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How high do you sing?
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I've been thinking about this one again since looking at King of Wonders and previously Give us Your courage et al- 1) Tim can go waaaaaaay high but I'm pushing it to get to an E... Courage has a top chorus note of C# (fine) but the wo-ow bit starts on F# (troubling), for example, and Wonders needs an E (confident) at the start of the chorus then needs an F (gonna make it, gonna make it...) for "we". When I capo 2 and play it in G it's better but then the verse is a bit low. 2) All of the above, of course, applies to male range - when Lex Buckley led at HTB I had to counterpoint or hamrnose the whole thing - presumably when a male leads the females are forced to do the same? Thoughts?
I think that you have just got to lead in the range you feel most comfortable in. If you cant hit an F then drop it a semi tone or two so the top note is the E or Eb. The only time transposing down becomes an issue is when the chorus then becomes too low! I guess we dont have to be able to do all worship songs!!. We've also got to consider the congregation and type of service. Personally I think anything pushing E is too much for most congreations and I would be tempted to try to stay at D or below. If however the congreation is a bit bigger or the style is perhaps a bit livlier and louder then you can probaby get away with much higher songs.
Answer to 2) - yes, it's like that for women when men lead. Unless you can strain your voice to sing an octave above them, or be happy with singing down in your boots. I remember at Soul Survivor trying to sing high to the songs when the men lead - it got quite painful after a while! And then one of the women would lead and I'd think 'Yes, I love you! It doesn't hurt anymore!' :P I do try to hit the high notes, and I can with practice (yay!) but it probably sounds a bit shrill - it's better for me to sing it in capo 2, or no capo at all (even better)
It’s a good point that Kathryn makes. My wife mentioned that to me a few months ago and it has really challenged me to be sensitive to how guys and gals differ in their vocal ranges. A thought is to really work on singing in key, not sharp or flat (as I often have a tendency to be sharp). I’ve discovered it can make it hard to follow (especially for ladies) if I’m not on target with my notes. A half step in the singing world can be painful if at particular places in the scale! I’ve found singing along with the melody on the guitar/piano kind of helps me keep myself in tune… but it’s tough to hear yourself sing as you practice! Anyway, I’ve found what Kathryn said to be true from my own experience. Will also makes a good point. It is important to be sensitive to the situation. When I lead for the high school crowd all ampd and what not, pushing the vocal range a bit higher fits nicely (they are bouncing around, etc.). But for acoustic sets or other crowds it may be better to allow the voice some more comfort by bringing it down a bit. Either way, I don't have a strong singing voice nor really do I know how to apply technique to my singing. So I often drop what is written by 1/2 to 1 whole step if possible.
It's an interesting dilemma. Depending on your natural range/vocal training and other factors, you may or may not be able to hit the same notes as Tim et al. However, it also depends on your setting. Although I can hit those notes comfortably, I don't, why? 1) Women, pure and simple, they can't always just sing an octave above guys, and not all girls can harmonise 2)Guys, now, most guys are classified as "Baritones" and most major songwriters/leaders are "tenors". Tenors are the higher end of the male range and so can naturally sing higher (especially in chest voice) We tend not to do something in original key unless it's easy to sing for both guys and girls! I also remember hearing a story about how Beth Redman once told Tim Hughes to sort out his lower range. So it's not just about being able to sing high. It's about having tuning, tone and quality across your whole range.
Agreed with what other people have said. I think it does depend on the setting. If its a home group of 8 people of which you may be the only 'singer' there is no way you are going to sing alot of songs in there origional key. The only places I lead at my church are our youth group (around 50 people) and our evening congregation (120-150 maybe?). We sing Blessed Be your name in A becasue it is comfortable for guys to sing and makes it easyer for the girls. But I wont lead a song I cannot sing the notes me not having the best low range. So that gives me the decision - go with the origian key which can ake it harder for other people to sing. Or not sing it. I would prefer though when the girls lead for them to lead in keys that are confortable for them and for guys to lead in keys that are comfortable for them. How I judge wheather a song is to high or not is how are people engaging. If people seem fine singing it that highjt and singing down the octave or whatever and are connecting with what they are singing and connecting with god through the songs then great. If the key of the song is detracting from people worshiping then something needds to be done about it. Another thing I wonder is this question seems to always be debated amongst musitions who are leading the songs or in the bands playing the songs? What does the average worshiper think? Does it really matter all that much to them?
I can sing up to E through F# above middle C (E4-F#4), but it depends on the song (for example, "Our God" and "Rise and Sing" in B, but not "Indescribable" in Bb). Of course, I can go further up in head voice... But generally, I try to avoid those high notes for the Sunday congregation and stay within the middle C area (give or take a semitone). It's just easier for most people to sing and be involved in the worship. But if the worship calls for a praise setting or something w/ a band and lotsa instruments, I'd say go for those money notes you can hit. =) I agree with the comments above. Anytime you lead worship, you need to consider both the setting (amount of people you are leading, instruments you're working with, etc) and your abilities (vocal range, in this case). You want to be faithful with those things so the glory belongs to God. =)
It really annoys me that loads of songs written by guys are unsingable for girls! Can any of you girls sing "inside out" without sounding really screechy on the bridge? none of the worship leaders in my church can....
I'm an alto & can hit a D (octave above middle c) most of the time or an E if I'm 'on form' but can only hit the high notes if I belt it out (despite having singing lessons). My lower range is pretty good and I can hit a C (octave below middle c) but have to be careful about which key I choose so that the whole congragation are included. I learnt to harmonise pretty quickly when I joined the worship team 2 years ago as I couldn't sing the choruses on songs such as Happy Day, You Never Let Go, Majesty, Inside Out etc. From a leading worship perspective I didn't want to exclude songs just because I can't hit the notes in the chorus and I can't always use a key where I can hit the chorus as not all of the congregation can sing that low either so I just ask another band member - usually my guitarist who is male to take the lead vocal on the chorus & I sing the harmony line. Using 'Inside Out' as an example as I used it this weekend - If I was singing it alone I would have to put it in G which makes the last 2 lines of the verse too low for anyone else to sing but I can hit the chorus so I had to sing it in A which was fine until the chorus where I dropped to the harmony line. The same applied to 'Majesty' which I followed with. Most of the time I drop the key by a tone from the original - 'This is our God' in D instead of E etc...
for congregations DO NOT go above E, and even that's at a push most male singers are baritones, even the famous singer songwriter-types our church choir is a good indicator of this. I'm the only tenor who can comfortably get above an E, which for a tenor, isn't really accurate. Carl Orff's Carmina Burana for example goes up to a Bb for a tenor voice, though this is a bit painful I can get an A quite happily without going falsetto - when I sing with the girly voice I can usually get up to a soprano F#, sometimes G no joke
I did a survey on male and vocal ranges to help me when writing songs and picking keys of existing songs: Average Jane vocal range: G3 (G a perfect 4th below middle C) to C4 (C one octave above middle C). Falsetto allows a little more, but loses power and gets squeeky. Professional female range: E3 (E a major 6th below middle C) to E4 (E one octave above middle C). Falsetto allows more, and can be executed well. Average Joe vocal range: G2 (G an octave and a perfect 4th below middle C) to E4 (E a major 3rd above middle C). Falsetto can get way into the next octave, but sounds ridiculous. Professional male range: G2 (G an octave and a perfect 4th below middle C) to A4 (A a major 6th above middle C) . Falsetto is usuable and can be blended with chest voice subtely. As a rule of thumb, its easier for men to sing lower than it is for woman to sing higher, so it's safer to knock the key down. I know I'm pushing my luck if I'm going over a C# at the top end, even if the men have got more in the tank. Some songs have got too big a range to drop the key, so you just have to go for it and people have to drop the octave or find a harmony. If you get the sheet music for a song written by a woman, it's totally fine to play 'as written'. If the song is written by a guy, then you almost always have to knock the key down a tone or two. I do all Brooke Fraser's songs in the original key, but knock a 3rd off a lot of Joel Houston's for example. My range is F#2 (octave and half below middle C) to G#4 (#5th above middle C). Falsetto will get me upto F5- but I don't tend to sing much Beegees stuff! Anyway, that's my 2 peneth