The Real Reason All Gospel Singers Should Take Vocal Lessons (It’s Not What You Think)

By far the biggest challenge I face daily in this ministry is convincing naturally gifted singers that they too need to invest in vocal lessons.

But that’s because so many people think vocal lessons are about teaching you how to sing. Well if I already know how to sing, and I was born into a family of singers, why would I need lessons, right?

But let me ask you for a moment to think about the last time you sang. Probably last Sunday. Whether you sang lead or background doesn’t matter. What matters is how you felt. Think back. Was there ever a time your attention shifted from the message you were singing about to the task of singing itself?

Think back. Did you at any time start to feel discomfort? Did you find yourself at any point just kinda wanting the song to be over?  If you did, you must understand that in moments like those your mind, heart and spirit are no longer available to God.

Physical and mental limitations become a hindrance to your ministry when they take your focus away from the message. You really can’t be a proper conduit for the Holy Spirit to flow through if the connection is broken.

That is the real reason all singers who proclaim the Gospel through music should invest in vocal training. It’s not so you can hold a note until the audience starts clapping in celebration of how long you’re holding the note. That’s about YOU. It’s not about being able to sing notes so high that they become almost irritating to the listener. That is also about you.

The real reason it’s important for Christian/Gospel singers should take lessons is to remove any physical limitations that distract you from the message. Physical limitations lead to mental distractions. Now your mind is somewhere other than focused on what you’re singing about.

Training your instrument simply makes you a better instrument for for God. It frees you from things that distract you. Things that keep you from being able to go when doors open. Makes you unable to focus your heart and mind on what you’re singing about. So when you take lessons you are taking steps to eliminate those things so that you can be more effective when you minister in song. Not by holding notes longer or singing notes higher, but by eliminating anything that breaks that spiritual connection to the message that you need to really move from performing to ministering. And that’s about God, not about you.

Listen, I can definitely understand the hesitation many people have to spending the money to take vocal lessons when they aren’t really sure they’ll benefit at all from them. You may have even been told as much by someone who took lessons. But you really can’t rely completely on someone elses’ opinion on things like this. There are too many variables.

Many people sign up but they quit after one lesson. Some continue to take lessons but they don’t practice at home so they don’t see results. So only you can decide if they’ll really improve your ministry, and you can only decide that by trying them.

I know that’s a scary thought for many people though. So I wanted every singer to have an opportunity to try vocal training for themselves without fear or reservation. To do that I created a free 5 day vocal training course. You can get this course by simply signing up for my mailing list. You won’t need a credit card, you will never be charged. It’s simply an opportunity for you to see for yourself what some training can do for your ministry.

You’ll be introduced to some simple, basic vocal lessons and concepts. If you take them seriously and actually do them, in a few days you’ll notice changes. At the end I’ll give you an opportunity to continue your training at a deeply discounted rate. Completely optional, of course. Some people go on to up-grade to the full home study course, but many more simply enjoy the free lessons and go their own way, more educated. Whether they upgraded or not though, thousands of people all over the world have taken this course and raved about it. You’ll see hundreds of testimonials below the video lessons when you join.

So take the the step right now by filling out the simple form below. If you do the exercises I’m going to show you in this course you will fill different by the very next time you sing. The next step will be up to you.

How embracing technology can take your ministry to the next level

Moving onIt’s no secret we live in the information age. The entire world is literally at our finger tips now. And yet many people are hesitant to embrace technology. I suspect though, that it’s not  as much about fear as it is about that unwillingness we all have to embrace change. After all, doing something new comes with learning, and fumbling, and reading, and time spent having to think- all of which many of us have “switched off” by the time we’re around 30 or so, in favor of our nice, normal, comfortable lives.

But what if I told you that embracing technology is all a part of God’s plan? Have you ever thought of that? Sure it is. It HAS to be. Remember this scripture?

Matthew 24:14

14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.

I don’t think anyone would argue against the fact that it’s happening right now, and technology is a huge part of what’s making it possible. But what about YOUR message. YOUR ministry. What about what God put inside of YOU? The same technology that is right now sending the Gospel to all parts of the world has been made available for you to use to take your ministry to the next level. That means your singing. Your playing. Your teaching. Your coaching. Your encouraging words. Whatever that gift is that God has given you to bless others. We all have one, some more than one. And we all have them for a purpose

There’s no reason not to take advantage of every tool and resource God has made available to you in order to take your ministry to the next level. And now that we’re in the 21st Century, the time has come to stop resisting change and embrace this new technology that God is using to reach all parts of the world.

Did you know for example, that you can you get one-on-one coaching with me from anywhere in the country? Did you know that we can do live, face-to-face coaching via video, in real time via Skype? Oh, I see. You don’t know anything about Skype and don’t want to have to download something (even if it’s free). And you don’t have a webcam or a microphone so you don’t want the hassle and expense ($50 or less for both) of buying them and setting them up. I understand.

Well would it surprise you to know that you can also do it right from your Facebook profile? YES!! Still don’t trust it? Well, do you trust your cell phone? Because guess what, in the age we live in now, you can make calls all over the country without any long distance charges. So you can even take a lesson with me by phone! I’ve done it myself several times when I studied with a vocal coach out of California.

And the great thing is, there’s no need to stop with just voice lessons. As I type this there is a church music department preparing to install a web cam in their sanctuary so they can do a live praise team workshop with me over the internet. Another long-time reader is planning to take a lesson with me via phone. If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve studied with me already, via my free video vocal training course. Still others have been taking vocal lessons with me for months in my new home study vocal training program Vocal Ministry Breakthough. The possibilities are endless now.

In the 21st Century you can study almost anything you want with anyone you want from anywhere you want. Think of the freedom that gives you. Think of the incredible levels of access you now have. God has literally erased all boundaries and limitations to you having everything you’ve been praying about for your ministry. It’s time you open up your heart and mind and start embracing all of the great and wonderful things God has put in place to get to us everything our heart has desired. It’s time to, as Kirk Franklin said, “Get Up And Live!”

  Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? Isaiah 43:19

 

The 5 Biggest Lies Gospel Singers Believe About Vocal Training

 

 

 

 

 

As you may already know, I’m first and foremost a professional vocal coach. As such, over the years I’ve heard a lot of confusion from singers about taking lessons. I thought I’d cover the most common misconceptions in today’s blog.

1. Vocal lessons are for people who can’t sing

I can understand the confusion here. Unfortunately people often suggest taking lessons as a way of insulting one’s singing ability. Truth is, while people who don’t have a natural gift can see some improvement from lessons, it’s people who can already sing who see the greatest benefits. Most people who have a natural gift for singing and have never taken lessons, are doing a lot of things that cause strain, stress and limited range in their vocal abilities. Gifted singers can see a dramatic improvement in almost every aspect of their singing by taking professional lessons.

2. I was born with the gift to sing, so I don’t need lessons

Not true! People who were born with the gift of song need to train their voices far more than people were weren’t born with the gift. Why? Simply because you’ll be singing a lot more often. Vocal lessons not only teach you how to improve almost every aspect of singing, but they also teach you how to protect your voice and use it properly so it lasts you a long time.

3. Lessons won’t teach me anything I don’t already know!

If you’ve never taken voice lessons you’d be amazed at how much you really DON’T know about your voice and how it works. Some of the most simple changes can make a huge difference in your vocal tone, control, breathing, range and vocal stamina.

4. Vocal Coaches just charge you a bunch of money and make you yell and scream for an hour.

Unfortunately I’ve heard horror stories like this, so I understand the skepticism here. Sadly, there are many people out there offering professional voice lessons who have never had any kind of training. Often there are people in church who were simply born with great vocal ability naturally. These people are often asked to give private lessons. Even though they haven’t been trained, it simply gets hard to resist the extra income.

The truth is, however, the last thing a trained vocal coach will allow you to do is scream. When you’re studying with a professionally trained vocal coach, you’ll easily sing for a full hour lesson without any strain, yelling or screaming. Learning to sing powerfully without these damaging habits is the main reason for taking professional lessons.

5. Vocal lessons are a waste of money. I can learn just as much on You Tube for free.

You Tube is a great resource for free information, and you can certainly learn a lot there. But you’re only going to get small sound-bites of information there, and they won’t apply to you or your vocal tendencies specifically. As any of my former students will attest, taking lessons is the best investment a serious vocalist can make in their voice and their ministry.

So there you go! These are the most common things I hear from people about taking voice lessons. I hope I’ve shed enough light on these common misconceptions to change your mind about investing in your ministry with some vocal training.

Listen, if you’re a serious singer vocal lessons is simply something you MUST do if you want to keep singing for a long time. Even if you’ve looked into vocal training before and found it too expensive, you can still get professional grade vocal lessons by investing in a home study program. Home study vocal training programs are much more affordable than live face-to-face lessons, but with some self discipline can be just as effective. Consistency and practice is the key! My own home study vocal training program Vocal Ministry Breakthrough is the most convenient, affordable way to get the training you need to take your ministry to the next level. Get started today!

Until next time,

Ron Cross

 

 

 

 

 

The one thing every great singer does…

First off, I suppose I’d better start off by defining what I mean by “great singer”. When I mention the “greats” I’m talking about those vocalists who have achieved critical acclaim for their singing. I’m talking about singers who are universally considered some of the best there is, by people across all genres, styles and backgrounds.

There are, for example, some artists in Gospel that have achieved great things and have a huge fan base. Gospel fans may think they’re the best out there but very few people who don’t listen to Gospel know who they are.

So, who are some people who have achieved this kind of universal acclaim as great singers? I’m talking about people like Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Whitney Houston (pre Bobby Whitney, ok?, lol) Luther Vandross. Remember Mel Tormey (sp?) Considered such a smooth vocalist his knick name was “The Velvet Fog”.

I could go on, but you get the picture. These are people who are known the world over as simply some of the best vocalists out there…by everybody, not just fans of their respective genres.

There’s one thing that every one of these singers do, that you can do too; immediately and without a single lesson.

Ready? The answer is one word…..

SIMPLIFY

I happen to know that most of my subscribers to this blog sing either R&B or Gospel. In both of these styles of music people tend to equate great singing with the ability to do lots and lots of vocal runs, riffs, trills and such. This has to be one of the most coveted vocal abilities of them all. It’s so important to many singers that they do it almost the whole time they’re singing.

But often I think we get so caught up with the fancy stuff we mistake the fancy stuff for actual singing. Riffs, runs, trills, and other “vocal acrobatics” (as Arron Nevel called it once) are style elements; they are nice touches that should be sprinkled into your singing here and there for style.

But many singers mistake riffing for singing. Because this is such a highly regarded ability in Gospel and R&B, many singers mistakenly put way too much emphasis on it in their singing.

But look at the singers I mentioned above again. I’m sure you can add a few names to the list I’m not thinking of right now. But the point I’m making here is this: all of these singers are known the world over for their ablity to create some of the most beautiful music with their voices. Why? Because they place the emphasis on pure, honest, true tone production.

I heard Whitney’s performance of the Star Spangled Banner again the other day and it gave me chills. Still considered to be one of the best renditions of it ever. No trills, runs, or riffs. She just sang the notes; pure, clean and with deadly accuracy of pitch.

There is no instrument more complex than the human voice. It is about the only instrument that can’t be accurately duplicated by any keyboard. As such, no sound is more beautiful or unique than the sound of a human voice producing pure, clean musical tones with spot-on pitch.

So, as simple as it sounds, if you want to instantly improve your sound, do what the greats do..simplify. Just sing honest, true musical tone as clean and as pure as you can. If you want to work on anything, spend as much of your time as possible working on pitch. Always be on pitch, even if you have to sacrifice style elements you want to do.

Want make that Worship song transport the audience into the very presence of God? Strip your performance of it down to nothing but the pure musical notes it calls for, and sing them as clean and simply as possible. You will move your audience to tears.

Want to make that love song have people gazing into your eyes? Same thing. Luther Vandross hardly ever did a run or riff, and was overweight most of his career. Yet he was considered one of the most amazing ballad singers of our time.

Let’s look at an interesting contrast, just to prove a point. I’m a big fan of Stevie Wonder. Now, let’s face it. Stevie Wonder does a lot of riffing, and he does it like he invented it. The man is incredible. He uses his voice like a weapon, lol. Stevie can sing, no doube about it. AND….Stevie has indeed received critical acclaim the world over.

But NOT for his singing. When you think of Stevie Wonder what do you think? “That man’s a musical genius! He’s an incredible writer”. So does everybody else. That is his claim to fame.

Now, when you think of Luther, what do you think? “That man can saaang!”So did everybody else.

Get it?

So the word for today is…..Simplify.

 

Why Gospel Musicians Don’t Share Playing Tips

So I put out a challenge on my fan page the other day asking all my musicians to do a “1 minute lesson” with someone. The next time someone asked for help or tips, take them aside and just show them one simple thing they could take with them and practice. The idea was to break some of the negative images Gospel musicians have as selfish arrogant people who never give back.

Now, usually if I send a shout-out to the musicians on my fan page they show up in droves, chatting and posting comments, participating in the conversation and really hanging out with me. This time though, all I got in response was the finely tuned sound of crickets chirping. This is not something most musicians care to discuss.

Someone posted and asked me the question “So what is the reason most musicians don’t want to share tips?” I thought about it a while, trying to determine the best way to explain it to her without making the post too long. Well that didn’t work. My answer went on for several paragraphs, lol! But it got the attention of at least one musician who had an “OMG” moment, leaving me a kudos-filled comment generously sprinkled with lots of exclamation points.

So suffice it to say that I thought the answer seemed too important to leave it there on the page to be pushed down until it’s eventually out of sight. So I decided to post my answer as a blog for all my readers here. I hope this offers a different perspective for you to think about the next time this comes up for whatever reason. Or the next time you’re headed toward that organ after the benediction.

“So what is the reason must musicians don’t want to share tips?”

I have to qualify my answer by first saying I’m not at the level of many of the musicians who frequent the page. But while there could be any number of reasons, I think a lot of it has to do with the way people approach musicians about showing them things.

Highly skilled musicians don’t get that way by accident. Their skill represents years of dedicated practicing for sometimes hours at a time. People often approach musicians wanting to bypass that work and just go straight to the cool chords or the great run.

For example someone might hear a great chord and want the musician to show it to him note by note. But the musician knows the chord because he has painstakingly studied theory and learned how to build these amazing chords.

He also knows that most people who ask for the chords wouldn’t really know how to use it anyway. Then of course there is the proprietary aspect of such things as chords and runs, and how they tend to define the signature sound of one musician vs. another one. Musicians often create these chords and runs from scratch. 

They work very hard developing such things, and I think it’s just a matter of wanting to see that kind of initiative in someone else, rather than simply asking for the notes.

One other example just to really illustrate it. Often skilled musicians will do these amazing runs. People hear them do it and then want the musician to just give them the run note by note. But the musician has studied and learned several different types of scales and their application, carefully worked the run out note by note and created it from scratch, then spent hours developing the muscle memory and speed..

So you can imagine he or she might be reluctant when someone walks up and just wants him to give it to them note by note. I think if people were asking musicians questions about practice tips and good resources to learn theory, etc. they’d get much less evasive answers. 

I think you see musicians more willingly sharing with other musicians who have also achieved the same level or similar level. Simply because they know that person is at least as serious and as dedicated as he is.

People say that musicians don’t share because they’re selfish or worried about someone taking their spot, but seldom does a skilled musician have that to worry about, because so few people are willing to put the same amount of work in. 

So this one-minute lesson challenge doesn’t ask musicians to do that. That’s why I called it a “one minute lesson” challenge. One minute or so is enough time to show that guy asking for the notes to the run you did the pentatonic scale, and explain to him that the scale is often used in many runs you hear in church. Then challenge him to learn the scale in all 12 keys.

If you’re trying to really take your playing to the next level you won’t get there asking for quick tips after church. You need some training. Specifically, training designed specifically for Gospel Musicians. The source I use and highly recommend is The Gospel Music Training Center, from Hear And Play. I’ve been a customer for years and they’ve helped me tremendously. Check it out here.

3 excuses you no longer have for not taking vocal lessons :)

 1.  Vocal Lessons Are Too Expensive!

I’m not even going to bother with that whole “you can’t afford not to” thing. True enough, taking vocal lessons live with an experienced vocal coach can get up there a little, depending on where you live. But today that’s no valid reason not to take some lessons. Home study courses can be purchased at a fraction of what it costs to study live. Many courses average somewhere between $100-$200 for enough training to last you several months. When I launched my  6 month home study vocal training course Vocal Ministry Breakthrough I took another step to make it even more affordable by delivering it via a simple membership site. Now you can have professional-level vocal training for under $25 a month.  How easy is it to come up with $25? Skip just 1 pizza night a month and you’ve done it. Take your lunch to work instead of buying it just once a week and you’ve saved enough to cover your monthly tuition for VMB.

2. There aren’t any vocal coaches in my area.  At least not a Christian/Gospel ones like you

Welcome to the 21st Century! We live in the internet age now. We’re all connected. Now you can take live, face-to-face lessons with a coach across the country just by using video chat, VOIP options like Skype. Many vocal coaches, myself included, now offer vocal lessons this way.  So distance no longer has to discourage you from taking voice lessons.

3. I don’t have time! 

We have time for the things that are most important. Because we make the time. As I mentioned above, you can now study from the comfort of your own home via Skype or home study course. With my home study course you can take your lessons whenever you like. No specific time to take them, no driving to the lesson. With Skype you will in fact have an appointed time for your lesson, but you can save up to 2 hours of drive time in some cases by taking your lessons on-line or at home.

Listen, if you’re a regular reader you know I’m going to keep encouraging and pushing you about this until you do it. EVEN IF YOU DON’T DO IT WITH ME.  Few things you can do will make as big of an impact on your ministry than taking lessons.

So come on. You’re pretty-much out of excuses now, my friend. I want you to make a commitment to yourself and your ministry right now and take the step to get the training you know you need. I’m waiting for you!

Get Started Now!

Take care,
Ron