12 Steps To Discovering Your Call To Music Ministry

If you’re a regular around here you know I try to share information that offers information to help take your music ministry to the next level. That’s really my only requirement for content here. It needs to teach something. Offer some advice, or some tips. Some kind of how to.

Many people who know they’re called to music ministry still find themselves searching for their specific calling within music ministry. I realized at an early age that mine was teaching and directing.  But if you’ve been struggling to really nail down what your specific calling is in music ministry you’ll love this great article I found on Churchleaders.com .

I really love articles that give specific steps. In his article “Discovering Your Call To Music Ministry” Minister Michael Dottin not only gives us 12 specific steps, he also includes specific scriptures related to each one.  This piece is a quick read, but full of great information I know will bless you if you find yourself in this place. Click the title or image below to read the full article.

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For a stronger singing voice, do this exercise!

Singer with microphoneOne thing most singers want is a more powerful singing voice. Once that is sharp, full and cuts through the music easily. Unfortunately most of us go about achieving that by simply pushing and forcing our way through notes, phrases and melodies. Today I’ll talk a little bit about what causes a weak, airy voice and give you one exercise you can do to help improve it.

The most important thing to develop in order to strengthen your voice and get rid of airiness is something we vocal coaches call “cord closure”. Cord closure refers to how well your vocal cords come together when you’re singing or speaking. For most people who have never done any kind of training to develop them, the vocal cords do come together, but they’re not very strong so that “seal” is not very good. As a result, much of the air you send up to produce the sound you’re trying to make goes unused.  This produces the airy, weak sound we hear when we sing or speak.

But then a domino effect of sorts starts to happen. You see, when your cords aren’t using air efficiently you run out of air much faster. As a result most singers start compensating by gasping for more and pushing harder. All of this wears the vocal cords out much faster and makes singing much harder. To improve this condition we have to strengthen those small, thin edges of the vocal folds that come together to produce sound. We want them to produce a much tighter seal when they’re together, so more of the air you’re sending up to produce sound actually gets used.

One example I like to use is a car window. If you’ve ever been driving down the street with your windows up, but you could still hear wind coming into the car, you understood that even though the window was up all the way, it hadn’t made a complete seal with the top of the door. So you reach over, give the button one more hit and the window moves just that small fraction it needs to make a good seal and stop the escaping air.

This is what we want to do with our vocal cords, and that’s really what “cord closure” exercises are all about. But because everything is so amazingly and wonderfully connected to everything else in our body, improving cord closure will not only give you a stronger voice. It will improve breathing, increase your range, overall vocal tone, make high notes easier….I mean, wow!  There are several such cord closure exercises you can use, but today I’ll show you just one.

The Exercise

Today we’re going to use the sound we make when speaking the word “AT”, as in “at the store”, or “at the cross”. Only we’ll get rid of the T on the end.

To start out, let’s use the same 5 tone scale we used in this lesson .  We’re going to sing this Aaa-aaa-aaa sound “Staccato”, which means very short and detatched. You’ll do it right if you simply focus on attacking the “A every time. Avoid slurrring through the notes like this: Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa”. Rather, attack each note of the 5 tone scale like this: Aaa-Aaa-Aaaa-Aaaa-Aaa.

Remember to take your 5 tone scale up and then back down, then move up a half step to the next note and do it again. Keep going until you reach the highest place you can do this COMFORTABLY.

You should NOT be getting any louder as you do this. Allow that edgy, choppy, closing feeling that creates the sharp “A” for you to do all the work. Don’t use any kind of force or reach for notes in any way.

After you’re used to this exercise, I want you to try using it in a song. This is actually a great way to train when you’re singing a song that has just one note you’re having trouble reaching. The idea is to take the actual words of the song and substitute them with this Aaa-Aaa-Aaaa sound. But you must always do this “Staccato”- meaning, very short, detached and choppy. Doing it this way is what exercises the edges of your vocal folds and helps them get stronger.

If you do this on a regular basis along with the “low larynx” exercises we learned in my previous article you’re going to start hearing and feeling some amazing changes very quickly. If, like me, you’re a more visual person, this may be hard for you to grasp on paper. Most people need to see and hear it demonstrated.

That’s why I created Vocal Ministry Breakthough, my full length home study vocal training course. Vocal Ministry Breakthrough includes over 20 video vocal lessons with yours truly, taking you through powerful vocal workouts that feature exercises like these and many more. And for a limited time it’s 40% off for the holidays. Get started on your path to a stronger, more powerful singing voice now while the price is still discounted.

 

Till Next time,

Ron

 

 

Gospel Guitar 101 with Bobby Griffin

I found this nice gospel Guitar lesson with Bobby Griffin showing some basic techniques to add some interest to your chords when playing gospel guitar. Now, I knew as soon as I spotted that bookshelf behind him that we’re looking at another great training video from the renowned Gospel music training company Hear And Play.com. If these guys aren’t on your radar, they should be. They offer high quality training videos and DVD’s on just about every instrument commonly found in gospel music and feature some of the best instructors around.

If Gospel Guitar is your main focus though, be sure to Go check out Bobby’s site PlayGospelGuitar.com. Let’s go!!

 

Gospel Guitar 101: Adding spice to your praise song chords

Bobby Griffin explains how to add flavor to your chords when playing gospel praise songs by ear. This is one section out of the entire dvd, which focuses primarily on traditional praise songs on the guitar! Enjoy! www.PlayGospelGuitar.com

Image courtesy of pixomar / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How to survive a mass choir rehearsal

As I write this, we’re in the middle of rehearsals right now for our 13th annual Family & Friends Choir musical. This is the one time of year we open our choir up and allow anyone who has the desire to do so to come and join our ranks for one musical. We invite other church choirs we fellowship with, of course. But we also invite friends, family members and even members of our own congregation to come out and participate. Because we open the doors to our choir during this time of year without regard to any previous experience or knowledge of singing in the choir, it’s not uncommon to have members participating who have never sang in the choir before.

Even if you’ve done it for years though, these kinds of “mass choir rehearsals” tend to be very intense compared to your regular choir rehearsal at your own church. There is typically a large amount of material taught at a mass rehearsal. Depending on the instructor, the number of songs being taught and their level of difficulty, these rehearsals can be as long as 2 hours, even more in some cases. As the clinician for our annual musical for the entire 13 years I’ve seen some pretty common problems that almost everyone has at some point or another during these rehearsals. Today I’ll cover the 3 tips for dealing with the most common challenges of these grueling, mass-scale rehearsals.

1. Preserve your voice as much as possible

Choir rehearsals in general are some of the most stressful environments you can place your voice in. This is amplified in mass rehearsals where, again, there is just so much more material to cover. So you should go into these rehearsal with vocal preservation in mind. First, take some time to warm up on your way to rehearsal. If you don’t know any warm-up exercises, simple humming can be a great way to get your cords going and ready for intense use. I wrote about humming in another blog you can read here.

At the rehearsal, remember you seldom need as much effort or “air velocity” as you think. I have a tendency not to ask my choir members to sing hard or full voice while we’re learning the parts. There’s really no need to be hammering away when you’re just trying to get your key. However, many clinicians do want to hear that full, strong sound while they’re teaching the parts. If you can do light tone production while your part is being taught and then sing full voice when the instructor calls for everybody to sing, you’ll do strenuous singing only about half as often than you would normally.

Again, every instructor is different, so if you’re being pushed to sing louder go ahead and use full voice. Just keep the volume and air velocity to a minimum as much as possible. More about that in the next tip.

2. Don’t over-do it on modulations.

If you’re participating in a mass Gospel choir preparing for a musical, there WILL be at least one song that requires the choir to modulate. However most of us exert way more effort than we need, and way too early. For example, if you’re singing a song where you’ll be modulating by rising higher and higher in half-step increments (very common in gospel choir), many choir members will almost double the amount of air velocity or effort just going from the first key to the second key. By the time you get to the 3rd modulation you’re practically screaming on pitch.

Instead, try approaching the next key with no more pushing or volume than you used on the one before it. Depending on how many modulations you have to do, this could keep you singing comfortably all the way up to the last one or two keys. Most of us exert this extra effort not because we really need it, but simply because we automatically think we do whenever we know we’re going to a higher key. Try approaching each new key like the one before and you’ll be surprised at how much more comfortable you are.

3. Be smart with your lyric sheets- don’t lean on them too heavily

By far, the most challenging thing about these kinds of rehearsals for most people is the sheer amount of material that has to be memorized and the amount of time it has to be done in. To help with the process, many instructors provide lyric sheets for all the songs. However, if not used properly lyric sheets can and often do, become more of a hindrance than a help. If you want to read a deeper discussion about why and how they become a crutch that actually hampers the learning process, read about it here.

The short version though, is this: If you look at your lyric sheets the entire night, you will likely leave rehearsal having not retained anything at all. In fact it’s very common for people who do this to be still struggling with even the easiest songs after 3 rehearsals.

The smart way to use lyric sheets is as a guide only. Use them when your section’s part is being taught so you know what the instructor is saying and don’t have to stop him/her to ask. But that’s it. After your instructor has taught your section’s part you should begin making an effort not to look from then on. Remember the instructor will be repeating these lyrics again and again as all the section parts are taught. Take advantage of those repetitions by watching and listening to the other sections and NOT your lyric sheets. You’ll find that by the time the instructor is ready for everyone to sing together you’ll have just about memorized the passage from repetition. That’s a very general explanation though. I definitely encourage you to read the article I referenced earlier about lyric sheets; especially if you participate regularly in these kinds of rehearsals or you use lyric sheets in your own rehearsals.

Got a big event coming up for your choir? Let us help. Book Shena or myself as clinician for your next musical, annual or appreciation. We’ll come in and help prepare your choir for the big day.