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Baritone & bass vocals for contemporary?

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  • Baritone & bass vocals for contemporary?

    If I have a baritone or bass vocalist on a worship team, can I use their vocal range for contemporary music or do I need to shelve them for southern gospel, hymns & other such styles?

  • #2
    Originally posted by gregrjones View Post
    If I have a baritone or bass vocalist on a worship team, can I use their vocal range for contemporary music or do I need to shelve them for southern gospel, hymns & other such styles?
    I'm in a weird mood today, so I would say you should shelve them. Literally. And shelve everyone else when they turn 30, too, because they'll be too old. Unless you're going to the nursing home or prison. Then it would be OK.

    Seriously, though, whether you can use a baritone/bass vocalist depends on your creativity and originality as an arranger. If you just copy what the original artist does, you won't be needing any baritones or basses.

    Of course, there are days I think there is no more tenor either. Some days the male Christian artists are all singing alto (I know, when a guy does it, it's called counter-tenor or something like that!).

    I do miss the awesome bass lines of southern gospel!

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    • #3
      I'm not sure there's enough information to answer that question. It really depends on the person's range and what other vocalists you have. Most contemporary music lends itself to three part harmonies using the tonic, 3rd and 5th. If you have the lead vocal on the tonic, and a harmony singer on the 3rd above the tonic, you could use a baritone on the 5th an octave lower, or more accurately the 3rd below the tonic. I've even seen bands (Badfinger comes to mind) that consistently used the tonic and just the 3rd below the tonic for their harmonies. If that's within the bass or baritones vocal range you might get more use out of them.
      The Posse Band live performance tracks can be heard by CLICKING HERE

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      • #4
        I think you could, but you may have to get creative.

        I don't know why there is this unspoken rule of harmonies are always note for note on the 3rd or 5th. What about counter-melodies, echo parts, that kind of thing? I'm thinking of CSN&Y or Eagles style vocals. They came up with some great counter-melody based.

        I suppose one could argue it's more 'southern gospel' style but it can be used in newer stuff. I'd try it anwayys- add some texture. But it would require the person to take ownership of building a good counter-harmony.
        If we want to go places we haven't been, we will have to do things we haven't done.

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        • #5
          While many contemporary male artists are tenors, and sing TOO HIGH for congregations, the opposite is true for many female artists.

          I used to try to put all songs in the best key for the masses, but now I'll let some be a little high & others be a little low. That doesn't mean I do them in their original keys... but some are left intentionally high / low. That said, a bass / baritone could sing the lead on a song in a low key, and other singers could add a higher harmony or NOT SING that song.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by gregrjones View Post
            If I have a baritone or bass vocalist on a worship team, can I use their vocal range for contemporary music or do I need to shelve them for southern gospel, hymns & other such styles?
            Most of the guys in your congregation will be baritones, so leading with one is never a bad idea. But then, I'm a baritione too.. so I'm pretty biased

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            • #7
              Being a baritone myself, I would suggest that you immediately promote this gentleman to full time worship leader and have him lead 99% of all the songs.

              Actually I have pretty much demoted myself from singing lead in our team. The keys that are natural and strong for me, are uncomfortable for many in the congregation. For me to sing out of my range, my voice is strained. I am able to carry harmony well enough, and can manage lower tenor parts. I also do some specials, where the congregational singing is not as important. In that context I can serve well enough. As an instrumental person, I am quite happy to be able to focus on guitar and synth, so life is good.

              I guess how much you can work him in depends on the styles music you are using, the flexibility of your baritone, and the nature of the congregation. If he has a good voice, is a good role player, and is willing, I see no reason not to utilize his gifts to God's glory.

              Blessings...
              Dave

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              • #8
                I led worship as a baritone for several years and placed the key of the songs where I was comfortable. The congregation never had an issue with it -- I never took a poll but suspect the men had an easier time of it. The female vocalists on the worship team always found a part, either melody or harmony.

                For example, I believe Chris Tomlin's The Name of Jesus was originally in Eb, but I played it in G or occasionally A.
                Tomlin's Our God ( is greater ) was originally recorded in B or Bb
                but I did it in the key of C capo 4 ( key of E )
                Carvin AE185 guitar

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