Singing with Others: A Time to Blend, a Time to Stand Out

Judy Rodman

Judy Rodman

By Judy Rodman ***

In singing as in all else… “There is a time for everything under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

It is as irritating to hear a group of singers singing with individual voices sticking out like wild hairs as it is to hear a soloist sounding like they could disappear into the wallpaper. When you do what would otherwise be the right thing at the wrong time, it is inappropriate and ineffective at best.

Think back for a moment on the last group performance you experienced. It could have been anything from a background vocal session to a church choir special. Was it a blend of voices or a chaotic ego fest of solo divas? Ouch, I know… we don’t usually do this on purpose. 🙂[private_member]

You need to know both how to, and when it is appropriate to:

  • step out with individual communicative power,
  • step back to add your important presence and resonance to the blended power of a group of singers in such a way as to make it hard to pick you out of the mix.

For solos or step-out singing: Make sure you are in the right mindset. As a solo you are supposed to be heard above anything else. This is no time to be shy or timid… you should understand that your goal to capture the audience’s ear is no ego trip… it’s a job description. If you just wrap your head around that, it will cause you to automatically assume a more distinctive sound so your message can be understood clearly. When your musical and lyrical delivery has been made you can fade back out of the center of attention until your solo voice is needed again!

For group or choir singing: Again, make sure you are in the right mindset. As a group singer you need to blend with other voices or you will distract the audience and detract from the message in the song. How do you do this? Tips for blending voices:

  • COMPETITION has NO place in group singing. No place whatsoever. It should be an “all for one and one for all” vibe, not “I sing better/poorer than ___ does” or “I better sing loud or she/he will drown me out.” or “watch this…I’ll show the director/audience/fellow choir member how well/loud I can sing”. Ewee. You will stick out with these attitudes and the whole performance will suffer. If you are in a choir competition … my suggestion is to focus on out-blessing the other choirs instead of out-doing them. Make friends with them, share information and techniques and keep in touch with them to encourage them after the competition is over. (What a concept).
  • TRAIN and apply good vocal techniques that give you options of tone color instead of “all or nothing at all” sound, techniques that give you access to different mixes of chest and head voice registers as well as blending your register breaks seemlessly. If you have breath, control, pitch, tone problems but you’d love to learn to sing in a group, invest some time and money with a coach, even if for just a short time. Or consider buying vocal training products like CDs, DVDs or books from vocal coaches you trust. If you’re interested, check out my Power Path and Performance products.
  • WARM UP— preferably with the other choir members. But make sure you all warm up with correct form, or you’ll be worse off for the effort.
  • LISTEN to other voices carefully.
  • MIMIC the blended sound, volume intensity AND the articulation chosen for the words (Ah-le-lu-ia, Hal-lu-lu-ia… one or the other but not both!!!). Use the amazing power of intention…just listen closely and intend to duplicate the composite sound of the group.
  • CHECK yourself… can you hear yourself stick out of the group? Are you backing off TOO much, instead of adding valuable resonance contribution which enhances the sound and makes sure the harmonies are balanced?
  • CIRCLE THE WAGONS — A great way to blend voices is to get everyone in a circle or semi-circle where you can really hear each other. Too many times, choirs only rehearse straight towards the audience and never really hear the sound of all the other voices with which they should be blending and matching diction. Everyone assuming a correct posture will also greatly aid in breath and open throat issues, which limits among other things, vocal blending capacity.
  • THINK OF IT AS COMMUNITY — A group of confident, colorful but blended voices is the sweet sound of true, loving community- of playing well with others. There is power in community; there is emotional power in the voice of community to be sure. Like angels voices, there is great emotional power in this sound… call it part of the “music of the spheres”, unforgettable performances. It’s worth learning to do.

Fyi…being able to sing well with others can become a prosperous career. I have made a lot of money through the years by blending my voice with others. For anyone wishing to pursue session singing, jingle singing, live performance and TV vocal groups, etc, learning the fine art of blending is a basic job requirement. I call the extreme techniques of stunt singers (professional level group singers) “surgical blending”. You can’t fit a gnat’s wing between voices like this! So learn how to blend and how to stick out… versatility in the music business is a huge key to success- and it’s satisfying to the soul, too.



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