Vocal Musings

Finding My Voice

Until January, 1976, I was not a good singer. A professor in the music school at Miami University once described me at that point as having a very underdeveloped voice. Until that time, I really had nothing to sing about after I had reached adolescence. It also seemed to be ‘unmanly’ to want to sing among my friends and family.

One thing made the difference for me: the filling of Holy Spirit. I found my voice as praise became part of my life. “Be filled with the Spirit, as you speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, and you sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, and always give thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:19-21).

I became a better singer over the years as I continued to offer my voice in praise. I regard whatever I have with my voice as the gift of God, since there was nothing that motivated me to develop my voice before I came to live to praise him.

Leading in Worship

During the fall of 1988 and throughout 1989, while I was serving as the pastor of the Taylor Christian and Missionary Alliance Church, I received some first class informal vocal lessons from Curt. Curt played the piano for our services, and he was a fine musician in his own right. He gave me instruction during that time which has continued to enrich me to this day.

Here is what Curt taught me:

  • Proper vowel enunciation and darkening of vowels.

  • Elision of consonants to the following words as part of clear enunciation.

  • Proper resonance of the nasal consonants such as m, n, ng.

  • Proper phrasing and carrying through the entire unit of thought before taking a breath

  • Expression of the emotion from the heart for the song or hymn.

  • Intonation by the clarity and accuracy of the tone in the mind.

  • Focus of the tone to a point directly in front of the lips as the key to clarity, beauty, projection and intonation.

In addition, what I’ve learned about leading in worship is to keep your own heart and focus on God and the glory of God. However much pleasure praise may give to me or attention and compliments I get mean nothing if the praise does not give glory to God and reflect the truth of God.

Vocal Lessons

I have never had a public singing performance outside a Christian group or church service, but I have been honored by some wonderful compliments from excellent singers themselves. Here are the lessons that I’ve learned over the years.

  • Spiritual preparation in reading and studying the Bible and personal prayer and worship undergirds an effective ministry of leading in worship with a real joy in salvation and love for the Lord Jesus.

  • Practice the melody or harmony part that you’re expected to sing apart from the words to get the correct musical tones and intonation into your mind.

  • Keep yourself rested before a performance.

  • Work on musical excellence as a suitable setting for the words of worship.

  • Work through trouble spots in the music until you get them right three times in a row.

  • Avoid distractions during practices and performances. Concentrate on your part.

  • Look for a positive, enthusiastic leader, or be one.

  • Keep the tone centered to improve intonation and tone quality.

Vocal Instruction Books

My sources are all secular, although there are some good Christian sources available as well.

  • Jeffrey Allen, Secrets of Singing.
  • Anne Peckham, The Contemporary Singer.
  • Gloria Rusch, The Professional Singer’s Handbook.
  • Shirlee Emmons and Alma Thomas, Power Performance for Singers.
  • Madeline Bruser, The Art of Practicing: A Guide to Making Music From the Heart.
  • Barry Green and W.Timothy Gallwey, The Inner Game of Music.