expressive worship

Seeing the Music

I’ve worked with many singers who are trying to find and develop a unique vocal style. A great vocal coach can help with this. On the flip side, a bad vocal coach who only understands one style and tries to teach you that (whether your voice is suited for it or not), is a big mistake! You’ll never find “your voice” that way.

If you’re a guitar player who takes lessons from someone who can only teach one style (and it’s not the style you want), you’re with the wrong teacher. I’m not saying you can’t learn something from them, but you’ll never find your “instrumental voice” that way. You may find out what you don’t like, but it’s not the way to develop your own sound, your own tones, your own expression on the guitar.

The same thing holds true with expressing yourself visually onstage. Most artists don’t need to learn how to dance, so they don’t need a choreographer. They don’t need to take a theater class to learn what to do onstage. But there are fundamentals that everyone needs to learn to express themselves onstage.

I get asked all the time what the biggest problem is that I run across when working with an artist or band. This is one of the major things: most artists are very uncomfortable with themselves, their body, and how to express themselves physically onstage.

And they think the only way they can learn is by being onstage and trying things. There’s an up side to that: they can find things that work and that they feel comfortable with (if they’re willing to take risks).

But there’s a down side, too. They often develop many bad habits onstage – nervous habits like tapping the microphone while singing, hitting their leg when they’re uncomfortable and unsure, grooving with the music when they should be singing the lyrics, etc.

I hear it all the time: “The best thing you can do is just get out there and sing or play wherever you can!” THAT’S NOT TRUE!

That’s like saying to someone that if they don’t know chords on their guitar, they should just learn by strumming and putting their hands in different spots to see what works. I think a chord book would be a better place to start, don’t you?

There are fundamental principles, concepts, and theories that help in any craft. How deep you want to jump into those theories is up to you. But the ultimate goal, if you want to do your best, is to find your own way to express yourself vocally, musically and visually. You want to be an original, not a copy.

Many people do this vocally and musically, but they never do it visually. They watch someone “famous” (who may not be doing it correctly anyway!) and try to do a few things they do.

When I learned to play my instrument, I listened to players I liked and copied them. Then I went from copying to being “influenced” by them. I started thinking about what I would do instead of what they would do.

I had people help me with stance, timing, instruction in why we did what we did. They taught me that payoffs come in 3’s, and told me about putting pressure on an audience. They showed me everything from movement to mic stands. On and on and on. Then, once I learned the fundamentals, I developed my own style. I wouldn’t have learned the correct way to lead an audience, never would have developed my own style visually, if I hadn’t had the guidance to do it.

Go out and sing and play – learn some of the skills… but learning the fundamentals FIRST can save you years, you won’t develop bad habits, and when you’re on the platform you’ll make a bigger impact sooner!

My DVDs on fundamentals can be found in the All Roads Lead to the Stage DVD series, particularly on DVD #5, Don’t Fall Off the Stage.

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Tom Jackson

Tom Jackson, world renowned Live Music Producer, helps musicians and worship teams develop songs into “unique worship moments.” His Live Music Methods help create freedom in the room so your congregation can express their worship more freely and passionately than ever before! Tom has worked with nearly every genre from rock to pop to Christian Gospel, impacting major artists and worship leaders such as Jars of Clay, Casting Crowns, NewSong, Sidewalk Prophets, Chris Tomlin, Francesca Battistelli, Todd Agnew, Phillips, Craig & Dean, Parachute Band, The Martins, plus a multitude of independent artists.

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