Why you should NEVER sing entire songs with your eyes closed (part 1)

It’s a very common thing to see Gospel singers do their entire selection with their eyes closed. And honestly, most have very good reason for doing so.  After all, Gospel music is ministry. As such, many well-meaning singers simply want to completely lose themselves in the song and it’s meaning. Their thinking is if they close their eyes and focus completely on God and the message, God will use them to bless the audience. Some others though, close their eyes simply out of fear, nerves or stage fright.

Either way though, singing with your eyes closed the entire time is something every singer should avoid. Ironically the very reason many singers close their eyes is the most important reason they should STOP doing it. Have you ever been in a social setting with two or more people who are having this intense conversation and not involving or addressing you at all? It’s as if you’re not there!
Singing with your eyes closed has a similar effect on your audience. Even though every sincere Gospel singer wants to have a powerful, effective ministry that really speaks to people, closing your eyes cuts your audience out of that conversation and makes it a private conversation between just you and God. The audience, even though many may be enjoying the performance, is robbed of a much deeper connection with you because you’ve made them an outsider “looking in”.

But when you sing with your eyes open- and sorry guys, starring at the ceiling or the clock on the back wall doesn’t count either- I’m talking about making eye contact with members of the audience- people feel a much deeper spiritual connection with not only you but the message you’re portraying in the song. Imagine for a moment that you’re in the audience watching a performer sing. He’s great, and clearly fully invested emotionally and spiritually in the song he’s rendering. His eyes are closed the whole time. You hear him sing “sometimes you have to encourage yourself”, and you nod in agreement as you sway back in forth.

NOW: Imagine the same artist is doing the same song. He sounds great and the spirit is high. He’s engaging and looking at members of the audience as he sings. Just as he comes to the line “no matter how you feel, speak a Word and you will be healed”, his eyes make contact with yours and he points at you. This time tears begin to flow because you KNOW God is delivering a Word directly to you through this artist.

That’s the difference. When you engage with the audience while you’re singing, your message is much more powerful because you allow God to speak directly to them through you. And that’s the whole point of it all, isn’t it?

Now let me just clarify something really quickly. When I say you shouldn’t sing with your eyes closed, I mean just what I said above; that is, not for the entire song. There are moments in a song where it’s perfectly normal to close your eyes for a moment during a high energy or emotionally charged point in the message. Worship songs are also a bit of an exception to this rule of thumb. Typically when you’re singing a worship song it’s being done in an atmosphere or time of corporate worship. As such, most of the audience will also have their eyes closed…..in a perfect world. But we all know that’s not often the case even during worship songs.

Worship songs are different in that they’re really designed to set an atmosphere for worship and communion with God. It’s a lot like the background music at a really nice restaurant. Even so, while it’s maybe more acceptable to close your eyes longer or more often in a worship song, it’s still just as important to be sure to make eye contact with members of the audience from time to time.

Ok so we’ve established that it’s not a good idea to sing entire songs (or even most of a song) with your eyes closed. But singing with your eyes open comes with its own challenges. In part 2  I’m going to share a really neat performance tip you can use to make it easier to and highly effective.

See you then!

Image courtesy of “imagerymajestic”FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

What kinds of songs does God like most?

What kinds of songs does God like most?

There is no secret that God finds music and singing very important in scripture. I did a search using just the words sing, sang , sung and singing and was able to pull up 137 scriptures that reference one of those words specifically. But with all the different kinds of Christian songs being done now, I started to wonder if there is a certain kind of song God likes or seems to prefer. Is there a certain kind that stands out more in scripture?

So I went looking. And while I was not surprised at all to find singing and music mentioned so often, I was definitely surprised to learn that God definitely has a favorite! It appears that of all the different kinds of songs the bible mentions- all the different ways songs and music are used and all the different kinds of songs mentioned, there is one kind mentioned more in the bible than any other kind of song. That is songs to God, or to the Lord.

There are more scriptures that tell us to sing songs this way than any other way. The bible does mention singing songs about God, about teaching, doctrine, hymns, etc. But no other kind of singing is mentioned in the bible more than singing to God or to the Lord. In one article I was reading on the subject, the writer shared that his own research counted no less than 60 scriptures that tell us specifically to sing unto the Lord or to God. Here are just a few as examples:

Acts 16:25 Romans 15:9 Ephesians 5:19 Col 3:16 Hebrews 2: 12 Exodus 15:21 Exodus 15:21 Exodus 15:21 Judges 5:3 2 Sam 22:50 1 Chronicles 16:9

That’s just 10 scriptures that encourage us to sing this kind of song. They go on and on throughout the bible, from the first mention of singing until the last. Col 3:16 is probably one of the most well-known of all scriptures about singing because it gives us the blue print of what God wants us to sing about.

When you start thinking about all of the most powerful, most endearing songs of today you realize many of them do just that. Think about Richard Smallwood’s “Total Praise”. Decades later it’s still one of the most powerful songs ever written. I believe it’s because it does everything scripture tells us God wants us to do in a song. It sings of His mercy, His grace, His peace, His power, strength-

” Lord I will lift mine eyes to the hills/ knowing my help comes from You/ Your peace You give me in times of the storm. You are the source of my strength/ You are the strength of my life/ I lift my hands in total praise to You”.

These are the kinds of songs God seems to love above all other kinds.

When you really search the scripture and begin looking at the kinds of songs that were sung (you can find the actual lyrics to songs in many places in the bible) it really makes you more aware of just how “wrong” a lot of the songs are that we hear today. Songs that talk about other people, or songs that were written to scold, beat-up on or reprimand (I won’t list examples but I could- especially in Gospel).

So really, what we have here is a very clear and easy way to choose songs that you know will please God. Songs that talk directly to God or to the Lord using first person and personal pronouns. When you sing songs that talk of his goodness, mercy, grace, power, love (I could go on and on with that list)…and you sing them directly to Him…you will be singing a song near and dear to the very heart of God.

Your praise team will be blessed by this article! Get 13 articles like this one in my latest e-book “Praise Team 101”. 

 

Train this seldom-discussed body part for amazing breath control

BreatheToday we’re going to get pretty technical in our discussion of breath control. Odds are you’ve never heard it discussed from this angle, so let’s get into it.

First, a couple of questions.What controls your breathing? That is, how fast or slowly you can realease air? When you hold your breath, how do you do it? What do you use to stop the air flow? Chances are it’s not what you think.

Try this with me now: With your mouth open I want you to take a deep breath, hold it for about 3 seconds, then release it. …………
Did you do it? Ok. Now, the question again…how did you do that? How did you stop the air flow for those 3 seconds? Without fail, almost everybody responds to this little experiment with answers like “I held my stomach”. Or, if they’re a little more experienced they’ll say something about “squeezing the diaphragm”. Actually it’s neither.
The answer may surprise you, but the way you did it had nothing to do with either of those.You stopped the flow of air by pressing your vocal cords together so tightly that no air could come through. Yes, it’s the vocal cords that regulate the flow of air!

Now, be sure you understand what I’m saying here. You don’t breathe with your vocal cords, but they do regulate the flow of air through your trachia. When you cough, sneeze, hold your breath while you’re drinking a glass of water or anything along those lines, it’s your vocal cords that are coming into play.

Since we know that now, it becomes a pretty smart assumtion that vocal cords play a major role for the singer in improving breath control. In partiular, we are referring here to what we call “cord closure”.

When we sing, speak or make any kind of audible sound, our vocal cords come together and adduct, or “vibrate”. How good that connection is when they’re against each other has a lot to do with how efficiently they are using the air we send up when we’re singing.

Here’s an example: Let’s go back a few years when everybody had manual, roll-up windows in their cars. You’re driving down the highway. The windows are up. It’s raining outside. But you hear wind coming into the car from somwhere. You know the window is up because no rain is coming in, right?

You still hear wind coming in though, so you grab the handle and pull up on it to tighten the connection between the window and the frame. Suddenly the wind stops. Obviously, the window was up far enough to make a “decent” seal. It was enough to keep the rain out, but not enough to keep wind from escaping into the vehicle.

A very similar thing is happening when we sing. In most cases; particularly if you’ve never had lessons or done any excersises to develop them; your vocal cords are like the window. You have cord closure, but the seal is weak.

So what happens is much of the air you’re sending up is “going out the window”, so to speak. It’s escaping and not being used to make the note. The consequence, of course, is that you need and use more air to accomplish the task at hand.

Properly trained vocal cords have a tighter, stronger connection when they’re closed for singing. The result is that much of the air you send up to sing is actually used to make the note. Very little escapes unused.

As a result you need a lot less to do the same thing. So if you need less, you use less…which means you have more to spare and can sing longer without running out.

So, am I saying that better cord closure is the single, be-all solution to better breath control? No. Not cord closure alone. Better cord closure is just one of many elements that, when you take vocal lessons, begin to work together like a symphony to give you better breath control, more power with less work, and increased range without yelling. “Cord closure exercises” are just one of many beneficial vocal training tools a professional vocal coach uses to to get you there. I’ll teach you more about proper breathing and show you a great chord closure exercise in my free 5 day vocal training course. Get it free when you join my mailing list below.

 

 

4 steps to gaining more confidence about your singing

Doppia IdentitàOne of the most common issues that plague Gospel singers is simply lack of confidence. Many singers struggle with fear and doubt at the very thought of getting up singing in front of people. Oddly enough, a great number of people struggle with this lack of confidence even in the midst of constant encouragement and complements about their singing. A lack of confidence is very much rooted in fear. And, since we already know that God didn’t give us the spirit of fear, it might help to first define what confidence is. Then we can deal with where the lack of confidence comes from.

Dictionary.com defines confidence this way:

 

 con·fi·dence

kon-fi-duhns]  

noun

1. full trust; belief in the powers, trustworthiness, or reliability of a person or thing: We have every confidence in their ability to succeed.

2. belief in one’s self and one’s powers or abilities; self-confidence; self-reliance; assurance:  His lack of confidence defeated him.

3. certitude; assurance: He described the situation with such confidence that the audience believed him completely.

 In other words- and regular students hear me say this all the time- confidence comes from what you know. Or, as my pastor often explains it when he talks about salvation- what you “know that you know”. As believers we all know that we often don’t feel Saved. But no matter how we feel from day to day, our assurance- or, “confidence” comes in knowing that we know that we know we are saved.
Singers who struggle with their confidence level are people who are not yet convinced of their own ability. You don’t fully trust and believe in your singing ability. You aren’t self assured.  Here are 4 steps beginners and experienced singers alike can take to start gaining more confidence.
 
1. Embrace and learn to like your own voice.
One of the biggest reasons people don’t like their own singing is because they’re comparing it to someone else’s. You MUST stop doing that if you ever hope to get to a place of confidence in your own voice. Every singer is different. Everyone has a different style, tone, vibrato; any number of things that make every person unique. And the thing is, no matter how popular and well loved someone is, you can be sure of two things:
a) there are people who like that style of singing
b) there are people who don’t.
The same is true of your own singing voice. Even if not everything you hear about your singing is positive, there are certainly just as many people who are blessed by your singing. That’s God’s design. There are different styles because there are different people. One sound, one style won’t reach them all. There are people assigned and earmarked to be blessed by YOUR gift specifically. So you need to get to a place where you can appreciate your own voice for everything that is is, and more importantly everything it’s not. Your gift is yours alone, and the Bible says it is good and perfect.
To start embracing your own voice you’re going to need to hear it a lot more. Become used to it. Learn what you do well and do it a lot. In other words:
2. Do a lot more singing
Remember, confidence comes from what you know. And knowing something comes from repetition. So even if you’re not singing in public, you need to make a habit of singing a lot. On a daily basis. I don’t mean some huge production. I’m just talking about the process of singing out loud so you can hear yourself doing it. Just around the house. In the car. Running errands along with the radio. Do it. Not only does this help you really get to a place of enjoying singing, but it will help you start to enjoy your own voice.
3. Start singing in public
If you’re not already a member, join the choir. The choir is a very forgiving, no-pressure place to start singing. You’re not asked for perfection. you’re not forced to come up front normally. You can blend in with others. Singing in the choir gets you used to being in front of people singing. It also teaches you more and more about singing and harmony.
4. Invest in vocal lessons
It’s one of the least discussed benefits of vocal lessons, but one of the biggest benefits.  Anyone who has taken them will tell you that taking vocal lessons gives you a huge boost of confidence. Why? Again, it goes back to knowing what you know. Nothing makes you more certain of your own vocal ability than taking voice lessons. Your vocal coach will help you and guide you through every issue you’re struggling with as a singer, and train you how to do it correctly. When you hear those things rapidly improving you can’t help but feel more confident. For the more experienced singer who is already singing in front of people on a regular basis but still struggling with confidence issues, vocal lessons are often the one missing link to sending your confidence levels through the roof.
Why? Again,  it goes back to knowing what you know. Less experienced singers worry about their ability to sing well. More experienced singers worry about much different things, like hitting the high note, not cracking, not losing their voice during the song, running out of breath, being able to truly minister to the audience, etc. All of these thing are easily fixed by studying with a good vocal coach. Live lessons with a trained vocal coach can be costly enough for most people to discourage them from doing it. Home study courses are always a viable option to get professional training at a fraction of the cost of live lessons with a coach.
So when you can walk up to the front, knowing that you’re going to hit every note in the song, that you won’t crack or “mess up”, and most importantly that every person in that audience that God put there specifically to hear YOU will receive exactly what God sent them there to get from you; then that’s a great sense of knowing. Assurance. That’s confidence. Get started building the confidence you need today by joining my own home study vocal training program, Vocal Ministry Breakthrough.

If it’s Ad-libbing that scares you, check out Ad-lib Like A Pro.

Are you a one-dimensional singer? Here’s how to break free

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.

 

Take care!

Ron

5 tell-tale signs you need vocal lessons

The great majority of people who have the gift of singing were born with it to some degree. It is a special gift, to be sure. But that special privilege tends to make most naturally talented signers take their gift for granted. Most are under the impression that because they are naturally gifted to sing, there is simply no need to do anything beyond just that. In fact, many singers are down-right offended by the suggestion they take vocal training.

I suspect though, that has a lot to do with singing lessons being mentioned in conjunction with bad singing. It’s often the first thing people say when they hear someone singing poorly; “oh man, she needs some singing lessons!” So in the minds of many accomplished singers, vocal training is for people who can’t sing. Naturally gifted singers often feel so strongly about this that they accept even the most obvious signs they need some training as “normal”.
Here then, is a short list of things that are strong clues you need a vocal coach.

1. I get hoarse after performances regularly.

Contrary to popular belief in the Gospel community, getting hoarse is not normal and it’s not ok. It’s not some badge of honor you wear proudly as proof you gave it your all. Hoarseness is really an injury. There are other causes that can bring on hoarseness, but if you’re getting hoarse after singing, then the way you’re singing is causing the hoarseness. It’s mostly caused by common bad vocal techniques that are easily corrected with vocal lessons.

2. High notes are tough for me.. I really have to push hard to reach them. I feel like I’m screaming to get them.

Well, you feel that way because you are. But that’s the only way most of us know how to reach them. This yelling we do to reach high notes has a lot to do with the hoarseness. Vocal training teaches you how to access higher notes in your range in a safe way that eliminates all of the strain and pushing.

3. I’m always pretty comfortable. I seldom have to strain for high notes. I know they keys I’m comfortable in so I just stay in those keys.

Then that means you have limited range and you’re simply compensating for it by always playing it safe. It may sound great but you’re severely limited. Chances are you either pass on a lot of songs because the key is too high, or you’re lowering the song key until it fits in the limited area you’re comfortable in. Vocal training increases your range and allows you much more freedom of expression. Many singer/songwriters unwittingly write around their own vocal limitations. After a while their songs take on similarities and start to sound alike because there are only 2 or 3 keys they feel comfortable in.

4. I’m always out of breath. I can’t finish phrases without having to breathe in the middle. I can’t hold notes very long at all either.

Improper breathing is the problem there. Most people just breathe incorrectly for singing. This is totally reversible and easily corrected with vocal lessons.

5. My voice gets tired quickly. I can’t sing very long before it starts to give out on me.

Lack of vocal stamina is a very common issue and, a very important one if you plan on taking your ministry to the next level. Yet many people would have a hard time lasting through even 3 or 4 songs. Increased vocal stamina is another benefit of taking vocal lessons.

 

This is not an exhaustive list by far. These 5 are simply some of the most common challenges many very talented, gifted signers have going on a regular basis. The truth is, I could double it to 10 easily right now, and still not come close to listing all the benefits of taking vocal lessons for an accomplished singer who has never had them.

The bottom line though, is that even the most gifted of singers should invest in vocal training. And certainly every professional that is serious about doing this for a living. Find a vocal coach you like and click with well, then take 2 to 3 months of weekly lessons. After that maintain your new skills by going back for a tune up about once a month or whenever you’re preparing for a new engagement or performance.

Most people don’t know it but pretty-much every signed artist takes lessons and has a certain vocal coach they go to on a regular basis. You should too! You can take professional lessons in the comfort of your home, on your own schedule and for a fraction of what it would cost to take lessons with a live vocal coach. But many people won’t do that either because they feel they can’t really learn that way. Well here’s your opportunity to prove it to yourself free.

Subscribe to my mailing list below and get a free 5 day vocal training course. What can possibly happen in just 5 lessons at home on your own? Take the course and find out!