All Development Vocals

Worship In A Contemporary Context

November 13, 2019

By: Ashlee Bading 

A friend once told me, “A skilled singer can sing any style you ask them to!” I loved this comment because, at its core, it states that no vocal style or genre is superior to another. As you probably already know, there are many different genres of music. The genre we sing on Sunday mornings would be classified as contemporary worship.

Each genre has its own unique preferences. When you listen to country music, you usually expect a twang in the singers voice  — rock often times produces a raspy quality. The same is said for contemporary worship! As vocalists who lead this particular genre, we must contextualize our personal style to fit in a worship setting. Let’s explore some of those qualities that are unique to our context and genre!

Modern & Powerful

Contemporary worship first and foremost is current and representative of the latest sound. How do we define a contemporary sound? I would look to the most popular present-day vocalists in the genre. Their sound is full and powerful, yet their style is simplified and singable so that it can be led in a corporate setting. We can adapt our style to create a supported more modern sound!

Importance of Harmony & “Singability”

Harmony in a contemporary worship setting is crucial. It is still used primarily for dynamic variation but it gives the female or male in the congregation an option to sing if the lead line is too low or high for their natural singing voices. This is unique because, often times, in other genres, the harmony line is a nice addition but not necessary. The beauty of contemporary worship is that it is meant to be singable for everyone. This means putting limits on the range we sing, cutting out too many personal alterations to the melody, and even adjusting our personal vocal style in exchange for a clear, pure tone. 

Emotive & Understandable

It is our job to take the congregation on a dynamic journey. For example, the moment when the whole band comes in, or when the big build of a song happens. The same is true for our vocals. We can choose when and where to utilize our voices to elicit emotion. Contemporary worship is also understandable, emphasizing correct pronunciation and focusing on enunciating our words clearly. We are not being the best leaders if people can not understand what we are saying! 

As vocalists leading in a contemporary worship setting, we have to remember our context is always about those we are leading and never about ourselves. The gifts we have been given are not of our own merit but only because of the kindness and grace of God. If we are not “singing and making melody to the Lord with [our] heart,” (Ephesians 5:19) how are we to expect others to follow our lead?