There’s a major problem facing the church, one of such severe magnitude that we all must take action now! Back-up vocalists are singing too much. Ok, so maybe the issue isn’t as big as I said, but still, can we discuss?
When serving as a vocalist on a worship team we are either vocally leading the song or serving as background vocals to a song. While this position may change for us throughout a service, or even throughout a song, we would do our teams a service by considering the following ideas.
A Pleasant Surprise
Make a plan as to when your background vocals will enter the song. If they come in right at the beginning where do you go from there? It’s ok to wait until the first chorus, or many times, even the second chorus. Waiting to add the background vocals will allow yourselves some room to grow vocally.This means that when you have more than one extra vocal, space out their entries in the song. By all means be creative with this. The last thing you want is to create a pattern you repeat over and over again which becomes predictable (Who would do that? Oh right, me. Guilty).
Too Much Harmony
Yes, this can absolutely happen. If you have one person leading and the two background vocals are singing the same harmony part, it’s too much. Try having one person match the melody on the choruses and back off the mic a little bit. Don’t get me wrong, three part harmony is something I love, but you need to know your song. Have beautiful harmonies for How Great Thou Art or All in All? Use them! Songs like How He Loves or Greatly to Be Praised don’t always need that much going on. Sometimes keeping it simple can create something beautiful.
Why Am I Here?
I get this, you come out to practice and show up early on Sundays and perhaps you’re only singing on the choruses, maybe on one song you don’t even come in until the bridge, so why are you there? Each instrument has their role, the background vocals are no different. We are adding a beautiful texture to the song that wouldn’t be there otherwise. We are waiting until the bridge to sing into our mic because that’s when the song needs to build and feel full and without your vocal singing the 5th, it would be empty. We are standing up in front of our congregation and saying “Here I am to Worship and serve, however The Lord may need me this week.” (We underestimate how powerful that statement can be sometimes)
Ok, so we’ve discussed how the extra vocals shouldn’t jump in right away, how too much harmony on a simple song is overwhelming, and that even if we’re not singing all the time we’re still vital to the team, now what? How do you go about implementing some of these ideas? If you’re the worship leader, take the time to make a vocal map of each song with your vocalists. I will say try to have an idea as to what you’d like before practice starts, but I completely understand how things change once the voices start singing. Let each one of them know when they should enter. Don’t be afraid to be direct. Your vocalists want direction, most of them are extremely comfortable and familiar with exact directions. You can tell them, “Don’t sing here. Enter here. Only Lindsay join in on this part.” If you take the time out to give even a little bit more direction than you currently do, it will be a huge benefit.
If you’re not the worship leader, listening is the best advice. Listen to what the people around you are doing. Did the other vocalist join in really fast with the leader? Then take it upon yourself to push back your entrance. Are two people singing the harmony parts and you can barely hear the melody? Ask your leader if you can sing the melody part behind them. The more you take the time to listen and not just sing, the better you will get at it.
Let’s give the background vocals some attention at our rehearsals this year. Be purposeful about them and they will take their job more seriously. Do you meet with your vocalists separate from the band? Do you figure out the vocal map of a song as you’re doing it or while planning your service? Do you have someone on your team who directs the vocals? How does your worship team manage this? Comment below to continue the discussion.