Okay, But Why Do the Church Singers Sound So Bad?
Last week we talked about problems that plague church bands and their techs. This week, we’ll focus on the singers. Here are my top 3 reasons the singers in your church are struggling:
Some church sound systems aren’t singer-friendly. We all know the shower is the best place to sing. The reason why is reverb, or reflections. When you sing in the shower you have a bunch of hard surfaces bouncing your voice back at you. That means you can hear yourself really well.
Many churches now employ in-ear-monitors, which are fancy ear buds. This has largely taken the place of wedge floor monitors. That helps the sound crew out, but it also steals some reflections from the singer. Unless the sound system gives the singer back some of that ambience, it can really mess with a vocalist. If a vocalist is consistently pulling out one monitor, it’s a sign that the monitor mix needs more ambience or adjustment.
Perhaps you need more reverb and delay for the in-ear-monitor mix. Maybe you need to put up some room mics, send to the singers’ ears, and give them back the ambience.
Whatever you do, take the time to help your singers hear themselves, and you’ll get a better performance.
Your harmony vocals are letting you down. Let’s tackle a thorny issue. Some singers are comfortable singing lead on a song, but struggle mightily on harmony vocals. Harmony doesn’t get its due, and singers don’t practice it as much as melody. But that leads to a common scenario: You have a singer who is going to take the lead on one song, but isn’t strong on harmony for the other songs. What do you do? Do you ask him/her not to sing during the other tunes? Do you have them double the melody? Or do you opt for passive-aggression and tell your sound engineer to turn him/her down?
Think about this solution: begin to implement standards and consequences. We all expect the guitarist to have practiced before playing the lead or solo on a song. We expect preparation. If a guitarist drops leads consistently from lack of preparation, it is fair to take that privilege away. We can and should expect the same preparation from singers.
Give a singer on your team 3-5 songs that are in rotation at your church. Give them a specific harmony to work on and a deadline. There are all sorts of online resources and YouTube videos to help with this. Then set up an audition time for them to come in and show their work. If they show a commitment to practice harmony, they can be involved on those 3-5 songs. Assign another 3-5 songs and begin again. After a few months you either have a better harmony vocalist, or someone who has chosen not to be involved in your team.
Poverty-mindset is keeping a lid on improvement. The idea of standards and consequences may scare some people, especially in a small church. If you feel that roles in your church are established or even entrenched, changing anything seems impossible. But healthy systems grow. Some members of your team may want to grow but don’t know how. They need tools and direction. Great! Those people are easy to work with. But there are people who simply don’t want to improve, but still want to be on stage. What then?
What stops leaders from confronting this problem is fear. We think to ourselves, “But he’s the only one we’ve got!” or, “She’s related to so and so.” I suggest we look at the other side of the coin.
Say you have a new arrival in church with talent and a good heart who wants to be on the team. If they see a vacancy, they would be more likely to approach the worship leader and say, “I see you don’t have _____. Can I help?” But if that spot is taken by someone who refuses to improve, you’re stuck. No one will offer their services because they don’t want to usurp someone’s position, and they won’t want to be part of the team anyway.
Even though these problems are universal, your church needs specific solutions. You may need to work with a worship team consultant. A consultant will look at all aspects of your service and help you with a plan for your singers, your band, and your techs.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free phone or Zoom consultation. I can listen to your goals and frustrations and help you with the next steps.
God bless as you improve,