Tuesday, February 12, 2013

more on cong singing

I've been organising morning church music for the last few weeks now. It's gone really well. Here are a few things I've noticed.

1. It is so much easier to get a congregation to sing heartily if the song is driven by it's melody rather than by it's chord progression. For this reason, hymn-like songs just work better for congregational singing than rock songs.

2. Songleaders are the most important ingredient if you want the congregation to sing. Good song leading gives the congregation confidence and enthusiasm.

3. Vocal harmonies are delicious. Particularly a tenor line.

4. If I (a pianist) had to choose between a violin and a guitar, I'd take the violin. Guitar adds more complexity and, for a newby band, much more risk. I'd want bass and drums long before guitar.

5. It's easier to get a morning congregation singing heartily than an evening congregation.

All of this makes me sound really conservative. Perhaps I am. But more than ever before I am focussing on what helps the congregation sing out God's word. And it's old school stuff.

Here's our current song list:

When I Survey

How Great Thou Art 

Great is Your Faithfulness 

Amazing Grace 

Be Thou My Vision 

Come People of the Risen King 

How Deep The Father's Love For Us

In Christ Alone

This Life I Live

Let Your Kingdom Come*

Before The Throne Of God Above

Never Alone

Ten Thousand Reasons


  1. I think I've worked out the exception to the hymn rule.

  2. Our tenor singer has been unable to sing since Christmas because he has inflamed vocal chords. I really miss his voice leading our church singing. Without him, we only have female song leaders. They are great but their singing seems oh so high in comparison... :(

  3. We have an 80 year old woman who sings a beautiful tenor line...

    1. Impressive :) Sadly I don't think we'll be convincing any of our more elderly folk to get up the front to lead. Although I have just thought that we do have this lovely old gentleman who is a great ukulele player and singer, maybe I should be getting our music team co-ordinator to have a little chat to him...

  4. hmmm..... depends on the context. I don't know that I'd agree that all of these apply to every congregation. And who says 'rock' songs can't be driven by melody instead of chord progression? That said.. I tend to pick somewhat different songs if I lead from the piano instead of the guitar ;)

  5. I like what I'm reading here.

    I agree that the old school stuff sings better. Our organist is an excellent leader as well which helps give us all confidence that we can sing our lungs out and not be left hanging half way through a verse when the accompanist stops playing.

    Our congregation usually sings really well. There are sometimes 200 of us. And occasionally when everything goes well, you get warm sounding wall of sound that seems to almost physically fill the space.

  6. I lead the singing from the front. And in the well known songs will sing a tenor line from time to time. It's heaps of fun and encourages other ATB's to sing along as well.

  7. I dream of having enough singers to have someone sing a tenor line or sing one myself. If I stray from the melody when I'm leading half the congregation stop singing.

    This is such an old-school, conservative list. Older congregation?

  8. Yeah, I disagree.

    I think rock music doesn't work in church most of the time because the musicians aren't good enough. If and when they are, and the band plays exceptionally well, and especially the drummer is a strong drummer who can play in time, and when singers are confident, in tune, and expressive, I think in most contexts where most of the people are under 50 it would almost unanimously be a better option than sticking with hymns, no matter how good the melody.

    This is all assuming that the rock songs are good too. And there are plenty that are.

    1. Thanks Peter. #4 - I have seen rock songs work. But they are a much bigger risk because a lot of church bands aren't good enough (and don't realise.)