God has answered a prayer recently and brought out team 3 more singers. Previously, there were really just 3 of us. Usually 2 people would sing melody (the Worship Leader and another person) and the other person would add in a harmony part occasionally by ear.
With the extra singers, we are now at a point where we can really do 3-part harmony. So I've begun to teach the 3 parts that I have on the lead sheets we've purchased before.
We don't have any "Chris Tomlin tenors" or soaring sopranos with crazy range...we're pretty average singers. So, what advice would you have about what's a reasonable range for each of the 3 vocal parts (e.g. Tenors can sing from the C below middle C to the F right above middle C in chest voice, above that will typically be falsetto). I'm thinking that I could then check the harmony parts against these ranges to know if a song may need to be lowered a bit for everyone or if one of the new members is really an alto instead of a soprano or vice-verse.
Also, we currently have 2 worship leaders (me and another person). I'm a tenor and usually sing in the octave ending at middle C to keep the melody for the congregation when leading. The other leader sings alto/soprano and she'll usually sing in the octave starting at middle C to keep the melody for the congregation.
So, let's say I lead a song and structure the harmony parts to be the 2 parts right above my melody. But then when she leads it, those harmony parts then become the 2 parts right below her melody. Would that switch sound weird? How does your team handle having both a male and female worship leader who have overlapping songs when they lead on different Sundays (different song keys, different harmony parts, etc)?
We have the same situation and here is how we handle it. Whoever is leading chooses the key that fits their range best that still will fit in with congregational singing. Then one person will come in and sing lead with them on certain parts of songs and the other singers will do harmony, whether it be above or below the lead. So we will have songs that we do in 2 different keys on different Sundays and it does not seem awkward. Also each lead person has their own twist on the song which adds variety. We usually just go with harmony by ear- we play with it a lot in rehearsal and it usually comes together. I am usually leading, but sometimes we have a male lead, and some Sundays we take turns on songs or take turns on verses. (I also LOVE to sing harmony!). We do have CCLI Song Select at our church so it makes it much easier to switch keys around.
First off - traditionally vocal ranges for the voice parts are generally agreed to be this:
of course, voices are unique and top/bottom notes for individuals will vary. This is the generally accepted guide. I would sit with each singer and notate their range for future reference.
As far as the question of harmonies, if the harmonies are written well they should work both with melody below or melody above. It will just change the feel. Melody below with harmonies above has a very "rock" feel to it. Melody on top with harmonies below has a more "classical/traditional" feel (or jazz, depending on the harmonies chosen). The one time this will not work is if you write harmonies that spread more than an octave above the melody (when the melody is the lowest note). In those cases you will probably have to work out alternate harmonies for when the melody goes up the octave. You may not run into that issue - it certainly isn't the norm for praise & worship music to write open voicings for the vocals. (Open voicing = spans mor than an octave, Close voicing = all voices within an octave).
Hope that helps a little.
The simplest choice is to sing in unison. Even when you are hitting the same note, each person has a distinct timbre to their voice, so it will be a fuller sound than one individual voice singing the line. The next step is to sing in parallel lines but exploring different intervals. An octave above or below is simple or, to start exploring the richness of harmony try thirds and fifths.
You can take a melody and then add one voice singing a third above and one taking the fifth but placing it below the main line. This envelops the tune in a rich setting. Remember to keep with notes in the scale if you don't want to veer into experimental sounding territory. For example, take the first three notes of "Three Blind Mice": E D C.
The diatonic harmony using the approach described would give you BEG ADF GCE (or Em Dm C, all in the second inversion). Of course, you will soon find that singing a fixed pattern harmony doesn't sound right all the way through most songs. Use your ears to guide you and try to figure out how to replicate the styles you hear on recordings and you will soon build a vocabulary which will let you confidently harmonise around each other.
Thanks so much J B, Steven and Wulf! All these tips have been very insightful and will definitely help me as I lead the team in upcoming weeks!
It's good to know that other teams are in the same boat and that it can work out fine if the harmonies are either above or below the worship leader!
And thank you for the info on voice range classification. This really helps me to understand where the different parts can hit in a lot better for our singers.
And thanks for the tips on how to harmonize on the spot!
if it helps any, here's a section from a piece I wrote & arranged a couple of years back. It's written in 3-part harmonies with the melody as the lowest note. It could give you some examples of what notes can be used for which chords and in what voicing. This is just my take, others will undoubtedly choose voicings that suite them. Also, excuse the odd chords (well chord)...it's from leaving a few open strings ringing throughout in the chord voicings.
Not to turn this into an arranging/theory lesson, but you'll notice I start with a wide open voicing (bar 25, at the double bar) that closes to a tight closed voiced/stacked thirds the 2nd time around (bars 29-32), and then repeats that motif to create a sense of "finish" at the end of the chorus.
Sometimes it just easier to see what others have done...a picture is worth a thousand words...