Hello everyone, I am new to "Worshiptherock." I am glad to be here.
Something that has become a small issue in my church is the sing-ability of worship songs. We have been doing a lot of songs played on KLOVE, and we write a lot of songs in-house. One church member commented, "All the songs are so hard to follow."
So we have been trying to write and choose simpler songs lately. Maybe we get carried away with cool-sounding songs, which I love to sing in church as a pastor and worship leader, and my worship leader does too, but do we tend to leave out the congregation in song choice?
How many words is too many? Should we sing more songs with the simplicity of "We Exalt Thee", or more complicated songs like Crowder's "Forever and Ever"? (I can't remember if that's the title)
Or good happy medium songs like "All We Need" by Charlie Hall? What about a good mix of all sing-ability levels? What do you think?
Well, one answer might be to ask your 'flock' which songs they would like to sing. As CS suggests, there are songs which are more designed for congregational singing and others more for solo or band only involvement. In any event, if you decide to introduce new songs that everyone can sing together, then it's probaly best acheived by bringing them in gradually, say twice a month at the most.
Mike, singable songs seem to have some common traits. For one, they don't usually have a lot of tricky synchopation...in other words, you don't have to do vocal aerobics to follow it.
Secondly, there is a 'hook' or a repeated line that makes at least part of the song easy to remember. Think about "Come, Now is the time to Worship." It repeats the phrase, 'Come, now is the time' many times during the chorus. That helps the average person remember the song. I've seen teams introduce some home-grown songs that never repeated a phrase, and just plain didn't like them for that very reason.
Third, watch the key. A lot of songs written by male artists tend to be too high for the average person in a congregation. So I try to never go above the high D. Learn to transpose your songs down to where they are singable. Also watch out for songs that start in one octave and then jump an entire octave once they get going, like Sing, Sing, Sing by Chris Tomlin. Most older folks can't do it.
Someone once said that a good worship song is one that is possible to do with just one instrument, like a guitar or piano, or even with just vocals. If it always requires a full band, maybe it will feel too much like a performance. Nice to mix in, but maybe not the staple song you're looking for.
Hope these suggestions help. For an example (sorry for the shameless plug), listen to my song (on my page) called "All I Have." People tell me that they really like it, and it is one of my more simpler songs to play. That tells me something.
I like Rick's comments earlier to which I'll add a few points to consider.
It sounds like from the nature of your question that you are thinking and are sensitive to others needs - you really have a desire to lead God's people in worship. I pray that the Lord will continue to lead you.
Please consider, One church member commented, "All the songs are so hard to follow." is that the sentiment of many or one? We are ultimately singing to God so I'd recommend to change things up cautiously if you see the congregation is coming along with you. Does that one person complain a lot? Are they in regular attendance and are plugged in or do they just drop in once in a while? Do this person seem representative of a group of people or is this person representing themselves only. What's the purpose is behind the comment? With that said, if that one person is the Pastor ask him, "What do you suggest I do to serve the people?" and then do it. Forget about everything I've just said or will say and follow the pastor's lead.
May I recommend that you make the priority to please God and serve His people. Never try too hard to please everyone. You will never succeed in making everyone happy. At Best, You may be able to succeed in not offending anyone - but I'm not promising anything.
Assuming the above is properly considered, prayed over and if the songs are ministering to you and to the team and a substantial portion of the congregation is with you, but you still want to draw more people into worship singing I commend that desire.
1. Sing the chorus more often And/OR start and end with the choruses.
1a. Sing only choruses - insert a chorus into other songs that the congregation already knows repeat the new chorus several times then continue and end with the chorus of the first song
2. Use/write songs with powerful, strong Lyric content so people don't have a check in their spirit as they sing the words. For example, "Oh I wanna be with you tonite" is not as strong lyrically as "I stand in Your presence, O God." Both express the same desire. However, "be with you" can also express a very worldly sentiment. Granted it is possible to deliver this line in a reverent manner - it may nonetheless hang some people up. Avoid those kinds of lyrics in your writing of songs - ambiguous interpretations of the meaning of the words can be a fun songwriting tool but typically not in church music. Strive to be scriptural, worshipful and vertical. If you have a "horizontal" song make it a common Christian testimonial kind of thing. It is good to express the fruit of teaching and theology with a grateful thankful heart, but never be preachy and don't attempt to teach heavy doctrine or theology.
3. Cut the instrumental solo's way down or out altogether.
4. Trim down the rotation and sing fewer songs more often - I know that can be boring artistically, but it is serving the body.
5. Place a premium on the words and on singing to God. Train the band to almost completely drop out 'break it down' and just sing - maybe just drums to keep the tempo solid. Have every musician singing on the stage - the ones who prefer not to sing - they simply sing w/o a mic and they can just be lip synching. It communicates to everyone that, "we are now singing as a group". Encourage off mic singing to your musicians as they are doing their part.
6. When you find songs that everyone seems to enjoy singing analyze its characteristics - stuff like Rick mentioned will become apparent. That will lead and refine your song selection process.
All the best to you as you serve the body. It sounds like your heart is to serve His people.
David made some excellent points. I especially want to emphasize the instrumental or solo limiting...these are difficult to pull off while still keeping the congregation involved.
I love guitar solos, but as I watched one of my worship teams the other week, I noticed how the flow of worship really broke down everytime they went into a solo break...even when the break was only a few measures long. The room really has to have energy happening for the congregation to keep moving along with you as a worship band during these times. That's why guitar solos work so well in a concert setting - everyone is there to hear you. In the church, many times the people are just 'there'.
I try to limit any musical solos to just one per worship set...and I might start parring that down even more in the future. If you do put in an instrumental break (high energy) then if really helps if you or your BGVs do some ad-lib singing during that time, or at least clap their hands to the beat so that the congregation knows what to do. (there's a reason the Bible uses the term 'sheep'!)
On the other hand, a meditative type instrumental break can work very well, provided the congregation knows what to do. I will often tell them ahead of time that we're going to do a song that will provide time for dealing personally with God, and that it should be a time of reflection or prayer. When I've 'set it up' so to speak, the breaks have been really worshipful and appreciated.
I'm a guitarist and I LOVE guitar solos but most people who go to church on Sunday morning are not all that into it. This past weekend the guitarist took a great solo during a High energy song and a lot of momentum was lost. As far as the worship spirit of the church was concerned. I was in the congregation and it really was a poignant lesson for me. It can bless me but not for most people it slows things down.
Rick suggested to Set-Up the instrumental interludes as a time to come before the Lord is great advice.
Great answers! This is my favorite topic, but I've really got nothing more to add. (If you check my posts here, this almost NEVER happens!)
Do a search on our song discussions on this forum also. You'll find a lot of recommendations from people who have been there, done that and got the T-shirt. If they tell you a particular song works for their congregation, it will usually work for yours. :)
I never heard our church do a good version of 'All we need' , but that's another story. From the Methodist Youth Hymnal c. 1941:
1. Is the melody pleasing?
2. Is the theology solid?
3. Is it singable?
I've spoken up around here before about the range of songs, ( Bb2 to D4 is the Tim Hughes 'ideal' ), but singable is important too. Does the 1 beat rest in Tomlin's Stand Amazed/How Marvelous chorus belong there? If you have someone in the congregation singing an unplanned solo, then NO is the only answer. Keep in simple, keep it fun ( don't let it get boring ) watch the 'wordiness' of some songs like " I could sing of Your love forever " verses
Great comments above. Rick C nails it on the head about guitar solos too ( this coming from a guitarist )
We use solo music in introduction music prior the actual worship service, there are no words just instruments, setting the mood. We also use solos during things like prepartion for baptism or during prepartion for the Lord's supper as to set a specific mood, but not distract people form what is actually happening. Has to be carefully crafted.
During songs solos must be limited to really medody enhancing riffs that do not detract from the overall movement of the song. Easier said then done sometimes I suppose.
Great discussion! The only thing I'd add is to watch the rhythmic/lyrical consistency between verses. Unfortunately, most songwriters are not writing with a congregation in mind, and take some liberties with changing rhythmic/syllabic relationships from verse to verse. This is fine for solo music, but makes it much tougher for a congregation to sing. The example that springs immediately to mind is Chris Tomlin's "Forever," an extremely popular song, but I've never heard a congregation pull off the first lines of the verses even remotely together. Every verse begins with a completely different syllabic/rhythmic pattern, leading to mass chaos (slight exaggeration), even when the congregation knows the song for the most part.
Good comment about abandoning a song if it's not flying, Brian...sometimes I've been caught by trying to bring in a song that I really want, but for whatever reason it's not working. You're right about learning to let it go. You can't force people to do something as amazing a getting close to God...it has to flow from them, and our job is to provide art that helps that happen, not hinders it.