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Song Leading: The Vocalists

Song Leading: The Vocalists

Don Purdey

The following is an excerpt from the book, “Don’t Fret: The Worship Leader’s Pocketbook.” This book can be purchased by clicking here:

Don't Fret: The Worship Leader's Pocketbook

Know the Songs

I know I keep saying it, but this is a different kind of performance. As a singer, you are providing the lead for the congregation, and enhancing the overall sound of the song with your ability to sing well and to harmonise. Your job is not to astonish everyone with your vocal cleverness, it is to make the worship sound better, so that God’s people feel good about what is being presented to the Lord and lift their own efforts in support of it. With those objectives in mind, let’s list some key factors to also keep in mind.

It seems like stating the obvious, but the first thing is to know the songs! You can’t hope to lead a song that you don’t know yourself, and if you are hesitant, the people will quickly discern it and copy it. They won’t commit strongly to the melody or words if they are unsure about where they are going, and it’s your job to take them there confidently.

Lead with Your Voice

Use your vocal power to lead with your voice. Don’t expect the microphone to do all the work. It will only amplify what is there to be amplified. If your voice sounds weak and thin, then that weak and thin sound is what is amplified, so give a strong vocal output, without straining your vocal cords.

Learn How to Use Your Mic

Learn how to use your microphone. Most vocal mics are unidirectional—that is, you need to sing directly into them, as opposed to an omnidirectional mic, which might be used to pick up a group of voices gathered around it. Sing into it as if it was an ice cream you were about to lick. Hold it about 2-3 cm from your lips and pointing directly at your mouth. And keep it there. The sound engineer cannot hope to keep your voice balanced with other musicians if you move it around all the time. There is a case for backing it away a few centimetres for a very loud or high note, but otherwise, consistency about where you hold the mic will give the best results.

Sing to the Back

Sing to the back. This does two things: it helps you use your vocal power well, and it helps to include everyone. If your eyes and vocal energy are directed at the first two rows, then those further back feel like they’re missing out. If your gaze and your voice take in the whole room, then everyone can feel part of the worship. That’s not to say that you can’t look around—of course you can. But keep your “default” look toward the back.

Remember the First Note and Words

Remember that the first note and word are important. The congregation will be looking to you to know when to come in. They will learn the song by what you do, so get it right and make the words clear and the entries sharp.

Enjoy the Music

Relax and enjoy the music yourself. If someone on the team makes an error, don’t turn and pull faces at them! If you are uptight the congregation will sense it. Mistakes happen: get over it, smooth out the problem in the easiest way possible, and make it seem like that’s the way you meant it to be!

Modeling Worship

Remember that your body language is important: you are modelling worship. People will struggle to praise with you if everyone they see at the front is uptight, or angry at the others, or serious, or bored, or tired. Equally, false expressions and movements are at best, distracting and at worst, off-putting. Make sure that you are ready to fulfil your part. That means that you have had enough sleep, you are engaged with the music and your face and whole body moves appropriately with it. Put simply, the right body language will come from the right preparation—spiritually, emotionally and physically—and from the right attitude.

When teaching a new song, be sure to know it yourself, and sing in unison until you are sure that people have caught on to the melody.

Tempo is crucial. The right tempo produces the right mood for a song. Note that often large groups cannot keep up with a really fast tempo. However, be aware also that they sometimes drag a song unnecessarily. We’ll say more on tempo shortly.

Keep alert and watch both your other team members and the congregation for cues and pointers that things are wrong. You can pick up feedback from the people and adjust what’s happening as you go.

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Checkout More Articles from Don Purdey:

Worship Leading

The What and The Why of Worship

Presenting the Music

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Purchase Don Purdey’s Book: Don’t Fret: The Worship Leader’s Pocketbook

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