CONCERT OR CAMPFIRE ?: “ C TO SHINING C ” - THE IDEAL VOCAL REGISTER | Grant Norsworthy
When leading your congregation to worship God through songs , do the vocal , instrumental , and technical choices you make lean towards a concert-like “ performance ”? Or are you making choices that cultivate more of a campfire singalong atmosphere ?
I introduced this “ Concert or Campfire ” concept in an article a couple of months ago . Read that article here
to get the more complete explanation .
Where does the needle point for you ? There ’ s no right or wrong answer . It ’ s all about your context . But your answer is important . I strongly believe we need to be intentional about this .
For my part , when leading a congregation in sung worship , I will tend towards campfire rather than concert choices . While there absolutely is a place for musical performance as an expression of worship to God , having each and every member of my Sunday congregation singing is way more important to me than having them listening to me perform . I don ’ t think I ’ ve got the vocal chops for that anyway ! in control and comfortable . That ’ s the right way to choose a song ’ s key if we are tending towards the “ concert ” approach .
On the other hand , if we are wanting the congregation to join in as well as possible , we will choose a song key for them ! Our leading vocalists will be happy ( or at least willing ) to sing in a key that ’ s not their ideal “ concert ” key if that means that more of the men , women , and children in our congregation ( most of whom do not consider themselves to be singers ) are able to sing along .
I described this congregational or “ campfire ” approach to key choice in more detail in my last article
. There ’ s even a video included that shows how I chose what I believe is the most congregational key for Phil Wickham ’ s “ House of the Lord ”.
I believe that a song will most warmly invite congregational participation if the melody falls
between a C to C range . That is , the men will sing the melody from the C one octave below middle C up to middle C , and the women and children will sing the melody one octave higher than the men using the notes from middle C to the C above . That ’ s C3 to C4 for men and C4 to C5 for women and children .
But this is not just some wild hunch . I used to choose keys for songs where I felt the best about my vocal performance - how I felt about my voice as I sang . But once I started applying this C-to-C principal for songs , I witnessed a massive and undeniable increase in the “ voice ” and level of participation of the congregation . I have found that , when I want to encourage a congregation to sing along , I need to sing songs lower than I might really want to if I was performing . But the payoff is well worth it . I can ’ t ever go back !
But C to C is not a hard rule . It ’ s the ideal . I have found that we can stretch the lower end
If you ’ re wanting to warmly invite every man , woman , and child in your congregation to worship God by singing with you ( more than you want them listening to you ) this will ( or at least should ) influence how you make your musical choices . There are vocal , instrumental , and technical consequences to the campfire approach !
One of these consequences is that we will choose keys for songs differently . If we want our lead singer to sound the best that he or she possibly can , we will choose a key with that consideration as a high priority . We ’ ll make sure that the vocal range of the melody of the song highlights the best sounding part of the lead singer ’ s voice , or perhaps helps them feel most