Articles

But I Can’t Sing! Tips for a New Psalm Singer

I just completed a quick read of Understanding Music and Worship in the Local Church by Vernon Whaley. Though I would not agree with the author’s practical applications of the role of music in the church, Mr. Whaley rightly supports the idea that every person can and should sing. Now all you reluctant singers–we are not talking that every person must sing opera. But we are talking about faithful, joyful and skillful singing. We are commanded many, many times in scripture to sing to the Lord (e.g. Ps. 96, 150, Col 3:16, etc). Your lack of musical expertise is not an excuse. Singing is a skill not a talent.

From my own experiences of conducting choirs for almost a decade, this hypothesis that “everyone can sing” was radically confirmed. In almost every choir there were people who by all definitions just “couldn’t sing”. Tone deaf, singing loudly off-key, physically damaged vocal chords, young children who could not keep a pitch–all these things were experienced. With each situation, when the person who just “couldn’t sing” purposefully worked on overcoming that lack, great progress was made. With just that little bit of work and perseverance, the temporary obstacle of poor singing was totally overcome.

It is like riding a bike. “But I can’t ride a bike!” someone might say. And they might be very right. But if one has never have tried it before, of course one can’t ride a bike. You must practice and keep trying and one day–voila! You’ll have it and you will never forget how. The same principle of persistent faithfulness applies to singing.

Most people think they can’t sing because long, long ago, someone told them, “Sing a little quieter Johnny!” Subsequently the child grew up thinking he couldn’t sing–and he never sought to remedy the situation. However, if the person merely exerted the smallest consistent effort, he would be amazed at the progress.

Need some easy ideas for learning to sing?

1. Listen
– Stand next to someone in church who can sing and listen to them, trying to match the pitches.
– Cup your hand over your ear and mouth making a “telephone” so you can hear yourself better.
– Listen to quality recordings of songs you sing often in your church congregation.

2. Practice
– Practice singing everywhere–at church, in family worship, while mowing the lawn, washing dishes, etc.
– If you have access to a piano or a person, have them sing/play a note for you. Try to match the same note back to them. Once you can easily match the pitch, try to copy them and sing 2 notes in a row. Then add 3 notes, next 4, etc. until you can sing a whole line of music back to them.
-Be consistent–Set a time goal to really work on singing for a week, month or longer.

3. Tell Others
– Tell others you trust that you are working on this project of learning to sing.
– Talk to other people you know who do sing for tips and tricks.
– Take advantage of ever opportunity to talk about and work on singing–informally around the campfire, when you have people in your home, in a choir, or at a church Psalm or Hymn sing.

Our family has had the privilege of teaching several groups of people to sing the Psalms in 4 part harmony. Before we begin, invariably several people will say “Now I have to warn you, I can’t even sing–let alone sing 4 part harmony!!” Again and again people are amazed at how easy it is when you actually put your mind to it. Don’t believe anyone who says they “just can’t sing”. Anyone can sing. Yes, it may take a little effort. But the rewards, having a voice of unfettered praise to the Lord, are incomprehensible.

© August 2005, Rebecca Serven. Revised October 2006.
Used by Permission. All Rights Reserved.

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