I spent most of my life and singing and teaching career in Los Angeles and New York before relocating to Atlanta. One thing the South is blessed with is a plethora of great Gospel singers and Gospel choirs, many of whom have come to my Sing Like a Star Studios for vocal lessons and training.
Most of the singers I have worked with who sing primarily Gospel style have two things in common- dynamic levels that range from loud to louder to loudest, and the tendency to sing only in the chest voice, and push the chest voice too high.
Gospel singing originated in the slave days of working in the fields, and much of it is modeled on the “call and response” style, where a soloist sings a line and the congregation either repeats that same line, or sings a complementary line. Since the music evolved from an oral tradition, rather than written music, it had to be learned by ear and handed down from one generation to the next. The music is also very emotional, heartfelt, and stirring to listen to, and often emotional expression and volume seem to go hand in hand.
I have worked with many praise team leaders and choir members who find themselves hoarse and vocally tired on Monday after singing several services on Sunday. The reason for this is dynamic extravagance paired with the tendency to sing only in the chest voice, without the balance of a developed mix in the upper register.
One thing I have to point out to these clients is that it is virtually impossible for the human voice to “out-sing electricity”. That means that, no matter how loud the band is playing (and it can get REALLY loud onstage when everyone is feeling high emotions), the singers have to be more moderate in volume, and let the sound person turn them up in the house mix.
This is a hard lesson to learn, but learning to sing at a moderate volume means that your voice will be more consistent with fewer days off due to hoarseness. I have to remind these singers “pushing and pressure are not the same as vocal power”. That doesn’t mean you always have to sing like a wimp, but there is a “zone” of healthy dynamic volume in singing, and the wise singer stays in that zone always. You should always feel that you have “head room”, that you could increase your volume at least 25% if you wanted to.
Let the sound engineer turn your volume up, and make sure the musicians are playing at a softer volume onstage so you can hear yourself in the monitors.
If you want to praise the Lord with your God-given vocal instrument, you have to learn to sing emotionally, but within the volume “zone” that will keep your voice healthy! And you also need to connect the lower, chest register to the upper, mix register to maintain the health of your voice.
I wish you all the best as you reach for your dreams! Tricia Grey, MM
At Sing Like a Star Studios you can learn the vocal technique of the stars. If you don’t live near Atlanta, you can take voice lessons with Skype. Please visit our website at www.singlikeastar.com and click on the GET STARTED tab to register for a professional vocal evaluation and consultation.