What do you think about church music? A set of old-time hymns with the ones based on German chorales of old? A cantor with a soprano voice? A pipe organ the size of a small ranch house?
Liturgical music varies from church to church, sanctuary to sanctuary, and denomination is not the only differentiating factor. The types of instruments that accompany musical aspects of the service – from a prelude before Mass to a hymn with soprano members of the choir singing a descant – vary too.
Guitars and Pianos
Guitars and pianos are simple-sounding, homey instruments used to accompany hymn-singing. While the guitar is plucked to provide a rustic air, the piano gives the service an intimate sound. Some people frown at them because they are too folksy to be played in their services. They also note that they fit music that has been written since the mid-20th century – especially Catholic hymns and Mass introits – better than organs.
Churches want to entice youth to go to church every Sunday and prove to them that it is not boring. So they gather electric guitarists, bassists, drummers, and keyboardists to form praise bands. Sometimes, they employ organists who play electric organs, especially in some black churches.
But there are downsides to the groups. For those who want more acoustic, traditional instruments like a pipe organ, they are either not their fortes or they are just distasteful to them. Like guitars and pianos, praise bands are more at home with modern liturgical music, making them yearn for something more appropriate to suit the mood and church.
Electric Digital Organs
For many churches and parishes on a budget who want something more than pianos, electric digital organs are their top choices. Many of the types in the market very closely imitate their cousins sounded by pipes, but some others sound completely electronic with MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface).
But some worshippers believe that it’s not very soulful enough to engage them in singing and praying. The reason why is because the sound is directional. Those organs send out one sound wave at a time from their speakers that contain all the notes and partials (vibrations).
To those who want a more traditional approach to worship, they feel that digital organs are not enough to fill the room with the right kinds of sounds. Another reason why they are not worthwhile to them is because they have to be replaced for a couple of years, which worries the sanctuaries.
Churches have to admit it – pipe organs are costly. Not only the initial costs (especially when it cannot afford a small one) set them off, but those pertaining to the maintenance of the whole instruments daunt them. Good quality organs of the type need to be tuned, updated, and cleaned.
Despite the costs, many churches find that it is worth a good investment. Their sound is less directional than their all-digital cousins because they project sounds from their multiple pipes, rather than just one speaker. Also, they are versatile for any music – from traditional hymns to modern Mass introits, and they can especially meld together with orchestral instruments like those of the brass family.
Music for worship varies in so many ways, even in terms of musical instruments or groups of them. But instruments (Acappella, in which the human voices are the only ones accompanying the service, is another story.) all serve a purpose: to impel congregants to praise God in song. Of course, every congregation member has his or her music taste.
As a Roman Catholic one, I for one prefer pipe organs.