10 Songs Your Choir/Praise Team Can Sing When You’re Short-Handed

Every group has them. Those times when you’re just short on people for whatever reason. Choirs and Praise Teams are organic. They’re constantly changing because the lives of their members are constantly changing. But regardless of how many people we have available on any given Sunday we must still be on our post. With that in mind every group needs songs you can do well no matter how short-handed you are.  And since the biggest deciding factor of how well your group can do a song is usually how well you can do the harmony with what you have, I thought it would be great to have a list of songs that are either completely sung in unison are mostly sung in unison with very few sections that need harmony.

So I put the question to the family over on the fan page. These are the 10 best entries they came up with.  Add several of these to your list and you’ll always have several songs to choose from that you know your group can do well no matter how short-handed any one section is. Some of these may be better for choir and some for praise team. For the most flexibility though I’d teach any song you choose to adopt to both groups if you have both. That way you’re never without a song you can sing no matter which group is short-handed.
Listed in no particular order, they are:

1. I Just Want To Praise You – Maurette Brown Clark
2. I need You To Survive       – Hezekiah Walker
3. Every Praise                        -Hezekiah Walker
4. Only You/How Great Is Our God -Jonathan Nelson (These can also be treated as two separate songs)
5. Not Forgotten                     -Isreal Houghton
6. Your Presence Is Heaven  -Isreal Houghton
7. The Reason Why I Sing     – Kirk Franklin
8. And We Are Glad                -Joe Pace
9. Precious Is The Blood        -Joe Pace
10. Press In Your Presence   -Shana Wilson

Be Blessed!

10 Places To Find New Music For Your Choir Or Praise Team

One of the things you MUST do to keep your music ministry fresh and interesting, both for the audience and the members, is introduce new music regularly. However many of us may not look beyond our local radio station for new material. And that’s fine if you happen to have a great local Gospel radio presence where you live. Many people don’t. In fact in a city as big as Dallas Tx you might be surprised to know that we don’t have a single 24 hour F.M radio station playing Gospel music.

So I asked my Fan Page family to share their main sources for finding new music for their choir. I took their best answers and added a couple of my own. Because I have an international audience I thought it was important that all of the resources on this list be available on-line so just about anyone can access them. Also keep in mind that all of these resources are great for finding material for your praise team too. That said, here is the list, in alphabetical order.

1. DonnieRadio.com

Donnie McClurkin has a nationally syndicated gospel radio show. You can listen to content from the show here.

2. Gospel Flava.com

This is kind of an “all things Gospel Music” magazine-type website. A great resource for industry news, new releases and charts.

3.IheartRadio.com

Iheart radio works a lot like Pandora. Both are listed because they do a great job of introducing you to new artists that may not have hit mainstream radio yet. Create an account and then usie the preferences to set up a gospel station.

4. Local Radio Station websites

Even if you do have a great local radio station playing Gospel music, it’s a great idea to simply jump online and do a search for gospel radio stations in other cities and states. Often different markets play different songs and artists. Sometimes music is released and in rotation in one market way before others. A great idea if you’re looking for something different than what’s hot in your area.

5. NuthinButGospel.com

This site definitely lives up to it’s name, in that you won’t find much there but Gospel music. It’s a pretty sparse, rather empty-looking page when you first hit it. But if you click on the little “boom box” icon on the right a little window will open up, and there in front of you will be lots and lots of Gospel songs, all listed with title and artist. Click the play button and go to town! I thought this one was one of the easiest to use that I visited, simply because many other radio station sites don’t give you that option. You kinda have to push play and just listen live. This one is great for speed, ease of use and readily available song title and artist info.

6. Pandora.com

Pandora works a lot like Iheartradio. Both are listed because they do a great job of introducing you to new artists that may not have hit mainstream radio yet. Create an account and then use the preferences to set up a gospel station. Both Pandora and Iheart can be accessed several other ways besides physically going to the website. Both have apps for most mobile devices, which make it possible for you to listen through your home or car stereo or portable boom box is that feature is available.

7. PraiseCharts.com

This site focuses more on Contemporary Christian Music. It’s a great resource for praise and worship teams, but it also includes much more than the other resources I visited on the list. Here you can not only download music, but you can actually find chord charts, lead sheets and orchestrations, all available for download and print-out.

8.TheJamesFortuneShow.com

The website for James Fortune’s gospel radio show.  If I’m not mistaken James’s show is a local show, not a nationally syndicated one. That could make it a good resource for finding great songs not being played in your area.

9. TheYolandaAdamsMorningShow.com

The Yolanda Adams Morning Show is nationally syndicated like Donnie McClurkin’s show, so you may find the play list similar. But it’s definitely worth having on your list of music resources.

10. YouTube.com

YouTube goes without saying. Not only is it a great resource for finding new music, it’s a great resource for getting music out to key personnel for learning purposes (rather than making illegal copies). YouTube does require a bit more work though, that’s for sure. But it’s the most vast resource on the list since pretty-much everything can be found there. You can type in search terms according to season, occasion, genre and pretty-much anything else you can think of. That’s something you can’t do with any other resource on the list.

Best Easter Songs For Gospel Choir

A while back I was searching the internet for something related to Gospel Choir and I stumbled upon this Squiddoo page. The author, Joan Hall, goes by the name of Joan The Choir Lady. Her Squiddoo page was full of tons of great information for choirs. I got to know her on Facebook, and she recently told me that Squiddoo no longer exists! But Joan has transferred all of her awesome articles and lists for Choirs to her website, ChoirParts.com.

But the one I want to share with you today absolutely blew me away. Joan  has put together one of the most exhaustive, complete references I have ever seen on Gospel Choir songs for Easter. You have got to see this thing!

Not only did Joan put together an amazing list, but she also included YouTube videos where available, song keys and even level of difficulty! I was amazed. I’m not even going to post any of it here because I want absolutely no credit whatsoever for the work this young lady has put into this.

So please, please go right now to Joan’s website and check out  Best Easter Songs For Gospel Choir . I need you guys to do me a favor when you get there though. When you go to Joan’s page, please leave her a comment thanking her for this awesome page. And when you do, tell her that you learned about her from The Music Ministry Coach.com!

Seriously, if you don’t find an Easter song for your Gospel choir on this page, something’s wrong!

75 Great Altar Call Songs

Someone sent me an e-mail recently asking me to give her some suggestions for Altar Call songs. Every music ministry needs altar call songs. Well, the Fan Page family loves making song lists, so I took it straight to them. And as usual, they delivered in a big way. There were over 80 comments in this thread at this writing. I chose 75 to allow for some possible duplication. The actual thread is below. Allow a couple of seconds for it to load if you don’t see it. It may not work in Chrome.

Just click the comment button below to be taken straight to the live post. If you haven’t already, please click the “Like” button in the top right corner and join the family!

4 Possible Reasons Your Congregation Didn’t Like The New Song

So you hear this great song and think it’s great for your choir or praise team. You go to all the trouble of learning it and teaching it. You perform it in the front of the congregation next Sunday and…. (insert cricket sounds here). The song bombs! It’s a very peculiar thing, isn’t it? Sometimes you’re just sure a song will bless everyone, because it blessed you! And then sometimes a song you don’t really care much for will tear the house up. It’s a very hard thing to predict sometimes. The good news is there are some pretty common things that can cause this to happen. Knowing what they are and making a couple of slight changes to your song selection process can dramatically increase your success rate with new songs.

Let’s start with the 4 most common reasons a song you loved ends up bombing:

1. Great music, weak message.

Gospel music isn’t like secular music. While we love our music, it is in fact still ministry. So if the song isn’t really saying much of anything people will pick up on that. We as musicians and singers love music on a deeper level than the average person sitting in the congregation. So we may grow so attached to a great musical arrangement that we become willing to overlook or justify lyrical content that is maybe more fluff than real message. This one is perhaps the most deceptive of the 3 I’ll give you today, because music just moves music lovers. But if you’re not very careful in this regard you could end up with a song that only moves the people in the music department, while leaving the congregation feeling like outsiders.

2. Great message, weak music

I know it’s hard to accept or even admit (which is why nobody else talks about this) but even a song with a good message can fail to go over well with the wrong arrangement. This one can get more complicated to explain, because of the propensity of songs to speak to people on such an individual way. So I’ll give you a case study. We had a director once who chose a song for us to sing. The message ministered to him in a deep and personal way, and he believed the message was too important not to do. Well, to make a long story short the song just went over like a rock with the choir. None of us liked it. We couldn’t feel it spiritually, and we just couldn’t get into it. The director felt so strongly about the song that he forced us to do it anyway. We obeyed. The song bombed. And we never did it again.

The thing about Gospel music is that it has to have both. It needs a great message AND a great musical arrangement. In the above example the message was a good one, but it was a very personal one. It was a song about God bringing someone back from the brink of suicide. Encouraging, but not something everyone can relate to. But that’s not what killed it for us. What killed it for us was the arrangement. It was a very slow, somber kind of musical arrangement that was very quiet and didn’t really build any sense of triumph until the end. Even the melody of the vocal arrangement had this sad, somber delivery through most of it. We were so depressed listening to that song we just couldn’t get into it. But because it meant so much to him, we did it anyway. You already know the results.

3. Great music, great lyrics, wrong style

Sometimes a song just has it all. Awesome musical arrangement, powerful message….but it still doesn’t go over well. Usually that’s because the style is wrong for your congregation. You should definitely bring variety to your music ministry. The key is being smart about how you use them, and knowing how far to go in either direction. There’s almost no extreme in the backwards direction. Older songs had a tendency to put much more thought into having both the music and the message. Then there’s that old-school sound that takes us all back.

Contemporary songs though, offer a lot more potential to get it wrong. Even with an audience that is receptive to contemporary music you have to be very careful how far you push the envelope. You are much more likely to end up with a song that fits scenario number 1 above when you’re dealing with contemporary Gospel/Christian music. The key is learning, observing and getting to know what your house responds to best. If you’re making the effort to do that and adjusting accordingly, your chances of success increase significantly. For example, even if your audience loves old traditional songs you have to be smart about how you incorporate them. In most churches an old traditional song will have a much more powerful effect if it’s used as a “throw-back” now and then instead of something that’s happening every Sunday. A really edgy contemporary song might bomb if the sanctuary choir did it but get a standing ovation from the junior choir.

One change you should consider if you don’t already do it this way, is to involve more than one person in the song selection process. We’ve done it this way for many years and it works very well. This gives you a system of checks and balances, so-to-speak.  That way you’re never choosing songs based on how it affected just one person.  Allowing a small group to listen, evaluate and vote on a song gives you a much better idea of how well it will go over.

4. Great Lyrics, Great Arrangement, Bad Performance

Let’s face it guys. Sometimes a song has everything it needs. It’s a great song, from front to back. Perfect for your audience, lines up with you Pastor’s vision, everything. And we just don’t pull it off.

A great song, no matter how amazing it is, can not overcome a bad performance. That’s why I’m such a big advocate of doing two things:
1. Choosing songs appropriate for your group’s skill level
2. Perfecting those songs to the best of your ability.

It takes a lot of honesty..and frankly, a lot of time…to realize a song is just not right for your group. It may be any number of reasons. And the thing is we often won’t know until we try it by learning it. But if you’ve tried it several times and just can’t get it down, it may be one you have to let go of.

Sometimes though, a great choir learns a great song but is still a bit unsure. But because they learned it they sing it anyway. Mistakes happen and it doesn’t go well. So don’t sing it until you have it down. There are other scenarios of course, but the main point here is to choose songs you can do and do them to the highest level your ministry can do them.

Help take your performances to the next level with professional vocal training. Study in the comfort and privacy of your own home, at your own pace. More Info:

Image courtesy of “Grant Cochrane”FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What Gospel Choirs Are Singing Across The Country

You may have seen my blog post recently entitled 47 Songs Youth Choirs Are Singing. In that blog I told you that the list was compiled entirely from the input of followers on my fan page. By the way if you’re not connected with me on Facebook you really are missing some great content. All day every day, 7 days a week I post content to the page.

So anyway I thought I’d get the FB family’s help once again and compile a list of songs Sanctuary choirs are singing. We got a lot of great feedback once again. Only this time I thought I’d include the actual post right here in the blog. This post is actually live, meaning you can like it, share it and even add to the post some of the great songs your choir is singing. Just click on whatever you need and you’ll go right to the post. So enjoy the entries we have so far and add your own. And don’t forget to click the like button if you’re not already a follower. Take care!

20 Questions To Ask If The Audience Won’t Get With Your Praise Team

I’ve seen and even written about the subject of unresponsive audiences in regard to praise & worship or even just selections from the choir. If you’ve ever done any research on the subject, chances are your search led you to articles that list some of the common reasons audiences are unresponsive to the praise and worship music going forth. I think they are important things to consider when you’re trying to figure out why your audience is unresponsive, so I’m going to list some of the most common questions you should ask if you find this situation.

But then I want to get into another aspect of unresponsive audiences that I don’t see covered very often at all. More about that a little later in the article. First though, let’s look at 20 possible reasons why your congregation may not be responding

 Song Selection

It’s important you know your audience well and what they respond to. This can sometimes be harder than it looks, because honestly most of us choose songs based not on whether or not we think our audience will be blessed by them, but by how much we like them ourselves. Sometimes we can get so caught up in the musical arrangement or the beat that we don’t pay as much attention to the message as we should. Sometimes it’s the style that’s losing your audience.

1.  Is it too contemporary?
2. Too dated or”old school?”
3. Too much of one or the other?
4. Are you doing too much new material (it’s hard for your audience to participate if you’re never doing anything they know)?
5. Are songs easy to catch on and sing?
6. Are the songs really praise and worship songs?

Musicianship

7. Is the music being played with a level of competence?
8. Can the audience recognize the song?
9. Is the volume too loud or too soft? (ok it’s never too soft, lol!)

Vocals

10. Is the harmony right?
11. Are the group members well-versed and learned on the material (do they know the song?)
12.Are you putting competent leaders up to lead songs?
13. Are your leaders and/or group members screaming?

Sound

14. Are the microphones too loud?
15. Are they feeding back?
16. Are the house speakers too loud?

Leadership

17. Is the leader actively exalting and leading the audience?
18. Is the leader reprimanding or scolding the audience for not participating? (don’t ever do this!)
19. Is the leader moving quickly between songs with little to no dead time?
20. Is the leader being led by the spirit and allowing for unscripted, organic worship and praise? (real praise and worship can’t always be scripted)

All of these issues and more are very common issues that audiences find very off-putting and distracting. It is very difficult for the audience to overcome those things and concentrate on praising and worshiping when these things are not being addressed regularly. And while it may seem almost unfair to some people that really haven’t fully grasped the importance of perfecting music ministry, the truth is it can be any one thing. Everything can be perfect, for example, and the microphones are way too loud or feeding back. Or everything is sounding great but the music was way too loud. Or the group sounded great but the leader didn’t really have the skill that the song required.

But let’s flip this coin for a minute and talk about something almost nobody touches on. Because you see, if we’re all being honest here, there are times when absolutely everything is the best it can be. The band is on point. the song selection is perfect. The group/choir sounds great. The leader is bringing it. And the audience is STILL unresponsive.

There are just days when despite your best efforts, the audience simply won’t be with you. Who knows what it is from one day to the next, but it does happen. It is on those days that worship leaders and song leaders make the worst mistake they can make. I touched on it in question number 18 but it’s important enough to elaborate on more here.

I’m speaking of the tendency many leaders have start reprimanding the audience to get them to participate. Understand what I’m referring to here. I’m not talking about the act of encouraging the audience to open up and feel free to worship. Encouraging them to lift their hands, stand, or sing along.

I’m talking about those who actually, in a sense, scold the audience for not being more engaged or participating more. Listen, nobody understands how frustrating an unresponsive audience is than I do. But scolding them will only cause them to resent you. which will only make them close off even more. Only now it may very well extend past the musical selections to the Pastor and the word of God itself.

That is why when you worship and praise God in song, your worship must be for real. It has to be about God, and NOT about the audience. I wrote in an article a while ago that it’s not a good idea to sing your entire selection with your eyes closed. That’s absolutely true. But much more importantly than that, you must never allow your worship or praise experience to depend on or be affected by the reactions of the audience.

When we sing, we should always sing to the glory and honor of God. As one speaker once told us at a choir banquet, we are to minister to Him, and He in turn ministers through us to His people. If you’re always looking for the audience’s reaction when you sing, you could find yourself very discouraged when you don’t get what you expected

It’s really not our job in music ministry to “make” the audience do anything. Any number of things could be the cause of unresponsiveness. I’ve seen times when, heck the people are just tired! The church has been in revival all week, or we’ve had back-to-back services, or a Saturday night service of some kind so everyone is kind of tired Sunday morning.

So yes, it is extremely important that we do everything we can to perfect, enhance, hone and polish every aspect of our music ministries. But at the end of the day every single minute we spend on any of that has to be for one reason and one reason only. That God be glorified. And when we stand before His people knowing that we’ve done everything we can to prepare ourselves to minister in excellence, even when they’re not responding we can then just worship Him from a pure, honest, deeply sincere place that has nothing to do with how many people stood up while we were singing. Or how many didn’t. For more praise team training check out my new e-book Praise Team 101

 

Tips for growing your choir

The gospel music industry is constantly evolving. With few exceptions, choirs have become almost extinct. But they remain a strong, viable and important element of music ministry in local churches across the country. Many local choir directors and ministers of music sometimes find it hard to keep their choir healthy and growing. I ran across a great article last night that listed some great tips in that regard. The article is entitled 5 Steps To Build Your Choir .

The website I found this on, http://ministry127.com/ , is a great resource for church leaders in all aspects of ministry, not just music ministry. Under the music ministry category I found several great articles just on choir alone.

For the African-American church anyway, it doesn’t appear that the Gospel choir is going anywhere any time soon. But like anything, a Gospel choir must continue to grow or it eventually dies. Recruiting members isn’t something most of us give much thought to. This article gives some simple, practical tips on how to keep your choir growing and why it’s important.  Make sure to head over to the link above and take a look at the article.

Having trouble finding new song leaders in your choir? Most would-be song leaders don’t come forward because of one thing. They’re afraid of doing adlibs. Develop and encourage new leaders from within your own ranks with my new  training video Adlib Like A Pro.