Worship, Art & Business, Part 5

Worship, Art & Business, Part 5

Perfecting The Craft

Perfecting the art of singing in harmony is more of a motivator than many fans may realize. For a group of singers, there’s a strong sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when all the parts come together and blend in harmony. Singers who appreciate this feeling the most will say they love singing so much that they’d pay somebody to let them sing. If they couldn’t make a living singing, they’d do it anyway.

I should be clear that the type of motivation I’m speaking of here is different from seeking fame. These singers are just as happy singing around a piano in living room as they are singing on stage. The main reason they want to sing full-time is so they can sing with gifted and like-minded singers on a regular basis.

I don’t want to take away from the weekend groups. Working a full-time job in order to sing on the weekends shows a lot of devotion and love for the music in addition to answering a call to spread the Gospel message. Being a part-time group often means rehearsal time is limited, however. Perfecting the craft of singing can be a challenge for any part-time group.

I was complimenting a professional piano player on his skill a few years ago, and he explained that it’s just like any other repetitive task. When you play or sing the same songs day in and day out, it becomes easier to do the things that appear to be difficult.

When I review a CD by a full-time group and then attend a concert later, I often notice differences from the recording. Part of that is due to the shift in energy that can happen when an audience is present vs. a performance in the studio. Many changes, though, are a result of staging the same song several times every week. Practice makes perfect.

A comment I’ll sometimes make when reviewing a CD is that a particular song isn’t the best fit for a singer. The singer may have a great voice and it may be a great song, but the two just don’t mesh. Maybe the accompaniment wasn’t pitched in the right key, or maybe the rhythmic delivery feels awkward. Many groups dial in their arrangements for new material as they’re in the studio making the recording rather than in advance.

I wish it were possible for more Southern Gospel groups to stage the songs they’re thinking about recording before going into the studio to see what will work best. With the reliance on tracks rather than live musicians, that isn’t always an option. I’ve heard groups brag on how fast they recorded the vocals for a CD. That’s not necessarily something to brag about.

Whether it’s practice for the stage or time spent in the studio, there’s always more work that can be done to make it a better experience both for the singers and for the fans.

David Bruce Murray

David Bruce Murray is a church music director in Ellenboro, NC. He is the author of Murray's Encyclopedia Of Southern Gospel Music and the owner of both SGHistory.com and MusicScribe.com. David plays piano for Southern Sounds Quartet and the Foothills Community Choir.

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