If your worship team is anything like mine, you’ll soon discover differing personality types—the introvert vs. extrovert, trained musician vs. garage band musician, expressive vs. stoic musician, and my personal favorite—the analytical vs. emotional musician.
I’m nearly positive you have these same singers on your team—you know, “Mary” has typed up the lyrics to each song on card stock and has her own codification system of italics, bold face type and font color representing various instructions carefully given by the Worship Leader. “Joe” on the other hand has been listening to the music all week and comes to rehearsal with lyrics pulled up his phone, but has to toggle through other songs to find the roadmap.
As a vocal and rehearsal coach, my expectations for singers are the same across the board, but mentally I come prepared to temper my coaching style accordingly. Here are some typical behaviors of the Analytical and Emotional singer:
- Often requests a lead sheet to “see” the music and comes to rehearsal with markings of when/what to sing
- Can rehearse independentof others
- Practiced & memorized the roadmap
- Often wants to know exactly what to sing
- Will come to rehearsal with pencil, paper printouts and recording device
- Predictable, dependable team player
- Can return to same part time after time
- Singing can seem “buttoned up”
- Gets anxious or flustered with changes to the plan
- Will “hear” the music and listen for the rises and falls of the song, specifics aren’t as important; “feels” their way through a song
- Might be dependent on others to hear where they could add something
- Vague sense of the roadmap, but remembers by “doing” and listens for cues in the band for what comes next
- Can be offended by prescriptive methods
- Uses tablet or phone
- A wild card, free spirit
- May do something new inthe moment
- Exciting and interesting to the ear
- Thrives when a song is put together inthe moment and based on “feel”
While these are broad generalizations, if singers fall too far on opposite ends of the spectrum, teammates will not understand and become increasingly frustrated with one another and the process of putting a song together. Singers may shut down during rehearsal or become agitated the further apart they are on the spectrum.
You may be asking “which singer is correct,” or “which is most desirable or valuable to a team”? My answer is both. Actually, the strongest teams are diversified in approach and style, able to appreciate others for what they uniquely bring to the worship experience, and become stronger at resisting jealousy or pride as each has their own strengths and weaknesses.
The best singer and team player can actually function in both worlds although might always default toward one side. It is my job as coach to identify traits and move each singer toward the middle of the spectrum. This is how I usually stretch each type of singer.
For the Analytic:
- To begin “loosening” them up, I ask to “free worship” during an instrumental interlude with a hum, “ooh” or repetition of an important word or phrase just sung, taking turns with other members. Taking turns will require listening to others and creating something unique. I may give examples of what to do, but never insist it sound like mine.
- I will ask a singer do something other than a 2-part harmony (i.e. include “oohs” on a harmonic note at the beginning of the phrase and add parallel harmonies to the important lyrics at the end of the phrase). This gives structure and creativity at the same time. Or I may ask a singer to fill in the space created by a sustained note at the end of a phrase by echoing the lyrics (with an exact repetition or altered repetition).
- Listen to the peaks and falls of the song. As other instrumentalists build or fill into a section, encourage the singer to “tell the same story” with a fill as the other instrumentalists.
- Allow them to sing their prepared harmony, unless a good reason is presented why it wouldn’t work (including the range of the 2nd harmony lying outside the other vocalist’s range).
- Before launching into a song, talk through the roadmap and sing the chorus with all harmonies to build in some stability before starting.
- Encourage them to hold their prepared part no matter what the other singer does.
For the Emotive:
- Have the singer identify and verbalize which harmony they sang – i.e. the harmony directly above or below the melody or in the middle of the others? (As their coach, write it down, and/or encourage them to document it somewhere.)
- Before the next rehearsal or first service, talk through the roadmap and ask them what is happening in the next section.
- Encourage them to write things down and print charts/roadmaps. If they don’t have a printer, encourage them to take the initiative and contact you so you may come with an extra copy.
- Identify areas of freedom in the song and areas where consistency is needed for the other teammates to feel confident and secure. Think broadly to include the needs of bandmates and technicians, too.
- Often over several services, the singer may inadvertently do something different. Your role is to determine if it adds or takes away from the plan and address it as necessary. (If you let deviations of the plan occur too many times, it may negate work of bringing them to the middle of the analytical/emotional spectrum.)
- On familiar (or stale) worship songs, ask them for creative ideas which could put a new twist on a familiar song.
Taking the Trip
Growing up, my family would snow ski over Christmas vacation, traveling to a new resort each year. My most vivid memories, all these years later, are of my sweet father planning out each run while riding the lift to the top of the mountain. While he wanted to be sure and experience every part of the slope, the planning often created frustration among my siblings. While it was fun for a while, the “overscheduling” eventually created some frustration and lack of freedom as we each enjoyed different trails down the hill. Eventually, we settled on alternating between taking the same pathway downhill together and the next time, allowing different ways down while agreeing where to meet at the bottom. The plan allowed for structured freedom. I find this same plan can work for worship singing.
I often use the analogy of “taking a trip” with both types of singers to explain structured freedom. The most successful trips occur when there is a combination of 1.) advanced planning of flights, hotels, sites, trains, 2.) some degree of “thinking” during the trip (to get to our next destination, I know to take the “A” followed by the “D” train), 3.) and some degree of spontaneity. If someone on your trip wanders off unexpectedly, panic or a sense of unrest sets in to those left behind. And if there are not times where each person can wander off, and later meet up together, individual freedoms can feel stifled. And for those who “feel” their way through, I remind them that shutting the brain off can cause you to end up in another town! Ultimately, if a singer is not willing to be stretched or pursue middle ground for the sake of the entire team, it might reveal the nature of their heart and more serious underlying issues.
I love how God wires each individual so uniquely to add value to the team in ways another can’t. When we play up each other’s strengths, learn from the other, and strengthen our own weaknesses, it creates mutual respect and creates a positive framework for other teams with differing personality types.
Kendra Kirby serves as Vocal Coach and Choral Director for Grace Church in Noblesville, Indiana. She strives to shepherd her teams by stretching and grows singers musically, creatively, emotionally, spiritually and relationally.