So I thought this would be a good place to put some of my ideas about music in congregational worship, and what I’m maybe trying to do when I write songs for that purpose. It might even help you make better sense of the demos, who knows!
What seems to be an underrated value in worship at the moment is melody – tunes. There are a lot of songs with good or even great riffs and backing grooves, and some of them have really good lyrics (although I’ll come back to that in another post methinks); but all too often the tune is more or less produced by the singer throwing the lyrics at the riff and seeing what comes out when they hit each other. It’s often a bit warbly and not very memorable.
Is that the worst thing in the world? I hear you ask. Well, certainly not the worst, but it is a problem. To say why, I need to dig down onto what I think song in church is there for.
It’s not a performance, firstly. Or rather, there are places for performed music in worship, definitely, but that works very differently to how most church music as we know it works. If people sing as a congregation, rather than listening or vaguely singing along while being deafened like a gig audience, they very importantly make those words their own. They’re not observing them, they’re participating in them. That has much more emotional and spiritual impact than just listening to someone singing something you probably do agree with, but aren’t getting too involed in. But, you can only achieve that if the tune can be picked up quite readily by the congregation. If they’re continually struggling with the music, they’re not going to get very involved because their concentration will be elsewhere.
Secondly though, church music should be memorable. One of the advantages of setting words to music is you tend to remember a good tune, and if it’s a sung good tune, the words tend to stick with it. So this is why a good tune is generally better than a good riff for a worship song – if people go through the week with the riff running through their head, it might almost as well be a secular song once they’ve left the church building; but if they go through the week with the tune and the words stuck in their head, they might actually think to live those words out a bit more.
So singable, memorable tunes matter. So, clearly, do clear delivery and good lyrics, but I’ll go into those in other posts. Think of it this way: if you’ve followed the above, hopefully you at least agree that a good melody is a good thing. And we wouldn’t want to offer anything less than the best we can do to God, surely? So let’s make them the best tunes we can think of.