God is timeless..right? The message doesn’t get old.
Still though, this is a very, very real issue that should concern you if you’re a serious vocalist working toward a full time ministry. You’re definitely gonna have to sing songs again and again again; unless of course you don’t plan on having any hits whatsoever.
How do you deal with that? What do you do when the song gets old?
Honestly, there’s not much you can do. And that is why you must never allow it to. How do you avoid that? By very strictly and adamantly avoiding singing any song that you don’t have a strong spiritual connection to. Any song you’re going to sing must resonate with you on some level. There has to be something in that song that is for YOU.
When you’re singing a song that ministers to you on a deep personal level, that song will never get old. Because first of all, it will always speak to you that way, even if your situation changes. In that case the message goes from “where I am right now” to “where God brought me from”.
But the most important reason of all to make sure you do NOT sing songs that don’t resonate with you on a deep spiritual level, is because if you allow yourself to do so, then every time you sing it you’ll be singing from a place that isn’t true, honest and authentic. And no matter how many accolades you’re getting, that’s gonna get old real quick.
So no matter what the situation is, if you’re serious about your ministry as a singer, you must say NO if you don’t feel it. Yes, that’s gonna be irritating to some people sometimes. Yes it’s gonna put your choir or praise team or group in a bind sometimes. But this is simply NON NEGOTIABLE as a Christian or Gospel singer. You have to sing from a real place. If you don’t, you’re just performing. And that gets old.
This video features a Praise Team from a church called Greater Travelers Rest. I’ve always loved this song and I was amazed at how little I was able to find on it searching You Tube. It’s definitely flying under the radar with Praise & Worship teams everywhere. The audio isn’t the best here, and these guys might not be famous. But theirs is one of the most powerful renditions I’ve seen of this beautiful song.[youtube gp8QcYsbFNU]