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I'm planning to lead a small congregation in musical worship soon, just me and a guitar. I'd say the average person there is above average in singing ability simply by virtue of singing at church regularly, several also sing and play instruments.

However I'm still nervous of pushing the pitch high enough that some men might be beyond their natural range, one song in particular is quite low but has a high bridge with a big sustained E4. For me that's a comfortable power note right at the top of my chest voice but even a few months ago before I started vocal lessons it wouldn't have been.

I'm wondering if congregationally this is OK and people will naturally falseto that note or drop down, or will be awkward as half the men struggle.

I don't believe the song can easily be dropped a tone as then it is too low in the verse.

What advice would people offer - is this a problem and what should I do about it? I need to be able to sing confidently but so does the congregation.

  • Also is their a tag for "people singing who aren't singing" e.g. congregation, audience sing-along, etc? – Mr. Boy Sep 26 '16 at 12:58
  • The "average person" can hardly sing in tune :-( . Just having sung for years in some random choir is no guarantee of musical ability. Why not move the offending part to the altos and save the worry? – Carl Witthoft Sep 26 '16 at 14:11
  • @CarlWitthoft there are no parts, or altos. Just me and my guitar leading the congregation. And I'm just guiding people, not performing to them. Though you're right - probably they are quite a bit above average, most can sing at least in tune most of the time – Mr. Boy Sep 26 '16 at 14:24
  • I had similar problems on occasions with choirs and public. Solution - choose a more suitable song. – Tim Sep 26 '16 at 15:36
  • Can you run small auditions, and target that passage with the high note? Then for those who do find it too high, coach them through switching? – Doktor Mayhem Sep 26 '16 at 16:13
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An "average person" (by which you mean a man) may accidentally flip into falsetto and then stop singing. He will not have either good tone quality or pitch control in falsetto. When somewhat more experienced, he will strain his voice in order not to get into falsetto.

You'll already have a problem getting an average man to sing from the diaphragm since that will push out his belly instead of his chest.

Getting a sizable group of average males to agree to singing falsetto is likely as much work as getting a sizable group of average females to appear without makeup. It's a self-image thing. For some it will be a no-brainer, for some it will mean that they silently stop turning up altogether.

Maybe try finding alternative notes to sing for the exposed passages, and if all else fails, a different piece.

  • Women just have a single register? – Mr. Boy Sep 29 '16 at 0:06
  • @Mr.Boy No, not true. Women do have at least two or more registers (some argue that women do not have a "falsetto range", but there's at least something similar, whatever one decides to call it). – user45266 Feb 5 at 18:25
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I've in a very similar position, except I play piano, and can't sing that well.

From my experience, these songs can be really hard to lead. They're often written by male singers with a high voice and a full band behind them. So they are hard to translate to an average congregation.

You've already mentioned changing the key. It's usually my first port of call, but if the range is too big, it's not possible. I'd then consider changing the bridge melody to a lower harmony (I did this last week with a song). If that doesn't work, can you drop the bridge altogether, or make it an instrumental break? The final option would be to find another song. It's rarely my preferred option, but some songs that sound really great on the recording just don't work when you have limited resources.

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Agreed!

user33593 hit the nail on the head. Most untrained male voices will 'strain', rather than sing in their "young boy's voice"/falsetto. The general rule of thumb in worship singing is to choose keys (transpose if you need to) that suit the majority of singers. As an aside, and if coaching singers for this reason or others, let's also try and avoid disseminating the unfortunate "sing from the diaphragm" misnomer and focus on breathing into the lower abdominals and obliques, and allowing lower rib expansion, ensuring one's rear-end isn't "sway backed", etc.

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