3 Truths on How to Place Your Singers on Stage

As a worship leader and planner I have often struggled with placing my vocalists. Juggling singers’ egos with stage layout concerns can be an interesting experience.

The question I received at the beginning of rehearsal that night was predictable and expected: “Why are we standing back here instead of out front? I’m a worship leader just like you.”

Ever hear that question before?

I prefer to use different stage setups from week to week to keep things a little fresh, but musicians – especially singers – can really struggle with that kind of change.

The perception is that stage placement denotes value, but the drummer is in the back every week and he is not worried.

The singer will most likely also bemoan the loss of a close connection with the audience because they are further apart. So is the bass player usually, but singers will say that the difference has to do with communicating lyrics.

Here’s the truth of the matter:

1. The primary connection with the congregation comes from the main worship leader. Other connections are secondary.

2. Too many people up front can obscure the leader, making it hard for the congregation to know who to follow.

3. Most importantly, behind all of the Christian jargon stage placement is a matter of ego and the heart. John modeled a right attitude when he said of Christ, “He must become greater, and I must become less.”

Musicians – singers especially – need to check their motives before complaining about where they are standing on stage.

Of course, worship leaders should ask the same question of themselves as they plan. Worship is about Christ, not our ego.

How have you dealt with staging your vocalists?

How Many Singers Should I Have on Stage?

When considering how many singers to put on stage with your Worship team, think about these things:

Do I want intimacy or impact? Intimacy usually calls for fewer singers.

Harmony often dictates style. A Hillsong United sound will probably not have three part harmony, whereas southern Gospel usually requires at least three parts.

What can your sound system handle? Many parts and many voices require a higher end system to guarantee all of the parts will be heard.

How skilled are your sound technicians? Can they clearly distinguish one part from another? Do they know how parts should be balanced?

Are you willing to boost the instrumental volume to support more voices? One of my pet peeves is a sound mix that has the voices blaring so loud that the instrumental mix is lost. Harmonies don’t sound right if the instruments are too quiet, unless you are singing a cappella. In that case, who cares.

How much instrumentation are you using? I love doing acoustic sets every now and then, but an acoustic set requires a minimum of everything, including voices. Otherwise you end up with a vocal ensemble and obbligato instrumentation.

The point is that harmony should be an intelligent choice, not a given. Contrary to some Christian thought, God is not present in proportion to how many singers you have on the stage.

How many singers do you use on a given Sunday, and why?