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Unread 01-09-2009, 10:31 AM   #1
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Blending Voices In Worship Team: Help & Suggestions Please

What are some things a band leader can do to help the voices blend better?
I am guitarist, an average singer, and I lead a worship team of 12: 5 instruments and 7 voices.

Our singers are great individually, but I do not seem to be able to help them blend the sound, so we sound like a group, not like seven individuals singing.

I would appreciate some input and suggestions from someone with experience in the field.
I am not looking for answers like "practice more" or "ask your singers to blend"...
I need some specific, practical advice on how to improve on this so we could serve better.

Thank you in advance!

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Unread 01-09-2009, 10:41 AM   #2
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The following advice will not be specific.

Some blending issues can be taken care of at the sound board by lowering the volume or tweaking the EQ of the voices who aren't blending well. Another issue might just be those individuals' tone. Some voice types just don't blend well together. For example, if one person on your team is more classically trained and sings with a chorale voice, they might have trouble blending with other vocalists that have a more pop oriented tone.
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Unread 01-09-2009, 11:01 AM   #3
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Work on very precise rhythms, especially the beginnings and endings of words, so that you don't have bunches of sibilant or pulsive consonants flying out at random times at the end of phrases. Also, work to eliminate vibrato and melismas, since these are solo techniques rather than effective group techniques. Finally, work on similarity of diction, especially incorporating more tall, open vowel sounds. The big open vowels produced in the back of the throat ("ah," "aw," "oh," "ow," "oo," etc) seem to get less affected by an individual's accent than more nasally vowels, and they blend together much more easily in a choral / vocal setting than the shriller sounds. Instead of a front-of-the-mouth spoken-word vowel sound for words with vowels like "hand," "give," "wor[ship]," etc, switch those vowel sounds ever so slightly toward the back of the throat so that you're singing something that sounds a little more like "hond," "goove," or "wawrship" (though, obviously, don't completely change the vowel... just the thought of it and the opening up of the back of the throat is enough). This will feel weird singing a lot of your vowels further back in your throat, but it should really help, and the words will definitely still be understandable.
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Unread 01-09-2009, 11:03 AM   #4
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we do have one classically trained singer on the team. (no, that's not me )

it seems to me that those singers who are well trained are more able to blend than those who are not. also, it must depend on each individual case.

as far as the sound board, I think we have a pretty decent team at the sound. they can only tweak so much, no?

here's the thing: when we sing at practice, and sometimes without microphones, the blending, or lack thereof, becomes even more obvious.

I am hearing too much "individual" sound and not enough blend.
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Unread 01-09-2009, 11:07 AM   #5
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Something that might help is to do some simple vocal exercises as a group before you sing any actual songs. Just do something stupid like sing the first five notes of a scale up, then down, on a single "ah" or "oo" sound together, and then the scale up a half-step and do it again, until you've reached the upper limit of your group's range. Focus on the deep, rich, throaty vowel sounds as you're doing this, and the group will be able to hear what it sounds like to sing as one voice instead of many. Hearing the difference in tone and quality will help them to think about their group sound as they're singing a more complex song rather than an exercise.
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Unread 01-09-2009, 11:14 AM   #6
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and how would someone deal with singers that are not willing to blend while singing?

sometimes I have a feeling that some of the singers WANT to be heard individually.
I hear ornaments that do not really belong in the part, and things that make the individual voice stand up among the others

at what point does one say 'ok, good bye' to a couple of singers that will simply not even consider blending?
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Unread 01-09-2009, 11:18 AM   #7
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and how would someone deal with singers that are not willing to blend while singing?
Unless it's half the group or more, I'd just focus on working with the other folks and let that person come to their own conclusion about whether their individuality or their service is more important. Chances are, that if the rest of the group starts to really jive together vocally, that the stragglers will start to fall into place. If not, and it's distracting from the group performance, I might give those more solo-oriented singers a chance to lead a few verses on their own every now and then. Antiphon / call-and-response is a great technique with a rich tradition in the church, and there's nothing unspiritual about having one or two leaders and a group that follows or responds. If you're not into that, then I guess you need to make the choice on your own whether to continue asking them to blend with the group or to kick them out if they just refuse to do so.
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Unread 01-09-2009, 11:57 AM   #8
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Unfortunately, one of the answers is to scale back the number of vocalists. Maybe start putting the vocalists on a rotation or something? If you've got instrumentalist that sing too, maybe have them only sing every once and a while?

The unfortunate fact of the matter is that there are only so many ways to blend together, and at a certain point it becomes too much. At my church we usually limit it to about 4 simultaneous singers (five at most). That doesn't mean you only have to have 4 vocals up on stage, but it could mean you have to start assigning different parts of the song (or different songs) to different vocalists. In addition, as the leader, you can plan these parts according to each persons strong suites or vocal tones (for instance, four female sopranos probably shouldn't be singing the same parts at the same time or if you have one person that's better suited for backup work making them lead isn't necessarily a good idea).

Beyond that, harmonies, harmonies, harmonies. There's some a sound guy can do as far as mixing/eqing to make vocals blend, but harmonies are what will make the vocals blend.
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Unread 07-09-2009, 06:45 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by cashisking View Post
and how would someone deal with singers that are not willing to blend while singing?
In my experience you get this when you have several "good" singers, or people who are used to doing solos.

Quote:
sometimes I have a feeling that some of the singers WANT to be heard individually.
I hear ornaments that do not really belong in the part, and things that make the individual voice stand up among the others

at what point does one say 'ok, good bye' to a couple of singers that will simply not even consider blending?
It may be an issue of education. If you've never sung with others, you may not know that you have to sing differently than when you are singing a solo.

Currently, we have a guy on our team that has a great voice. He does really interesting ornamentations. The problem is, it's darn near impossible to harmonize with him. Partly because he doesn't do the ornamentation the same way, it's just kind of random. So you can't figure out where he's going and often there are clashing notes. But he's getting better. He's never sung in a group and didn't know that what he was doing was causing problems for the rest of the team.

Once we pointed it out to him, he's trying to keep the flourishes to a minimum, and when he uses them to do them consistently. So it's getting easier to sing harmony against him. In fact, I'm finally beginning to feel that we're "clicking."

If it's an issue of ego, that's a whole 'nuther kettle of fish.
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Unread 07-09-2009, 07:10 PM   #10
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I have to wonder if all your voices are singing the melody and if any are singing harmony. If they're all singing in unison then you're gonna get some really bad sounds.
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Unread 07-09-2009, 08:33 PM   #11
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definitely define who is singing melody and who is singing harmony. generally only one should sing harmony.
Also, 4-5 is probably the better number of vocalists on stage at once. it gives volume and variety without being confusing (1 of which is harmony).

One thing I do when I am leading and trying to blend more is to look at the other singers. Possibly in rehersal have them in a semicircle, rather than a straight line so they can look at who else thye are singing with.
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Unread 07-09-2009, 11:15 PM   #12
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definitely define who is singing melody and who is singing harmony. generally only one should sing harmony.
Also, 4-5 is probably the better number of vocalists on stage at once. it gives volume and variety without being confusing (1 of which is harmony).

One thing I do when I am leading and trying to blend more is to look at the other singers. Possibly in rehersal have them in a semicircle, rather than a straight line so they can look at who else thye are singing with.
No... you need at least 2 singing harmony. One for middle and one for high. I hate this modern era of P&W that shuns using good technique like 3 part harmonies. With 7 voices you should be able to do even better than that. A good bass for the bass line is really nice, and then the melody, and then middle and high harmonies. What you really wanna do is break them up by voice and then assign parts accordingly.
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Unread 07-10-2009, 12:15 AM   #13
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Hey Ax

Absolutely agree, in our 4-5 people, we have 1 guy for the bass/tenor (though generally singing melody), 2-3 soprano and 1 alto. one of the sopranos occasionally does super soprano (sorry forgot the terminology) for the high parts depends on the song.

3 part harmony is great, but the congregation occasionally gets lost (possibly cos as i am a leader and a bass, they try to follow me down down down) It all depends on the make up of the team. if they are not experienced (and even when they are), having one person designated as the harmony/alto avoids confusion.

Great 3 part harmony i think of right now is Mercy Me and Casting Crowns acapela tracks (often secret tracks at the end of album) awesome!!
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