If you’re ministering in a small church like I did you’ve probably found you have a bunch of average musicians (the mega down the street has most likely hired all the great ones) and, as a result, you have an average (or below) sound.
I had a small pool of vocalists I could rotate on the praise team – none of them were bad and they could all hold a tune. However, they were all either classically trained or choir singers (me included) and I could never seem to get that contemporary sound. Singing more modern, syncopated songs were out of the question (the one rehearsal we tried a Crowder tune ended in complete disaster – they literally could not sing the notes.)
Then, out of nowhere, ONE terrific, contemporary vocalist showed up at church. He was a former burned-out worship leader I knew who needed a break but still wanted to be on a praise team. He came to rehearsal one night and WOW. I couldn’t believe it – with the addition of ONE great vocalist the other average vocalists on the praise team sounded 100% better – more powerful, confident and contemporary.
With ONE “ringer” the other vocalists, used to blending in a choir, finally could blend with (and mimic) a pop singer. Oddly enough this all happened immediately and without any coaching from me. After rehearsal I praised the sound up and down and explained what was going on to reinforce good behavior.
If you have that ONE you might want to help them understand their unique role in your ministry: they’re not divas or “stars” – they’re ministers and musical leaders who can help the rest of the team grow vocally.
I learned this “ringer” trick years ago in Nashville. Soon after I moved there our church choir along with another local choir were invited to sing backup on a big CCM recording. You had about 60 average vocalists in the studio along with a hired professional session singer in the middle of each section.
I remember one of the “ringers” for the ladies was the beautiful and mind-boggling-talented Melodie Tunney (from First Call) and Guy Penrod for the men. As we rehearsed the song before recording the man next to me could not sing a right note to save his life (how do these people worm their way into the choir lol?) And of course, the more off-tune a person is, the more they feel the need to belt out those wrong notes like their life depended on it.
Mr. Penrod, who was standing right in front of us, kept turning around and glaring at ME as if I were the tone-deaf offender. Finally, right before the tape rolled, he yelled in frustration to the producer (all the while keeping one eye firmly planted on me) “Let’s make sure we’re ALL singing the right notes!” Mortified, I wanted to crawl under the riser but at the same time wasn’t about to yelp “it’s not me!” The pitch-challenged perpetrator must have taken the hint because I didn’t hear a peep out of him during the recording.
The “ringer” solution can work with your praise band, too. Although I have seen a terrific keyboardist or guitarist improve the quality of a band, you’ll get the most musical mileage out of a solid “ringer” drummer. That steady, strong tempo will typically transform an entire amateur band into something special.