Teaching Your Vocalists to Sing Harmony

When I was growing up everyone in my Mennonite community sang harmony. We had no instruments in church, so voices filled out the parts.

Today finding a singer who knows harmony can be difficult.

So how can you teach your melody-centric singers to sing harmony?

A lot of materials have been published, but for now here are a few key building blocks for teaching harmony.

1. Always have a recording on which to base your harmonies so that your singers have a quality guide for practice.

2. Clearly notate the harmonies in the recordings. This way singers can learn to read music by comparing the written music and recording as they learn the song by rote.

This step is easier than it seems. Either use a source like Praisecharts or Paul Baloche’s charts, or find a college music student who needs cash and hire them to transcribe the melody and harmonies.

3. Teach these written out harmonies by rote for those who do not read music; those who read music will love having their exact part in front of then and will help you teach the other singers.

If you are a worship leader and do not read music, recruit someone your team who does read music to be the vocal music director for you. Then take a music theory course and beef up your skills.

4. Point out the harmonic choices you or the recording artist made in the arrangement so that your singers begin to understand how you think and what you are listening for.

Example: Please, for goodness sake, do not put a minor 7th in the harmonies unless you are singing southern Gospel or jazz! From the Inside Out is neither of these!

5. Do not just tell your singers to figure out the harmonies themselves unless you are in a hard spot. Even excellent singers who have sung with you for a long time will make different decisions than you would and you will end up wasting rehearsal time getting everyone on the same page.

Winging it and freestyle are nice with pros, but in the minor leagues of worship ministry you need to firmly direct your singers in learning harmonies. The result will be an extremely tight harmonic sound.

How do you teach harmonies to your singers?

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