As directors, MOMs and worship leaders we often struggle to find enough lead vocalists. Which of course forces us to rely heavily on the 2 or 3 we do have who can step up and lead. Of course you know what comes next. Accusations of favoritism.
But members in the stand seldom understand the fact that you’d rather do anything than have to use the same people over and over. Not only does it wear them out, but it places limitations on the whole group. Still though, you understand better than most that you can’t just put anyone up to lead. They have to be able to deliver that song.
That’s where we run into problems, don’t we? We start asking people to lead songs and we start getting turned down. So to help us all fix this problem I thought I’d list 4 of the most common reasons people say no when you ask them about leading a song. Then I’ll give you soloutions you can pass along to that gun-shy first-timer (the one who’s been complaining about the same people leading but just told you no when you asked them, lol) and hopefully turn that no into a yes.
Many times when you ask someone new to leading songs to step up, it’s not that they don’t want to. They may like the song, but decline anyway. Why? Usually because they don’t understand that they don’t have to be able to do every single part of the song perfectly. Most first-time leaders pass on leading their first song not because of the whole song, but because they might have trouble with one aspect of part of the song. This is where we can offer guidance and help turn that no into a yes. Here are 4 of the most common reasons singers say no to leading their first song, along with some solutions:
1. The song, or parts of it, is just too high
If the entire song is too high but you really like this person for it, then the simple solution is to drop the key! You do have to be careful when lowering the key of a song because sometimes doing so can really rob a song of it’s energy. But most of the time that only happens when you’re making a dramatic change that drops the key several steps down. In general though, you can safely lower most songs a half-step, and sometimes a whole step. A half step drop can make a big difference in the singer’s comfort level.
2. I have to do a lot of ad-libing, I’m not good at that.
Contrary to popular belief, ad-libbing is not something you have to be born with to be good at. It’s a skill most anyone can learn. If ad-libbing is the only thing holding your prospect back, have them purchase a copy of my coaching video Ad-lib Like A Pro. Or better yet, purchase it for them and bless them with it!
3. I can’t do all that stuff the original artist is doing. I don’t know where to go or what to do.
Good, because you shouldn’t. It is certainly important to maintain the integrity of the song. That is, to respect the original by staying close to the melody line and not changing the lyrics (except where there is ad-libbing). But there are always several different ways to approach a certain melody line, riff or high note that is intimidating your prospect. If, for example, the whole song is good for them except this one part where the artist hits this really high note, simply help them find another way to do that part without hitting the note.
Tell your singer “Runs are great but you don’t have to do them if you’re not comfortable with them. Don’t pass on a song because the original artist is doing a lot of runs. Do YOU! Look for alternative ways to approach parts of the song so they fit your skill level better.”
4. I don’t feel it. It’s not my situation or testimony.
You must remember that music ministry is NOT about the singer, but the receiver. Not every song will be your personal situation. Does that mean you’re singing a lie? Absolutely not. Even when it’s not your story or your situation, it’s someone’s situation. That person might be in the audience. So if you like the song but you’re not especially feeling spiritually connected to it, you must first keep in mind that the message is for someone, even if it’s not speaking to you. You can always sing the song from that perspective, as a witness to or testimoniy/encouragement for someone else.
To be authentic though, you do need to find some personal connection to something in the song so you can sing it with conviction and honest emotion. Even if it’s just a couple of lines in the chorus, that’s plenty. It’s perfectly alright though, if you don’t feel like the entire song is about you. None of it is about you (smile). In the end though, it’s all about conviction. So if , even after you’ve shared this with them, a singer feels convicted about singing a certain song because of the subject matter, they shouldn’t.
Consider a Style Coaching session
Whenever you find yourself having some of the above issues with a new leader with a song you’ve been asking them to sing, one thing to consider is having them take a Style Coaching lesson. Style coaching is a bit different than normal vocal lessons. In vocal coaching sessions the primary focus is learning proper technique. Vocal lessons usually need to be taken on a recurring basis over a period of time to see results.
Style Coaching works much faster. You can book style coaching lessons ala-carte whenever you need one and still reap all of the benefits you need from just one session. In a Style Coaching session you’re there to work specifically on a song or songs. A style coach can help you work through and find solutions for issues like those mentioned above. It’s especially helpful for those songs when 90% of it is ok for the singer but just that last part is too high. Or when you’re stuck for how to sing certain parts differently than the original because the original artist is doing some crazy run or something. Your vocal coach can help you work through those parts and find alternative way to sing them. I offer style coaching ala carte, by the hour on Skype. You can book a session here.
So hold on before you accept that no to leading that song! Use these for tips with your timid new lead vocalist and turn that no into a yes.
It’s common, at least in smaller churches, to find members of the choir also on the praise team and vice-versa. Many don’t realize though, that the two are completely different when it comes to your vocal approach.
What flies in the choir stand doesn’t work in front of a microphone singing on the praise team. It’s a whole different ballgame. Here then, are the common mistakes singers make as they move from the choir stand to the praise team.
1. Adjusting the volume
As I mentioned above, the first big difference in singing in the choir stand and singing on the praise team is that most of the time every singer on a praise team is singing directly into a microphone.
Which is not at all the case in the choir stand where you’re standing there with a large group of other people, nobody on a microphone.
So choir members who join the praise team often bring that habit of singing really loud to make the sound carry and hit the notes along with them to the the praise team. Only now it’s way too much, because every singer has a microphone.
2. Not understanding/knowing your parts
The choir is a very forgiving place to sing. Numbers hide a multitude of faults, lol. Often people who are not as skilled at harmony can be comfortable singing in the choir because there are so many people around to help out and “lean on”. When you come to the praise team you really can’t do that anymore. You have to stand on your own and know that part. On the praise team that tends to go away. Praise teams are much smaller, so it’s much more important for every singer to really know and understand harmony and their parts. Often people who are used to relying on fellow choir members for their parts fail to fully understand that, so they struggle with that aspect of being on the praise team.
3. Not understanding/learning proper microphone technique .
Aside from those who lead songs regularly for the choir, most choir members don’t have much experience with the microphone.
It’s important to learn how to sing into it properly. How to hold up to your mouth, or stand in front of it in the microphone stand. How to adjust the stand quickly when you walk up to it.More importantly though, every singer should be taught how to pull the microphone away a little when you know you’re going for a really high, powerful note. This is a very important thing to practice on especially when you’re used to singing in the choir stand.
4. Not investing in vocal training
This is probably the most important thing a praise team can do as a group to dramatically improve their overall sound. Choirs can slide without vocal instruction for years because of the nature and make-up of a Gospel choir. But praise teams really don’t have the luxury of large numbers to camouflage things. The sad reality, in fact, is that the average Praise team in the average-sized Gospel church doesn’t do a very good job, I’m afraid.
Some simple training as a group would make an amazing difference in the ministry of most praise teams. I recently started a workshop series with the praise team at my own church where I’ve been training them on pretty-much every aspect of praise team ministry that Iv’e discussed here, plus a few I haven’t mentioned. Taken together, just about any praise team can realize a dramatic improvement in the power and effectiveness of their ministry by investing in this type of training as a group. Take your praise team from simply another musical spot on the program to a powerful tool God uses every week to change the atmosphere at your church and prime it for a move of God.
Did you find this article helpful? You can get it and 12 others like it for your praise team in my new e-book Praise Team 101.