Are you taking care of your most important instrument? I’m not talking about your guitar, keyboard, or whatever you use to accompany your worship leading. Your most important instrument is your voice. As worship leaders, the voice is our most frequently used instrument but chances are it doesn’t receive the attention it deserves.
My friend, Brandon Golden is the Worship Pastor at Southern Gables Church in Littleton, CO and he specializes in vocal performance. I stopped by his office to ask what vocal tips he has for worship leaders. He shared four simple tips that will help us all have the right mindset as vocalists and increase our confidence as singers.
Tip #1 - You’re a vocal athlete, not just a singer.
Our voices are designed to function with muscles and ligaments and it’s all about getting those muscles in shape and working together. Runners train themselves on how they breathe, so we as singers also have to do the same thing. If you have never worked on your breathing, I highly recommend you start isolating that and start learning how to breathe deep and low using your diaphragm to help elongate your phrases, connect things, and support your voice well. Your breathing is like the engine of your car. Make sure you are keeping your engine running smoothly and you are utilizing it to the best of its ability.
Learn to not strain your voice and train it to do what it was made to do. Take care of your voice. Athletes take care of their bodies. We as vocalists need to take care of our voices. Drink plenty of water and lay off the coffee on Sunday morning. Stay hydrated so you can last through the multiple services.
Tip #2 - You be you.
So many times I get students who want to sound like Lauren Daigle, Chris Tomlin, or Chris Brown. They want to sound like somebody else. But not everybody is going to have that raspy voice or belting alto sound. Learning how your voice is made to sound is a beautiful thing. When you try to go outside of it, you are trying to do something your voice wasn’t made to do.
The beauty of voice is that God has designed your voice to be the way your voice was made to be. So learning your strengths in your voice and understanding how your voice is supposed to sound is huge. And then be confident in that. You are a beautifully and wonderfully made child of God. Your voice is the same. Don’t try to change that.
Tip #3 - Practice makes permanent.
We ask our instrumentalists as worship leaders to practice an hour to two hours a week, so we as vocalists need to do the same. One of the biggest tips I can give you in practicing and learning to make that more permanent is the one thing none of us ever want to do. Record your voice.
I had this one song that we were doing in my season at my last church, and I just wasn’t quite getting it. I had another co-worship leader tell me, “hey, why don’t you try recording yourself and listening to it.” That’s what I did. I made seven or eight recordings of myself singing the song. I was able to listen to the nuance of the song and my voice and make adjustments. Learning to hear yourself and getting feedback is key for practicing and improving.
Tip #4: It’s all about worship. Don’t beat yourself up.
No matter what we do in practice, no matter how hard we try to get the right notes and do the right things, mistakes are going to be made. Most of us are not professionally trained singers. Even professionals make mistakes. Don’t beat yourself up.
When you step out to lead in worship, where is your focus? Is it on getting the notes right? Is it on singing that one phrase perfectly? Is it on nailing that bridge? No, it should never be on those things. It should always be on worshipping our Lord and Savior.
These four tips are great reminders for all worship leaders. I know I’m often guilty of neglecting my vocal health and maintenance, and chances are you’ve done the same.
To learn about more ways you can grow as a worship leader, check out Worship Leader School, where you will find the essential training, advice, and support you need to plan and lead worship. Click here to learn more.
Let me know in the comments if you have any other vocal tips for worship leaders! I love hearing from you.