Gospel music is about using song to convey your personal story. So to become a good gospel singer there must be a belief behind
what you sing, even if you are not a Christian. And there is a lot within the music that anyone can identify with: themes of love, or peace, or wanting to be a better
person. But don’t fake it; people can usually tell.
Find a song
Dig around online to see if you can find a song with which you feel a connection.
This will also immerse you in the style and get you used to the sound. Popular choices
include the standard Oh Happy Day, Soon and Very Soon by Andraé Crouch and Jesus
Christ Is the Way by Walter Hawkins.
Anything performed by Mahalia Jackson or Richard Smallwood is also worth considering. And don’t forget there are plenty of pop songs that contain a gospel
theme, such as Love Train, What the World Needs Now, Something Inside So Strong, We Are the World and Man in the Mirror.
Have a look at the words and ask
yourself: how does this apply to me? Try to find the story behind the song. Much gospel music was written under tragic circumstances that many people will identify with. Talk the words through a few times, emphasising different phrases, working towards what feels right to you.
Sing it like you’d say it
The gospel sound mirrors speech, like someone is talking to you personally. So think about singing it in the same way that you would speak it if you were being
extremely passionate. Try doing an
impression of a southern Baptist preacher.
And watch the film Sister Act 2, which contains several great examples of the style you are looking for.
You should also watch clips on YouTube to see how gospel singers express themselves, and then practise in front of a mirror to see if your mouth is moving in the
same way. Because the words are the power in gospel, you’ve got to get them across clearly, which involves a lot of exaggeration. If your mouth is only moving
a little bit, you’re probably not singing correctly.
Practise a good, bright tone
Brightness, which is the equivalent of the upper frequencies on your stereo, gives presence and clarity, and it carries better.
Gospel uses a variety of tones, but it has that presence, so if you sing brightly it is going to make more of an impression. If you want
to get a brighter sound, think about singing forward, towards the front of your face, to engage those frontal resonances in your
nose and mouth.
And try to Americanise or Australianise your vowels when you’re singing, turning “dance” into “d-air-nce” and “hallelujah” into “halle-liew-jah”. To master this, practise saying “ngyeh” over and over, in a strong Australian accent, which puts the larynx in a good position and helps the voice to carry.
Gospel incorporates a lot of high and powerful notes. This can lead to people trying to yell, which is bad for the voice, or ending up with a weak sound, which loses the climax. One way you can develop your high notes is by adopting the croaky voice you might have first thing in the morning.
Use your hand to feel your vocal cords vibrate, but remain relaxed throughout.
Then, in that croaky voice, sing “ah” from the bottom of your range stretching up to the top and back down again. You will find you can go up to a higher note while keeping your vocal cords zipped up together and retaining that power. Do this a few times a day, in a relaxed way so you don’t
damage your voice, and sing towards the front of your face, which will add colour to the sound.
Breathe a lot
Gospel singers probably have to breathe more than vocalists working in any other style. So take as full a breath as possible when you can, but rather than making it
last as you might in classical singing, try to use up the capacity of that breath in every phrase. This means you will find yourself taking a lot more breaths.
Tips: choral singing
Being in a choir is an experience that will stay with you forever, and it can get people singing beautifully who think they can’t
sing at all. The three Ls – looking, listening and learning – are crucial to choral singing.
Choirs communicate to their crowds via the conductor, so you need to look up at all times.
Being in a choir is a constant learning curve. There will always be things that can make a song better. Composers constantly
revise their music; the same goes for performing in a choir.
Choral singing is a team effort. You can’t create harmonies or sing rounds on your own. To get into the spirit of it, try singing “la la la la la” up and down a scale
with three other people, getting each person to start two beats later.
I hope this will be of help. Bless you.