I’m about to state the obvious here, but I don’t say everything the same way when I’m speaking. The tone, volume, emotion, even pitch of my speaking voice changes depending on what I’m talking about. My voice doesn’t sound the same when I’m talking to my boys as it does when I’m talking to my girlfriend. I speak much differently when I’m angry than I do when I’m sad. We all do.
And yet isn’t it amazing that many of us do exactly the opposite when we’re singing? I think most would agree that our singing voice is really just an extension of our speaking voice. Yet many singers;-especially in Gospel- approach every song the same way. “POWERFULLY.” Singing with power and strength and conviction is important in Gospel style singing. But it has become so important for many singers that it’s the only way they approach a song, no matter what it is. Ever heard a singer do a fast, energetic foot-stomping Old 100 Gospel song, then come back and sing a worship song the same way?
A singer does both himself and the song a disservice when he allows himself to be one-dimensional in his approach to singing. Every song deserves all of the different degrees of emotion that we use in our own speaking. Years ago I sang a song at our church called “I Believe”, by John P Kee. If you’re familiar with the song you know it’s one of those foot-stomping , hand-clapping churchy songs he’s known for. Every time we did the song the church would be rocking. Years later, just recently in fact, I was blessed to sing a song by Fred Hammond called “Take My Hand”. The members of the congregation, many of whom have been knowing me since I was a child, absolutely went nuts. People were coming up to me acting as if it was the first time they’d ever heard me sing. Several people told me they knew I could sing, just not like “THAT”, lol.
What they were reacting to of course was hearing my voice a totally different way, because I was singing a song that evokes a totally different emotion. Just like I do when I’m speaking, I changed my vocal style and delivery to match the emotion and the feel of the song. One person that comes to mind right now who is a master at this very thing is Jill Scott. Listen to her sing “Hate On Me” and compare it to the beautiful balad “He Loves Me”, the way she purrs on the song “Not Like Crazy”. Ask Jill about that and she’ll tell you that’s no accident. It’s something she does very deliberately. And something we all should do.
Start spending some time with songs you sing, just listening to the words. Try to tap into the emotion of that song and then start experimenting with your voice. Try different degrees of softness, edginess, and volume to make your voice express the emotion in that song. And don’t be afraid to allow your voice to sound completely different if that’s what the song needs. When Jill sings the song “Golden” you can hear the happiness in her voice, can’t you? Work on making that happen in your own vocal interpretations. The more you do so the more you’ll discover about your own voice that you never even knew you had.