1064639-mumford-sons-617-409I’m not going to be talking about bringing banjos and upright bass into your worship set. Kudos if you’ve done that, by the way, but bluegrass groups kinda’ beat you to the punch (brothers.)*

But Mumford and Sons have done you (and me) a big favor in the last few years. In fact, the shock waves from their arrival on the music scene can be felt not just in churches, but in popular music as well.


Now, look – there have been background vocals on albums since the beginning of time, but until these guys started showing up in people’s phones and on radio, it had been a long time since we had heard such obviously (and meticulously) mixed group harmonies.

Suddenly it’s become cool to have a bunch of mics and a bunch of parts on stage. Think The Lone Bellow or All Sons & Daughters. Or go even smaller…what made a band like The Civil Wars cause thousand of people to sit up and listen? The freshness and closeness of their vocal parts.

Here’s how this helps:

  1. If you’ve got a bunch of vocalists that lead alongside you, stop trying to shut them up. Give them even more complicated harmonies. Let them listen to these bands and find out what precise phrasing can do with vocal parts.
  2. If you don’t use a lot of vocalists, throw some mics up. Find out if your bass player can hear parts or add a vocalist or two extra for one Sunday just to thicken it up.

Some challenges:

  1. A lot of vocal parts can sometimes sound “country” since country music has historically mixed in a lot of backing vocals (though not as much now since country has become a weird version of pop music.) To keep yourself from sounding a little too Southern, listen to famous choral pieces. They’re more complicated sure, but it might do our ears some good to listen to a genre where the vocal work is so outstanding.
  2. If you don’t use a lot of backing vocals, you may not be very good at hearing them. Find somebody who can do it well and utilize them.

Curious…what’s the vocal makeup of your team? Lots of singers or no?

*Made a joke with Punch Brothers reference. I am the coolest.



  1. Kelly Perkins

    Exactly!! Here recently, I have been going back and listening to classical music and it really is refreshing…

  2. johnnydrummer

    Since we do hymns, we have someone singing each part. I am so grateful that I took Theory and had to write chorales. Understanding how a well composed piece provides EVERYONE with a part they can comfortably sing really helps with the pop stuff.

    One caution: giving everyone a mic and telling them to find a part is a train wreck waiting to happen. Everyone should have a part and stick to it. Even a small group like ours had trouble with this. People who can sing simple pop well clam all over the place if the harmonic movement is outside of the mainstream.

  3. bradthedesigner

    When WILL you start talking about “bringing banjos and upright bass into your worship set”? I’m waiting…

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