Tag Archives: church music

Resources for Church Music (Day Thirty of Homemade Music)

Welcome to 31 Days of Homemade Music! This month we are exploring how and why everyone can benefit from being an active participant in music making. To read more posts in this series, click here.

sacred collection

Yesterday I spent some time talking about some guiding principles for leading church music. Today, I want to give you some resources for continuing to do that. This isn’t an exhaustive list- it merely includes the books and websites I use most frequently. Depending upon your church setting and musical culture, some of these resources will work better for you than others. Feel free to pick and choose as you will.

Indelible Grace Hymn Book- Indelible Grace focuses on reviving the tradition of putting old hymn texts to new tunes. The hymnbook is rich with carefully selected hymns of generations past, put to appropriate and pleasing melodies with new arrangements. The website is one of the most complete and helpful resources I have found for it’s music. Each one of the hymns (from a large index, mind you) includes a lead sheet, guitar chords, a demo, a power point (for you screen-using churches) and the complete score. Many include a piano solo arrangement. And all for free- beat that.

Trinity Hymnal We have the “red cover edition” of the Trinity Hymnal, and use it frequently. There is very little of the useless stuff you find littered throughout so many hymnals. Expect well-written, meaty texts and appealing arrangements. They have different editions for different denominations (with theological differences and all), so you can search for one that best suits your church if you’d prefer.

Praise! Our Songs and Hymns This hymnal includes a lot of the classic, homey old tunes that we associate with the era of Fanny Crosby. You want Leaning on the Everlasting Arms, Nothing But The Blood, and Trust and Obey? This is the hymnal for you.

If your church prefers more contemporary music, almost all of those songs can be found on sites like Sheetmusicplus.com or Musicnotes.com. Or, if you like to live on the edge, you can just Google it and follow someone else’s lead sheet slapped up a free guitar tab site. Just be aware that these sites are scattered with glaring chord errors, and you may have to do some corrective work to the available music.

If you sing special music, offertory music, or communion music, you may want to look for some befitting solos. You can try The Sacred Collection: Low Voice or High Voice for a wide selection of sacred music across a variety of genres. I have also used some of Mark Hayes’ arrangements for voice in solo music: 10 Hymns & Gospel Songs for Solo Voice or 7 Psalms and Spiritual Songs are good for starters. If you enjoy singing spirituals, try some of Moses Hogan’s arrangements in books such as The Deep River Collection (I don’t have this book, but I do like Moses Hogan!). There are of course many more possibilities than this, but these are the books I have visited frequently for sacred solo arrangements.

What music does your church use? If you lead music frequently, what is your favorite resource for doing so?

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Church Music for Newbies (Day Twenty-Nine of Homemade Music)

Welcome to 31 Days of Homemade Music! This month we are exploring how and why everyone can benefit from being an active participant in music making. To read more posts in this series, click here.

If you are remotely musically inclined and a churchgoer, chances are at some point you either have been or will be asked to participate in music in some way. Depending on the type of church you attend, you may be able to join a choir or a “praise band,” or be asked to lead music in some capacity (cantoring or leading congregational hymns). Or, perhaps you will be asked to perform “special music,” which is basically a solo in church for you non-Christianese speakers.

Large organ in catholic cathedral(Photo Credit)

If you’re new at participating in church music, it can be kind of intimidating at first. So whether you’re just starting or just open to rethinking how you do church music, here are a few ideas for you.

1) Keep it meaningful. Text first. Always look at the words of a song before you choose it for church music. Is it God-glorifying? Is it well-written? Are there any wonky lyrics that you’re not sure you should attribute to God or the church? Is it clear? Picking well written words helps the congregation to stay with you mentally and in spirit.

2) Keep it simple. Now is not the time to try to show off. Ideally, you want to be leading others in worship- and being purposefully cocky or overly impressive is a surefire way to distract from that purpose. If you’re doing a solo, you will have a little leeway for performing with your own interpretation, but if you are leading the congregation in song, you will want to keep it simple and singable so that everyone can join in easily. (As you gain skill and experience, of course you can do more difficult repertoire- but that’s because you will be able to do it better, so it won’t be a distraction then!)

3) Keep it tasteful. During church is not the time to try to convince everyone that they should become reggae-lovers, or that hard metal can be Christian. While there is nothing inherently wrong with these beliefs, it is, once again, terribly distracting to use church as a venue to push your own musical preferences. (Believe me, I’ve walked these roads, and it all just gets muddied and confusing.) Better to keep it LESS stylized than more, or to go with a musical style that is generally accepted to be common among your congregation. Church worship should not be a divisive event. Keeping the music tasteful will help your congregation focus where they need to focus.

4) Keep it beautiful.  Pick songs that you can do well so that you can do them beautifully. Again, this will help you can focus on the worship rather than your performance. The more comfortable you are with the song, the more pleasing it will be for everyone.

5) Keep it cool. If you mess up or if the music is received poorly, don’t fret. Keep your focus on the worship and you won’t mind so much if it wasn’t perfect.

Have you noticed a trend here? The idea is to always keep your focus on the worship. Unfortunately, this is not always kept at the forefront when selecting church music. A lot of times we are more concerned about ourselves- about how we will be perceived, how we will sound, whether or not the sound system worked, or if we like a song well enough- than we are about the whole point of doing church music: to offer a sacrifice of praise.

Note: I do think there is a place for high art in church music. There is not much more lovely than hearing professional musicians performing difficult repertoire very well. While “low art” highlights our commonality and encourages everyone to join in, high art lifts the mind and draws a parallel to the complexities and richness of the things of God. However, each has their downsides: If we sing all low music, we forget God’s greatness. If we perform all high music, we become disconnected. I personally think that a balance between the two is the most appropriate way to go.

Come back tomorrow for some helpful church music resources. What do you most appreciate in your church music?

(Whew- 31 Days is almost over! Are you still with me?)