I keep failing worship team auditions. What can I do to improve my singing?

I keep failing worship team auditions. What can I do to improve my singing?

As mentioned in our recent article on giving kind buy honest advice to musicians who perhaps have the heart but not the aptitude for the worship team, we received this email from a lady looking for advice:

“I’m in my church choir and have been auditioning for my church worship team since 2008 or so on an annual/bi-annual basis. My most recent audition failed because of my inability to keep time with only someone playing piano for the audition among other things like tone quality and me and the worship leader having two different definitions of control.

I previously had pitch issues that weren’t brought up this time or that I corrected.

What products do you have (or other resources you can recommend) for keeping time/staying on beat in a song throughout the song and/or improving tone quality.”

What followed was a masterclass in supplementary questions and advice which I wanted to share to a wider audience here:

How to improve my singing

Jo Smith:

Perhaps consider paying for a few singing lessons as well to get some direct feedback and help with the areas of weakness. Control and tone need to be practised, practised, practised (and not in the shower!). Sit down with another instrument and try initially singing long notes, perhaps record yourself – does it sound clear, stable, tuneful, controlled. Check if you can hear if you are out of tune/in time. Do you have someone you trust who you could ask to listen who is skilled at these things? If you can’t hear that you are out you will struggle to change. Change your voice as you go – how does it change and how does it sound best? Get to know your voice well. Things like breath control, hydration, singing correctly are all hugely important – the DVDs should help much with that. It is important to be on the same page as the worship leader – I guess here their definition of control is going to matter more than yours. Ask for a full a definition of what they are looking for and where you are missing the mark. Timing – sing along to a metronome – many smart phone apps etc. Sing along to your music, turn it down for a few bars and come back in – are you in the right place? If you don’t read music perhaps learn to as it help enormously with understanding rhythm. Keep it basic and don’t be tempted to ornament etc – concentrate on simply singing properly what is there.

And – all the best  I admire that you are so determined to grow in this, acknowledging your areas of weakness and trying to put them right. Whether it achieves the ultimate result you want or not, I’m sure your singing will improve. I hope you love singing and will continue to whatever happens – we have such a reason to.

Jennifer Derr:

Most of us think we know what we sound like when we sing – and therefore try to “edit” the output. try recording yourself while you are singing with a favorite song, and listen carefully to what you hear. Allow your hearing to be honest, also.  There’s reason we cannot adequately edit on the fly.

Malcolm Little:

Try singing along at home with a metronome. They can be bought for a reasonable price and you will see for yourself if you are able to keep time. Perhaps it`s more about your ability to phrase properly. But don`t give up. And worship the Lord in the meantime. He doesn`t care about your ability, it`s about your heart. But if the worship leader is trying to build something good perhaps he has to be more to the point when he auditions. Try not to be hurt. I know it`s disappointing, but if your leader is a godly man, it won`t have been easy for him to say what he did to you.  Stay blessed. Hope this helps in some way.

Andy Tulenko:

From my viewpoint as a music teacher, I hear her voice in a very nasal way. She’s not getting the ‘sing’ in singing and it sounds more like she’s wearing a clothespin on her nose. This is actually a simple thing to correct. I said simple, not easy. A good voice coach will hear this instantly and know how to fix it. Mostly, she is using all the wrong muscles to sing with and it’s making it sound harsh. HOWEVER, she has a really pretty voice and once she corrects this problem, she will be a dynamite singer! I’m looking forward to hearing her again.

Matt Zipfel:

Has a suggestion to the person involved been to help with/do the PA? People often forget that the equal most important in any worship band is the PA operator. If the PA is wrong, the whole band goes wrong. There’s nothing to stop the person who is doing the PA to sing along at the same time – they get to be part of the band, they have a prominent role and are able to input musically into the whole thing. It’s a role that relies on musicality, and less heavily on keeping to a beat.

David Spencer:

Perhaps if you’re still failing to get in after five years of trying you should look towards some other area of ministry! Are you willing to expand your general musicianship? If so there is plenty of other stuff you can do: learn a new instrument and join a local community band, and/or join a choir. There isn’t really anything you can buy to do this for you, musicianship skills are learnt by practice and best learnt by practice with other musicians.

W Ray Williams:

Sometimes you have to figure out it your are in the right time at the right place with the right gifts and talents. I would say that if you are trying for 5 years and still have not been accepted, you will not be.  Try another church that has a less professional outlook into the music and worship ministry.

David Miller:

How about, “Dear …. Here is a list of church music groups who will welcome you to attend their practice and fellowship gatherings… Once you have met them a few times ask them for some honest feedback.” This is not a facetious answer; I know churches where this occurs and sometimes people develop and become useful team members on Sundays – sometimes they don’t, but find welcome and fulfilment in the company of other musicians – possibly discovering a helping ministry in the music team without needing to be a singer on the platform. Of course, the questioner may be attending a church where a standard of musician is available they will never reach – or it could be that the music group are rather full of their own importance…

Richard Aylmer-Hall:

If you have not been accepted by now you will never be by this team. Go and see a professional singing coach for a no-holds barred assessment of your singing abilities. If they say you can sing, and you really feel you have a gift and calling to assist in leading musical worship, look for a church that doesn’t have enough musicians and offer your services somewhere else. Learn a sought-after instrument skill, such as bass guitar or drums if you are still keen.

Online tools  to help with rhythm:

Matt Zipfel suggested http://keeptothebeat.com/taptempo.html – a simple website that allows you to tap (using a mouse click) the tempo. It shows you actual BPM you’re doing, average BPM you’re doing, etc – could be handy to train yourself to keep to a relative beat. It is very accurate though!!!

Matt also found an article suggesting that it is possible to be “beat deaf”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beat_deafness

Jason Chollar said “This $3 app is AWESOME!!! https://sites.google.com/site/sightreadrhythm/home

There were also plenty of wise words of reflection:

Sarah de Jong:

I have to ask- if someone is having to work so hard to stay in time, sing in tune and get their tone right etc…, how are they going to also have the head space to worship and lead others in worship? It’s lovely that this person is so passionate about learning and honing their skills but I have to ask if it takes all the enjoyment out of praising God and entering his presence?

Jo Smith:

Sarah – I’ve been singing for years and I still have to work hard on all those aspects despite having I guess what you would call natural gifting. I think if they can put the hard work in and train their voice then in time the head space to worship gets bigger. All of us serving in worship teams have to find a balance as we still need to work hard and concentrate as we worship at the same time. The more practice and work we put in outside of the worship service the easier it gets. But sure – if it becomes all about the stress, the achieving, the role, then we miss the point which is it all being about Jesus.

Sarah de Jong:

Jo- yup totally agree. But being in time and in tune are the bare essentials of music and leading others to sing…

Amy Hart:

Sometimes what we want to be doing to glory God and what He wants us to be doing are totally different! Maybe somebody has the heart to be a worship leader but actually what they’re meant to be doing is kids’ ministry (for example). Keep worshipping but don’t be scared to explore other areas of serving!

Sa Rah:

 It’s a good job God sees our hearts and when we sing and worship in his presence it’s beautiful in his ears! I’d say just enjoy worshipping! Sometimes we strive too much and forget what it’s about! A worship leader doesn’t have to be a perfect singer but a good worshiper! But if really on your heart then try the above. Hope that made sense xx

Jo Smith:

Having mentored and helped train a few, most have got there, but unfortunately some haven’t. Not everyone should be serving in worship ministry and I’ve had to re-direct, as hard as that is. The church of God is at its most beautiful when all gifts are being used in the right areas, with a passion to serve in that whatever it is, teaching, music, greeting, cleaning, and the doing of that with a humble and grateful attitude for the glory of God. It’s a good church leadership that helps individuals to really discover what that should be.

What does Musicademy have that might help?

The Worship Vocals Course is a great all round singing course and followed properly will certainly improve anyone’s vocal abilities.

The Advanced Vocals Workout CD is like a voice bootcamp. It will help with ear training and pitch issues as well as improving vocal tone, range and power

The Worship Backing Band Practise Tracks for Musicians has 54 backing tracks for practise. There is an option to include a click track to help develop a sense of timing. The DVD includes on-screen chords and words so great for other musicians as well as vocalists.


Other posts you might like:

Is the heart all that matters? Reconnecting our worship

Does worship leader = musician or can others lead worship?

17 common worship leading mistakes and how to avoid them

Vocal range – practical guidance for churches (part 1) and (part 2)

Ask the expert – warring musicians and choice of keys for worship songs

Forget excellence in worship