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What makes a congregational song singable??
#1
Hey all!

My name is Daniel and I am a grad student working on my masters degree in Music Theory at the University of Kentucky. I am very close to completing my research on congregational Christian song (it is a survey of hymns compared to gospel songs compared to contemporary worship music). Part of my thesis is coming up with 5 musical traits that every worship song must adhere to in order to be immediately participatory for the congregation. You all have a chance to participate in this research.

My question for you all is this:
What is the one musical trait you think marks a successful worship song from a less successful one?

Thank you so very much for your time in guiding this Kingdom research!
God bless,
-Daniel R.
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#2
Dear Daniel:

It is not one musical trait that will make or break the success of a worship song but rather the song will have several of these qualities before it will be a success. The two or three most important traits are it will have approximately six or more tones of a major or minor scale in the vocals, it will then have three consecutive notes of a scale such as DEF up the scale or CBA down the scale done many times throughout the song vocals, usually the pauses or times when you catch your breath are only approximately a second or less, when singing a phrase of vocals, the singer will sing for about six seconds or more, pause, then do the same pattern many times throughout the song but there are exceptions. Many CD's that end up in the discount bin at the Christian book store have music where the writer sings for four seconds, pauses, sings for four seconds, and carries that pattern throughout the song. This takes away from the flow of the music just the same way if you spoke to a person for four seconds, take a pause, then do that for the rest of your sentence and then do that for the rest of your paragraph. Do you remember boring teachers like that? The other essential is the phrases which are heart felt pleas or emotional statements in the vocals such as "Help me Lord," "You are my Rock," "I worship you Lord," etc. Imagine trying to have a song where you try to educate the congregation by including the genealogies of Jesus in a song and I'm sure their attention will wander or they will say,"Whaaat." The most common problem pattern out there is to sing four notes of a major scale, sing for about four seconds, and so on throughout the song and the overwhelming vast majority of those songs are unpopular with a thousand hits or less on You Tube while the ones with the good qualities I mentioned often have multiple millions of hits on You Tube. I have two articles on song writing in the general inquiries section you can also consult on this topic of songwriting.
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#3
(05-24-2017, 02:17 PM)Tracy Malloy Wrote: Fantastic insight Tracy! Perhaps it has less to do with how many notes are in a row and more with how long each phrase is held? For instance, how long can the average singer in a congregation exhale while holding a pitch (perhaps 6 seconds, as you suggest) and how long do they need to breathe in again to be ready for the next phrase (perhaps 1 second as you suggest). I will look for your articles and post them on here once I find them for anyone else who would like a quick reference. 
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#4
1. The presence of the Holy Spirit.
2. Song is in a singable key to the average person.
3. The song is popular to the masses.
4. The performance is emotional and well performed.
5. Often, simpler is better.

Daniel, are you a musician, do you perform live? When it all comes together, it's almost an overwelming experience and very emotionally draining.
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#5
Hey michaelhanson thanks for the reply! 
Yes, I am a worship leader and musician at my local church. 

Your response provokes two follow-up questions: 

2. Song is in a singable key to the average person. What range have you found to be singable for the average person? (by range I mean boundary tones of the upper and lower limit of a congregation. Consider middle C to be C4)

3. The song is popular to the masses. By popular do you mean that it resembles songs that have already been written? Or that it has to be widely disseminated before people will sing along? 


5. Often, simpler is better. What constitutes simplicity? Harmonic, rhythmic, intervals vs steps, form, lyrics? Please expound. I am intrigued. 
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#6
(05-27-2017, 11:02 PM)danielwead Wrote: Hey michaelhanson thanks for the reply! 
Yes, I am a worship leader and musician at my local church. 

Your response provokes two follow-up questions: 

2. Song is in a singable key to the average person. What range have you found to be singable for the average person? (by range I mean boundary tones of the upper and lower limit of a congregation. Consider middle C to be C4)

3. The song is popular to the masses. By popular do you mean that it resembles songs that have already been written? Or that it has to be widely disseminated before people will sing along? 


5. Often, simpler is better. What constitutes simplicity? Harmonic, rhythmic, intervals vs steps, form, lyrics? Please expound. I am intrigued. 

2. This is an interesting link about the Key, for a Worship:

http://churchleaders.com/worship/worship...-flow.html

3.  By popular, I mean that they are familiar with the songs, via radio or old loved standards.  I assumed that you were not using original songs, but rather ones that many have heard and that they are familiar with.  At Christmas services, Silent Night is almost always a staple; and because it is so well known, people tend to sign vigorously along with it.  

4.  By simplicity, I meant that the arrangement does n't get to complicated and that the lyric and melody are easy to remember and sing.  Often 3 or 4 chord songs can be very simple, but very effective.  Our worship band has been playing "Good Good Father" in rotation lately.  I think its a fairly simple song chord-wise, catchy melody and easy to remember lyrics.  Some may question the theology of the song, but it is pretty popular at our Church when we play it.
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#7
Ah! I see now. I am specifically wondering about songwriting. What are some musical qualities that you consider the most important when you are writing an original song. Are your answers the same or were you answering these questions as a worship curator instead of as a worship songwriter?
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