Adding Variety to Music

I have been asked to add more variety to our music. Why is this necessary and how should I do it?

Why is it that God seems to stress singing new songs? Why does His Word again and again entreat us to sing a new song to Him? (Psalm 33:3; 96:1; 144:9, Isaiah 42:10). Is it because God becomes tired of familiar words and music? I don’t think so. I am convinced that when we see Him face to face, if we ask the reason, the Lord’s response will be, “Children, it was not for my benefit but for yours.”

Our Creator knows that we become bored very quickly in set forms and routines. Oft repeated words can soon become empty words. With enough repetition our songs soon take on the same depth of meaning as singing our favorite television or radio commercial jingle. We are not necessarily excited about the product, but the tune is catchy and the words are just a vehicle for us to ride across the music. If our worship has become like that, God has a prescription: sing a new song to the Lord. Not that this is a catch-all, quick-fix for our worship, but the freshness of new songs can bring new life to our times of worship.

There is a balance to this. I don’t think that God would have us sing a song twice and forget it forever. The Bible has recorded in it hundreds of songs and we are encouraged to sing them. Those songs—psalms—were learned by the Israelites and sung regularly.

Yet, it appears that what the Lord really wants is a freshness and a newness in our singing. Consistently. To do this on an ongoing basis can be a big job but below are some simple, practical suggestions. Do not use them all this coming Sunday. Instead, slowly grow into them until you are comfortable with them and can use them effectively.

Men and women singing different parts. This can be done in different ways. Some songs lend themselves to descants or echoes (a type of “round” singing), and dividing the men and women can be effective on these. Multiple-verse songs or short choruses can work well to have the women sing, then the men, and finally together.

Use different instrumentation. Some people have said this idea will not work for them because they only have one or two instruments. If you have one instrument, you can still vary your music by occasionally singing a cappella. With two instruments, instead of always using both, you can sometimes use just one, and later, just the other. With more instruments, you can do even more, but do not limit yourself by making it law that all instruments must play all the time.

Musical dynamics. I have heard it said that dynamics in our music are just as important as the notes we play. Music with no dynamics can be very blasé. Yet many churches seem to have two types of songs: loud and fast, or quiet and slow. Think about and evaluate the words and the music of your song and decide where a crescendo might be effective. Consider ways to break up those long quiet passages in your music.

Modulate to a different key. After you have done everything else musically possible with a particular song and you want to go further with it, then modulating to a higher key can be extremely effective. Be careful with this because overuse can ruin its effectiveness. It can also put you in an uncomfortably high singing range. You should check the melody line of a particular song beforehand to know how high you can safely go.

Use various types of songs. Use songs in different keys and with different tempos. Use simple songs and complex songs. Use fast songs and slow songs.

Use soloists, duets and trio sets and even choirs. All of these can be very effective in adding variety to songs. Have a soloist sing the verses and have the congregation join in on the chorus. The choir (choirs are being integrated more and more into the praise and worship service portion of the service) can sing a line and the congregation can repeat the line. This type of antiphonal singing can be very effective.

Keep up with current praise and worship recordings and trends. Go online and listen to various recordings. Find materials that you feel will work for you, your worship team and your church. Listen for the songs that really minister to you personally or fit the type of praise and worship you are currently experiencing in your congregation. One important note here is to pay careful attention when looking for new songs. It is easy to overlook a great song because you are distracted while trying to listen.

The overall watchword for all of this is variety. However, always remember that you must not substitute musical variety for real heart-felt worship. Instead, use your God-given imagination in adding variety to your music and you will see an exciting new dimension in your worship.