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Steps to Learning to Whoop

Many people contact me wanting a step by step method to learn to whoop, here is the outline of a method.

1. Listen to Other Whoopers

The first thing that one should do if you want to learn how to whoop is listen to other whoopers. Just like if you want to learn how to play jazz, you must listen to others who do it well. Please note that there are different levels of listening. The first level is merely for enjoyment. Here you simply listen for things that you enjoy or that “speak to you” on some level. Another level of listening however is critical analysis. Here you seek to understand what is happening. You listen to the whooper trying to hear the pitch changes. When does the whooper change pitch. When does the whooper change the volume? Does the whooper only get loud at the end? Does the whooper get loud and soft? Another question one might listen for is a sequence of pitches. Does the whooper make use of a sequence (sometimes called a riff in music)? What about rhythm? Does the whooper change his or her rhythm?

Along with the critical analysis, the budding whooper should listen to a wide variety of whoopers. Listen to the traditional C. L. Franklin, Caeser Clark, and Jerry Black. Listen to the Harvard Whooper. Listen to the young whoopers like Marcus Cosby or Rudoloph Mckissick Jr. And listen to the whoopers who have a style totally their own like Leory Elliot. Listening to a wide variety of whoopers will help you find who you are as a whooper.

2. Sing

The next thing to do is to sing. There is a connection between singing and whooping. Listen to Jerry Black as he sings and then listen to how he whoops. There is a connection. Now you may not ever sing a solo, but you need to sing as a member of the congregation and as you go along. Sing spirituals, sing the great hymns of the Christian faith, and sing the Gospel Songs. Sing Andre’ Crouch and Fanny Crosby.

The important thing is that whooping has a lot in common with singing. listen to a whooping master and a great gospel singer. You will find that they both make use of vocal dynamics. They go from loud to soft and vice versa. They both make use of rhythmic changes. They speed up or slow down as needed. they both make great use of timing. They both improvise. Etc. Listen to great preachers and singers and sing.

3. Practice

Finally, you want to practice. Don’t go up into the pulpit without having practiced whooping. Personally, I think that all preachers should practice more. When I used to play the trumpet, I would practice 30 min – hour a day just practicing playing. Perhaps preachers should spend 30 minutes to an hour a day just practicing their presentation skills. Be that as it may, if you are to whoop, you probably should practice it. Practice in your car, practice in your shower. Jasper Williams notes that many have learned to whoop while sitting on the toilet. You want to practice. As you practice you must critically listen to yourself. Jasper Williams notes that when it sounds good to you it is ready for use.

4. Incorporate Whooping in Your Sermons

Finally, we should look for opportunities to incorporate “whooping” into our preaching. Without forcing, slowly put some musicality in your preaching. Add rhythm to the way you say some things. Explicitly hit a note when preaching. Don’t force it. Do all your forcing in the practice room, but when you get out in front of the congregation, just preach and let it happen.

5. Whoop with Integrity

Please to succumb to the temptation of using whooping to cover up a lack of preparation. Perhaps we all have heard whoopers who obviously haven’t done the preparation necessary to preach an effective sermon to the people of God. Then these preacher simply start whooping and the people go wild. However, during the week when pain and trouble come the people haven’t been given the tools to deal with the world because the preacher decided to serve slop and then try to put cream over it. We as preachers have been called to give the word that is needed, a sweet whoop does not discharge us of this duty. If you whooop, please whoop with integrity.


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Jasper Williams Whooping System

Can one learn to whoop? Is there a system to help anybody whoop? Rev. Jasper Williams answers this question with an unequivocal yes. He states that anyone who has been called to preach has been given by God the ability to whoop.

This system is meant to help one learn how. Needless to say I was a little skeptical. But I went ahead and looked at this tape, video 10, in Jasper Williams Pastor and Preaching System. You can purchase the system at this link.

Background on Whooping

There is very little on the subject of “whooping” available on the web or in book form to preachers at the present time. You might be interested in looking at my series of posts on the subject at this link. Also you should look forward to Rev. Martha Simmons forthcoming book on the subject.

Like any good presenter, Rev. Williams defines whooping. His definition includes anything that God gives to you individually as a preacher to help you celebrate the gospel in your sermons. this definition is a little broader than what many of us think of when we think of whooping. But that very broadness is why he can make the statement that “anyone can whoop.”

I would add that usually whooping is seen as the introduction of musicality to the preaching moment.

Your Sermonic Whoop is Individual

At any rate, A very valuable component of Williams’ system is that he shows you a wide variety of very different whoopers. This emphasizes his major point that one preacher’s whoop is different from another preacher’s whoop.

Williams even goes so far as to say that in his early years he “copied” C. L. Franklin’s whoop too much instead of trying to find his own whoop. This point, namely that we should find our own whoop, is emphasized over and over again by Williams in the video.

Whooping Theory

In the video Rev Williams gives whooping theory which he calls “whoopology.” I gleaned the following fundamental components of Williams’ understanding of whooping from the video.

  • Anyone can whoop. – As noted above, whooping is that element that God has given to each preacher that allows that preacher to celebrate the gospel.
  • Unique to You – Related to the above point, no one else has your whoop. You are the only one who can do what you do
  • Whooping is Gravy and not Meat – Here Williams emphasizes that preachers must give some solid content before one whoops. The whoop can not cover up the lack of a full sermonic meal.
  • Do Not Strain in the Whoop – You should not yell or strain in whooping. Williams notes that you can do much more with your voice when your voice is at a natural pitch and volume. Williams states that the whoop is sweeter when it is more mellow. Volume is not the point. Yelling almost kills a whoop, according to Williams.
  • The Whooping Curve – Sermons that end in “whooping” should drop in intensity when entering the whoop. More below.


What is the “whooping curve?” That is the fact that many sermons that use a whoop make sure that they are not at the height of their vocal intensity when entering the whoop of the sermon.

Rev. William’s understanding of preaching begins the sermon at a lower intensity then slowly builds up to a climax before the whoop section of the sermon. Then there is a drop in intensity. This is to make sure that your voice will not be strained in the whoop section which will ensure that you can continue to raise the intensity level through the whoop.

You must not go into the whoop at too high a level of intensity, you must have a drop in intensity as you go into the whoop. Then you build back up. If you go into your whoop at too high an intensity there is no place to go. I was listening to C. L. Franklin in the sermon entitled “Press on.” You find him at a high level of intensity. Then there is a drop in intensity right before the whoop. Then inside the whoop he builds to the final climax.

Steps to Implementing Whooping in Your Preaching

Rev. Williams does not just give theory, but he also gives some steps that a preacher should follow if that preacher wishes to introduce whooping into his or her preaching.

The first and perhaps most important thing one should do is practice. Practice in your car, practice in your shower. Also folks practice in the bathroom. Williams notes that practicing on the toilet is where many have done a lot of practicing. You want to practice. As you practice you must listen to yourself critically. Williams notes that when it sounds good to you it is ready for use.

Second, one should listen to other whoopers. This is akin to the jazz musician who listens to others. You do not copy but you emulate others. This is kind of a sticky thing. But you must preach your own style of Whoop. Seeing different styles helps a preacher find onesself.

And that is step three, you must find your own whoop. What is natural to you. God has built you physically and spiritually for a certain type of proclamation. Williams notes that we must preach in that way.

Finally, we should look for opportunities to incorporate “whooping” into our preaching. Because, in Williams thought, whooping is meant to articulate the joy of the Gospel, we must as preachers do it. Joy in the Gospel is an important component of our preaching ministry.

Conclusion

I think that the whooping system could spend a little more time in “step by step” instructions. But I began implementing elements of musicality into my preaching after looking at this video so it was helpful. The drastically different approaches to whooping also opens ones eyes to different takes on whooping.

However, I think that preachers who are in Whooping traditions probably already know most of what you will find on this video. And those of us who are not from those traditions probably could glean alot just from listening to great whoopers.

Be that as it may, Williams’ system can help to at least point you in the right direction and it is relatively inexpensive at 30 dollars. So I would encourage you to go and look at the video.


Starting to Whoop

Learn how to whoop with this unique resource.

Preachers of all abilities can increase their effectiveness by implementing musicality in their preaching. This resource will help you do just that.

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To Whoop or Not To Whoop – Musicality in Black Preaching

Whooping is one of the components of the Black Preaching Tradition that grabs the attention of many congregates and preachers. While there was a time when whooping was in decline, Martha Simmons, the foremost expert on Whooping, states in her book Preaching with Sacred Fire, that it has simply changed and adapted with the times. Simmons notes four phases of whooping. The first phase is roughly attached to African Traditional Religion and its emphasis on musicality. The second is the era of J. M. Gates who was an early whooper who influenced many by his preaching recordings. The third era is of C. L. Franklin who is probably the most imitated and popular whooper of them all. Finally, we have the Charles Adams era of whooping. In each era the art has adapted. For example under the Charles Adams era, according to Simmons, the whoop became much faster and less melodic.

Whooping and Music

Although there are differences between eras, Jon Michael Spencer notes in his book Sacred Symphony a commonality between the different eras as well as a commonality with music itself. Among these commonalities with music are melody, rhythm, call and response, harmony (including extensive use of the pentatonic scale as well as moves from sub dominant to dominant), counterpoint, form, and improvisation. Spencer provides an interesting look at the art form from the angle of music which might be of aid to those who would seek to learn how to practice the art form.

Whooping as Metaphor for Black Religion

Discussion of the art form is very appropriate for Black preachers in that it could almost be a metaphor for the whole of Black religion. According to Simmons, it probably has roots in the musicality of the African mind. Over time, she notes, “Blacks were not converted to the white Christian God; they converted their God to English language.” Just as in Black American religion in general, this art form embodies an “African-ness” that has simply been transferred for use in Christianity. Finally, the art form evolved just as Wimbush notes that the Black approach to the Bible has evolved over the years.

Why is Whooping Important

I think that this art form is important for a few reasons. First, it has an appeal to many Black people. Any art form that allows access to the people should at least be critically examined before being set aside. Another important role that the art form plays is its attack on conventional preaching methodologies. It refuses to be constrained by the “intellectual-only” approaches to preaching. Charles Adams reminds us that one can even be a “Harvard Whooper” and thus be very intellectual, but that does not preclude the need to address the emotive dimensions of humanity. Finally, whooping is a channel to our African past. This alone makes it worthy of a second look. When a preacher whoops, she or he is appealing to an explicitly African component of our being. In other words the preacher is keying in to our African past.

Do You Have To Whoop?

One question of importance to any Black preacher is: Must one whoop? I think that the answer is no, one must not whoop to be an effective preacher in the Black tradition, but I would hasten to add that one must not be an “anti-whoop” preacher either. By that I mean that one must not be against this important component of the tradition. There is in some circles an anti-whooping climate that seems to be based in the belief that it is “a circus” or “unnecessary,” or it is “anti-intellectual.”

Reclaiming Whooping

While it is true that this critique of whooping is sometimes valid. Martha Simmons describes this as a “dark side” of whooping where preachers simply use it to make up for sloth in preparation. However, I think that what many anti-whooping brothers and sisters don’t realize is that all Black preaching is subject to these problems in the wrong hands. One will attack whooping but hold on to cadence. One might attack whooping and use other forms of rhythm. One will attack whooping and even hold on to some forms of musicality. In short, if whooping is unnecessary then so is the “celebration” at the end of a sermon. If whooping is unnecessary then so is raising ones voice at the “Goodness of Jesus.” I think that whooping is a gift to the church that we should not apologize for or give up, but we should attempt to further refine that part of our tradition.

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