5 Steps To Your Best Lead Vocal
As a young worship leader I would introduce new songs all the time. Pretty much every time a song would strike me in some way it would making it’s way onto that week’s set.
Maybe you can relate to my approach:
Find a new song
Listen to it on repeat
Pull together a chart and sing it at church
It was fun, but something wasn’t right. I wasn’t as engaged with the song, the church or the Lord as I thought I would be. And I could tell my singing was often off pitch.
I thought the only step in learning a new song and singing the lead vocal effectively was listening to it a bunch of times. The truth about this approach is that you never know the song as well as you think you do and it never translates as well as you think it will.
If you want to lead songs with confidence, with strong pitch, tone and phrasing, with passion and energy, try these steps instead.
1. Start With One Phrase At A Time
Just like you might sit down to learn and practice a guitar part, sit down to practice the vocal. Singing along in your car isn’t quite enough. Break the the song down one phrase a time.
2. Learn The Notes
This may sound obvious but if you’re anything like young Brenton you may be skipping this step. Begin by slowly and diligently singing along with the recording. Match the pitch exactly. Starting this way is helpful in building your ear training discipline.
If you read music take things a step further by finding the lead sheet. Read the music and play and sing along.
I’m a guitar player so I find the melody for each section on my guitar and play it over and over. This step, maybe more than any other has helped me lock in a melody. I don’t want to be fuzzy on any note in a melody. I want to know exactly where it is. I want to know how to get there and where to go from there.
3. Use Repetition To Build Muscle Memory
Nothing beats simply getting your reps in. Sing each section several times until it really sinks in. If there’s a tricky interval, a jump between two notes that doesn’t come naturally, try going back and forth between those two notes 10 times in a row. Next, sing the whole phrase and see if you were able to hit that tricky part.
4. Breaths, Phrasing, and Dynamics
Learning the notes is crucial but it’s only the first step. Next work on your breathing, phrasing and dynamics.
Breath: Where do you take a breath? Print the lyrics and make a notation.
Phrasing: What is the rhythm of each line? How do you sing the notes in time along with the groove of the song? Which syllables are held out? Which are cut short?
Dynamics: What is the dynamic for each section? (verse, chorus 1, ect.) Head voice? Chest voice? Is it breathy? Soft or strong? Loud or quiet?
5. Memorize The Lyrics
Finally, memorize the lyrics. This may be difficult at first but commit just 10 minutes to memorization and you’ll be surprised at how far you get. Don’t start memorize the night before. Start a week out and try singing the song in your head throughout day. This final steps brings everything together.
As you can see the process for learning and practicing the vocal for a new song may be more involved than you thought. However if you take the time to work at it I promise that you’ll be able to lead your church family much more effectively.