Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 29, 1971
NUMBER 12, PAGE 1-3a

How Good Is Your Singing?

John Furr

The quality of your/singing depends on your attitude toward it. Just how important is it to you? The importance of singing has its roots in the Old Testament. I Chronicles 6:31-ff, "And these are they whom David set over the service of song in the house of Jehovah . . . and they ministered with song before the tabernacle of the tent of meeting until Solomon had built the house of Jehovah in Jerusalem." These men were all Levites who performed the services, and chapter 25 gives the order of the song service. After Solomon's reign, Israel divided and was finally conquered and the temple destroyed. Nehemiah tells of the reconstruction and dedication of the temple, and in chapter 12 they purified the singers and the chief singer who we refer to today as the song leader. Nehemiah 12:47 and 13:5 tells of the singers being supported by the nation of Israel as were the priests. With this background, we can readily understand why Jesus sang gyms (Mat. 26:30) and why later he commanded his disciples to sing (Col. 3:16).

The importance of singing can further be seen in an examination of the function of gospel songs. Gospel songs have two basic functions: worship and edify. From the point-of-view of worship, singing is a mode of worship that is unequaled by any other. Words can create feelings, but when music is added to these words, their force is more than doubled. The success of Broadway musical shows reveal the impact that songs can have in the hearts of people. The recording and broadcasting industry is enjoying one of the greatest successes of any industry all because of the qualities of songs. Advertisers on radio nd television are depending more and more n song to sell their products. The public has been so influenced by these "jingles" that we often find ourselves singing commercials. This is the same force of gospel singing; for the spiritual thoughts are underlined, emphasized, and capitalized by the melody, rhythm, and harmony.

From the point-of-view of edification, singing has a great influence over our hearts. Sometimes it is more easy for us to recall the words of songs than to quote the scriptural sources from which they come. Consider: "I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I've committed unto him against that day." (II Tim. 1:12). "What'er you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord . ." (Col. 3:17). "Prepare to meet thy God" (Amos 4:12). "I am the vine and ye are the branches" (John 15:5). "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red as crimson, they shall be as wool" (Isaiah 1:18).

The importance of singing can be seen in the influence that good songs can have over us in our experiences of life. When we are tempted, we can recall, "Yield not to temptation, for yielding is sin;" and we can sing, "Jesus, savior pilot me, Over life's tempestuous seas." When disappointment and sadness come our way, we can sing, "Does Jesus care? Oh, yes he cares, I know he cares! His heart is touched with my grief." Or, "Do the dark clouds o'er shadow your pathway . . . carry your sins and burdens to Jesus, Jesus is strong and able to save!"

The quality of your singing depends on how well you put your heart into your singing. Our emotions can be aroused by such songs as "There Is A Habitation" and "All Hail The Power of Jesus Name." Our hearts can be humbled in feelings of reverence when we sing, "Lord, We Come Before Thee Now" or "The Lord Is In His Holy Temple." It is a sad commentary on our times when we see brethren who can laugh and cry and feel all kinds of emotions when watching a good television program, but they come to church and find literally no emotional response in their singing.

The quality of your singing will depend on how well you understand what you are singing. Paul said, "I will sing with the understanding also" (I Cor. 14:15). When we sing, "Here Before Thee, Savior," is your heart elsewhere? When we sing "Worthy Art Thou" do we really mean it? When we sing "Here Am I, Send Me" and "Ready To Suffer" do you really mean that you don't plan to go anywhere and that you want God to leave you alone? Phillip asked the eunuch "Understandest thou what thou readest?" I ask you, "Understandest thou what thrill singest?"

The quality of your singing will depend on how much effort you put into it. Strangely enough, most churches will not tolerate a preacher who organizes his sermons haphazardly, uses poor pronunciation, talks so low that nobody can hear him, shows no enthusiasm in his sermons or interest in his work — but — many of the same churches do tolerate singers who sing haphazardly, use poor pronunciation, mumble so low they cannot be heard, who show no enthusiasm in their singing or interest in their efforts. Is God pleased with the least of our efforts or with the best of our efforts? Does lukewarm singing please God? Does the cold indifference of our voices and hearts please him? God is only pleased with our best. That means the best of our heart and the best of our effort — and that also means the best of our voice.

The quality of your singing will depend also on how you use your voice. The art of singing is like the art of painting. If you want to smear paint on a canvas, all you have to do is open a tube of paint and squeeze the contents onto the surface of the canvas. But if you want to paint a beautiful picture you will find it necessary to practice blending colors, holding the brush correctly, and making the proper strokes. If the singer just wants to make a noise, all he has to do is to squeeze air from his lungs, pass the air through his vocal chords and emit a sound. But if he wishes to sing a song beautifully, he must practice. The following are some helpful suggestions to the singer that wants to achieve the best fruit of his lips by a little practice. These principles are condensed from books, lecture notes, and interviews with men who are recognized authorities in the field of voice production and good singing.

First, sit or stand up straight. Many people who "slump" are trying to relax, but they are relaxing the wrong muscles for good singing. When a singer does not sit up straight he hampers the parts of his body that function in singing. First, the breathing mechanism is in a "pinch." The lower muscles of the torso do most of the work in proper breathing and when these are cramped for space or when they have to carry the weight of the chest, they are less efficient and tire easily. If sitting or standing up straight tends to tire you at first, then remember that you are exerting an extra effort to sing your best unto the Lord. Good posture can become a habit. If you are preparing to sing in church in a standing position, rise slightly on your toes and fall back down on your heels while keeping your body slightly leaning forward. This will have the effect of lifting your chest and prepare you for good singing.

Secondly, use the proper muscles in singing. The diaphragm muscles are only used to inhale air and they should gradually relax as the air goes out. Abdominal muscles are used to expel the air, and they should gradually relax as the air comes in. The muscular energies should be focused in our breathing and not in our throat. Throat muscles should be relaxed. If we use the wrong muscles and exert our energies in the wrong places, then we will become short winded, experience early exhaustion, and probably become hoarse.

One should sing using the same muscles and body reflexes in the same manner as one speaks. Some people have the peculiar idea that when we stop talking and start singing that we have to activate muscles that we have not been using and use reflexes that we have not been using when we are talking. This is why some people can talk for hours without getting hoarse but lose their voice after only a few minutes of singing.

Do you use a lot of air when you sing? You do not need to — in fact, you should not. The amount of air you should expel when you are singing should be the same that you would exhale while making a prolonged, quiet "H" sound (as if you were slowly expelling steamy air on a cold winter morning).

Singers should "warm up" their voices before entering lengthy song service. It is good for the voice and it can help the singer to overcome a "cold" throat. While getting ready for church or driving to church it would be good to hum, and sound off a few notes.

How good is your singing? Only you can answer that. If you have the right attitude, do your best, and use your voice as best you can, then you are doing your part. But your voice alone will not make the whole congregation sing well. You need to admonish others in the congregation and help them with their singing. When everybody in the congregation grows concerned about the quality of their singing, then — and only then — will the quality of the whole group rise to equal your quality!