Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Worship Wednesdays - 6 Ways to Teach New Songs Quickly!

One of the biggest requests at All Saints has been for new songs, and new ways to sing familiar songs. Most worship leaders and music directors know that music should be taught to a congregation slowly, allowing all members to learn the melody and take in the meaning of the lyric.

With only 8 weeks for our residency, we don't have the luxury of time, so we're having to look for creative ways to teach new music. Our goal is to leave at least 10 new songs in their repertoire than can be sung after we leave.

Here are some of the tools and tricks we're using to introduce new songs:

Stretch, Don't Leap
This is a congregation that sings from a hymnal. If we brought in the latest song from Third Day or Switchfoot, they'd be lost, they'd stop singing, and we'd lose their trust. Instead, we're starting with what they know by singing contemporary arrangements of well known hymns. Then, we're stretching out into new songs that have hymn-like sensibilities, like "In Christ Alone," "10,000 Reasons," and "My Heart Is Filled With Thankfulness."

Work the Prelude 
As people are gathering for worship, we're playing new songs that we want to teach them over the next few weeks. Even if they're not participating in the singing, the melodies will start to seep into their musical subconsciousness. The same can be done with anthems, postludes, and Communion songs.

Use Social Networking and YouTube
Most popular worship songs and hymns have lyric videos on YouTube. Each week, we're posting a video of a new song on the church's Facebook page. We're also posting them on our Infinitely More page for those who aren't church members. We post them a few days before the service and encourage folks to turn up their speakers and sing along.

Create MP3s
We often create our own arrangements of well known songs, or at the very least, sing them in a different key than the original artist. To help the choir and band learn music, we're creating mp3s and emailing them to the musicians along with the sheet music. Again, we do this a few days in advance so they can have time to prepare for the service.

Let People Know What You're Doing
During our first week, we realized that some people were singing the hymns exactly as they usually sing them, and not necessarily at the tempo that we were playing. Last week, before the service, I announced, "Sometimes, singing an old song in a new way can help to reopen the message to us. This week, we'll be playing some hymns that we know you'll love, but we'll be playing them with a slightly different style. If it feels a little different, just follow Gerald and his guitar, and we know we'll have a great time singing!" Even this simple piece of instruction encouraged the congregation to listen, and it helped with both the new arrangements, and the new songs.

Teach The Children
Okay, this seems sneaky, and maybe it is, but it works. Most services have a 'children's focus'. Studies show that these simplified lessons resonate powerfully with adults as well. We're using this time to teach new songs to the children. For songs that are kids only, we'll teach them directly in the Sunday School, but for songs that are also appropriate for the fuller congregation, we'll teach them during the children's focus. By having this slow, direct teaching time, we can teach a full song to the congregation, and also ensure that the church's repertoire has some songs that are appropriate for youth services.

We're spending January and February as Musicians in Residence at All Saints Church in beautiful St. Andrews By-The-Sea, New Brunswick. 
Follow our adventures at 

Worship Wednesdays is a weekly series to encourage and equip worship leaders and songwriters. Bookmark this page & visit us every Wednesday!


Carolyn Arends said...

These are great, practical ideas for helping people "stretch" into newness - thanks!

Allison Lynn said...

Thanks, Carolyn! We want to do everything we can to help people make the music 'their own.'