The Definitive Guide to Worship Music Styles and Genres
What exactly is worship music? It’s difficult to define, but worship music can be defined as songs
and hymns that give praise and honor to God. This article focuses on western worship music,
and primarily the Judeo-Christian interpretations. Worship music has been an integral part of
church services and other religious gatherings since ancient times and many styles and genres
have come and gone over the years. Each style and genre of worship music brings something
different to the service; it’s important to understand them all in order to ensure your
service stays relevant and up-to-date with what your congregation wants.
When you think of worship music, what comes to mind? Chances are that if you’re in a traditional
church, it’s praise music. After all, most churches have incorporated praise music into their
worship services for decades. The truth is that there are several different kinds of worship
styles or genres. Understanding these different styles can help you choose songs that are most
appropriate for your congregation. Read on for information about each style so you can use
them with confidence when planning your next service!
What is Traditional Worship Music?
Traditional worship music is intended for traditional church services. The types of churches that
typically use traditional worship music are Pentecostal, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian,
Lutheran, Anglican (Episcopal), United Church of Christ (UCC), etc. Traditional worship music
usually focuses on congregational singing. It often features slower music (often hymns) with
little or no accompaniment besides vocal harmony if any at all.
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When a church uses traditional worship music, they typically have a choir, organist, or band led
by a worship leader who sings songs from a standard hymnal. In most cases, services are more
formal than contemporary ones with attendees seated on pews throughout most of the service,
and following a predictable set structure. Traditional worship music is excellent for churches
that have roots in traditional denominations or have members that prefer singing from hymnals.
What are the Different Kinds of Traditional Hymns?
When people think of traditional hymns, they often think of Amazing Grace or How Great Thou Art.
These are both great songs, but there are many other types of traditional hymns. Many churches
today still use them in their worship services; for example, Roman Catholic services often use
traditional Roman chants in Masses. And many contemporary Christian churches have a unique sound
thanks to unique takes on traditional hymns.
But what makes a hymn traditional? Where did they come from?
The first type of traditional hymns are just simply called Traditional Hymns. Traditional hymns are
essentially religious songs written before 1950. These songs were born out of early Protestant
churches in Europe who sought to create hymns for their worship services that could be sung without
Victorian Hymns or British Traditional Hymns make up another sub-genre of traditional hymns,
which were popular around 1900—roughly around when many other more secular genres (like ragtime)
were taking off. These songs tend to be waltzes, love songs or lullabies like Softly Now The
Light Of Day or I Was Glad. Many Victorian hymns can be found in collections like Voices
United or The Methodist Manual, and some churches still use these classic hymns in their
worship services today.
Many hymns are based on old chants or spiritual melodies written in the 17th and 18th centuries.
However, while their tunes are traditional, many of these hymns may have lyrics that were written
in more modern times. These are Liturgical Hymns, which come from a variety of faiths (usually
Christian) and were written for specific religious services and rituals like Masses or other
ceremonies. They can be seen as a combination of Traditional Hymns, Chants, and Carols since
they often have an ancient tune but contemporary lyrics. In fact, many liturgical hymns
incorporate both Eastern Orthodox musical modes as well as European ones. Some popular
examples include The Strife Is O'er or
This Little Light Of Mine.
No matter the genre, traditional hymns and songs are commonly found in various collections of
pre-selected worship music called hymnals, which can be both denominationally-focused,
theme-based or completely non-denominational. Hymnals like Psalter Hymnal helped further
popularize traditional church music around 1920, but after World War II, many church goers
felt that these types of songs were stale and ineffective in an increasingly modern world.
What Is Contemporary Worship?
Another common form of worship music is Contemporary Christian Music (CCM). CCM has become
very popular over time with its upbeat tempo and modern pop-like style. The lyrics for CCM
tend to be more about life issues like love, identity in Christ, family struggles, etc.
People who attend a contemporary worship service may have a personal relationship with Jesus
or simply want a fun way to learn more about God through music. They may not have a desire
to go deeper in their faith but they do want music that resonates with them and touches their
hearts. This type of service works well for both on Sundays at church as well as midweek
services/evangelism events because it's easy to sing along even if you don't know all of the words.
Are There Different Kinds of Contemporary Worship Music?
Worship music has changed a lot in recent years. While most people think of contemporary
Christian music when they hear worship music, worship is actually more than just contemporary
Christian music. Contemporary worship encompasses many different genres of music—so many,
in fact, that it can be hard to keep track of them all. Many churches choose one or two
worship styles for their services but even so, there are still various types of worship music
that you might want to include on occasion. Let's take a look at some popular genres within
contemporary Christian worship music.
Contemporary Christian music covers a wide range of genres, including indie, hip-hop, electronic,
alternative rock, acoustic rock/folk, pop rock/pop-punk. The common denominator among them is
that they're all very upbeat and easy to listen to. They're particularly effective for services
with younger audiences or children's ministries, where you want something that's easy on young
ears but still sends a positive message about God or Jesus Christ. The most famous contemporary
Christian artist is Hillsong United—but MercyMe, Elevation Worship, Passion Band, Casting Crowns
and Chris Tomlin are also big names in CCM today. These artists typically perform songs with
lyrics derived from Scripture or a relevant source but sometimes their music is interpreted
through creative license instead of being literally biblical.
How do I Use Each Style Effectively?
Each genre has different characteristics that make it unique—and each one is designed to help bring
worshipers into God's presence. Some songs are slow and soft; others are fast and intense. When you're
selecting songs for your services, choose ones that will engage your congregation in a way that
corresponds with your church's overall mission statement. For example: If you want to lead people
in worship in order to lift up Jesus in prayer, then gospel music would be more appropriate than
Contemporary hymns seek to incorporate many of these musical styles but with updated lyrics.
They can be particularly useful for younger audiences who may not appreciate traditional music,
but there are plenty of churches that still use traditional hymns in their worship services.
And you don't have to throw out older favorites when introducing your churchgoers to more
contemporary forms of worship music; it's all about finding a balance between old and new.
It's also important to recognize that there are some groups—like children or youth—who may
respond better than others, so keeping that in mind is helpful when you're selecting songs
for your church service.
Finally, you need to consider your church's size when choosing a style of music.
Bigger churches will likely have a larger budget for musical equipment and more
people on hand who can lead worship. But no matter how big or small your congregation is,
there's a style of music that will engage its members in a meaningful way. If you're feeling
overwhelmed by all of these different options, start with what feels right to you or try out
one new style at a time until you find something that works for your congregation as a whole.