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What Kind of Songs Should You Lead in 2014?

Bob Kauflin encourages us to choose singable songs for our congregations:

I’ve read a number of posts and articles about how to determine what’s best for your congregation to sing. Kevin DeYoung did a two part series a couple years ago here and here that was excellent.

As the new year began three thoughts came to me about the kinds of songs we should be leading in our churches or ministries. This isn’t meant to be comprehensive, but it might serve as the bare minimum for how we choose our songs.

1. Choose songs people CAN sing.

This should be obvious. But important things often are – obvious and neglected.
In one sense people can sing just about anything. I’ve been in concert setting where crowds are belting out high Gs, complicated rhythms, and obscure lyrics with unbridled enthusiasm and gusto. Even though it might not sound that pleasant, there’s no question that they’re singing along. But it’s because they’ve listened to it a gazillion times.

In the church (and even at a conference), we shouldn’t assume people have the same songs on their iTunes. Or that everyone even uses iTunes. That’s due both to our individualized musical culture and the multi-generational nature of the church. In the church, we haven’t gathered to use the key that makes the leader sound best, because the entire congregation is singing!

So here are some suggestions for how to know whether songs are “singable.”

  • They can usually be picked up after the first or second hearing, primarily due to melodic or rhythmic repetition.
  • They typically fall within a range of a low A to a high D. You can get by with higher or lower if the song doesn’t stay there long.
  • They don’t have melodies with a lot of unexpected twists or ones that are so bland no one can remember them.
  • The leader sings the melody consistently and doesn’t add stylistic variations every other bar.

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