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Are today's songs unsingable by your team?

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  • Are today's songs unsingable by your team?

    I find that a lot of today's songs and the tutorials that accompany them (i.e. youtube, etc.) are in keys that are way too high for my average singers. I never hear anyone saying much about this so I wonder if it's just me. It also begs the question: if it's too high for my average worship singers, is it too high for the average congregation?

    I'm not a voice expert but any song that hits a "C" or higher is pressing the range of most of my singers. Tomlin and other artists are regularly singing into the "E" and "F" range.

    I find that I have to transpose a lot of songs down which of course does not always yield the best chord formations and affects the original sound of the song. This also takes time to do and I'm only part time.

    Am I completely off base?

  • #2
    I feel the same as you. I wish I had that high tenor voice! but alas!
    I didn't mean to be inaccurate, but I wasn't trying to be precise.

    Comment


    • #3
      We've had this same conversation a few times here...yes, many songs are difficult to sing. Lower the key and move on. And, don't believe the lie that every person must be able to sing every note in order for the song to be usable.

      Nate
      Practical Worship

      Please Pray For My Wife

      Comment


      • #4
        Some songs are too high, some are too low. Because the congregation is made up of all kinds of different voices, we just find the sweet spot and rock it. For us it's Low Bb to High D.

        But what I do for songs that are really high like Tomlin or Israel Houghton stuff is let a lady lead it. It will be in the bottom to middle of their power natural range and it works very well.

        I'll have our guys either sing low or a high harmony.

        There's no rule that says one person has to sing lead through the entire set list. We switch it up.

        This week for example, we're doing:

        1) Forever (G) led by me a guy.
        2) All around (D) an Israel song led by a woman in either the original key or very close to it.
        3) Say So (E) another Israel song led by a woman in the original key.

        I just sit back and rock the guitar, occasionally throwing in tasty ad libs and vocal cues. Spread the lead vocal love!

        We've found that our people respond so much more to the variety anyways. And it really, really helps in training and equipping of others to do ministry in music. Every single one of our 7 vocalists right now have led at least one song in the last few months. And that was in a key that was comfortable for them individually, not necessarily for the entire congregation.

        I think if we put more emphasis on just doing what we do with enthusiasm, intensity, and VARIETY it's ok if we sing a song that's a little high for the men, or one that's too low for the ladies at times.
        Associate Director of Worship & Media at St. Simons Community Church .He is also the content curator and editor here at The Worship Community.

        Comment


        • #5
          We tend to switch up the leads as well. For instance, when we do Hillsong's Hosanna, we have one of our sopranos lead.

          Most of the songs we do are either C or G, with some E. (Mostly the New Breed stuff) Sometimes we key it down. Often we tell the singers we key it down and don't, and then they hit it fine and go "That's much better!" It's all in the presentation.

          I heard David Crowder once say that they play "O Praise Him" in an awkwardly high key (high Bb) in purpose. It makes people lift their heads and sing loud.

          Comment


          • #6
            To build on what Russ is saying, we actually have several songs in our list that use multiple lead vocalists in the same song. We don't have a true soprano to use for a lead vocalist, so our female range is limited. Also, we don't believe that everyone has to be able to sing every note of every song in order for our musical worship time to feel "successful".

            Instead of trying to find the perfect key/range, we often use an alto lead on the verses and a tenor lead on the choruses.

            By doing this, we've developed a culture within our church body in which people feel free to sing or not sing every note of a song.

            Nate
            Practical Worship

            Please Pray For My Wife

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by milepost13 View Post
              By doing this, we've developed a culture within our church body in which people feel free to sing or not sing every note of a song.
              That's called dynamics
              We always stress that not every instrument needs to play every note or chord during the song. We must remember that our voices are instruments as well. Not every singer needs to sing all the time.

              Comment


              • #8
                I imagine the "lie" about congregational singability was a fun discussion.
                I'll have to do a search on that topic sometime.

                I tend to overthink so I'm glad I consulted some gurus like you guys
                to cut down on my overthinking. Thanks for the helpful thoughts.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I think we don't ask the question enough. Can the congregation actually sing this? Why are we doing this in the first place? We are lead worshippers, is anybody following? That sort of thing.

                  Case in point...Tomlin, Israel, etc.

                  I am doing a lot of Rick Pino stuff and we switch lead sometimes in the middle of the song to make it work.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by jackb7 View Post
                    I think we don't ask the question enough. Can the congregation actually sing this? Why are we doing this in the first place? We are lead worshippers, is anybody following? That sort of thing.

                    Case in point...Tomlin, Israel, etc.

                    I am doing a lot of Rick Pino stuff and we switch lead sometimes in the middle of the song to make it work.
                    So are you advocating that we ask more and try and make every note singable by the congregation?

                    I'm gonna go out on a limb here and disagree if that's what you're saying.

                    If you've ever been to a rock show, or any kind of concert for that matter, you know that audience participation has nothing to do with the range of notes in a song.

                    There's several elements involved:
                    • Energy: contagious.
                    • Enthusiasm: contagious.
                    • Confidence: sets us at ease.
                    • Catchiness: the familiar and easy makes us comfortable joining in.
                    • Fun: who doesn't want to have fun?
                    • Mob: everyone else is having fun so I want to as well!


                    Obviously I'm not listing any spiritual elements because I'm talking about shows where there may or may not be a focus on God and an atmosphere of worship.

                    We dance and sing along at shows because it's fun. Everyone else is doing it. We're part of something bigger than ourselves, but also makes us feel good about participating individually.

                    How does that apply in a worship setting? Personally, I believe when we focus too much on the technicalities of "leading' worship and not enough on just doing it, we tend to over complicate it.

                    People respond to leaders who are confident and enthusiastic about what they do. If we get in front of people as lead worshipers and worry too much about every note our people can sense it.

                    But if we get up and just rock it in a heartfelt, passionate way, and do things that are fresh and varied our people will respond. To us? Sure, but that's where good leadership deflects that response to God.
                    Associate Director of Worship & Media at St. Simons Community Church .He is also the content curator and editor here at The Worship Community.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Ditto to everything Russ just said (and, again, we've had this exact same discussion here before...)!

                      Nate
                      Practical Worship

                      Please Pray For My Wife

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by russhutto View Post
                        People respond to leaders who are confident and enthusiastic about what they do. If we get in front of people as lead worshipers and worry too much about every note our people can sense it.

                        But if we get up and just rock it in a heartfelt, passionate way, and do things that are fresh and varied our people will respond. To us? Sure, but that's where good leadership deflects that response to God.
                        You hit it on the dot Russ. Many times I have been told by people in the congregation that they were influenced to worship because of the way I worshiped. You have to believe in what you are doing and be passionate about it and people will follow. That confidence and energy will attract them and lead them. Like Russ said when you get caught up in the technicalities of leading worship, you don't enjoy it as much (I am not trying to preach, I am sure you all get enough of that during the week!)

                        Our worship ministry has done many Israel songs, for example, and most of the time it does seem to be a little high but I will either get one of the Altos or Sopranos to lead the song or to back me up with it. We try to customize the song as best as we could. When worse comes to worse, if we have to lower a song because it is too high we will push the song back for the following week to make sure that we have worked on it well.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by russhutto View Post
                          So are you advocating that we ask more and try and make every note singable by the congregation?
                          I'll go ahead and advocate that (with, of course, a qualification).

                          If a song is for congregational singing - it should be congregationally singable. The main "instrument" in our corporate worship gatherings should be the singing of the congregation. As a musician and arranger, my job is to provide the best accompaniment that I can for the congregation. As far as it is within my power, I should put things in keys for the congregation, I should make entrances clear for them so that they don't feel awkward and I should make congregational singing a joyous experience so that those who are not believers who are present will ask the question, "Who is this God that they love?"

                          If a song (or portion of a song) is a solo, or is meant for any group of people other than the entirety of the congregation, the congregation should be helped along to know what we're doing. For example, just like we have individuals pray by themselves in the service, yet they are praying on behalf of all of us, we have individual singers sing the praises of God in the service, singing with more skill, yes, but on behalf of the congregation.

                          Originally posted by russhutto
                          If you've ever been to a rock show, or any kind of concert for that matter, you know that audience participation has nothing to do with the range of notes in a song.

                          There's several elements involved:
                          • Energy: contagious.
                          • Enthusiasm: contagious.
                          • Confidence: sets us at ease.
                          • Catchiness: the familiar and easy makes us comfortable joining in.
                          • Fun: who doesn't want to have fun?
                          • Mob: everyone else is having fun so I want to as well!


                          Obviously I'm not listing any spiritual elements because I'm talking about shows where there may or may not be a focus on God and an atmosphere of worship.

                          We dance and sing along at shows because it's fun. Everyone else is doing it. We're part of something bigger than ourselves, but also makes us feel good about participating individually.

                          How does that apply in a worship setting? Personally, I believe when we focus too much on the technicalities of "leading' worship and not enough on just doing it, we tend to over complicate it.

                          People respond to leaders who are confident and enthusiastic about what they do. If we get in front of people as lead worshipers and worry too much about every note our people can sense it.

                          But if we get up and just rock it in a heartfelt, passionate way, and do things that are fresh and varied our people will respond. To us? Sure, but that's where good leadership deflects that response to God.
                          I get where you're coming from but I suppose I have a fundamental disagreement with the idea that the model for worship should be a rock concert. (And I love rock concerts.)

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Good thread! I'm going to take some of you to task, though.

                            If the song is too high, lower it! Any guitar or piano swinging worship leader should be able to transpose...if you can't, practice, starting right now.

                            Smitty
                            Love ONE woman...MANY guitars!

                            www.davidsproblem.wordpress.com

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Great responses all around.

                              Lest my "rock show" example be misinterpreted, I didn't mean to imply that you should model your worship gathering after a rock concert. But I DID indeed mean to use it as an example of an environment where "corporate" singing and participation is higher than most any other example you can think of. More times than not, you actually have more singing, dancing, and general crowd participation at a rock show than you do at a worship gathering. Can we learn from that? I think so.

                              My overall point though is that instead of holding our congregations hand and laying out "worship" on a silver platter and spoon-feeding them every note, maybe it's better to present an environment that is rich in diversity and variety, instead of making everything sound the same across the board.

                              We do adjust music within reason. A lot of modern music is unsingable for SOME in our congregation but not for all. Here's a thought. If it's unsingable for the guys, let the girls sing it. And vice versa.

                              What I've seen for so many years, it that churches will have primarily one lead voice and then the same harmonies all across the board. Then ALL of the songs are adjusted for the lead singers voice and all of the harmonists are pretty much boxed into the same ranges forever.

                              But mix it up a bit and let you altos sing melody (adjust the range if you have to) and you'll have a whole new vocal range getting to join in a whole lote more comfortably.

                              Personally, if a tenor guy is always singing lead (no matter how "easy" you adjust the range to) it's always going to be comfortable for the tenor range folks.

                              Mix it up a bit.

                              I'm just sayin'
                              Last edited by russhutto; 10-06-2008, 08:42 PM.
                              Associate Director of Worship & Media at St. Simons Community Church .He is also the content curator and editor here at The Worship Community.

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