Church Workers Handbook: Chapter 4 Church Music
©2012 DiskBooks Electronic Publishing

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The Church Workers Handbook is filled with practical information that you may not have learned in Bible college or seminary. If you haven't already learned this information in the school of hard knocks, you need this series of blogs. This will be information for anyone who serves in any capacity in a church (from senior pastor up to janitor).

Ed and Nancy Lint

G. Edwin Lint, BS, ThB, MA
Bachelor of Science in Bible, Bachelor of Theology, Master of Education Administration and Supervision.

Much of the Drawbridge content is political in general and anti-Obama in particular.

I am still convinced that Obama is America's worst president, bar none. However, I have decided to give Obama a rest on the Sundays of 2012 and concentrate on spiritual and/or educational content, only.

Today, I am continuing a series of blogs based on my book Church Workers Handbook.

Last Sunday, I presented Chapter 3. Outcome Based Education

This book is available at the DiskBooks Electronic Publishing Free Downloads in pdf format.

If you wish to download the entire pdf file of 205 pages, click this link: Church Workers Handbook

The individual chapters are shown in the Table of Contents: [html format]

Today, we will focus on Chapter 4: Church Music, of the Church Worker Handbook

1996, 2012
G. Edwin Lint, BS, ThB, MA
DiskBooks Electronic Publishing

This section on church music contains practical guidelines for directing congregational worship, coordinating special music, and working with a volunteer orchestra

Table of Contents

Directing Worship

How Long Should Worship Last?

Don't Try To Improve on the Old Hymns

Projecting Words onto a Screen

Who Is Directing Whom?

You're not singing a solo!

Carry a Tune and Sing on Pitch

Understand Time Signature

Understand Pickup Notes

Give a Strong Down Beat

Give Consistent Motions for Each of the Major Time Signatures

Give Clear Indications of Volume, Holds, Cuts, and Repeats

Pick the Right Songs

Set the Right Tempo (Speed)

The Value of an Evangelical Pianist

Providing Special Music

Make and Post a Schedule

Serve As a Resource Person for Your Special Singers

Put Words with Your Instrumental Music

Working with a Volunteer Orchestra

Pick the Right Song in the Right Key

Gospel Music and Contemporary Music

Directing Worship Singing

Who Is Directing Whom?

As a worship leader, you know you are directing the piano and organ, and maybe the choir. They, in turn, are directing the congregational singing. Therefore, it is important that the song leading guidelines included in this chapter are clearly understood by the pianist, organist, and the members of the choir. It might be a good idea to download this chapter and print it out. Of course, you can import it to your word processor and make your own modifications first. When you have it the way you want it, make copies for key people in your music program.

Waving your arms aimlessly can be good exercise. In fact, there is a theory that symphony conductors grow to such a ripe, old age because of the exercise their upper chest receives. That may or may not be true. However, this is true. Unless all persons directly involved in the music program have a common understanding of the signals you are using, the most you are doing is getting exercise. The worst you are doing is looking foolish, and perhaps bringing discredit to the cause of Christ.

You don't need to know how to read or write music to become an effective worship leader. You don't need to know how to play a musical instrument, either. However, there are some things you do need to be able to do, and these absolutes are listed below:

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How Long Should Worship Last?
Can you remember when the song service consisted of a couple of songs out of the hymnal plus a couple of choruses, known well enough to the congregation to make the projection screen unnecessary? I can.

Now, the song service, known as "worship" may seem to be a test of the endurance of the worshippers. Worship leaders and worship teams tend to be young and energetic and surely exceed in endurance many of the us more senior worshippers.

Years ago, I learned a rule in a physical education course I was taking that went something like this: Always terminate an activity while the students are still enjoying it and wanting more. Worship leaders: this rule may apply here, also. Terminate the singing, clapping, and hand-raising while the worshippers are still enjoying it, not when they show signs of being tired of it.

Of course, the clock has something to do with it, especially if you have a large congregation with limited parking and more than one consecutive service.

If you have invited special guests to participate in the service, make sure you don't allow the worship phase to detract from what the special guests have been invited to come and do. This is especially true if the guests are going to present a musical package.

Consult with your guests before the service. See if they would like to be the worship leaders. If there will be live music, see if their organist/pianist would like to participate in worship. [My wife, Nancy, and I sang in a regional gospel singing group for several years. Our preference was to have the local leader sing a "warm-up" chorus and then turn the service over to us.]

The absolute final authority on how long worship singing should last is not the clock, or the musical guests, but the leading of the Holy Spirit.

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Don't Try To Improve on the Old Hymns
Don't try to spice up the old hymns with strange tempos and chord progressions. When you've been singing a traditional hymn for fifty-plus years, you won't take kindly to a new tempo full of syncopation and other surprising breaks in the original tempo. And when you're used to singing along with the congregation and harmonizing as you go, strange and fancy chords won't be much fun, either.

Attention worship leaders: When a major segment of your congregation is older and used to traditional worship, save the strange and fancy stuff for a worship service that is made up mostly of younger people and newer Christians.

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Projecting Words onto a Screen
Many churches are now singing lyrics projected onto a screen, instead of singing from hymnals or chorus books. This practice brings up some practical and legal issues: "

Legibility is more important than art. A standard serif font, such as Times New Roman, in a large, bold, face is the most legible. "

Combinations of yellow and black may be more legible than other color combinations. "

Avoid textured backgrounds and even logos. Keep the background plain. Just because you can doesn't mean you should. "

Make sure your projections are legal: Christian Copyright Licensing International [CCLI]

Now there's an easy and affordable solution for churches which reproduce songs... or would like to. 1.

It's called the Church Copyright License. It can loose your music department from the rigid demands of the copyright law and leave you free to legally copy over 150,000 songs and hymns. Here are just some of the ways the Church Copyright License allows you to copy songs: 1.

Project songs from your overhead, slide projector, or computer software such as PowerPoint]. 2.

Record your worship service on tape. 3.

Copy songs in bulletins that you hand out before worship service.

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You're not singing a solo!
You may be a very accomplished soloist and often sing solos with a handheld mike. However, don't "sing a solo" while you're leading worship. Resist the temptation to suck up to the mike so that your amplified voice overpowers the congregation and acts as a deterrent to their participation in the song service. If you're using a handheld mike, when you announce a song, either switch the mike off or hold it away from your face as the accompanist(s) finish the introduction and you start to sing. If you're using a mike mounted to the pulpit, either step back when you start to sing, or arrange with the people running sound to turn you down when you sing and back up to normal levels when you speak.

I enjoy sitting beside my wife, Nancy, in a large congregation and singing harmony with her. She usually sings the second part [alto] and I sing the third part [baritone.] Since most people in the congregation are singing melody [lead; soprano], this gives us the illusion of singing in three-part harmony. We were married in 1956 and sang harmony for a couple years before then, while we were going together.

But when a worship leader starts singing loudly into a handheld mike, his/her leading is a deterrent to Nancy and my lifelong habit of congregational harmonizing. I usually just drop out and let the worship leader have sole access to the stage for a solo. I just don't care to compete with all that electronic bellowing.

An exception to this rule is the occasion when you are teaching a new chorus to the congregation and they don't have the words.

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Carry a Tune and Sing on Pitch
If you can't do both of these, you probably aren't even reading this chapter. However, since a lot of worship leaders are men, I need to talk specifically about singing on pitch, as it relates to men.

First, find a lady who is a good singer and can read music, Have her check you out on singing on pitch. This may be your wife, mother, choir director, friend, anyone. I'll call her your helper. Ask your helper to sing a simple song, like "Jesus Loves Me." Now you try to sing the same song with her in unison. Singing in unison means you are both singing the same notes in the same octave. When I was teaching elementary school, I had a female music teacher come into my room who tried to teach adolescent boys to sing unison with the girls by having the boys sing an octave lower. This is wrong, and I tried to tell her so. Look at a choir arrangement that has men and women singing unison. The notes for the sopranos and altos are in the treble clef, and the notes for the tenors and basses are in the bass clef. However, the ABCDEFG values of those notes are identical. A man's voice quality has a different timbre than a woman's, but the pitch is not automatically an octave lower. It's different but not lower.

I said all that to say this. Make sure you are not singing an octave lower than the ladies who are singing soprano when you are leading the worship. You should be singing in unison with them.

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Understand Time Signature
The time signature is given at the beginning of each bar of music, expressed as a fraction, such as 4/4. The top number in this fraction tells you how many beats there are to a measure. The bottom number tells you what kind of note gets one beat. In the 4/4 example, there are 4 beats to a measure and a quarter note gets one beat.

Understand Pickup Notes
Now things get a little tricky. The pickup note(s) is what's left over from the beats that were used in the last measure of the song. In other words, the pickup notes plus the last measure of the song must equal the number of beats per measure, as shown in the bottom number of the time signature.

Let's use the old chorus "Give Me Oil in My Lamp" as an example. The time signature is 4/4. The last measure of the song consist of a dotted half note, that gets 3 beats on the word Day . . .

Since the last measure doesn't have a full 4 beats, there will be a pickup note(s) equaling one beat. The first two words of the song are "Give me . . ." The notes for these two words are both eighth notes, and 2 eighths equal one quarter. This 1 quarter plus the 3 quarters in the last measure equal the full 4 beats that all measures in this song must have.

Now the easy part: you signal these 2 pickup notes with a sweeping upward motion of your hand, followed by a downward motion to signal the first beat of the song.

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Give a Strong Down Beat
We had to talk about pickup notes so you could understand this next point: the down beat. As the name implies, the down beat is given with a straight-down motion of the hand. If should be your most firm and distinctive movement while leading.

What is a down beat, you ask? The first note of every measure is a down beat. In the example of "Give Me Oil in My Lamp", the first 2 notes are pickups, signaled with an upward motion: "Give me . . . " The next word, "oil", is the first beat of the first full measure, and is a down beat. You will learn a little later that each time signature is conducted with a specific motion pattern of your arm. However, you can more or less do what you want to do with all the other beats in the measure as long as you end with your hand at the top, ready for a strong down beat for the first note of the next measure.

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Give Consistent Motions for Each of the Major Time Signatures


Many songs we sing in church are in 3/4, or 4/4 time.

3/4 Time:

The down beat is a downward motion of the hand, from 3 to 1 on the diagram. The second beat is straight across to the right, and beat 3 is a curve up to the top, ready for another down beat at the beginning of the next measure. A pickup note is from 2 to 3.

4/4 Time:

The down beat is a downward motion of the hand, from 4 to 1 on the diagram. The second beat is up and to the left. The third beat is from 2 to 3, straight across to the right, and beat 4 is a curve up to the top, ready for another down beat at the beginning of the next measure. A pickup note is from 3 to 4.

The diagrams above show approximate motions and can be reversed from left to right if you are left handed or have a preference. The important thing is to always give the down beat in exactly the same way. If you do this, any pianist, organist, choir member, or orchestra member in the country will know exactly what you are doing. It is not necessary to be flamboyant or flashy. Remember to keep self under control; your objective is to glorify God.

By the way, there is one thing to avoid-- waving your arm in a figure eight pattern no matter what the time signature. That is a sure sign you are just creating a breeze, and don't really know what you're doing.

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Give Clear Indications of Volume, Holds, Cuts, and Repeats

These signals tend to vary from person to person. The important thing is to be consistent. As a general rule, these signals are given with the non-dominant hand. (This would be the left hand for a right-handed person.) Here are some examples:

Increase Volume: Palm up, a little higher with each measure if you want more volume.

Decrease Volume: Palm down, a little lower with each measure if you want less volume.

Hold: Palm down, curved, and moving horizontally for as long as the hold is to last..

Hold to Hum: Starts similar to Hold. The Hum begins when the thumb and index finger meet. (This signal is used when directing a choir and is seldom used in congregational singing.)

Cuts: Sharp downward motion of both hands.

Repeats: Wally Laxon (of Wally and Ginger Laxon) used to signal Repeat Chorus by holding his left hand in the shape of the letter C so the choir and instruments could see it. The worship leaders in our church tend to rotate the left hand in small, low circles when they want to repeat.

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Pick the Right Songs

The familiarity of the songs picked for the song service is important. It's nice to learn a new song or chorus but it's better to do this when visitors are less likely to be in the service.

Set the Right Tempo (Speed)

This brings me back to my first point. You direct the piano and organ and they direct the congregation. Take charge of the song with the first down beat, and don't let it get out of hand. Too fast a tempo or too a slow tempo can ruin a good song. Remember you are directing. The piano and organ are following your lead.

The Value of an Evangelical Pianist and Organist

The job of a worship leader is made much easier if you have the services of a true evangelical pianist. The arrangements in the hymnal are very dull and unimaginative. They consist of solid, four-note chords with few frills because they were written to be sung in four-part harmony. However, evangelical singing has given rise to a style of piano and organ playing that expands the basic melody and harmony into a lively and vibrant accompaniment. This kind of accompaniment greatly enhances the congregational singing and special music.

Such a pianist can play any song in any key by ear. Anyone used to hearing hymns played straight from the hymnal will be thrilled by great evangelical accompaniment. Some might call this kind of playing a skill. Others might say it is a talent. I am convinced it is a gift straight from the Lord.

Mom, playing in her living room, in 1963 [Captured from 8 mm home movie film]

At this point, I'd like to honor my Mom, Madlein Fruchey Lint, 1912-1971. Mom was an evangelical pianist in the strictest sense of the word. She could play any song in any key, by ear or by note. After hearing a song once, she could play it with full improvisations, without ever seeing the printed music.

It's dangerous to start a list because I'm sure I'll forget someone who should be on it. But here are a few examples of this kind of evangelical pianist/organist:

Madlein F. Lint, Betty Masterman, Marceille H. Harrison, Brenda Reed, Pearl Culp, Jean Crissinger, Dan Conrad, Dorothy Passmore, Aletha Leatherman, Bill Wray, Nina Wislocky, Irene Kennedy, ad infinitum.

[Nancy and I have first hand knowledge of their playing. We have sung or played instruments to their accompaniment.]

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Providing Special Music

You may be doing the providing in the sense of doing the singing yourself. Or, you may be coordinating the special music program by selecting and scheduling the special singers.

Make and Post a Schedule If you are the special music coordinator, the first step is to find out who can sing specials. If you don't already know, schedule a music night and call for volunteers to fill the entire program. You may find families and groups of friends who will be able to sing in ensembles that you would never have known about if they weren't invited to volunteer.

Back in the 70s, I was working part-time as a DJ at a local radio station. Every once in a while, I'd schedule a singspiration where I'd invite anyone who wanted to sing on the radio, and who didn't have a professional recording, to come to the local Church of the Nazarene [Mifflinburg, PA USA] and make a tape recording. I also recorded the worship services at this church for broadcast every Sunday afternoon, so I had a connection. People came from many churches to make their tapes so they could hear themselves on the radio the following week.

My point is that the chance to volunteer brought out all kinds of hidden talent.

After you know about the singers, make up a schedule for at least a month at a time. Try to get a balance in your schedule in terms of the kinds of groups and type of music. For example, you may prefer contemporary Christian music, but don't forget that some of us like southern style gospel music, also. [If you don't know about this kind of music, make sure you watch the Bill Gaither Homecoming Choir special TV broadcast as they are heard in your area.] Make sure you have a good mix. At this writing, this program is heard on the Independent Network Saturdays from seven to eight.

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Serve As a Resource Person for Your Special Singers
Use the following guidelines to help your special singers do a better job:

Singing Harmony by Ear

Singing harmony by ear is more art, or a gift, than science. When two people sing together, one sings melody and the other sings the first harmony part. When three people sing, the third person sings the second harmony part. The trick is to stay on your own part and off the other person's part. In a duet, the harmony singer should be singing First Harmony most of the time. At times, the singers will flip-flop melody and harmony, with the harmony sometimes above the melody and sometimes below it in pitch.

A. The First Harmony Part. This part may be known as alto or tenor. However, it is defined by the fact that the chords it uses are based on thirds. A third is the third step on the scale..

B. The Second Harmony Part. This part is based on fifths, the fifth step on the scale.

C. Singing Bass. Bass is always the lowest pitched part, but it is never consistently the melody an octave lower. Here again, singing bass by ear is more art than science. The best way to learn to sing bass is sit next to a person who knows how to sing bass and just listen, singing along softly.

Stacking Parts in a Mixed Group (when singing harmony by ear.)

As a general rule, men should sing the higher pitched parts and women the lower pitched parts. As a man's voice goes higher, the timbre gets lighter. As a woman goes lower, the timbre gets heavier. This fact increases the chances the voices will blend.

The Key May Be the Key

Singing harmony by ear in a mixed group can be effected by the key the song is written (pitched) in. For example, a mixed trio will do better on songs written in E flat, F, and G. This may be why the early Bill Gaither and Lanny Wolfe songs are written in these keys. The first harmony part [sung by a man] will tend to be above the melody with the second harmony part [sung by a woman] below the melody.

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Put Words with Your Instrumental Music

An instrumental interlude may be very inspirational, but only if the congregation knows the words to the sang that the piano, organ, or orchestra is playing. For example, The Old Rugged Cross is always inspirational regardless of the instrument being used. As the instrument is playing the notes, 98% of the members of the congregation are singing the words in their mind because they know them from childhood.

However, this may not be equally true of a newer song like Dottie Rambo's We Shall Behold Him. Those who know the words to this powerful song will be greatly blessed. However, those who don't know the words to We Shall Behold Him will hear it as just a pretty song, but not necessarily all that inspirational.

While the congregation is hearing an instrumental rendition of a song like We Shall Behold Him, why not project the words on a [overhead projector or character generator] screen? Then everyone can be equally blessed by the music.

Working with a Volunteer Orchestra

There is a place for a trained and conducted orchestra that reads orchestral scores and makes beautiful music. However, this section is dedicated to the volunteer orchestra that plays along with the congregational singing on Sunday nights and plays the offertory. There may be a fair amount of freelance improvising as well.

Such a group will tend to be made up of a mixture of high school kids who can read music and who may use the orchestra version of the church hymnal, more experienced players who can transpose music out of the hymnal, and a few old salts [like myself] who can play any part, including the melody and both harmony parts by ear.


Some instruments, like trumpet, trombone, and clarinet, are pitched in the key of B flat, instead of the key of C, the key the piano and organ are pitched in. This means that players of such instruments must transpose their music up one full step to be in pitch with the piano and organ. When such a transposition is done, two flats are subtracted from the key and two sharps are added to the key.

Most people who play by ear hate an increasing number of sharps. Some who read music don't care for sharps, either.

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Pick the Right Song in the Right Key

If you're the Sunday night worship leader and have a volunteer orchestra, you may be able to make or break them by the keys of the songs you pick. The keys of 4 flats, 3 flats, and 2 flats are good, with 4 flats being the best. Don't go above 1 sharp. The best songs of all tend to be 4/4 time and pitched in 4 flats.

Perhaps your orchestra members aren't as bothered by sharps as I am. If not, great! But if they are, just keep an eye on the key. You may be surprised how good they'll sound on songs like Such Love, Glory to His Name, When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder, and Leaning On the Everlasting Arms.

Gospel Music and Contemporary Music

Singing News, the printed voice of Southern Gospel music

CCM, the printed voice of contemporary Christian music

Attention: Ministers of music, Special music coordinators, Gospel radio Program Directors and DJs

Perhaps the sharpest division in church and Christian music is between Gospel and Contemporary music. [My father-in-law, the late Max L. Hile, used to call it contemptible music. Many Christian radio stations fail to have a balance in their play lists between Gospel and Contemporary music. This fact is based on the personal preferences of the radio staff rather than the numbers of listeners that prefer one kind of music more than another.

This same kind of dichotomy may exist in the kinds of music your choir and special singers use in your church's worship services. There should be a balance in church music just as there should be a balance in a radio station's play list.

If you have difficulty distinguishing between the terms Gospel Music and Contemporary Music, perhaps a review of short lists of performers and recording artists in both categories will help. If you find yourself listening to and attending concerts in the first section, you are more likely to enjoy Gospel music. The converse is true. Or, you can click the websites of the Singing News or CCM Magazine above. Or, better still, pick up the current copy at your local Christian book store.

Here are some examples of both types of music:

Gospel Music
Allison Durham Speer
Ann Downing
Booth Brothers
Bill and Gloria Gaither and the Homecoming Choir
Ernie Haase and Signature Sound
Gold City
Ivan Parker
Janet Pascal
Jeff and Sheri Easter
John Starns
Karen Peck
Squire Parsons

Contemporary Music
Ayiesha Woods
Barlow Girl
Bethany Dillon
Casting Crowns
David Crowder Band
Parachute Band
Reliant K
Third Day
Thousand Foot Krutch
Toby Mac

These lists are examples only and are by no means complete. In the case of the contemporary list, this talent was on stage at the 2007 Creation Musicfest at Mount Union, Pa.

If you're having trouble telling the difference between Gospel and Contemporary music, listen to a TV broadcast by Bill Gaither and the Homecoming Choir.

Bill and Gloria Gaither have written many Gospel songs including the following: He Touched Me, Because He Lives, The King Is Coming, There's Something About That Name. The Gaither Homecoming Choir is comprised of many of the well-known names in Gospel music who recorded during the last three decades.

One word of warning: regardless of your preference in music style, make sure the music you use and enjoy brings glory to Deity.

Many Contemporary songs tend to emphasize pronouns that have antecedents that are presumably Deity, but they often fail to use God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit by name.

G. Edwin Lint, BS, ThB, MA, -- Editor

This blog provides conservative information on political, spiritual, economic, educational and social issues Monday through Saturday.
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Jesus said: What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs. Luke 12:3
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV)