Category: Songwriting

Once Upon a Time

You Are a Messenger and a Storyteller

Singing is a form of communication. Any song you sing has a message, weather it is a message of woe or joy. And every song tells a story, weather a sad or a happy one. That makes you a messenger and a storyteller.

Know Your Message

So, you need to know what your message is and what story you’re telling. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in high school choir, on a worship team, or singing Karaoke. You need to be able to answer the question: What is the message of this song.

Start by sitting down with a pen and paper (Ancient writing tools that you can Google). Summarize the song in two or three sentences. Next, take a deeper look by writing a sentence about each verse, chorus, bridge etc. The goal is to make sure you really understand the message. A surprising number of singers just sing songs. When asked, they can’t actually define or summarize the message.

What if It’s Unclear?

If you’re not sure what some parts of the song are about do some research. Learn about the songwriter. Use a dictionary or thesaurus to help understand unclear words. This is what prolific songwriters have done for years. It keeps the message real and genuine and the creative juices flowing.

Now That You Know What the Song Is About

Unless you’re singing the song in a choir, and can’t change the arrangement, look for things you can do to tell a clearer story. What words or phrases can you emphasize with a little more volume or holding a word out. What thought or phrase would be more powerful if it were softer, or sung with shorter words. Do some phrases need to be more talky or conversational? There are lots of options, and you need to do some experimenting. That’s what successful artists do. It’s how they find just the right way to express a song.

Don’t Just Sing a Song—Tell a Song

Study the song and communicate the message. You and your listeners with both benefit in every way!

Sing on! And remember: We’re here to help.

CAN YOU TEACH ME TO SING?

Every few weeks I get asked that question so I thought I’d respond to it here. 

Singing is one of the most fulfilling ways to express yourself, and most people have some or all of the necessary starting tools.  But, can anyone be taught to sing?   To help you get in the right mindset, ask yourself this question:  “Can anyone be an outstanding cook, songwriter or athlete?”  Let’s consider those first, then singing.

Can anyone be a great cook?  Not if you have problems with your sense of smell or taste.  Knowledge of how foods go together can be learned, but the “smell” and “taste” also need to be present in great cooks.
What about songwriting? Can it be taught?  Yes, but there are some foundations that can make the difference between a casual writer and one who develops and creates amazing songs. I’m a great example.  I know music theory, love to use words and have a very musical ear, so I have a lot going for me. One of my songs is on dozens of CD’s and several more are published. However, I don’t do what serious songwriters do: Spend hours writing and co-writing songs.  It’s not priority for me, and until it is I won’t be a good, consistent songwriter.
Playing sports is a whole other subject.  To play any kind of ball well, you have to be in reasonably good shape, practice regularly (not once a month) and actually know and understand the rules of the game. Being a fan and being a player are completely different.

NOW, WHAT ABOUT SINGING?  Here are the elements that need to be working well and working together in order for you to sing with good quality, accuracy and consistency.

  • THE DESIRE AND WILLINGNESS to open your mouth in front of others and sing.  Seem obvious?  I  work with some singers who have enormous desire and passion but are literally terrified to sing in public, which is rather limiting.  Why this fear?  They don’t know what will come out under real-life  pressure.
  • THE MECHANICS of posture, breathing, tone and expression are all part of what makes a singer effective.  If any of those areas are weak, you will lose quality and consistency.
  • A MUSICAL EAR (ear, brain, larynx connection) is a must.  Without it you won’t have good pitch center (be on the right note), dynamics (loud, soft) and phrasing (what you “do” with the phrase). With decent training, someone with reasonable pitch accuracy can usually develop a good musical ear, but it takes time.
  • THE DESIRE TO COMMUNICATE A MESSAGE is what separates those who just “sing” from those who “CONNECT” with the audience, which is the ultimate goal.  That means analyzing the message (lyrics and musical style) and coming up with a game plan that includes expression, gestures, meaningful dynamics, phrasing and more.  It’s a real effort, that when done well comes off as easy and natural. That’s what allows the listener to relax and take it in, rather than nervously wondering if you will hit the high notes.

Now, it’s time to list your strengths as well as the areas that need some work.    Then, make the time to get the tools necessary to turn those weaknesses into strengths.  It may be one of the most satisfying things you ever do.

If you need guidance regarding which tools will serve you best explore the vocalcoach.com web site or email me at chris@vocalcoach.com We are here to help you be your best and get the most enjoyment out of singing possible.

GOING FROM WANTING TO DOING

GOING FROM WANTING TO DOING

Here are some thoughts and tips to help you go from just wanting to express something when you sing, to actually doing it.  This can also apply to public speaking, classroom teaching, prepping your team for a game, preaching or leading a Bible study.  In every one of those cases your goal is to clearly communicate. As a bonus in this blog, I’ve created an animated segment to reinforce some of the principles. Check it out now, or after you’ve read the blog. Click here.

Start with these simple steps:

  1. Recognize that the rules change anytime you get up in front of people to share, with or without a microphone.  You become responsible to give them a clear message, not one that is only half-thought-out. Otherwise, you will lose them and they will mentally to elsewhere.  Second, be confident that with a bit of the right kind of preparation you will succeed in getting the message from your heart to the listener’s ear.
  2. Rejoice in the fact that if you make certain preparations you will succeed in getting the message from your heart to theirs.

Identify the challenges:

  1. Fear. Speaking or singing in front of others is the number one listed fear for the average person.  For some, it’s uncomfortable.  For some, it’s nearly impossible.
  2. Lack of preparation. Even if you are moderately comfortable or even thrive in public performance situation you have to do your homework.  If you don’t you risk being less clear or even embarrassing yourself.

Where to begin:

  1. Prepare your content. Know what your message is.  Be able to summarize it in a few sentences. If it’s a song, you should be able to put the essence of every verse and chorus in our own words. Restating the song personalizes it.  Then, and only then will you own the message.
  2. Prepare your mind. If you’re singing a serious song with a painful message you need to be able to feel that.  The same is true for happy, encouraging messages, or instructional or testimony songs, etc. If it’s a speech or teaching put yourself in the message. Be there.  Live there. Feel it.  Otherwise how will you be believable?
  3. Prepare your face and body. Unless you’re just doing an audio recording, your posture, facial expression and hand gestures will play a part in your communications, whether you like it or not.  That means you need to know your options, chose the right ones and practice them.  Why?  Because if you don’t they either won’t be there, or they will look stiff and unnatural.
    1. a. Your Posture is always showing something, be it confidence, or fear.  Determine to look secure and in authority.  The fastest way there is to lift your hands straight up over your head and memorize that aligned, upright posture.  Then, slowly bring the arms down to your sides, relax the shoulders and keep the rest of it the same. Look in the mirror and you will be pleased.
    2. b. Your face. Here’s a biggie and it will take some practice because there are dozens of options is facial expression.  I suggest using a mirror, or video camera connected to a TV monitor, to see what your various expressions look and physically feel like.  Ultimately, it’s the physical sensations that you will be reproducing.  Muscle memory is your friend. Bottom line: Your facial expressions need to agree with your message.
    3. c. Your arms and hands are another part of you that will either enhance or distract from your message. Don’t just stand there, and don’t worry about doing too much.  You probably won’t.  Do worry, however, about doing nothing, or being tentative or vague with what you do. Decide the options, practice the options then assign meaningful gestures to the words.

Worried that this will be too mechanical? Don’t be.  Actors, baseball players, guitarists, chefs and even computer programmers all practice the physical aspects of what they do until it is second nature.  That’s the only way you will ever own it.

Check out this Vocal Coach animated dramatization to help reinforce what you’ve just read.  Just click here.  And be sure to check out the special offer for the Vocal Coach Complete Performance CD at our store.

3 Priorities of A Worship Leader by Jamie Harvill

Comment from Vocal Coach Chris Beatty: My guest author for this blog is one worth hearing, in words and music .  Jamie Harvill is not only the author of Ancient of Days, Firm Foundation and many more popular worship songs.  He is a pastor and highly experienced worship leader, guitarist, singer and one of my favorite worship leaders.  If you go to Jamie’s site at jamieharvill.com you can take advantage of his summer Online-and-phone training classes  for songwriters and worship leaders.

3 Priorities of A Worship Leader

When interviewed for a magazine a few days ago I was asked the question, “What would you say are the top three priorities for worship leaders?” My answers are simple but I believe that if heeded and practiced, they will bring fruit to your worship leading experience. My suggestions are based on the teaching of Jesus from Matthew 22:37-40 when He was asked what He thought was the greatest commandment:

Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (NIV)

1. Love God. This seems obvious at first but it is a commandment from Jesus. Loving God in every area of our life is our greatest testimony. When we have a passion for God in work, when we play, when times are smooth and when they are rocky, when we are with our families and our guard is down, our passion for God is obvious and it is contagious when others see us living what we lead.

2. Love people. We must live a singular life when we lead people. We cannot be one way with our close friends and then another with those we lead at church. If we lead by influence (and this, in my opinion, is the only way to lead), and we love and respect people–stopping to listen to their story and showing care and concern for them–they will follow us. A true leader is one who never has to force people to follow. If you find yourself coercing others to follow, you are not a leader. People will follow your leadership if you care for them.

3. Bring excellence. My pastor always encourages our team to bring our “A” game each service. We have five services each weekend and it can be easy to “phone-one-in” if we are not careful.

The best way for me to bring my best is to, first, be prepared. I believe proper preparation for our worship leading brings rest. I am relaxed.  This, in turn, helps my team and the congregation to be relaxed (people have a hard time focusing on God when you are fumbling around as the leader).

Second, it helps to be focused. I try to train my heart and mind to zero-in on the task at hand for the hour or so before I lead. One tool I use to help me with this is to put a cheat-sheet (notes, keys changes, chord changes, arrangements, etc.) on the floor next to my mic stand so I can look down and find my bearings, if needed, as I proceed through the worship service.

Third, I think rehearsal is so important. I can hear you saying a collective, “DUH!” right about now! We have rehearsals on Tuesday nights so we then have a few days to study the rehearsal CD before we arrive back on Saturday afternoon to lead the services.  Two services Saturday and two or three Sunday in multiple sanctuaries. It’s a busy place.

I find that all of these preps bring rest and there is no better way to lead others. When we have a passion for God and people while knowing where we are going in worship, and how we are going to get there, others will gladly follow!

I have many more things to say that I can’t write here in this one post. So, if you want to learn more, I want to give you an opportunity to join me as I am starting two new web-based schools offering virtual classrooms and personal coaching. I will be the main instructor for both tracks. One track is to train and strengthen the next generation of songwriters for the church called Song Schools. The other course, Worship Consultants, is for churches and worship leaders who want to improve leadership skills, team-building and worship services. You can find out more details about each course at songschools.com, worshipconsultants.com and jamieharvill.com. Classes start in mid-July.

0 comments:

Post a Comment

Older Post Home Subscribe to: Post Comments (Atom)