Here are some simple tips to help you get the vocals you’ve always wanted for your team:
- Lose The Band
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good band. But when it comes to working on your vocals, you need to do it with little to no instrumentation to get the most out of the rehearsal. When you rehearse acappella, you are able to truly hear each other: the blend, the balance, the mistakes, etc. But there are other benefits as well. When there are just voices, it helps your singers to truly tune in to each other. It also develops vocal independence, which is sorely lacking in so many of our worship teams today. Learning to stay in tune without the help if instruments is essential if we are to develop an internal sense of intonation.
- Get Feedback (mirror, recordings, video)
As an artist of any kind, you need to get feedback if you want to improve your craft. As singers, we have several opportunities to get feedback that is useful. In the “olden days”, whenever there was a team, there was a director. This is not true most of the time today. Most vocal teams I work with have no actual director. If they do have a vocal leader, that person is likely a part of the team itself. In order to get real feedback, you have to step out of the team to actually listen and see what is going on. If you are IN the team you can’t step away and hear what it really sounds like because you take YOU out of the mix. This creates a unique situation that leaves us with a few other options.
The first option I like to recommend is that teams get in front of a mirror to rehearse. Any time I put a singer in front of a mirror they improve dramatically. The same will happen for your team. When a singer sees what they are actually doing wrong, they have a tendency to immediately fix it. When a team can see what they look like, both together and individually, they can make instant improvements to their technique.
A decent audio recording is also very helpful. The quality needs to be good so that everyone can hear not only the team as a whole, but they also need to be able to identify what (and who) may be causing problems with blend, pitch, harmony, etc. A regular review of a quality vocal recording, with the band very low or completely out of the mix, will be extremely helpful in identifying outstanding issues that need to be addressed.
A video recording can serve to improve the overall presentation of your team. I often tell teams to make a video recording and watch it with the sound OFF. The importance of the visual side of what we do as vocalists cannot be overstated. We are usually very visible on our platforms and we need to be aware of how inspiring we are (or aren’t!).
Lastly, any time you can get someone, who is qualified, to give you feedback, especially during a rehearsal, it will make a huge impact because things can be dealt with in the moment. . . very helpful!
- Find The Right Balance
Many people neglect this aspect of team vocals. The importance of this becomes more obvious with larger vocal teams or choirs, but the principle is in play regardless of size. In order to get a smooth, tight sound it’s important that the parts are balanced. Many times, we’ll see a team that has 4-5 people singing and only 1 or 2 of them are singing a single harmony part. That will leave the balance tilted heavily in the favor of the melody. You might think “That’s great! I want the audience to hear the melody”. Yes and no. We definitely need the melody to be prominent, but much of the time the way we add harmony is very random and doesn’t build a rounded blend of sound, harmony, and melody. This makes for a very imbalanced sound and contributes to a bad blend.
Sometimes this is because we have only certain people who are able to sing harmony. Depending on the type of voice they have, this may or may not lend itself to a good balance if the other voices are stronger, weaker, or of a different tone quality. The solution to this may be multifaceted. We have to sort through the voices on our teams and get to know them. We need to know who is strong in the higher registers and who is not. We need to know who is strong in the lower registers, etc. Then when we choose to put a song together we can better balance by arranging and, if necessary, rearranging until the balance is good. This means people have to be flexible and willing to sing parts that they may not be as familiar with. This is good for your team—they will grow!
Next time we’ll look at two more aspects of getting tight vocals for your team. Until then, God bless!!