Vocal Orientation

All vocalists need to:

  • Know song lyrics and assigned vocal parts prior to rehearsal.
  • Be energetic and actively engage the congregation.
  • Remember to clap in open sections of songs when appropriate.  You will sometimes be directed to clap a certain way, and exaggerated, overhead clapping can be more engaging.
  • Pay attention to the style of music that we play – our style is pop rock and does not call for vocal runs or a lot of vibrato.
  • Be comfortable ad libbing off the mic during instrumentals and open sections.

Vocals in Service


Lead Vocals

If you are leading a song, this does not mean that you are just "singing the lead vocal part" of a song.  You are responsible for leading the people through confident and sincere physical expression, spoken encouragement, and vocal ad lib.  When speaking, talk at a higher pitch level and speak clearly.

Background Vocals / Ensemble

The purpose of BGV’s and Ensemble is to blend with and support the lead singer and to engage the congregation with a sense of corporate singing.  Remember that this is a group, it is not an individual showcase – so please listen to other singers and strive to blend your sound.  There is usually a "Background Vocal Director" and/or "Ensemble Director" assigned per team; so if you have questions, please ask!  That leader is there for your benefit.  Also, be able to take constructive criticism from the team leader and the BGV/Ensemble Director.

In-Ear Monitor Tips

Mix your voice at a volume level so that you can comfortably hear yourself.  Mixing yourself too loudly or softly can result in pitch error and lack of confident singing.

Mix other vocalists at a volume level so that you can sing together well and get a good unison sound.  If you can only hear yourself and/or the instrumentation, your ability to blend with others will suffer.

Keep the drums and click mixed in well enough to stay in tempo.


Basic Vocal Technique



  • Relax your body.  Think: Are there any tense muscle areas that I can relax?
  • Imagine a straight line going from the crown of your head, down to the heels of your feet. Align yourself to that line.
  • Always: Your chest is comfortably up, lower abdomen comfortably in, and upper abdomen (below rib cage) free to move.
  • Common posture errors to avoid:
    • Lifting chin or stretching neck out to “reach” for high notes
    • Tension in your neck and shoulders
    • Chest drops when exhaling (singing)
    • Upper abdomen is pulled in to look thinner


  • Good posture precedes good breathing.
  • When you have time, breathe through your nose – as if you’re smelling a rose.
  • Otherwise, breathe through both your nose and mouth – as if you’re beginning a yawn.
  • Feel the air go down into your body, down into your lungs, and out around your middle.
  • Even when your lungs are empty, your chest should remain raised.
  • Breathing is noiseless and without tension.
  • Your chest is comfortably high before, during, and after taking a breath.


Phonation:  to produce a vocal sound

Characteristics of good vocal sound:

  • Good pitch – deliberately singing in tune
  • Loud enough to be heard easily
  • Energy flows smoothly from note to note
  • Consistent sound
  • Vibrant, dynamic, and alive

How to sing a phrase:

  • Attack:  Starting well prepares the way to continue well.  Pitch originates in your mind – think the note before you sing it.  Try not to scoop or slide up or down to the pitch unless it is stylistically appropriate.
  • Sustain:  Keep the energy going, giving extra emphasis to the dynamic peaks within each phrase.  Sound should be steady and consistent.  Your throat should feel relaxed and open.
  • Release:  Taper at the end of phrases but don’t let your breath support sag before the sound is completed.  Even when volume is decreasing or a phrase is ending, intentionally keep breathing muscles engaged.

Vowels and Blend:

  • Keep vowels speech-like.
  • Beware of Southern vowels – think taller vowels, rather than wider vowels.
  • Intentionally listen to yourself and others.
  • Be aware of your vowels and tone, modifying your sound to blend with other singers – singing confidently and conscious of others.

"Basic Technique" taken from James C. McKinney, The Diagnosis & Correction of Vocal Faults:  A Manual for Teachers of Singing and for Choir Directors (Elizabeth McKinney, 1994, Reissued 2005 by Waveland Press, Inc.).


Vocal Health

Water is one of the most important elements of vocal health (and health in general).  Stay hydrated with water in your everyday diet, not just at times you are singing.  It will help keep you from being exhausted as well as help flush things out of your body that shouldn’t be there.

If you are scheduled to sing, don’t abuse your voice in the days before those services.  Avoid screaming, yelling, and over-singing.

If your vocal cords are swollen, you may need a few recovery days.  Don’t talk much.  Don’t whisper; rather, talk at a higher pitch level without pushing.  Drink warm liquids.  Sing a little bit – mid-range vocal warm-ups for about five minutes, and do this 3 or 4 times a day.

BEWARE:  Gargling salt and/or lemon can result in irritation unless used for the purpose of removing phlegm from the cords.


Room Temperature Water – It is best to drink room temperature water when you are singing so that your cords don't tense.

Be aware:

  • Dairy products can cause excess mucus production
  • Salty foods can be drying
  • Caffeine can be drying

Throat Coat is an herbal tea that can help dry throats.  It can be found at Kroger, Target, and health food stores.



Make sure to do a complete warmup over your entire range before services – this is essential for vocal health and stamina.

Jaw Release

This helps reduce tension in your mouth and jaw area during singing.  Place the heels of each hand directly below your cheekbones.  Pushing in and down from your cheeks to your jaw, massage your facial muscles.  Allow your jaw to passively open as you move your hands down your face.  Repeat several times. 

Lip Rolls

This helps release lip tension and connects breathing and speaking.  It also releases tension in the vocal folds.  Place your lips loosely together and release the air in a steady stream to create a trill or raspberry sound.  Focus on making a “b” sound rather than a “p.”  Hold the sound steady and keep the air moving past the lips.  Next, try to repeat, gliding your voice gently up and down the scales.  Don’t push beyond what it comfortable at the top or bottom of your range. 

Tongue Trill

This helps relax the tongue and engages breathing and voice.  Place your tongue behind your upper teeth.  Exhale and trill your tongue with an “r” sound.  Hold the sound steady and keep the breath connected.  Now try to vary the pitch up and down the scale while trilling.  Again, don’t push beyond what is comfortable at the top or bottom of your range. 

Two Octave Scales

This provides maximum stretch on the vocal folds.  Start in a low pitch and gently glide up the scale on a “me” sound.  Now reverse and glide down the scale from the top to the bottom on an “e” sound.  You can try this on the “oo” sound also.  Don’t push the top or bottom of your range but do try to increase the range gently each time you do the scales. 

Resonance Wake-Up

This improves the resonance in your voice.  Take a breath.  With your mouth kept slightly open and unmoving, rest the tip of your tongue against the back of your bottom teeth.  Put the back of your tongue in the “ng” position and begin sustaining a comfortable midrange pitch.  Feel the vibration shimmer along the roof of your mouth.


"Warmups" taken from American Academy of Otolaryngology article "Vocal Warmup:  Put Your Best Voice Forward."