Tips For Singers

8am, Sunday morning. It’s a great time to have a cup of coffee, read the paper, get ready for church, and spend an hour or so worshipping God and hearing the Word taught by your favorite pastor.

8am, Sunday morning. It’s the worst possible time for singers to belt out strong, high notes in an effort to encourage the congregation to sing and get their hearts ready to hear the Word taught by their favorite pastor.

This has been an issue for decades for worship teams who try to bring their best vocal effort 4 or 5 hours before their voices will be naturally warm. The result in most churches is that non-professional singers will strain their vocal chords as they struggle to stay on pitch. I have more than 5000 concerts under my belt, plus 100’s of hours in the studio and it’s still a process to get my voice warm to sing that first service on Sunday morning. Through the years I’ve made a list of “do’s” and “dont’s” that have been a big help not only for me but also for the singers in my worship teams.

It’s important to get plenty of rest the night before you sing. I tell my singers all the time, “Sleep plus water = the only cure for tired voices.” Saturday nights bring the temptation to stay up late. Fight that temptation and go to bed early. Not only will a good night’s rest keep your voice in good shape, but it will also keep you mentally sharp.

Wake up at least 2 hours before you sing a note.
Especially on cold mornings it takes quite a bit of time for our muscles to acclimate to the weather. Waking up early gives the muscles in your throat time to naturally warm up and get adjusted to the new day. Your musicians who are constantly running late because they are getting up at the last minute are usually the ones who are not going to be their best vocally.

Prepare mentally.
It’s not enough to think about what you are going to be doing in the service moments before you walk on stage. I encourage our singers from the moment our first rehearsal ends on Thursday to continue to think about the songs they will be singing, where the notes sit in their voices, and what the song means to them. If they care about the song they are singing they are more apt to make sure they sacrifice to get it right.

Save your energy.
I encourage my singers not to talk loudly or run around too much doing other things before that first service starts at 9am. We have 20-30 minutes in each service in which to use up our mental, emotional, and physical energy. After a worship set, I expect our singers to be spent due to their concentration and use of air (I’ll cover that at the end of this blog), so it’s important that they save their energy for the stage.

Know your limits.
If you are singing for 20-30 minutes during the service, understand that your vocal chords have a limit. Blowing it out in the first couple of songs will more than likely leave you with zilch by the end of the service, at a time when you should be reaching a crescendo of energy and passion. Learn to pace yourself.

Don’t drink caffeine before a performance.
Coffee and caffeinated teas will dry out your vocal chords. We keep herbal caffeine-free teas on hand in our musicians’ hospitality area all weekend long. A mixture of tea, honey, and lemon is perfect for clearing out the junk in the throat. Gross, I know, but it works. Keep these ingredients on hand and encourage your singers to drink it every Sunday morning.

Don’t walk on stage without warming up.
Check out this book for a great way to help your singers warm up and strengthen their voices. Everyone on our team keeps this book with them at all time.

Don’t drink cold water.
You’ve just warmed up your voice and now you’re pouring cold water into it? That doesn’t make any sense at all! Room-temperature water is best for your throat and vocal chords to keep them relaxed and hydrated.

Don’t assume your singers understand what’s about to happen.
With all the planning, rehearsing, sound checking, and warming up, we can, as leaders, sometimes assume that those who follow us onto the stage have a grasp on what the entire service is all about. We’ve only gone over the music with them and told them what we expect them to do when they pick up the mic. As leaders we see the entire picture of the service and if we can let our musicians in on the spirit of the service beyond what they are responsible for, then they will tend to be more enthusiastic.

Give your singers the “ok” to let their emotions out.
I’ve seen it so many times: a singer is concentrating so hard on pitch and phrasing that they forget what they are singing about. Just before we hit the stage I remind them that it’s “ok” to get lost in the moment sometimes. We are approaching God’s throne through worship, and we’re asking the congregation to follow us there. If we are not moved by the presence of God through our worship then there’s no way the audience will be either. Perfection is an unattainable goal, but passion is always achievable. We just have to let it out…

I mentioned breathing earlier and I just want to touch on that for a moment. Air is the key to every singer’s success. A lack of air will cause pitch problems and will result in poor phrasing. I regularly teach my singers to “sing on the breath”, which basically consists of pushing air out of your lungs as much as possible through each phrase. Listen to great singers and you’ll hear not only the notes they sing but the air they ride on as well. Using more air as you sing will also give your song a sense of urgency, just as a an actor would deliver their lines in a passionate way. Check out this blog for more on this subject.

Hope this stuff helps. Let me know how you prepare your team to be its best on Sunday mornings…

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Andy Chrisman
Worship Pastor
Andy came to Church on the Move in 2005, having been in the music industry for over 25 years. He's dedicated to raising up the next generation of worship leaders, and even though he spent many years with the group 4him, he says he's "having more fun now than I ever did on the road."