What makes a good singer? 2 things you should work on

I saw this topic being discussed among some of my peers on Twitter and thought it would be a good one to discuss here. What is good singing? Or, what makes a good singer? First of all I should start out by saying I understand quite well that what’s considered “good” is very subjective. There are as many opinions of what’s good as there are people. So let’s get clear about what I mean when I talk about good singing in the context of this blog.

The bible speaks of building your house on solid ground. A true foundation. No matter how beautiful the house is, it will eventually fall if the foundation is not solid and built to support it for many years to come. It’s that kind of “foundation” we’re discussing here. Let’s strip away all the vocal acrobatics, riffs and runs, looooong notes, power-house strength; everything that makes the “house” desirable. Let’s for a minute also remove from the conversation everything that has anything to do with the actual “performance” (some believers don’t like that word, but that’s the subject of another blog) of the song.

All of those things are important, don’t get me wrong. You need conviction. Power. A commanding stage presence. But all of those things are brick and mortar; the “house”, as it were. Without a solid foundation though, none of the other stuff is as effective. The basic foundation of all good singing, and in my opinion what every singer should be working on more than anything else, includes 2 elements:

1. Ease Of Range

Most people, by default, have about one octave that they can access with relative ease. They have another 3 notes or so they can “push” themselves to, and another 2 or 3 that they access with pure screaming. This age-old method of Gospel singing has been handed down through the years and is widely accepted as the norm. In fact many people have become so accustomed to listening to singing this way that it has actually become preferred.

There are two problems with this kind of singing, however. First, and most obvious (at least it should be) is the fact that it’s just not healthy for your voice. In fact it’s really bad for your voice. It would be different if we only visited those top 5 or 6 notes of our range occasionally to make an impact in a song. But that’s not the nature of Gospel music, is it?  No, Gospel music makes you go there and hang out for 5 to 7 minutes. This causes a huge amount of strain and stress on the vocal chords, which is why many Gospel singers spend most of their time hoarse.

The second problem with uncomfortable singing is how the tonal quality and pitch suffers the longer you do it. The more you sing at the top of your range in an uncomfortable, strained way, the more the actual tone and quality of your sound suffers. Many singers are simply “screaming on pitch”, by the time they’re 2 minutes into that vamp; and depending on the song, some have already been screaming on pitch several minutes before they got there. The irony of that is the fact that- well, when you sing that way, most of the time you AREN’T on pitch. Which brings us to the 2nd foundation of good singing;

2. Accuracy Of Pitch.

Nothing, in my opinion, is more important to good singing than simple accuracy of pitch. The fact is, if you sang into a machine that measures such things you’d be surprised to learn that most of us sing off pitch. But it’s undetectable without sophisticated measuring devices. However, a great many singers in Gospel are way off pitch, and way too often. I suspect the genre itself can again take some of the blame. Gospel music, like every other style of music, has it’s signatures. Big, powerful, raspy voices. Riffs, runs and trills. Really high choruses and vamps.

Most singers desire these style elements so much that they don’t have a problem at all sacrificing accuracy of pitch to get them. And many do just that. But even if you’re a well-loved, sought-after singer who is busy all the time and constantly receiving kudos for your singing, if you’re uncomfortable most of the time and off-pitch most of the time because of it, you’ve built your “house” on a foundation that will soon start to fail you.

What’s great about this whole thing is that when you fix number one, number 2 tends to fix itself. After all, if you’re straining and pushing for most of the song, then you’re literally pushing yourself off-pitch. And it’s hard to be on pitch very long if you’re not actually singing, but yelling.

What to do:

1. Start today making the tonal quality of your voice the most important thing. Don’t spend too much time working on runs or riffs. Work on singing the song on pitch, period. Even if you have to simplify things a little, don’t sacrifice pitch for anything; not power, not runs, not a super high note.

2. Don’t sing way out of your range. If the song has one or two notes that are high for you, there’s no need for you to pass on it. There are easy ways around that simply by approaching the melody in that place differently. But if a song requires you to be in a strained place or way out of your range for long periods of time, you should have the musicians drop the key. If that’s not possible, pass on it. Don’t let people insist that you do songs that aren’t right for you. You are not doing anyone any favors by singing a song that’s out of your range. Not the ministry, not the song, not yourself, and not God.

3. Every serious singer in music ministry should get some vocal training. Now we get to the sure foundation our house is built on. We’re a people that were bessed with natural musical ability, many of us. As such, most people in music ministry are just naturally gifted singers. It’s often hard for a person who has always been naturally gifted at singing to understand why they’d need vocal training or how it would benefit them. Simply put, vocal training doesn’t teach you how to sing. Often it’s the people who were born gifted singers who benefit the most from vocal lessons. Why? Because taking vocal lessons teaches you how to eliminate the common physical limitations that hinder us from taking our ministry to the next level. We’re talking about things that distract you while you’re tryng to minister and give yourself completely to that moment.

More importantly though, vocal training is the fastest, most effective way to dramatically improve points one and two above; ease of range and accuracy of pitch. You really don’t need a 3 or 4 octave range to sing most songs. A 2 octave range is plenty for most songs. The thing is though, while you don’t really need to concentrate a lot on increasing your vocal range, becoming a better singer has EVERYTHING to do with mastering the range you already have. Just getting to a place where you can sing all the notes in your current range comfortably would make a huge difference in your overall toneal quality and pitch.

I believe very strongly in the power of vocal training and it’s ability to transform your ministry. And I think it’s something every Christian singer should experience. That’s why I created a free 5 day video vocal training course to give as many people as possible a chance to see what it’s like to try real vocal training BEFORE making an investment in my full length home study course. . You can get yours by joining my mailing list below.

So remember, how good of a singer you are is a lot less about opinion and more about the foundation you build your musical house on. Concentrating on the basics; ease of range and accuracy of pitch. They’ll take you a long way.

Until next time!



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22 Responses to What makes a good singer? 2 things you should work on

  1. K. Watson says:

    Great information, Ron. I think, for the most part, we already know this, but choose to ignore it in order to remain in the “mix” of what’s going on around us. Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. samson says:

    I find these informations very inspiring. Thanks so much and I am indeed blessed.
    I have a very high range and pitch and I think for now just toning down is my next move to have a perfect pitch. Thanks

  3. Your Article is very good…Thanks for sharing it..

  4. Pingback: Top 5 Most Liked Posts Of 2014 - The Music Ministry Coach.com

  5. Shawn says:

    Great article. Thanks for the info…

  6. George says:

    Hi Ron:
    Good to hear from you again, as always your right on I’m very happy when I singing information from you I find it very useful. Please continue doing what God has given you to do.
    God Bless
    Your Bro. in Christ

  7. chywills says:

    Hello Ron, Please ho w do i get the free video vocal training course u mentioned. Thanks

  8. jonealjr@msn.com says:

    Being a natural bass/barritone, I have struggled with this for ages. Although I can sing some low tenor, I am finally coming to terms with my range and embracing it for what it is. Problem is, so many gospel songs are written for the higher ranges and I have to catch myself when trying to reach notes that I have NO BUSINESS in. This article provided me with a great deal of affirmation and insight. Thanks for posting.

    • Ron says:

      Great, man! I’m glad to hear it. There are very few true barritones out there. Many choirs and/or groups would be thrilled to have someone that can sing bass, and might actually write you a bass part. Most songs don’t include it in the harmony because nobody can sing it, lol! So don’t be afraid to ask if it’s possible to get a bass part for you. You might be surprised!

  9. Olga Hermans says:

    You said you earned a lot from my blog, but I have learned so much from your blog Ron. I love reading about how we can honor the Lord in everything that we do and I kn ow He loves hearing our voices in praying and in singing. Thanks for encouraging us to get better in whatever we do..

  10. Pingback: What makes a good singer? – The Music Ministry Coach.com | Church Ministry

  11. Penny LeClair says:

    Oh Lord, this is a great article, but you dont want to hear me sing at all!! Even concentrating on the basics for me would scare people! LOL thanks for sharing! 😉

  12. denny hagel says:

    Very interesting article, although I cannot sing a note without scaring the family cat, my granddaughter is very active in her school choir…I have noticed so many of the girls trying to sing in a much higher voice than is natural to  them. It is not enjoyable to listen to and I would think that this is straining their vocal chords as well.

    • Ron says:

      You're absolutely right Denny, it does. But the desire to sing high is so strong for most people that it actually overwhelms common sense. Most people would gladly sacrifice the health of their voice for the sake of reaching high notes out of theri range.


  13. Concentrate on the basics – great advice! I think that is true about many things in life! Have a blessed week Ron!

  14. Pingback: Soul Dreamer Resource & Inspiration: The Music Ministry Coach Vocal Instruction & A Story of Perseverance

  15. mickael surtour says:

    Thanks you for that artcile, the pitch accuracvy is really important, and what to do you thinks about that trend consisting of almost ignoring the melody to replace it with riff/runs and oversinging instead of plain singing the melody (respecting the main chords)??? I think it’s extremely annoying and… Two much show of most of the time :/

  16. Well said Ron! I know God agrees!

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