Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

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Songleading Suggestions

This past Wednesday evening we had our monthly singing, and I believe everyone was uplifted by the time we spent together in song. It is always a favorite night of the month for me personally, as I truly love to sing spiritual songs!

The men of the congregation are to be commended for their ability and efforts in leading the singing. We are truly blessed with talented and able men, who have the ability to lead the congregation in singing. In addition to the 9 men who led on Wednesday, I can think of at least 5 others who did not lead that night, but have done a fine job in the past.

There is, of course, room for improvement. All of us can get better in our song leading, and it should be our desire to improve. With that thought in mind, I want to make note of some things I observed at Wednesday night’s singing, and ask that the song leaders take note of them in good humor.

They are intended to be “constructive” criticism, and in no way to be construed as a negative view of the efforts of last Wednesday.

We are having a hard time hearing some of you. When you announce the number, be sure to speak directly into the microphone, and speak loudly. Don’t slur your speech, you need to be “crisp” in speech. This is especially important for the elderly. We have several who just can’t hear well enough unless you make a special effort.

Further, you need to sing directly into the microphone, and loudly. The leader should be easily heard. Especially in congregational singing. Many do not read music, and take their cue regarding tempo and pitch from the song leader. They can’t do this if they can’t hear you.

Some of you need to practice! You should not be picking out your songs just minutes before singing begins. Even if you know the song, and are comfortable singing it, a few minutes practice before coming to services is appropriate. Experienced songleaders know this, and seldom come to services without having first run through the songs they intend to lead. It seems like the beginner is the one who normally goes to the front unprepared.

Some of you need to use a pitch pipe. Now, if any have a pang of conscience on this, he of course should not violate his scruples. But, too many are leading songs that are pitched way too low! Again, it is often a lack of experience. However, it seems that the beginner is the one who does not want to use the pipe. (I know, it can be intimidating trying to match the pitch in front of everyone. And some may not know how to use it). If any want to know how to use a pitch pipe, see me and I will explain it to you. It is not hard. And, if you practice it (see paragraph above), it becomes an easy thing to do. Imagine, getting the pitch right, every time!

Some of you lead songs too slow! I know some might be thinking, “Well Stan, I think you lead them too fast!” And that may be true. But, the tendency is for the tempo to slow in the course of a song. One started a little too fast will usually settle into a comfortable tempo by the end of the first verse. A song started with too slow a tempo will become excruciatingly slow by the end of the third verse! Here is where a strong voice, and a proper use of the hand patterns on the part of the leader will help, as it allows the congregation to more easily follow the tempo. Which gets me to my next point, which is…

Some of you need to learn the hand motions of a song leader, and how to keep the tempo with your hand. There is a purpose for the different patterns, and for the use of the hand in leading singing. It is important! Song leaders should learn and utilize this tool to improve their ability. While there may be different “styles”, it should be understood that the practice is not random. If you don’t know what you are doing, stop using your hand in leading until you learn. If you need instruction, see me. There are only three patterns you must learn, and with practice (again, see two paragraphs above), you should be able to master the skill fairly easily.

Some of you are leading songs you don’t know! In fact, I did that myself Wednesday night (cf. song number 222. I didn’t know it quite as well as I thought, and struggled a little bit in a couple of places). I don’t mean that you don’t know it at all, I mean that you don’t know every note. Stick to the songs where you actually know the lead part (melody). If you aren’t sure, don’t lead it. (I’m not saying that you should not try a new song. Just do your best to master the melody and tempo before leading it during worship). It is not uncommon to hear a man start a song, singing an incorrect melody. When that happens, it is almost impossible for the rest of the congregation to join in.

Some of you don’t know your limitations. It always amazes me that a young man will get up and announce a song that I personally wouldn’t dare lead! Before you lead a song, make sure you can pitch it correctly, sing every note (reaching the high notes in the song), and get through it without stopping. If you can’t do it, don’t lead it (Practice, Practice!)

Take this for what it’s worth. And again, thanks to all the men (young and old) for the good job you are doing in song leading.