In some more recent contemporary worship songs, you may have noticed that the music is printed so that the worship leader might suddenly be asked to jump up an octave, or even temporarily go into a really high range to build intensity in the music. While this can be effective for some singers, for others it is just asking for trouble! As liturgical musicians…or just as MUSICIANS…we should know our own vocal ranges and abilities and sing accordingly. Sure, it’s nice to try something different, but maybe not at the expense of a listening and praying assembly!
I love to sing the song “Lay It Down” by Matt Maher. The refrain and verse are very simple and in a very comfortable range for anyone. (We play it in D.) However, the Bridge (“O pearl of greatest price…”) starts out fine but suddenly jumps the octave on the repeat.
In another very popular song by Matt, “Lord, I Need You,” he jumps the octave halfway through the verse.
Now, in both of these cases he sounds great doing that…I do not! It’s simply not in my range. So, if I’m leading the majority of the song, I would ask one of the women in the group to sing that part, in their range. That would be quite comfortable for them while really high for me. Here’s an example of that section of “Lay It Down” from this past weekend.
If I’m the only one singing, or there is no one else to take that part, I would just continue singing in the lower octave. I’ve done it many times and it really doesn’t take away from the music or the worship.
I do the same thing with “I Can Only Imagine.” That refrain at the end of the song is too much for me. I just keep it the same as the other refrains. It works fine and no one really notices. Trust me, it would be worse if I ‘went for it.’
So, don’t sing something that’s out of your range simply because it’s printed that way. Find a solution that works with another singer, or another range. Or another song!
Some songs seem to suit certain singers better. In our groups I will ask someone to sing a song (or a verse in the song) if I think the style of the music will really match their voice. They might have a certain ‘something’ that they can bring to that particular piece of music. Yes, range is still a factor in this obviously, but I’m also talking about the waythey sing it, too. If it will enhance the music, which will in turn enhance the worship, I think it’s important to consider.
This is the job as the Music Director. It’s our responsibility to make good musical decisions. Yes, we want to give as many people as we can an opportunity to share their talents. Obviously, we want to be pastoral in our decisions. Of course, it’s about more than performance.
But it’s still music. Right? We are, after all, musicians. It’s what we do. So let’s do it the best we can.
Our assemblies deserve it.