Better Singing by Christmas!
Six 15-minute lessons to jump-start your rehearsals
Christmas is almost here and singing will play a central role in your church’s celebration.
Starting now, why not incorporate these challenging but fun, 15-minute warm-up lessons into your weekly rehearsals?
With the suggestion of improving singing techniques, also comes the consideration of putting too much pressure on your faithful volunteers. After all, isn’t choir supposed to be fun; a midweek break from work and family pressures; an outlet? Absolutely! All of those reasons apply but the foremost purpose for being in a church choir or worship team is to serve our Lord and effectively minister the gospel. Each “minister” can be blessed and be a blessing when he or she grows spiritually and in musical expertise.
Taking your singers to the next level requires that they re-think how they sing. The following lesson plans will help your singers to take a look at their vocal habits, improve their overall tone quality, and sing lyrics that are understood by the congregation.
Week One: Breathing
Filling up the lungs is comparable to filling up your car’s gas tank. The more air, the farther you go.
Practice 1: (Need an open floor space or carpeted area for this practice.) Lie down, relax, close eyes, and feel your abdomen rise and fall while breathing. Stand up and try to duplicate that feeling. If time, repeat the exercise and assign as “homework”.
Practice 2: Stand with a straight spine, ears positioned directly above the shoulders, and chin parallel to the floor. Place hands on each side of the rib cage and feel the lungs expand when taking in a deep breath of air. Re-position one hand in front of the mouth and blow a small steady stream of air onto the index finger for as long as possible.
Week Two: Relaxing the Jaw
Singing with tension comes naturally because of our tension-laden language, English. It’s natural to want to “bite down” on lyrics as they come out of the mouth. We do that when we ar-ti-cu-late speech. The difference is that in singing, biting down on words usually ruins a beautiful tone. The objective for this week is to introduce singers to the concept of relaxing the tongue, teeth, and jaw.
Try to keep this exercise fun and light-hearted. When a singer tries too hard or intensely
concentrates to get it right, the outcome is often counterproductive. The concept of relaxing the mouth and having the tongue seemingly float when singing offers a drastic change to most untrained singers. Asking singers to embrace this concept can create for them a mental brick wall that blocks their ability to get to the next level of proficiency. Make this important practice count but keep it light and non-threatening!
Practice 1: Place hands along the sides of the face, relax the jaw, and say “Ah”. Let the weight of the hands help to relax the jaw muscles, keep the jaw dropped, and the mouth open. Say a no tension, sighing “Ah” several times.
Practice 2: Speak the following words, “Hello ________”
(Make it personal, use a multi-syllable name in from someone in your group, a name with hard consonants in the middle, i.e. Harold)
1. Say it with normal speech, “Hello Harold”
Now, say it with a flabby tongue and a Novocain mouth, “Heh-woh Haa-wold.”
The purpose of this practice is to establish that SINGING IS NOT LIKE SPEAKING OR YELLING!
Week Three: Producing Resonance
In the front of our faces, we have sinus cavities. Though very irritating when infected, these spaces under the skin serve the fantastic purpose of giving the unique bell-like quality to the human voice. Acoustical guitars have sound boxes and we have sinus (resonating) cavities.
When the singer understands their presence and function, he or she can intentionally focus the tone in the front of the face and produce brilliant sounds. Doing so will also help keep the singer from: 1. producing dull and flat tones in the back of the throat and 2. becoming hoarse.