How to be a good cantor

I’m so honored to have been asked to cantor a little this summer. Our regular cantor and the choir take the summer off. I’ve been a member of the choir for some time. I have a decent voice. I used to sing a lot at weddings, in performances, etc., but that’s been some time ago.

I’m a bit nervous about the idea, but excited as well.

What do you think makes a good cantor?

I used to cantor. I’d say just show up early enough to go over anything with the organist that you might need to go over.

Other than that it really matters very little. No one will care if you mess up-- I messed up lots when I was trying to get the hand of it, lol!

Cantoring is just another way to serve the Lord, and I’m sure He appreciates your efforts! Dont stress too much!

Congratulations! It’s a wonderful job - I’ve been one for over 30 years, and I love it.

I’d say the most important thing is to be comfortable with the Psalm verses, because here’s where you’ll be singing alone. If you can go over them two or three times (on different days) during the week ahead, you’ll be just fine. The more different times you sing through them, the better, because your mind continues to work on it while you do other things.

Spend a few minutes when the church is empty (so you don’t disturb anyone) checking how to use the mike, and have the organist tell you when the sound is good for both speaking and singing.

If you’re being paid, be sure you know where to sign in, or if the music director keeps track for you, or whatever.

Check with the celebrant before your Mass, so you know if there’s anything different or special going on. If you have to do announcements or anything, read through them beforehand so you don’t get surprised with a weird last name or some other issue of pronunciation.

Have fun! It’s wonderful you’ll be able to do this.


If you’re singing something intended for the congregation to join or repeat, my advice would be to make it sound as little like you’re doing a solo as possible: sing it straight, no vibrato or other vocal effects. You can have a little more fun on things like the alleluia verse!

The most important thing for me is that I prepare during the week. I go over the songs several times on different days. Sometimes, if it’s a song I don’t know or have only done once or twice, I try to find some choir singing it on You Tube. There’s a big difference between picking out the melody with one hand on a keyboard, and singing with the accompaniment, so You Tube has helped me. The Psalms can be a little awkward, so I would never want to try one of them cold. Sometimes, there’s an extra line with a verse, or just have a line even. You need to try that out so you’re not surprised.

Practice, practice, practice! :slight_smile:

Everything you sing should be a prayer.

It is an honor. Congratulations!!


God bless,

This may sound strange, but except for the psalm and Gospel response, step back from the mike and let the assembly sing. We have two cantors, who have beautiful voices, but sing so loud and so close to the mike that the assembly cannot even hear themselves so no one sings when these two cantor. They just listen to their beautiful voices. The cantor leads others in sung prayer, they are not performing a solo.

You also need to wear a powdered wig and be able to improvise double-fugues and thirty-minute long fantasias on the organ.

Love God, Love the words. Love the music. Love the congregation. Practice and you will do fine.

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