The single, over-arching objective of selecting and using any congregational song in the worship set is to get them to participate – especially the guys! There are lots of factors influencing the degree to which people will sing. Singability, familiarity, room dynamic, the worship team presentation, the house audio volume/mix, etc, are among them. I won’t spend any time discussing these in this post, but I’m certain to do so in future articles.
One of the most difficult things to do as a worship planner/leader is to dial in the right key for each song being sung in a worship service set. There are so many variables with which to contend.
In my experience, here are the seven most common:
- top note of the melody
- melodic range of the song
- vocal range of the worship leader
- skill set of band members (esp. guitars)
- demographic “makeup” of the congregation
- song tempo
- where the song is positioned in the set
The top note of the melody is a key factor in whether or not people will sing. In most recent times, D4 (D5 for women) has become the target note to stay “at” or “under.” When people were singing parts out of hymnals, this top note would occasionally creep up to E4 or F4 (E5/F5 for women). Sopranos would love showing off their voice skills when singing “How Great Thou Art” in the key of Bb, or when the organist would pull out all the stops and modulate up to D or Db for the 3rd and 4th verses of “Christ The Lord is Risen Today.”
But, most congregants, especially guys, don’t (won’t) sing parts anymore. Why? Don’t even get me started on the quality or absence of fine arts teaching in public schools, or, dare I say (although though I totally love the new music of the church), the decades-old affect of modern music used in congregational worship, or the lack of musical leadership from the platform.
So, with melody ringing in the house, it’s really important to stay in your vocal “lane.” But, capping the top note of the melody should be treated as a guideline (not a rule that can never be broken), and not the only consideration in determining the right key for maximum congregational involvement. Neither is it mutually exclusive to the other variables on the above list.
Next time, I’ll unpack #2 and #3.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts.