How to Sing Gospel With Power and Joy

Learning to sing gospel music can be hard but incredibly rewardingOne of the most emotive and stirring types of singing is gospel singing. Artists who sing gospel, like Mahalia Jackson, as well as soul and pop singers like Aretha Franklin have frequently included it in their repertoire.

These spiritual songs often follow an easy ‘call and response’ pattern with repeating lyrics, but their key quality is that they’re always sung with plenty of emotion and often provoke a strong reaction from the audience too. The powerful voices resonate with audiences, especially churchgoers.

When a traditional church choir tries to sing gospel songs, they often won’t have the same impact on the audience as a gospel choir would have. Most traditional hymns have lyrics that repeat less, and emotive singing is often discouraged in a traditional church setting.

The Way to Sing Gospel

Use these tips if you want to sing gospel musicSo, if you’d like to sing gospel, first you need to be prepared to relax. Allow your emotions to show through and really enjoy interpreting these historic songs. However, like any kind of singing, you’ll need to develop and practice the correct vocal technique.

Learning to sing gospel music can be challenging. It has even been compared to opera in terms of the demand it makes on singers. So, what will you need to sing this style of music?

  • A strong voice
  • Good breath control for those long, emotional phrases
  • The confidence to let your emotions show as you tell the story
  • Belief in what you’re singing – even if you don’t have a religious faith, sing with conviction and you’ll really connect with your audience

Gospel Singing Exercises

A great way of developing your breath support and control to help you sing gospel is to regularly practice the Fontanelli exercise:

  • Prepare by checking your posture
  • Take a slow inward breath to a silent count of four
  • Standing in front of a mirror, watch your mid section expand as this happens
  • Now, count to four again as you breathe out
  • Again, study your reflection and make sure you keep your chest expanded throughout the exhalation

Gospel singing exercises can help you gain the power and strength to sing this style of musicOnce you’ve mastered this technique, repeat it, but count to first five, then six, then seven. Once you’ve achieved that level, add a ‘hold’ count: inhale for four, hold for four and exhale for four. You can increase the count still further, but always keep checking to make sure that you’re still supporting your breath well.

Another skill to work on as you learn to sing gospel style is dynamics: increasing and decreasing the volume as you sing. This adds another dimension to your performance. To practice this, after inhaling, while maintaining good pitch in your mid range, sing something very softly. Gradually increase the volume and then decrease it again, also very gradually.

Performing Gospel

To sing gospel well, you need to develop expressive performance skills, so:

  • Read the lyrics of a gospel song carefully
  • Read them aloud as though you’re reading a story or poem to someone
  • Now try to capture that same expression as you sing the lyrics
  • Make sure you enunciate each word very clearly

Gospel songs were originally written and performed for people who couldn’t read or write, so the stories were told through vocal expression. Watch as many clips of gospel singers as you can (try YouTube). Try and identify the elements of each performance that make it especially meaningful and then use these techniques in your own singing.

Gospel singing is usually very joyous and, if you enjoy it, your audience will too.

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