Vol.XVII No.IV Pg.7
June 1980

?You Know What?

Robert F. Turner

Bro. Turner:

Please give us suggestions for improving congregational singing. VC


That is a job for a singing school instructor with demonstrations and practice sessions — but don't bother to set up such a school unless members really want to learn and improve. Sometimes brethren want only to "enjoy singing together" and have little interest in genuine improvement.

1. SELECTION of songs, with fairly even parts, is important. Often the novice and poorest leaders select the most difficult or unusual numbers — something they "like" instead of a song the congregation can sing well.

A classical type song requires sustained melodious voices; the jazzy, hippity-hop songs require tricky timing; neither being suited to average congregational talents. Singing will be greatly improved by the simple expedient of singing songs all know.

2. GOD WORSHIP is your purpose, so forget about a "musical program." Put greater attention upon simple, scriptural songs that coordinate with the prayers, sermon, Lord's Supper, etc., instead of trying to tickle the taste of music lovers. Sometimes our singing sounds more like a Country-Western Festival than a worship service. We must try to turn this trend about, even if it means getting rid of some cheap jazzy songs "the people love." We must re-find our worship purpose. 3. Regular, dependable TIME must be established by the song leader. He should have a "feel" for regular pulsations, and express each emphasis by a downbeat — not a wild, indefinite waving of his hand in the air. One who is interested in song leading should be willing to take a few lessons in beating time. There are easy ways to express 4/4, 3/4, and 6/8 rhythms that will do wonders in keeping a congregation singing together. One does not have to be a "music major" or even "read music" to learn these; and song leaders should be encouraged to make this improvement.

4. Establish the PITCH, the exact sound, or highness or lowness, of the song before beginning; and make it very plain to the audience upon the first note. Some even sound this before beginning the song, but this is not necessary, and may confuse some who do not understand what you are doing. When the leader begins with an uncertain sound (1 Cor. 14:7-9) or is too timid to sing out, congregational singing is headed for disaster.

If the leader makes a mistake in pitch, getting the song too high or too low, raise the hand to stop all singing, and start over. It is better to do this than to continue in error. These four suggestions, in my opinion, could make worlds of improvement in our singing; but they will help only if we CARE or are CONCERNED for improvement. The speaker who just fills the time because it is there, and the song leader who just starts a song because it is customary, give exactly what is deserved by brethren who come together for social or traditional reasons, and have no real interest in giving their best to God.