Disjunct Melodies

Chris Salzman

Worship matters asks How do you teach an Inconsistent Melody? The post is particularly relevant to worship leaders, but the last paragraph is worth considering no matter who you are:
This discussion does highlight one of the differences between a song that is congregational and one that isn’t. Even though people can learn difficult songs through repeated listenings (most rock concert prove that), writers can serve more people by writing melodies and singing them in such a way that it makes it easier for people to learn them, not harder.
There are two forces at work here: the composer's desire to write complex and meaningful songs, and the congregation's skill and flexibility. On the composer's end they face a tricky battle: how to write a compelling song that's easy to learn without dumbing it down to the technical level of Mary Had a Little Lamb. On the congregation's end: they all need to be able to sing it. If the song is supposed to be a congregational song everyone has to be able to sing it, no matter what each individual's musical background is.

This dicotomy generally leads to a lot of middle-of-the-road quality worship music, which in turns leads people to dismiss worship music as simplistic drivel.

A friend of mine once had worship music explained to him thusly, "There's a reason most worship songs are written with G, C and D. It's familiar. Why should a musician purposefully make their music more difficult for those that are trying to worship?"

There's some merit to that idea; however, it severely limits musical expression for those with some skill or—worse—makes worship uninteresting. And on the other side of that, if your congregation or—far worse—your worship band cannot handle the tempo and awkward cadence of that latin-fusion song then why sing it?

Thoughts on this?

Bonus question: Are there songs your congregation tries to sing that they just don't quite get?

Topics: Music, Culture At Large, Theology & The Church, Worship