Today, however, I want to specifically talk about a section that can often feel a little less important or even slightly overlooked in a worship team â and that is the backing vocals.
The Backing Vocalists or BVs as they're commonly called (although now we call them "Frontline Vocals" at church; it's all in the semanticsâ¦) are an integral part of the team and go a long way into helping the general sound of the worship as well as supporting the worship leader and leading the congregation. They're so important in fact; my first point is actually this:
Know your worth
When BVing, it's often easy to think that no one can hear you and that no one will notice if you give a bit less effort and take it easy. But when worship leading I know how aware of the BV's I am and how much I rely on them to back me up and help me drive the service. From every other perspective it is so integral to the team, so if you are BVing please take everything you do seriously. Your body language makes a huge difference to the presence on the stage, and when the stage is setting the vibe for the congregation, every little thing is crucial.
Prepare diligently with warming up your voice, memorising lyrics and harmonies, and even being ready to sing different parts if the service needs it. Don't set your level of expectation to what the bare minimum is that others expect of you, know your full ability and within yourself set that level of expectation of the very best you can possible give as the bare minimum for what you're bringing to the service as a BV.
Know your position
As backing vocals, our place is to support the worship leader, and we need to do that in every way possible. If the worship leader is trying to build passion, then show more energy; if they're trying to provide space for the Holy Spirit to move, then pray and sing softer. Always be aware of what the worship leader is doing and where they're trying to take the music, and follow as quickly as you can.
Don't hold notes longer than the worship leader, concentrate hard to blend as seamlessly as possible with the other singers on stage. If your voice melts into the mix such that it can't be recognised obviously, that is the ideal for a BV.
If it's not your place to take a solo, then don't do it. The very fact that we're on stage is simply a musical form of serving God â it's not about us at all. So if you are asked to sing backing vocals, then that is your service to God, just like moving a chair is an usher's service to God. But imagine if the usher decided that he was really gifted in chair placing, so started putting them upside down, in different positions and balancing tricky angles all over the church.
Sure, they might have skill in placing chairs, but they're not there to show off their talent, and the service most likely doesn't need that talent being fully displayed in front of everyone. They're there to serve. And so are musicians. Although being on stage may seem more glamorous to some, at the end of the day it is just another act of service to God, so know your position and give your very best for the part that you've been given to play.
The big difference to a gig and a worship session is the presence of God. Your talent of music alone is not what brings this presence, it is your heart. If you have a place on stage then you have a position of leadership in that congregation, so take the spiritual responsibility seriously and spend time pressing in with God throughout the week.
You usually can't take the congregation to somewhere that you have never been before spiritually. You need to learn the sound of God's voice and the prompting of the Holy Spirit. That is the best way of supporting the worship leader â praying for them and with them throughout the service.
When I'm BVing I often pray for the team I'm singing with, and also look out to the section of crowd in front of me and pray for God to move in each of the individuals there. That's what we're there for, so don't get too caught up in the mechanics of musical expression that it distracts you from the heart of worship.
God doesn't respond to our singing, he responds to our hearts; so spend time developing it as you would your outward talents.
Daniel J. Mathew has finished his Bachelor of Music at Sydney's Wesley Institute and currently volunteers in Hillsong Creative, City Campus.
Daniel J. Mathew's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/daniel-mathew.html