Saturday, 26 October 2013

Thoughts About Melody

Some thoughts about melody:

It's been a while since I've heard a contemporary worship song that has made me feel, "What a beautiful melody!"

Rousing, maybe. But not what I'd describe as beautiful. 

Every song doesn't have to be beautiful. Driving, rousing tunes certainly have their place. 

But the mood of sweetness and beauty is something that seems to be lost on a lot of contemporary Christian melodies.

Melody has the power to affect hearts even without words. 

Londonderry Air is an example of a melody so sweet it can fill a heart with love and reduce someone to tears even before any words are heard. The effect seems to even transcend time and culture. 

No wonder countless hymns, Christian songs and romantic songs in more than one generation have been set to the tune. It's the melody of such a beautiful song itself that produces the effect, not just the lyrics.

A beautiful melody - you only have to hear it once, and it stays with you.

I think people are missing hearing worship songs where the melody itself is beautiful and moves the heart.

Something else:

The melody of a song can help you remember the words. But if a tune isn't too melodic, then it doesn't. 

I think that's part of the reason why people aren't remembering the words to a lot of modern worship songs - the tunes themselves, let alone the lyrics, aren't really easily finding their way into people's brains.

And if the tune doesn't, then the words won't either. 

Sure the contemporary songs are popular for a season while they're being pedalled and church worship teams scramble to keep up lest they be left behind in the nerd-dom of last year's top ten. But once the songs are superseded by the new album, it seems many of the once-popular songs seldom come spontaneously into mind again. 

Unlike some of the sweet simple worship songs churches used to sing up until about the mid-1980s. Decades later we can still recall those melodies and words easily. Even after all these years.

In meetings when the Holy Spirit is moving, or when we're alone with God, or with friends in a home-meeting - those are the songs that most naturally come to heart and mind.

Why? Aside from considering the anointing, it's because the melody style has that effect. The melody gets into your heart and carries the lyrics along for the ride.

These are facts of the trade, really. Just like a painter knows the effect that different colours have on mood. Just like an architect knows what type of design is needed in what setting. 

Song writers, worship leaders, and church music directors ought to know whether or not a melody is going to produce a certain mood. They ought to know whether the melody of a song is going to aid in memory or not. 

Again, I do love some of the more intricate, motivating, get-up-and-go songs we've been singing. Not every song needs to be so simple that it can easily be reproduced in a more spontaneous setting. It's okay to throw a bit of spice in!

As sweet as sugar is, it's been nice to have some chilli thrown in too!

But I think there is also a place now for re-introducing some simple sweet melody.

The type of tune that today's new converts will still easily remember decades from now.

A final consideration:

The anointing. 

The sweetest melodies are the ones that are birthed from intimacy with the Holy Spirit. 

A songwriter's relationship and walk with God does seem to come through in a song. 

I think it's true that some songs are just plain more anointed than others.


We've got some brilliant music. But to some extent we're missing the elements of sweet and memorable.

Time to bring back sweet. Time to bring back memorable.

Three things that can work together to help:

Anointing - melody - and lyrics.

Lots of old songs still cut it in every way.

Write some new ones too. 

And throw one in on Sunday! 

Why not!

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