Double threat

An interesting discussion is fitfully developing at the latest open thread about why more gospel singers don’t also play an instrument while they sing. Thus NG:

Paisley and Urban are two country artists who sing, play lead guitar tremendously and write much of their material.

Why can’t there be a gospel group with a tenor playing bass guitar, a lead singer playing lead guitar, a baritone singer playing piano and a drummer singing bass?

That would eliminate the cost issue of having a band. If the drummer can’t sing bass, hire one and the group is still paying only five people for a quartet and a full band.

A really good point. One possible answer might be that there simply aren’t that many gospel performers who can play an instrument any better than they can sing. Another could be the simple fact that even if they can play well enough, why bother? Audiences may appreciate and enjoy live instruments, but that’s certainly not a requirement or an expectation for success anymore. No one’s going to be able to command a higher flat by putting a bass guitar in the tenor’s hands. So why not just cue up the track and make some joke about our band leader, Mr. Sony.

And too, the ubiquity of band tracks has created a situation in which some groups that do include a member with a decent ability as a player can actually benefit more by using that talent less. Witness how much audiences love it when Greater Vision turns the tracks off and Gerald Wolfe provides the piano accompaniment for “Land of Living” or some old red-book tune. We’ve reached a point in gospel music entertainment where live instrumentation is considered a rare value-added bonus.

But I wonder if there may not be something else going on, too. Namely, that in some unspoken but widely understood way, singers who also play an instrument erode the special status that vocalists enjoy in the cultural and professional hierarchies of southern gospel.

Going from the bottom up on the food chain of professional southern gospel, you get something like this: songwriter, producer, roadie/bus driver, player, singer, superstar singer, Bill Gaither, any performer’s child on stage singing “Victory in Jesus.”

So in a culture like gospel music, which prefers clearly defined personalities and easily categorized roles for its public figures, a singer who takes up an instrument runs two related risks: not only does he risk diluting his brand as a gospuhl sanger; he also effectively takes himself down a notch in the sg pecking order. A double threat indeed.

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  1. Musicscribe Blog on 17 Nov 2008 at 12:20 pm

    […] Doug Harrison posted a blog article titled “Double Threat.” The question raised is why Southern Gospel artists don’t play their own instruments. […]


  1. tannerstahl wrote:

    in my case, i usually don’t like to sing AND play all the time because it is difficult for me to make sure i’m performing both vocal and instrument at my best level…i’ve found when singing and playing either piano or bass guitar, concentrating on singing causes my playing to slack a little, and vice versa…i guess i would rather give full effort in one aspect of the group to make it better, than go half way on two aspects and therefore be a problem and make the group sound bad…

    hopefully i’ve stated my case clearly lol

  2. John wrote:

    Ok, I am a little tired of the beating that SG singers are taking here on this blog, and on several others. Get over it.

    Look, I watched some of the CMA awards. I’ve watched many secular music awards shows over the years.

    Those people are not great singers. Really.

    In this latest incarnation of the CMA Awards, there was a trio featuring Brooks & Dunn and Reba. Oh man, they needed to rehearse more. Awful. Reba was VERY uncomfortable not being the only one in the limelight, and it showed. And harmony flew out the window. There was no harmony.

    And George Strait sang his newest. Bad. His pitch was SHARP almost the whole way throught he song. Bad.

    Kenny Chesney wouldn’t know proper pitch if it bit him in the butt.

    Garth Brooks, the most celebrated country singer a few years ago, sings FLAT all the time. Go listen to “Friends in low places”. Man, that is some bad singing.

    Sure, there are some country artists that can sing. But, none can compare to a Jack Toney, or a Glen Payne. Or to Arthur Rice. Or Michael English in his prime. Or to Daivd Phelps.

    Name one older female country star that can still sing like Lilly Fern Weatherford. They don’t exist.

    Name one current secular group that can touch the harmony of the Booth Brothers.

    Name one current secular artist as classy as some of our ladies: Debra Talley, Janet Paschal, Ann Downing, and some others.

    Do we really want to compare Kid Rock to anyone in SG?

    I watched Leno the last few nights. Stayed up late to see the closing musical acts. Awful. Even Sarah Mcloughlin was BAD! I mean, way bad. Pitchy. Most of that stuff played on Leno is just horrible. Really, take a listen.

    I really think some of the best singers, period, are in SG.

    It is cool and in vogue now days to say negative things about SG. This to shall pass.

    In the effort to be, I don’t know, intelectual, maybe, some really stupid things are being said.

  3. art wrote:

    Even if a couple of quartet singers played an instrument, that wouldn’t come close to meeting the group’s need for accompaniment. Mr. Sony features a lush, full orchestra with multiple trumpets, multiple violins multiple drums. Each quartet singer would have to have 16 hands to play all those instruments.

  4. ken wrote:

    AMEN AMEN #2,plus very little country at CMA!Has any one on this thread heard of a group called the ISAACS?? Give me a break!!I know to much Bluegrass.

  5. quartet-man wrote:

    Gosh, Ken, calm down. Of course the Isaacs are also musicians. I even thought of them, but they are in the minority.
    The Isaacs are evermore talented and the Easters also use instruments sometimes. I believe the initial post was about men’s quartets. Yes, my name is quartet-man and yes I like men’s quartets best overall, but I also love the Hoppers, Greenes Talleys, Crabbs (who also played instruments etc. and no I am not saying it isn’t southern gospel if it isn’t men’s quartets. :-)

  6. quartet-man wrote:

    *Disclaimer: quartet-man did not use “gosh” in the preceding post as a substitute for God.

  7. quartet-man wrote:

    I also forgot the Martins as other non men’s quartets that I like. :-)

  8. WOW wrote:


    1. One Word…Jealousy!

    2. There is not a SG vocalist that can match Carrie Underwood in any aspect! Don’t kid yourself.

    3. Life without “Mr. Sony” would require SG artists to live without the 15 member stacked choir behind them at all times. It’s not all about the music.

    4. Are you referring to the same singers I heard live from NQC on XM Enlighten? Two words…PRO TOOLS!

  9. Revpaul wrote:

    Why play an instrument if you’re already on “the front line”. Doesn’t such a distinction indicate that the musicians are somewhat lower in stature?

  10. John wrote:

    #8, you have to be kidding me. Jealousy? Not here. Not jealous of someone who can’t sing. You point out one singer whom you think is better than any SG artist, ignore all the bad ones in country, and then accuse me of being jealous. Nice…

    As to Carrie Underwood, she may be good, but is she better than Taranda Green?

    We are comparing apples to aranges here. Most country acts are soloists. Most of them can’t harmonize with themselves, let alone someone else.

    I’ve seen Rascal Flats on Leno. Bad. No harmony. The Oaks are good, but can they harmonize better than, say, Gold City? No.

    Singing a solo is a whole different ball game than actually harmonizing with someone. No one harmonizes better than the top tier of SG. No one.

  11. John wrote:

    I obviously meant oranges. Not Aranges! :)

  12. dd wrote:

    One thing i think that separates country or even pop music to sg. Is that they take the time to develop their project, they effectively collaborate with each other to produce a unique sound. Now granted, unique isn

  13. dd wrote:

    as i was saying….lol…unique isn’t always a key ingredient to a successful song or project. However secular music has always seemed to never be satisfied with how things are and constantly reinvent with each song, and that appeals! The secular industry is not afraid to collaborate, to spend the money, to take their time. I applaud KPNR on their new project, who never seem to make a bad one….They took a different approach to each song. Incorporating new instruments, new phrasing, the begginings of old songs to segway into theirs.

    Having said that, the world will never “like” sg overall simply because of the message. How can someone who is dead in trespasses and sin possibly relate to the lyrics of a typical sg song? UNLESS the Holy Spirit draw. And lets face it, “Get Away Jordan” is not exactly our best foot forward to the world. i can’t even make out what Ernie is saying on his verses anyway! We need meaty songs that can speak to people and pleasant enough that they will want to listen to it. With that, most of sg is meant for people who love the gospel….

    Carrie Underwood ROCKS!

    And three words, Pro Tools Live.

  14. listener2 wrote:

    What about the Singing Echoes?? I think they can play anything that is plunked down in front of them, and sing too boot. And they are SG, with some bluegrass thrown in for fun.

  15. ken wrote:

    Never been more calm in my life.Just stating facts.

  16. mp3guy wrote:

    not only are they non-men, they are also a non quartet.

  17. quartet-man wrote:

    #10, don’t forget, the Oaks were Southern Gospel (before the term was coined) before they went country, so they have that going for them and learned their harmony singing as gospel singers.

    #15, Then I made a mistake in the way I assessed the tone of your post.

    #16, well, two of the three are not men, but what I meant was they are not a men’s quartet (they are a trio.) :-)

  18. Wade wrote:

    # 10- John…Dude… GCQ sings the harmonies they do BECAUSE of the Oaks…don’t get me wrong GCQ is my fav current male quartet but lets face it…The Oaks were doing it before GCQ Members were gleams in their Daddy’s Eyes!!!

    I have to confess my fav Oaks version was from Performance and I think I can quote the introduction given by Duane…

    …” Going to introduce everybody at once that way every one get the same amount if applause and we save a little time…Little Willie, Bill, Noah, Tommy on the drums is Mark on the Bass Guitar is Don… I am Duane… that’s all the Oak Ridge Boys will you make everybody welcome… ALRIGHT!!!”

    If that was not The Best Live Recording I would like to know what is??? IT SET THE STANDARD for Stamps, Kingsman and WHO EVER it really did not matter!!!

  19. Irishlad wrote:

    SOT. If there’s anyone out there up for a goosebump session go to youtube ‘Pile of crowns’Greater Vision,swiftly followed by ‘only a look’great Roberta Martin song. Guaranteed to lift those neck hairs.Who said that world weary Liberals don’t pay heed to the words and message?

  20. NonSGfan wrote:

    Got to agree with John on many aspects here.
    As a musician and singer, I do find it difficult sometimes to be 100% on top of both games at the same time, However..i believe people would rather you do both GOOD than to just do one GREAT.

    Country music has faded today to a state of humor.

    Keith Urban- Is australian and sub-standard at best

    Kenny Chesney- has no talent whatsoever and would be nowhere if it werent for a song writer named WENDELL MOBLEY. If it werent for catchy songs, and University of Tennessee students, there would be no Kenny Chesney.

    Carrie Underwood- is fantastic, but her voice will fade. Her notes are already getting weaker, and she is probably not taking care of her voice

    Rascall Flatts- the worse live, on-stage vocals in country music today. Anybody that has seen them live knows that the lead singer simply CAN-NOT-KEEP-PITCH. Its horrible, terrrible…awful even.

    My point is..SG if a thousand times more in the pocket, and professional than these modern country singers and groups.
    HOWEVER, you have to compare how many elite that SG has,to how man sub-standard that they have. There are more bad than good.

  21. John wrote:

    #20, I agree with your assesment of Country. Some of their “elite” are downright awful.

    Yes, we have a more bad singers in SG than are known in Country, and that is not good for the genre. But, our elite out sing their elite any day of the week.

    Look, our number one objective is not to be accepted. It’s not to be recognized. It’s not be as popular as the mainstream artists.

    Our maiin objective is to share the Gospel. At that, a lot of our groups are doing quite well.

    See, there are a lot of our singers that get ridiculed for singing SG for less money than they could be making in another genre. Instead of ridiculing them, I applaud them. For some of them, maybe a lot of them, their priorities really are in the right place.

    Going back to #8, and the thought that I am jealous somehow. If you only knew.

    Look, I have had some pretty major oportunities to sing SG, yes, even full time. Not a one of you know who I am, and you never will.

    The reason for that is that God has called me into a work outside of SG. I am fine with that. SG is my first love, and I would love to have made my living singing it. But, it is far more important to me to lay my head on my pillow at night with the full assurance that I am in the center of God’s will, that I am living the life He has for me.

    That is not some pie in the sky retoric for me. It is a way of living.

    Now, some of the ones that get desparaged on this forum quite frequently are singing for the right reasons, and THEY are living in the center of God’s will.

    Applaud them for it. Leave the infigting to someone else.

  22. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives

    Case closed.

  23. WOW wrote:


    1. Yes Carrie Underwood is better than Mrs. Green.

    2. We are comparing apples and oranges…When is the last time you have been to a country concert? All of your examples are either award shows or late night talk shows. These are the type of venues the sound is not set the way the artist is used to. You/We/ or I have no clue what they are hearing in their ear monitors on these nights. I can tell you this…I have been to alot of the concerts of artists you have mentioned and they do not have the pitch problems they have on these shows. Just like I have been to many SG concerts and the artists do not have the pitch problems they will at NQC.

    3. I don’t know you…I’m sorry for calling you jealous. Obviously hit a sore spot there. But when you are blasting an industry (country) who repeatedly puts out better Inspirtational/Christian themed music than an industry (SG) that is dedicated to that genre…it sounds a little jealous.

    4. So in conclusion…Yes (omitting live all live tv performances on foreign systems) Underwood is better than any singer in SG. Rascal Flatts is better than any group in SG. George Strait…well in my humble opinion is the best singer ever!

  24. harry wrote:

    i wonder how the country singers mentioned would sound if they sang 150+ dates a year like alot of SG groups…and if they loaded in and out their own equipment, and drove their bus all nite to get to the next show, and booked their own dates, and relied on a love offering to earn their living…

  25. apathetic wrote:

    “Look, I have had some pretty major oportunities to sing SG, yes, even full time.”

    Full time = successful??? LOL Typical SG mentality. “we’re full time so that means we are good” Anyone can go full time if they can live on a few hundred dollars a week after making a bus payment. I have seen that one too many times. Some regional “full time” group looking down their nose at a non “full time” regional group as if they are better because they can live below poverty level, but say that they are “full time” singers. Most of the time the part timers were 100 times better. The full timers were a mom, dad and a kid or two travelling in an RV that they called a bus.

    So having “full time” opportunities, doesn’t mean a thing accept that you had the opportunity to make less than $25,000 a year singing. LOL

  26. Extra Ink wrote:

    Taranda Greene certainly is in the same league as Carrie U.vocally. They are both sensational. I heard Taranda on Paul Heil’s Gospel Greats this weekend setting up the old Dottie Rambo classic that the Greenes have redone, “Stand By The River”. Taranda said, “We did a couple of takes (in the studio) and I decided…that was fun…it’s fine; let’s just leave it like it is”. Then they play the thing and it’s in the stratosphere it’s so good. She is the real deal.

  27. John wrote:

    #23, you are certainly entitled to your opinion.

    If you believe that country artists put out better Gospel than SG, so be it.

    I would certainly disagree with that.

    If you dislike SG so much, why listen?

    No sore spot on my part about the jealousy. Just amazed that someone who does not know me knows the intent of my heart.

    What you seem to not understand is the part of my post about the peace in my heart. I have great peace knowing that what I am doing is what God wants me to do. There is nothing else that could compare. When someone is that sure that they are doing what God is wanting them to do, there is no need for jealousy of any one who happens to be succesful.

    I have shared the stage with the biggest in SG. That made me feel good at the time. But my biggest success as a singer, the moment for which I am most proud, is when my little known group was the song evangelists at a very small church. In that revival, my one and only hero, a man none of you would have ever heard of, was the evangelist. A man truly annointed, one who saw thousands of people saved and ministered to through the years of his ministry. That old man was my friend, and I count it as my greatest blessing to have been a fellow labourer with him for one short week.

    That means more to me than if I had ever been able to sing on any big stage you might think of. Those big important stages pale in comparison.

    BTW, my full time offers were not all of the run of the mill variety. You might be surprised.

  28. apathetic wrote:

    I can agree that some of those in SG are better than their secular contemporaries. I was watching TBN a month ago, which I seldom do, unless I am interested in the guests that will be on. Jason Crabb was hosting. That night it was Jason Crabb, Russ Taff, Collin Raye (country artist) and Richie McDonald (former lead singer of country megaband Lonestar). All 4 sang at some point in the show. And I must say that Jason and Russ were 100 times better than Collin or Richie. Russ has been a favorite of mine going way back (and it’s cool that his smokin hot wife reads this blog. LOL) and Jason is phenominal. My CD collection also has Collin Raye and Lonestar in it. So I was blown away to see how much better our SG singers, (I really don’t consider Russ as an SG singer, he is one of the founders, forefathers and inspirations of CCM in my opinion) but they were so much better than the country, or former country, singers.

    Now, to compare anyone in SG to Carrie Underwood is taking things a little too far. I would agree that Mrs. Green is undoubtedly better than Taylor Swift, Kelly Pickler or Jessica Simpson, but to say that she has the same pipes, vocal control, etc. as Carrie Underwood is humorous.

  29. Alan wrote:

    I’m a soloist, only on the fringes of sgm, but I cut my teeth on it and still love it when it’s good. I’ve had the honor of traveling to 58 countries with the Gospel, as a speaker and singer. I realize that the backbone of sgm is group harmony singing, and that maybe a soloist shouldn’t comment. But in this open forum, I will.

    I believe that the “average” pro in sgm has a better voice than the majority of superstars in country music. I honestly do. Every small town in America has their local Gospel and country groups, and those who rise to the top of their genre usually deserve to. The majority will be local singers looking for - and taking - any job they can for their entire careers. I think this holds true in any and every profession to a degree too.

    I would suggest that all of the top name singers in sgm would sound even better than they do, if they had the luxury of the budgets and management that country superstars enjoy. They have access to talented A&R personnel whose job it is to find them the right songs, develop the perfect arrangements, hire the best players and backing vocalists, etc. They have the luxury of nearly unlimited studio time to get it right, and marketing people to get it out to the masses in ways that very few in sgm could ever duplicate. To me, it comes down to time, money, and marketing. There just aren’t the resources available in sgm to compete, with the exception of those privileged to be in the Gaither empire.

    I was intrigued with some of the comparisons here between Carrie Underwood and Taranda Greene, as well as others. Carrie Underwood is an amazing talent; take nothing from her. But, I also believe that if the industry machine was behind Mrs. Greene, she would at LEAST hold her own vocally. And that can be said about many other sgm artists. Does country have a voice like Larry Ford? Guy Penrod? David Phelps? Are Harold Reid (Statler Bros.) or Richard Sterban better basses than Gene McDonald or a host of others? I have two points: I think the answer is that no, Gospel music has many voices that are superior to a majority of country superstars, although I respect and admire the talents of many country performers. Secondly, I’m thrilled over every singer who obeyed the call of God on them, and have devoted their life’s service to Him through music.

    As a soloist, I have three segments in my concerts; one singing with tracks. Another from the piano or my keyboard, and a third segment with a guitar. I can only answer for myself, but I feel that the time I sing with tracks allows me to relax, have better eye contact with the audience, and, of course, the audience can get tastes of how I sound on the CD’s that they either own, or that I’d love for them to buy. To whatever degree, when I have the two responsibilities at the same time, such as singing and playing an instrument, I think the quality of both come down a smidge. And, if that isn’t necessarily true, it’s how I feel at the time anyway. My comfort level is then based on two responsibilities and not just the one.

  30. J. Bazzel wrote:

    As a lifelong SG fan, I read this blog often. I rarely ever post anything, but with some of the critiques of artists thrown out in this thread, I just had to respond.

    I’ve worked in the business side of Country Music for many years and have often had this same conversation with friends about Country vs. SG. I agree that a lot of today’s Country vocalists are not up to the standards of earlier artists. You could make the same argument about many of today’s SG vocalists. I do agree with whoever said that Country singers don’t get harmony singing as well as SG. They used to. It’s hard to beat the harmony of the Gatlin Brothers, Restless Heart, Diamond Rio or the early sounds of The Browns or the Louvin Brothers. All of these groups and the astounding harmonies of the Eagles have set a standard for group vocals that very few in today’s climate can touch. I believe some of the posts on here are more from a personal preference than from an objective musical critique on BOTH sides. When I read:

    “Rascal Flatts is better than any group in SG. George Strait…well in my humble opinion is the best singer ever”
    I have to just smile and shake my head. But then I read:

    “Keith Urban- Is Australian and sub-standard at best”

    That’s when I came out of my chair. Urban is an amazing guitar player and a fair Pop/Country vocalist. He’s not SUPPOSED to sound like Jake Hess or James Blackwood. It’s apples and oranges and I don’t see the relevance of his country of origin.

    I won’t get into the debate about natural pitch vs. autotune, etc, etc. I’ve raved on enough. The bottom line is: If a singer or musician moves YOU with their performance, it doesn’t matter if you hear them in Madison Square Garden or in Clear Creek Baptist Church, then they have done their job.

  31. Dexter wrote:

    When I was 18 I had my first group…there were only 4 members…and we had a 3 piece band….I played keys, my tenor played bass, and we had a drummer and a soprano…now THAT’S how it’s done! LOL

  32. quartet-man wrote:

    #29 In my opinion, Richard Sterban is one of the cream of the crop of basses. He, George Younce and Tim Riley are my all-time favorites. Aaron McCune is one of the best new comers. Admittedly, Gene has some high notes on Richard, but Richard has such a quality voice with a lot of cut, great tone etc. He is in his sixties too.

  33. Alan wrote:

    I agree with you on Richard Sterban, Quartet-Man. He is a remarkable singer. I would also list George Younce and Tim Riley as my two favorite all-time quartet basses. We are in agreement. But actually, my point wasn’t to down Sterban in what I wrote. I listed the two basses that I could remember in country groups, and my main point was that there are (or have been) some of the world’s greatest bass singers in sgm. And, that we have nothing to be ashamed of in the great voices of sgm.
    Tracy Stuffle is underrated in my estimation, and gosh, you can go on for a very long time about great basses. I also agree that Aaron McCune is likely the rising star of bass singers.

    Finally, as for Sterban being in his 60’s, I think that many basses actually get better with age, and he’s one. The last time I heard the Oaks sing, he was better than I’ve ever heard him.

  34. quartet-man wrote:

    #3, you are right that basses can often get better with age, but not always. Some mess up their voices early on, didn’t have good voices then, or health problems, hearing problems and such can mess them up. However, since voices often get lower with age, as long as you stay fit and have good health, basses can age well. :)

  35. WOW wrote:

    I retract all of my statements. Now you all may go back to “Fantasy World.” I would expect nothing less though. I have to really laugh at the “If you don’t like SG then why listen to it” comment. I believe football is the best sport on earth, so should I not watch basketball (which I also like but have the opinion that it isn’t near as good as football)?…come on!

    and to # 27…”BTW, my full time offers were not all of the run of the mill variety. You might be surprised.” If you are gonna name drop…at least DROP the names!

    to # 26… “Taranda said, “We did a couple of takes (in the studio) and I decided…that was fun…it’s fine; let’s just leave it like it is”. Then they play the thing and it’s in the stratosphere it’s so good. She is the real deal.” Please don’t tell me you believe that there was no vocal tuning with Pro Tools or a similar program. I’m sure it was “fine”…fine enough meaning there wasn’t anything that couldn’t be tuned.

  36. John wrote:

    #35, as with most people, you seem to believe that your opinion is the factual one. I see an epidemic of this in the blogging world.

    As has been stated so many times, beauty is in the ear of the listener. It’s very subjective.

    You want to believe that country singers are better, go right ahead.

    It is my opinion that you are wrong. But, opinions are like noses, everybody has one.

    My only intent in my posts here is to say that there are people as smart as any of you, who have a great musical acumen, who have an ear for pitch, who just happen to think that the top tier of SG is a superior form of music.

  37. Extra Ink wrote:


    Absolutely I’m sure there was Pro Tools used on that song and the whole project.

    Also, I can promise you that Pro Tools or some such tuning software is used on nearly every country record done in Nashville…including Carrie Underwood’s records.

  38. Alan wrote:

    Um…are there studios anywhere that don’t use ProTools these days? Other than home boards and the like? I have no idea what the disagreement is on this. If Taranda Greene and the guys heard that early take, and loved it, more power to them. ProTools is what its name implies, a great tool. It can’t perfect imperfect vocals. Pitch correction gear, by Alessis or others, has been around for a decade. It’s no big deal to me. It’s simply taking advantage of all tools out there to end up with a better product. One could say that the folks who recorded twenty years ago gave us a more pure product; but they used whatever technology was available to them at the time, I’m sure. And, twenty years from now, singers will take full advantage of whatever’s available then.

  39. Howland Sharpe wrote:


    “It can’t perfect imperfect vocals.”

    Perhaps I am misunderstanding you, but you have to be kidding. This is what I do EVERYDAY, perfect imperfect vocals. I can make ANYBODY sound like they’re a singer. And frankly, some of the “top-tier” artists mentioned in these blogs from GVB members to Sig. Sound, ALL have been aided, some to a much larger degree than others, by vocal tuning. Some of the spectacularly low notes, and some of the high ones, have been sung up to 2 or 3 notes shy of the note and “pulled” up or down by a tuner. Sorry to burst some bubbles out there, but those of us that practice the dark arts of pitch and pocket correction know the cold hard truth.

    I think you meant Antares, not Alessis.

  40. Alan wrote:

    You’re right on both points, Howland. I was very unspecific on one, and I pulled a brain freeze on calling Antares Alessis.

    I had meant to suggest that ProTools can only improve pitch, not make a bad vocal a great one…unless you can tell me something that I don’t know. My last two CD’s were recorded with ProTools, and I marvel at how it works. On occasion, my phrasing was either stretched or shortened and the like, but a raspy vocal stays raspy, etc. Or am I wrong?

  41. Howland Sharpe wrote:

    I can even deal with rasp, but you are exactly right: all the tricks in the world can’t “make” a great vocal. What these tools are great for is taking a great performance that’s maybe a little pitchy and tweaking it. I would encourage all artists, though, to have the musical integrity to give it the very best you have. Don’t be like the guy I heard about in a Berry Hill studio 2 days ago that did his vocal in 20 minutes, took his headphones off, and walked out the door, saying he was finished. “I’ll let you guys take it from here” he said as he fumbled for his car keys. His vocal sucked. He was miles out of the pocket, and almost a half step off some of the pitches.

    To all who may be reading this: Listen, particularly, to the ends of phrases when a group is holding a chord out, like the end of a song. Hear that machine-like quality it has? Hear the unreal linear sound it has? Is this pleasing to you? If it is, God help you. Now, go back and listen to some pre-pitch-correction era S. Gospel music (sometime before the mid-nineties). Listen to some early 90’s Gold City or the Cats. To me there’s no comparison, the earlier stuff has soul, the newer stuff sounds like my computer.

    I am not completely anti pitch-correction, however. It has breathed new life into some older groups. The Inspirations could peel paint off the wall before it. They sucked so bad it made my vacuum cleaner jealous. Now they are tolerable. Sometimes.

  42. Alan wrote:

    That was super-interesting, Howland. As for the guy who walked out and told the engineers to take it from there, wow… what an attitude.

    You made an interesting point about the endings of songs, and how linear they sound, and you’re entirely correct. On my last project, I ended one line, but the backing singers held it about a half measure longer than I did on my finish vocal. Frankly, I just flat ran out of air. To watch the engineer even it all out was wonderful to me, as the end result was far more professional. But, if your point is that the new tools have sanitized things to the point where it’s just “too perfect”, I think I agree. You guys who inhabit the dark side have a plethora of amazing tools these days. I think this all started with a comment on The Greenes, and how they quit after just a few takes, because they were happy with one. Chances are they could have sung a better take, but when the magic’s there, I believe they were right in letting it go. Do you agree?

  43. Howland Sharpe wrote:


    Perhaps so. I wasn’t there and it would only be my opinion anyway. I understand that there are budget considerations in all this. Some groups simply have to rely on technology rather than spending all day trying to get a verse and a chorus for one song, but if it takes that much, perhaps they ought to question this whole music thing. Maybe there’s something they’d be better at. I know that God can still use anyone, even those with limited talent, but He could also use them in something else.

    You’re right about the magic. When it’s there, it’s there.

  44. Pianodude wrote:

    Wow!!! Amen to #s 42 & 43. I play the piano at my church and our musicians definitely have some of the magic. Grantite we have some bugs to work out sometimes, but overall, I think we do pretty good in front of about 200-250 every Sunday morning. Of course, I am only 13, so I’m the backup keyboardist. I don’t really like the head keyboardist too much, either. He’s sort of…INSANE!!! Oh well. maybye there will be a good group with all musicians that just comes up all of the sudden one day.

  45. Pianodude wrote:

    By the way, I’m a soloist who is trying to make it in this cruel buisness too!!!

  46. perikoresis wrote:

    Power and Job Security. . . one musician in a quartet playing the piano would have power over the entire group (a la Bill Gaither). . . an entire quartet playing instruments would take power away from the producer, who has carefully arranged each number for maximum effect. You can’t obviously upstage your peers without developing a reputation, you may not even be perceived to upstage the producer without losing your job.

  47. wackythinker wrote:

    perikoresis #46 - Not sure you can lay all of Bill’s power over GVB on his piano playing. He is the owner of the group, you know.

    A great accompanist doesn’t wield his power over the singer(s), and great musicians wouldn’t take power away from the producer. If you’ve seen that happen, it’s the particular individual(s), not so much musicians generically.

    In order to be a great musician in s/g, a person needs to be a gracious human being. Just as no member of the quartet should intentionally out-shine the rest of the group, no musician should overpower, either.

  48. nonSGfan wrote:


  49. TERRY wrote:

    From the past jd , london and rex were hard to beat,now hester, mcdonald chaptman and pearls are hard to beat. All of these guys are great!!

  50. Ellis wrote:

    Why argue over style. It’s the message that counts. Secular music speaks of sin and sinners. Gospel is about a life changing experience. Personally, to me there is no comparison.
    Music is good. But when comparing, it’s like comparing a beautiful apple to a beautiful apple with worms in it. Secular has nice sound, but deep down it has worms, and leads one into deeper recesses of sin and destruction. However with artists crossing over and making lyrics sounding so much kike gospel music, but still is not. Gospel music can only be sung effectively by those living the gospel and not trying to entertain both secular and christian

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