“Video killed the worship song” – why we’re not singing along any more

Today someone forwarded me an insightful article, nine reasons people aren’t singing in worship.  I’ve read similar posts before, but this one goes to great depth and explores a number of reasons that your congregation may not be singing along as much as you may like.

This lead me to think:

Have we simply got too many songs?

Because we use lyrics and projection, is it too easy for us to build up a huge repertoire of songs?  If we have too many songs in our library, perhaps these songs become less known to the congregation at large – and this would make it harder for them to sing along.  In our church we have in excess of 200 songs on our MindMyMinistry database, but I know that quite a number of those are infrequently used in services.

Perhaps it is time to start culling away to make a shorter and more manageable list of congregational worship songs?  The trick here would be to avoid making the list too short and repetitive.

Worship music vs. Church music

Of the modern worship music that we listen to every day, many of the songs are actually quite hard to sing for your average church-goer.  I am not a singer, and I do struggle with a few of the newer songs.  This is because worship music is a different thing to church singing.  We may not all like the old hymns – but think about how predictable those songs are – they all have simple rhythms and easy-to-sing melodies.

I was in a church service not so long ago where the only accompaniment was the pastor’s wife playing the piano – and the worship was absolutely brilliant!  Don’t get me wrong – I love modern worship music too, but it was an eye opener to see how well the less modern songs worked for congregational singing.  Maybe we should all take a step back and take a cue from the older tunes?

Blame the sound guy!  (or not)

Sound levels are an unexpected source of problems.  You need to have that “butter zone” where the sound is not too loud that you can’t hear the people around you singing, but also not too quiet so that the congregation becomes self-conscious.  To all the sound guys out there – the key thing to keep in mind is that we are only reinforcing sound – nothing more.  This means our job as sound guys is to only amplify the sound to a point where the congregation can easily hear and understand what is going on – no more.  We’re not mixing for a rock concert (or at least not when you want the congregation to sing along!)

Bring on the pyrotechnics!  (or video and intelligent lighting)

I wonder how lighting and video adds to this?  Are we creating more of a “show” environment by adding intelligent lighting and moving backgrounds to our videos?  Does the congregation know that they are expected/encouraged to sing along?  Maybe the worship leaders should step up, explicitly asking the congregation to sing along?

Making the melody obvious

Harmonies can be great when you have multiple vocals on stage – but they can be very confusing too.  I have had this happen to me where I’m no longer certain, as a member of the audience, where the melody goes – the result is that I completely stop singing until I can figure it out.  In my opinion isolating the lead vocal is the front-of-house engineer’s job.  From my years doing FOH engineering I can offer these tips:

  • Make sure your lead vocal is louder than all the others!
  • Ensure that you ‘follow’ the lead around – some of your worship songs may have different leads, so you have to stay on top of this.
  • Often it can help putting a tap delay on the lead vocal (200-400ms single echo) – this can help bring the lead “forward” more.
  • Conversely if you put a reverb on the backing vocals, they tend to sound “further away”, focusing more attention on the lead.

Think outside the box… or off the stage

An interesting trend that has happened recently in our congregation is that some of our backing vocalists actually stand in the audience while singing.  Some will think this is a strange thing to do – but is it really?  What are your reasons for being up on the stage?

 

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