What is "Worship Music"?

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
While technically any music you worship to is worship music, “Worship Music” is a style of music has evolved over the last 20 years or so. It’s different than gospel and is played in mostly white churches. It started with Hillsong and has moved on to Bethel, Jesus Culture, Elevation, and so on. I’m trying to describe it without being negative, but it’s hard because I can’t stand it. To my ears it doesn’t really have a groove or melody. It’s about creating soundscapes. One local mega church calls them “soaker songs”. You are supposed to stand there and sway back and forth and soak up the Holy Spirit. They are usually slow and in the 60 something bpm range. The singer sort of talk sings over the sounds the band makes. There are a lot of sustaining synth pads, while the guitar players just noodle around with lots of effects. The drums are mostly cymbal swells and tom fills. It rarely settles into a traditional kick/snare/hat groove. Like I said, it more of a soundscape. “Worship” cymbal packs are usually larger darker cymbals. 18” hats, 22” crashes, 26” rides are common. I don’t think the Zildjian one has sizes that big, but they are larger and thin. The cymbals help make the wall of sounds more than punctuate accents. We had a well know worship leader come to our church back in 2019 before the shutdowns. We played 5 songs, the opener was 68bpm, the next four were all run together at 62bpm. I had to make notes because all of the songs were so similar that I couldn’t keep track of which was which. They were all just cymbal swells and slight variations of tribal type tom grooves.

I agree with @Mr Farkle on this as well. I can go in and play a 4-hour set with my old bar band without blinking an eye, but if I have to play 3 worship songs, and I have to have detailed charts on each because of all of the tom patterns and ins and outs. I told my worship leader that if I had to learn one more ridiculous tom pattern, I was on my way out. Worship music goes through trends and phases just like every other genre, and some are definitely better than others. I really love a lot of the Vertical Church music from about 7-8 years ago. Out of all of my years of playing, this was probably my favorite time period in contemporary worship music. I left my worship team one year ago this month. I wished I missed it, but I don't. I know I'll probably play again someday, but not anytime soon.
 

cbphoto

Gold Member
I know I'll probably play again someday, but not anytime soon.
I burned out, too. But the upside is that I don’t need anyone to worship our Creator. Some days I give Him a 40-minute buzz roll and sing like roadkill. It’s honest and fun and funny. I laugh during my worship times (When was the last time you openly laughed with joy during a church worship session?) No mics, no lights, nobody having anxiety about the sound or anything else. Just me, my instrument, my voice and God. That’s all I need. For me, it’s more honest and truthful than performing in someone’s finely constructed paradigm.

It’s probably why He found us a home 10 miles from anywhere.
 

Drumolator

Platinum Member
Modern praise and worship started in the 70s. Hillsong was NOT even close to the beginning. Maranatha, Integrity, and Vineyard were the first major labels. The first Hillsong albums were on Integrity before Hillsong started their own label. I was playing praise and worship in church way before Hillsong hit the scene. To each his / her own. Peace and goodwill.
 

GetAgrippa

Platinum Member
I remember visiting an art museum I think it was Paris-maybe London. Anyways they had this incredibly loud Buddhist monastery monk chant going the whole time. Inside and outside-seems it had a lot of glass and we were in and out. It was cool. That is worship music too if you're Buddhist. It would make your innards tingle it was so loud and guttural .
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I had to attend a service in support of my stepson's baptisement recently.

OMG the music was so bad.
 

Paul Blood

Junior Member
I think of White non -denominational Christians when I hear the term “ worship music”

I been playing this type of music since the 80’s as a substitute drummer and it’s been interesting to see how things have changed.

For awhile all the churches were using electronic kits to control the sound. Now they all seemed to go back to acoustic drums in plexiglass cages. Yes, lots of slow tempos, drums tacet, cymbal swells, and build up into a what I call “ tribal “ tom beats. Actually the drum parts can be quite quirky. I don’t try to learn the parts note for note, as I’m usually called last minute, and I can easily come up with something that fits with the particular ensemble better anyways. No complaints, I get my check and they always call me back, so it’s all good.

I also play as a substitute percussionist ( djembe, cajón, snare and cymbals) at a Jewish synagogue, which is way more fun than the contemporary Christian worship music, and pays better too :)
 

Push pull stroke

Platinum Member
I remember visiting an art museum I think it was Paris-maybe London. Anyways they had this incredibly loud Buddhist monastery monk chant going the whole time. Inside and outside-seems it had a lot of glass and we were in and out. It was cool. That is worship music too if you're Buddhist. It would make your innards tingle it was so loud and guttural .

That’s Tibetan throat-singing. Very suited to the ridiculous cold winters they have. It’s an acquired taste for me, but it’s unique.
 

doggyd69b

Well-known member
As a non-religious person returning to drumming after a long hiatus I have been reading about "Worship Music". I understand it is played in church, but is it a genre of music itself? When did this come about? What is special about drumming in Worship Music and why are there "Worship" cymbal packs??? Help a heathen out!
Depends on what you want to worship... Behemoth can be worship music... I hate the word worship an as an atheist I don't worship anything...
 

Paul Blood

Junior Member
I agree with @Mr Farkle on this as well. I can go in and play a 4-hour set with my old bar band without blinking an eye, but if I have to play 3 worship songs, and I have to have detailed charts on each because of all of the tom patterns and ins and outs.

Do you feel like you have to play this stuff ( especially those quirky tom patterns) note for note? I just try to get the general feel. Maybe it's just me but some of those worship drum parts don't really work in a live setting, especially with different combination of musicians that you'll have at a church. So far, no music minister has called me out for not playing the exact patterns that are on the recordings, but then again, I just sub.
 

DrumDoug

Senior Member
Do you feel like you have to play this stuff ( especially those quirky tom patterns) note for note? I just try to get the general feel. Maybe it's just me but some of those worship drum parts don't really work in a live setting, especially with different combination of musicians that you'll have at a church. So far, no music minister has called me out for not playing the exact patterns that are on the recordings, but then again, I just sub.
I usually just try to capture the general feel. A lot of times it’s not possible to play the exact part. You are trying to cover drum loops, the set player, and possibly some other percussion players. Remember when having singers playing extra floor toms and bass drums was a thing? Our church group never plays a song quite like the recording anyway. We just don’t have the instrumentalist to pull it off. Our pastor doesn’t want us to use backing tracks so it never really sounds like the recording.
 

brady

Platinum Member
While technically any music you worship to is worship music, “Worship Music” is a style of music has evolved over the last 20 years or so. It’s different than gospel and is played in mostly white churches. It started with Hillsong and has moved on to Bethel, Jesus Culture, Elevation, and so on. I’m trying to describe it without being negative, but it’s hard because I can’t stand it. To my ears it doesn’t really have a groove or melody. It’s about creating soundscapes. One local mega church calls them “soaker songs”. You are supposed to stand there and sway back and forth and soak up the Holy Spirit. They are usually slow and in the 60 something bpm range. The singer sort of talk sings over the sounds the band makes. There are a lot of sustaining synth pads, while the guitar players just noodle around with lots of effects. The drums are mostly cymbal swells and tom fills. It rarely settles into a traditional kick/snare/hat groove. Like I said, it more of a soundscape. “Worship” cymbal packs are usually larger darker cymbals. 18” hats, 22” crashes, 26” rides are common. I don’t think the Zildjian one has sizes that big, but they are larger and thin. The cymbals help make the wall of sounds more than punctuate accents. We had a well know worship leader come to our church back in 2019 before the shutdowns. We played 5 songs, the opener was 68bpm, the next four were all run together at 62bpm. I had to make notes because all of the songs were so similar that I couldn’t keep track of which was which. They were all just cymbal swells and slight variations of tribal type tom grooves.

Yup!!

I've played in quite a few churches over several years. You nailed it!! Some popular songs certainly USED to have a groove but now it's pretty much as you described.

Perhaps the genre has evolved to this wall of sound thing make it easier to play for most "church" musicians, who are quite often very amateur? Like DD, not trying to be negative, just stating facts.
 

Mr Farkle

Well-known member
Yup!!

I've played in quite a few churches over several years. You nailed it!! Some popular songs certainly USED to have a groove but now it's pretty much as you described.

Perhaps the genre has evolved to this wall of sound thing make it easier to play for most "church" musicians, who are quite often very amateur? Like DD, not trying to be negative, just stating facts.

Drummer Dan Bailey talked about this in regards to Contemporary Christian music. Something to the effect of the music being written to be simple enough to be played by amateurs in churches. I think church play is connected to the commercial success of the song.

I also don’t want to be super negative but I would like to see a change for the better, especially if the music has been driven to its current state for the sake of commercial success. What could be more contrary to its purpose?
 

cbphoto

Gold Member
Drummer Dan Bailey talked about this in regards to Contemporary Christian music. Something to the effect of the music being written to be simple enough to be played by amateurs in churches. I think church play is connected to the commercial success of the song.

I also don’t want to be super negative but I would like to see a change for the better, especially if the music has been driven to its current state for the sake of commercial success. What could be more contrary to its purpose?
Ever since there has been a choir loft, most worship tunes are written to help engage non-musical people into singing along. That means simple tunes, without much range, etc. If you ever pull out an old hymn book, you’ll see it there, too.

What propelled contemporary Christian worship music was licensing and money. In the 1980s it became big business with CCLI and others followed. I have a dozen friends who have written worship tunes and registered them for copyright, and receive small royalties every year. For groups like Hillsong and Jesus Culture the money really helps the organizations in all areas of music production and presentation (live, recorded, streaming, etc.).

What I like about the CCL–type approach is that it’s designed to support the composers and groups while not fleecing any church with outrageous fees and/or frivolous lawsuits. Even small churches can legally play & perform very popular songs for little money.
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
Do you feel like you have to play this stuff ( especially those quirky tom patterns) note for note?

Back when I was playing it at my last church, I'd try to get it at least 90% like the recording. I did a lot of my own fills, but as far as those tom patterns, I tried to do it a lot like the recording. The worship team uses performance tracks with every song, and we had 3 other drummers. Also, we had a slew of other musicians and singers, and I didn't know who was going to be on team from week to week. With these factors considered, my goal was consistency with the music. We could never really do things "our own way" because we weren't really a "band" per say. We were a team of people who rotated out from week to week, and I felt consistency in playing like the original track was key to not throw anyone off (which is very easy to do).
 

doggyd69b

Well-known member
I usually just try to capture the general feel. A lot of times it’s not possible to play the exact part. You are trying to cover drum loops, the set player, and possibly some other percussion players. Remember when having singers playing extra floor toms and bass drums was a thing? Our church group never plays a song quite like the recording anyway. We just don’t have the instrumentalist to pull it off. Our pastor doesn’t want us to use backing tracks so it never really sounds like the recording.
I think that playing just like the recording works only when you are able to remove the instrument part from the original and it is a very well know part for example the drum roll in Rush's Tom Sawyer.. you simply can't play that different and not have it noted.. but for most other drum parts most people would not know the difference and it is after all a cover.
 
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