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The Truth About Vocal Style

Tim Carson is the author of The Worship Vocal Book. Below is an excerpt from his new book as provided for by Live 2 Play Worship. Please see their site for the entire excerpt.

Vocal style is one of the most powerful tools we have to help us express our hearts through song. Style is the palette of colors that we use to express emotion. When style is used at its best, we capture the essence of a song, connect our hearts to what we are singing, and find a full spectrum of colors that will communicate to our congregations. Style not only allows others to hear the language of the heart, but invites them to engage their hearts in the same way. But style can alienate and distance our congregations as much as it can invite and engage them. The right song, the right message, and the wrong style can render all of our efforts in rehearsal and preparation (and even in vocal development) a profound waste of time. Our voice can sound amazing, and we can develop all of the range, dynamic control, and technical ability in the world, but if we do not have control over style, we may as well be a pastor at a church in Texas, preaching in Japanese. That pastor could have passion and skill, and the right heart and motivation, but people just aren’t going to get it. The inability to effectively use style can be just as much of a hindrance to our ministry in worship. For most singers I begin working with, style is an elusive aspect of singing that they feel they have very little control over. They would explain style as the unique quality that defines their voice. It’s what you hear when they sing—it’s their style. Other people on their worship team have their own style. Someone on their team sounds really good on a certain type of song because that is their style. Another person sounds best on another type of song because that is their style. But style isn’t something they feel they have any control over. Style is what defines them.

But this is not the case for those vocal artists who see style as a tool bag of resources that help them communicate their hearts through their voices. Style serves vocal artists but does not define them. Style is the palette of colors that they get to use as they create a work of art, painting a picture and communicating a message through song.

So how do we make that shift? How can we develop the ability to be served by style rather than defined by it? Can style be learned, or do you just do the best you can with what you’ve got?

Breaking Down the Mystery of Vocal Style

The first step in mastering style is to break style down into manageable pieces. We all have a broad understanding of style. We like certain styles and dislike others. We recognize when we move from one stylistic genre to another. But what are the specific characteristics that really define style? Nearly all of what defines style can be broken down into four stylistic tools:
• Diction
• Tone Color
• Vibrato
• Pitch Fluctuation

Keep reading this excerpt on Live 2 Play Worship!


At a wide range of conferences and sessions, the principles presented in The Worship Vocal Book have proven to produce better singers, time and time again. The techniques in this book draw on four-hundred years of classical, foundational vocal instruction and yet they are fresh. Tim presents them in a way that is different from any other method available today, particularly as it pertains to the contemporary worship singer, leader, songwriter, or performer. The information is presented in a way that is easy to follow, and it works!