Academic journal article Journal of Singing

Contemporary Christian Music and the "Praise and Worship" Style

Academic journal article Journal of Singing

Contemporary Christian Music and the "Praise and Worship" Style

Article excerpt


Critical to this continued growth in the understanding and acceptance of musical diversity is the willingness of pedagogues and students to develop respect for genres other than those that fall within the boundaries of their personal aesthetic.1

CONTEMPORARY COMMERCIAL Music (CCM) styles have gained tremendous popularity in recent years and have become more accepted in the academic arena. Many universities in the United States are now offering music degrees in Jazz, Music Theater, and other CCM styles. The National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) has become more open to these styles, publishing articles related to the topic in its official journal (Journal of Singing) and including workshops in CCM styles at regional and national conferences.

Although there is a growing interest in CCM styles, very few genres other than Music Theater and Jazz are usually contemplated as topics for articles and workshops. Christian music, for instance, has been largely reduced to Gospel, while contemporary Christian music, particularly the so-called "Praise and Worship" style, are yet to be recognized and explored by scholars, scientists, and voice pedagogues.

This article aims to investigate the Praise and Worship style by identifying its most important characteristics and proposing strategies for training singers who want to ingress this variety of Christian music. Several Praise and Worship professional singers and bands were observed and used as reference, and fifteen Worship students from Liberty University also contributed to the scope of this article.


Defining Christian music is not an easy task. Since the first century, the Christian church has been using music as part of its liturgy in many different forms. Christian music can be as diverse as medieval plainchants and rock bands, polychoral anthems and the Brooklyn Tabernacle choir. Even if we reduce the scope to contemporary Christian music, we still have to deal with several different styles.

According to the Gospel Music Association (GMA), Christian music is the sixth most popular music genre and sells over 56 million of compact disks, cassettes, and digital tracks, generating over half a billion dollars annually.2 The Nielsen Christian Soundscan 2008 report included the following divisions as the most popular styles of Christian music: Black Gospel, Pop/Adult Contemporary, Rock, Country, and Praise and Worship.3 Gospel may be considered the most recognizable of these styles, but in fact represents only 18% of all sales in the Christian music category, while Pop/Adult Contemporary comprises 28%, Rock 17%, Country 6%, and Praise and Worship 9%. Although the sales numbers do not look so strong, Praise and Worship style placed two albums among the ten best-selling Christians albums in 2008, and one of them in second place, behind a Christmas album recorded by the singer Josh Groban, who is not primarily a Christian artist.4

Congregation-driven song is the most striking characteristic of Praise and Worship style. While many Gospel and Christian Rock songs are difficult to memorize and make use of embellishment and improvisation, most Praise and Worship songs have a predictable melody line and can be easily memorized. Praise and Worship songs are largely accepted in most Christian churches and have been integrated into corporate worship. The same way traditional hymns were the sound image of the Great Awakening and tent revivals, Praise and Worship songs are the face of the new millennium Christian church. Songs from other styles of Christian music have also been incorporated into congregational worship, but Praise and Worship has grown in relevance and acceptance, becoming a distinct style.


There are two basic categories of singers who perform primarily Praise and Worship style: professional traveling artists and worship leaders. For this article, professional recording artists were observed through live recordings. …

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