Frank Garlock's Warning Against Vocal Sliding
November 26, 2014
David Cloud, Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061
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A battle is raging for the heart and soul of Bible-believing churches, and music is playing a central role. Of the preachers who have been willing to stand on the front lines of this battle (and their numbers are small), few if any have had a greater influence than Dr. Frank Garlock.

Dr. Garlock knows music. He has a doctorate from BJU and has taken every graduate course in music offered by the celebrated Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. He sat under the famous Howard Hanson, who headed up Eastman for 40 years.

Dr. Garlock began teaching on the dangers of worldly music in about 1970. His first book was
The Big Beat in 1971 in which he warned about the sensual, seductive power of the rock rhythm. Since then he has published The Symphony of Life seminar, Music in the Balance, The Language of Music, and Pop Goes the Music, among others.

In 2001, Dr. Garlock issued the following warning:

“If a church starts using CCM it will eventually lose all other standards” (Bob Jones University, chapel, March 12, 2001).

Since then, BJU has begun adapting CCM, as we have documented in
The Independent Baptist Music Wars, so if Dr. Garlock is correct, the handwriting is on the wall.

One of the marks of CCM that Dr. Garlock has identified through the years is the vocal sliding singing technique which is a prominent part of the world’s music. It has been called “scooping and sliding.”

In this technique, instead of hitting the note cleanly and directly, there is a slide from above or below its true pitch. It adds a great element of sensuality to the music.

The 1940s book
How to Sing for Money said, “Scooping is a common practice ... as a swing effect” (Charles Henderson, p. 36).

Thus, the scooping technique was created as part of the commercial dance music scene, and it works with the jerky syncopated rhythm to create the sensual atmosphere that modern dancers desire.

Musicologist Walter Everett identifies the sensuality of this technique. He says, “Many rock vocalists reach out to their audience largely through the PHYSICALITY of their singing” (
The Foundations of Rock: From “Blue Suede Shoes” to “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” 2008).

Scooping has even been described as “sexual utterances” (Charles Brown,
The Art of Rock & Roll, 1983, p. 68).

One would think that Christian vocalists would want to get as far from “sexual utterances” as possible!

Elvis Presley and countless other pop sex gods, male and female, have used this technique to great effect, but never a godly effect.

Everett observes further, “Classical singers traditionally strive for constant beauty of tone, but this is rarely of interest to rock vocalists, who reject the dogma of there being one ‘right’ way to do anything” (
The Foundations of Rock).

This is a telling statement by a secular musicologist. Note that rock vocalists don’t care about beauty of tone, but God’s people should strive for beauty in singing style because we are serving the God of beauty and order, and we are singing about His lovely character and truth.

Rock singers contort their voices and slip and slide around the notes because they have rejected absolute truth. Their singing style reflects their philosophy of moral relativism which permeates modern pop music.

Scooping and sliding is a technique that well fits the night club, the bar, the rock concert, and it has been foolishly adapted by contemporary Christian musicians and Southern Gospel performers.

This style is not only sensual, but it also draws attention to the singer, which is another major element of both secular pop, Southern Gospel, and contemporary Christian music.

Consider the comments posted at a rendition of “In Christ Alone” performed by a young woman on YouTube:

“Beautiful voice.”
“What a great voice you have.”
“You got a great voice!”
“You are wonderfully gifted!!!”
“Love your voice!!”

By this technique, attention is immediately drawn to the singer, which is what the world is seeking, but it is not a godly practice in the worship of a thrice-holy God who has proclaimed that He will not give His glory to others.

“For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it: for how should my name be polluted? AND I WILL NOT GIVE MY GLORY UNTO ANOTHER” (Isaiah 48:11).

Christian musicians who in any sense share in God’s glory are committing a great sin.

Yet by aping the world, the very presentation style, technique, and environment of contemporary worship lends itself to exactly that. The worship singers and musicians are prominently displayed before the congregation; the auditorium is often darkened to draw more attention to the worship team; typically the lead singers are attractive people; their dress fashions are sensual; their voices are “shown off”; they move to the music’s rhythm; their images are projected on large screens; there are close-ups of faces, tight shots of instruments, sweeping pans of the worship team.

This is precisely the same technique used in secular forums to glorify rock gods.

The modern technology produces the most intense glorification of musicians in human history.

Regarding scooping and sliding, Dr. Frank Garlock warns:

“The identical methods employed by the world to make the sound sensual are now being used by many popular contemporary Christian music vocalists. Yet many Christians either do not realize or deliberately ignore the fact that this is no longer ministry, but pure, sensual, flesh-gratifying entertainment. ... Scooping is one of the most popular methods of producing a dance hall effect. ... A second characteristic of a worldly sound is flipping below and above the actual written melody line. Listen again to Henderson as he comments on this technique: ‘The classically trained singer has an ingrained respect for any written melody, and hesitates to tamper with it. The born swinger, on the other hand, looks on written melody as simply a convenient starting point for his variations’ (Charles Henderson, How to Sing for Money, 1940, p. 85). Is sacred music meant to swing?” (Frank Garlock and Kurt Woetzel, Music in the Balance, 1992 pp. 83, 94).

Dr. Garlock identified the scooping and flipping techniques as sensual swing effects that have no role in sacred Christian music. The word “sacred” means “spiritual,” which is the opposite of worldly!

Closely associated with scooping and sliding and flipping is improvisation. The vocalist uses his or her voice to improvise on the melody to enhance the rhythm. Again, it is a “swing effect” with its roots in the blues, jazz, and other forms of licentious music that birthed 1950s rock & roll.

Again we quote Dr. Garlock:

“The word in contemporary music is improvisation. When an instrumentalist or vocalist improvises, he composes and performs simultaneously on the spur of the moment without any specific preparation. New Age music is also constructed on this idea. Charles Henderson writes: ‘Now, apart from the primitive, driving rhythm that lifts the fur on your spine and starts your feet tapping in spite of yourself, what is the outstanding feature of any hot band? The answer--IMPROVISATION--spur of the moment ‘faking’ on the written melody and rhythm’ (Henderson, How to Sing for Money, p. 159).

“In other words, ‘do you own thing,’ blend in, but not in any regimented, prescribed, or planned manner. Again, this same philosophy, which is teaching relativism and promoting music which exemplifies it, is the basis for the New Age Movement. This is the opposite of unity, the opposite of ‘one sound.’ ... It is a sound which is characterized by polarization and discord rather than oneness and unity. The sound of sacred music needs to be the opposite of the sound which was just described” (Garlock,
Music in the Balance, pp. 155, 156).

A good example of vocal sliding and flipping and improvisation can be seen in the following video clip from the 2013 Christmas program of Lancaster Baptist Church, Lancaster, California:

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