63 thoughts on “Is Praise and Worship a Genre?

  1. been busy at photography forums that I didn’t notice it went down today. now I’ve got to go check whether this is being discussed there, too! But I think I’ll start a thread on what’s the best lens to shoot christian children! 🙂

  2. hmm, usually genres are defined by musical style and not lyrical content, wikipedia has an interesting opening line:

    A music genre is a conventional category that identifies pieces of music as belonging to a shared tradition or set of conventions.[1] It is to be distinguished from musical form and musical style, although in practice these terms are sometimes used interchangeably.

    so I guess according to this definition it could be considered a genre.

    I don’t know why it matters if it is or if it isn’t, I would actually like to know why it does, either from a marketing or philosophical standpoint.

  3. It totally is. Our worship pastor just said this last week and our drummer, who is not a member of the church, but a hired professional, totally agreed.

    Here’s my 2 cents: you know how you love music and you just get the urge to listen to metal, blues, dance, etc fill in the blank? Hiw often do you find yourself saying “I really want to listen to some worship music?” its not just in there with rock or anything, its it’s own world. When people ask me what kind of music i play (after i tell them i’m a guitarist) i don’t just say rock, pop, blues, etc. i say “i play at my church” cause praise and worship is anything and everything, musically, but it definitely has a formula that’s easily broken down which is: verse, chorus, verse 2, chorus, chorus, bridge chorus. And within that: quiet, build at either v2 or chorus 2, quiet bridge, build again for ending chorus.

    I could keep going on, but i’m typing on an ipod and my thumb is tired and i’ve made my point.

  4. I think it’s interesting to create a genre based on what it makes people do rather than what it is. Like, is Explosions in the Sky, or Godspeed You! Blak Emporor, or Jeff Buckley “praise and worship?” No. They’re probably not even Christians. But can I praise and worship to their music? Yes.

    Can I not praise or worship while playing/experiencing Hillsong or David Crowder? Absolutely. So in those times, for me, there’s not a black and white. It is what it is.

    And while I’m on it, of the Church is going to have a genre… I refuse to have it be a lame name like Praise and Worship Music. Let’s be a little more creative.

    Oh wait… We suck at being creative.




  5. I think Praise and Worship can be considered a genre, but of course if depends on how you define the terms. It should probably be called Praise and Worship Despite All the Distractions. Yesterday’s distraction was how to get a laptop to use its 2nd monitor output so the lyrics would display on the screen 🙁 So I actually got some practice calling out lyrics as we sang them — or microseconds before everybody else sang them. Fortunately one of our techie guys got the lyrics displayed after the first two songs.

    Here’s a thought, what music is played live every week more than any other?

  6. haha I was kind of joking around. 😉 I see the point that there is specific gear for a ‘praise and worship’ setting and seeing that as a genre is productive to discussion, and I also see how it could also be referred to as ‘Brit rock’ or something of the like.

    I think my main point is how these discussions on forums always seem to take a very volatile turn, with the Christian guys usually being the most guilty. Almost as if we see defending the genre as ‘defending God’, but in the process are so un-compassionate about it that we end up turning a few folks off to God in the process.

  7. Well, praise and worship music is the only music that is written to be sung by mortals. It also is more purpose driven than most pop, which is written mostly to entertain.

  8. Jody–haha Wow! I…uh…sang that to a backing track for my 8th grade graduation. haha Can’t say that I dislike the super tight instrumentation from the Nashville session guys, though. Not a bad song all in all, albeit a bit dated. Is that our theme song for the crusade? 😉

    Dan–haha Points for trying to be relevant, I guess. No points for the fact that in two years, everyone’s gonna see that video and go, ‘Huh?’

    • I LOVE the tight instrumentation. I am not ashamed to admit that. That acapella “Saddle up your horses!” part at the beginning just gets me everytime though haha. I thought of that as soon as you said crusade. haha. I can’t believe you sang that to a backing track in 8th grade. That’s actually impressive! I think it is a good idea to play this song everytime you long on to TGP…

  9. IMO:

    yes, it’s a genre (dotted 1/8 everyone)

    no, it shouldn’t be (time for some metal music to worship to)

    we, need new mindsets about this (lots of prayer)

  10. According to Provident, Word, BEC, Fair Trade Records and Centricity (aka the Christian labels) P&W is, in fact, a genre. The marketing money says so and the radio reporting and Billboard charts categorize it seperately as well. So i’d have to say yep. 🙂

    • yup, thanks to marketing, we now have this never-ending argument/discussion of the validity to the claim. i myself don’t think it should be considered one but if people insist, I wouldn’t lose sleep over it 🙂

      • That’s the thing though – i don’t believe it to be solely a marketing issue. Here’s the simple fact: Categorization exists for making locating something easier.

        We Christians can whine and moan all day about it, but the music we sing in church for communal focus of ascribing worth (biblical definition of praise) to the Most High God definitely is identifiable as different sounding and lyrically set apart. Period. Therefore to categorize it as ‘Christian Worship’ makes it searchable and unites like performances/performers.

        What’s different?

        Well, for one thing, as a songwriter i can tell you that the structure of typical Sunday morning worship songs are noticeably different than anything else out there. The repetition of tags and the repetition of the verse melodies/lyrics is not commonly found in other genre’s or subgenre’s. Lyrically, they are most glaringly different than that outside of the genre. As far as I can tell, Christian music is the only category that has to adhere to the concept of theological accuracy and consistency. I feel it’s pretty dishonest and tired to say that worship all “sounds like U2 and Coldplay and dotted 8ths” because the artists I play with and the music that I play at worship events or as my own band sounds nothing like that. And yet it is still very easily identifiable as Christian Worship music because of the lyrical content. The argument that since lyrical content isn’t the “standard” of categorization for music, it shouldn’t be used it all is pretty silly. Love songs are categorized lyrically. Breakup songs can be categorized lyrically. Religious songs are identifiable lyrically and can be categorized as such.

        There can be rock Christian worship songs, R&B Christian worship songs, folk Christian worship songs, country Christian worship songs… but the way you can categorize those cohesively is by calling them Christian Worship songs. Why? Because they all are very thematic lyrically.

        God has very specific requirements of those that worship Him as spelled out in scripture. In John 4:20-24 In Jesus’ talk with the sinful Samaritan woman, as I’m sure you’re familiar with, He said that true worshippers will worship in Spirit and truth. “Truth” isn’t the sincerity of the sentiment – which seems to be an idea espoused more commonly these days. Truth is the standard of which we describe/ascribe worth of Him. Truth is speaking of spiritual truth.

        I find it strange that we mix up what rightly belongs to God and what is given BY God for the benefit of man. For instance, Jesus tells us that God has given to us the Christian Sabbath for us. It is for our benefit: “Man is not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath for man”. However, you will never find Jesus saying that “Man is not made for the worship, but the worship for man.” It’s giving Him what is rightly His anyway, and THAT is why i believe it deserves unique categorization. It is not just music meant to emotionally stir us to think and reflect on God… it’s music that is lyrically directed TOWARDS God and is saying “more of You, less of me”.

        • we can’t keep putting things in a religious context, though. lyrics are not basis for a genre. it’s the style, the groove, the feel, the instrumentation, the beat.

          This is Reggae, no doubt.

          This is more of a sub-genre of Blues, I believe.

          But are these now “Christian Worship genre” because of it’s lyrical content?

          anyway, does it really matter whether it’s a genre or not?

          • …and why exactly can “we not keep putting things in a religious context”?

            Your first example is Christian Worship music done in a reggae style. That’s not any different than Christian Worship music done in a “rock style” ala U2. It’s still categorized as Christian Worship and is on a WOW Worship cd in fact. Is that wrong/bad?

            Your second example is a song with biblical themes and characters but that isn’t “ascribing value” or directly praising or worshipping God. The guy has a cool voice though. Kinda has tinges of Marc Broussard.

            As far as it mattering or not… well, not really. But that’s what the question on this particular page is asking and so the question begs a response. 🙂

          • Adam, you make some good points about the structure of songs in a worship context being different, as they are meant to be sung by a wide audience spectrum after only a few listens. There are definitely some merits to allowing a praise and worship genre, and I believe some merits to the opposite.

            I have to apologize, too…I wasn’t ‘exactly’ asking the question in my original post. It was more a statement aimed at satirizing how a question as insignificant as this in the grand scheme of things, always seems to bring about defensive and less-than-loving comments, especially from Christians. Mostly on Gear Page. 😉

            Nonetheless, you and others have made some great discussion points, both for and against the genre idea here. Thanks for your thoughts! 🙂

          • You’re a good guy Karl. I really appreciate the numerous great conversations you’ve been host to on your site. The Lord is totally using this site, too! I met someone last week in Nashville who asked me if I had ever heard of the “Guitar For Worship blog guy obsessed with U2” to which I heartedly replied, “Yep! Karl!!” Then we started talking about leading worship at our respective churches.

            So thank you bro. Good stuff.

  11. I don’t have a problem with calling the Hillsong-type style its own genre since it has taken on a bit of a life of its own (although U2 and Coldplay, and I’m sure others I haven’t thought of, might disagree). The question for me is should we call that genre “worship music?” Because I think our 10-to-20-years-in-the-future selves might have something to say about what musical style is most common/appropriate/natural to worship to. Then there’s the whole question of sentimentality, but I’ll let that one slide for now … 🙂

  12. Speaking of U2 ( sorry for the segue ) , here’s a youtube clip where the guy does a decent job of showing delays on All Because of Jesus ( Fee ) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2b7FQ8-fec&feature=player_detailpage

    He has pretty good tone but what I found most interesting was he suggestion to set mix at 100% and feedback to zero.
    Tried that briefly yesterday and it was confusing because your initial pick strike produces no sound. I run two channels/signal chains so I must have had the other one off. But if you just run one chain it seems with those delay settings you won’t hear anything but the delays.

  13. You could classify it as a lyrical or poetic genre, but not as a musical genre, since the musical content already fits other genres.

    Trying to classify a musical genre by its lyrics is kind of like trying to determine whether someone’s male or female based on the words they’re saying. Irrelevant.

    If we start attempting to classify music according to lyrics, then we might as well go ahead and manufacture categories for the “My Boyfriend/Girlfriend Just Broke Up with Me and I Hate Their Guts” genre, or the “I Got Really Drunk and Did Some Stupid Things” genre, or the “My Feelings Got Hurt” genre, or the “My Country Rocks While Your Country Sucks” genre, or the “I Miss My Hometown” genre, the list goes on………

  14. They have a genre for music without lyrics, “Fingerstyle”, so I’m guessing lyrics is not the sticking point. Go dig up a YouTube video of Michael Hedges’ “Rickover’s Dream” for a perfect example of the, uhm…category…genre…stuff?!

    On a more serious note I think it really comes down to how specific people want categories to be. Not like anyone says Sacred and Secular anymore.

  15. With or without words/vocal is still a musical distinction. I am talking about genre classification determined solely on the content of the lyrics. At best, this sort of classification could be called a sub-category of an already established musical genre.

  16. The thing with calling Praise and Worship a genre is that P&W actually can fit any genre. You can have country/rock/alternative/hiphop P&W so no, it’s not a genre. Like some have said, its a lifestyle.

  17. Good discussion! Personally, I think all genre’s tend to break down when studied. If having a rhetoric or a name helps in discussing something, then go for it. And when it doesn’t, drop it. Just my opinion, but I think all classifications are like that.

    On the delay thing, I didn’t watch the video, but Fee’s ‘All Because of Jesus’ is an interesting song because you pick backwards of how you usually play dotted 8th delay. So, setting the mix to 100% (i.e. no dry signal), would allow you to play with normal picking, but the output would essentially be backwards because of no dry signal.

    Also, some delays do not have the ability to go 100% wet, so it’s possible that on the pedal he’s using, 100% on the mix means unity gain for both the dry and wet signal. I’ll have to watch the video when I get a chance.

    And lastly, feedback to zero on most delays means 1 repeat only, which gives that Streets Have No Name sound a very stilted feel, but makes it easier to play and easier to mix. It’s a very Nashville Christian music thing to take out all the transients and space, and make things as straight and edited as possible.

  18. Also, (sorry to drag this on) we seem to all be focused on a purely Western idea of this Praise and Worship thing. We’re forgetting that the rest of the world doesn’t use this kind of music (at least as its primary) in their services. Just another thought…


  19. Adam:

    …and why exactly can “we not keep putting things in a religious context”?

    well, if we start dancing or taking photos inside the church, does it mean that there should be a “christian dance step” or a separate art to “christian photography”?

    … reggae style … “rock style” …

    now these are not just “style”, they are “genre” 🙂

    anyway, like Karl said, this was more of a joke that kinda makes fun of what we are doing now! Karl, you got us!!! 😉

    • These sort of conversations are hard because it’s like if you respond more than once on a topic people suddenly call it “arguing”. This is a dialogue, yes? If so… moving on… 🙂

      If no, then read no further.

      “Well, if we start dancing or taking photos inside the church, does it mean that there should be a “christian dance step” or a separate art to “christian photography”?”

      No; that’s a non sequitor you just stated. The words/lyrics are what make the art Christian or non. This is classifiable in this manner because Christianity is not just a concept, but is a worldview and major world religion. So the words/lyrics are what provide the religious undertones to those that see/hear them. A “Christian policeman” is entirely possible and common, but a Christian Police-Force would need to adhere to Christian standards in order to be accurately referred to as such. If ethics and morality are involved, then this suddenly becomes a plausible perspective. To further respond to your “Christian photography” comment – Yes- if Christian imagery is used and focused upon, it’s easy to correctly classify it as Christian photography. If it’s just a Christian that is a photographer, then it’s not necessarily highlighting the worldview of Christianity and therefore wouldn’t be completely accurate to label it Christian photography beyond the sense of it being produced by a Christian. The same logic follows in response to a Christian dance step; although i think it would be more difficult to argue that a dance move could be blatantly understood to espouse a Christian worldview (look! she just Tebowed!)

      I would disagree that the above examples are exclusively “genre”. If Katy Perry (a pop singer) can sing a song with a reggae musicality, we wouldn’t say she is singing a different genre. We would say she is a pop singer trying to sing in a different (in this case – reggae) style. It’s entirely possible to have a pop song in a “blues style” as well (John Mayer’s ‘Belief’ for example) even though “blues” exists as its own genre.

      All in all, the Christian worldview presented unambiguously, as is in Praise & Worship, provides an easy means of classification and categorization. That’s why such classification has happened and that is why its a recognized genre used by Billboard and other reporting mediums. 😉

    • Speaking of non sequitur……how does it follow that if you can classify something based on any arbitrary criteria it suddenly becomes a genre defined by different criteria? If we’re talking a musical genre, the criteria must be musical. You are attempting to make the case that if a selected group of music can be demonstrated to have the same social function (entirely unrelated to musical content, btw) it then becomes a musical “genre”. If this is the case, then we could use ANY criteria to manufacture a genre, and the sense of the word is essentially rendered meaningless. The “content” of the art that is being classified must be relevant to the SAME criteria under which the art is being classified: which is in this case musical content, for a musical classification.

      The word for this type of categorization is not “genre” but rather just a “category” (which contains many different “genres”), if we’re speaking in the musical sense. Christmas music would be another example of a category containing many different musical genres. Christmas may be considered a genre, not in a musical sense, but rather some other artistic and/or social sense, using different criteria.

      Also, as a side note, your Katy Perry and John Mayer examples would be more accurately described as a Reggae or Blues genre with a pop styling. The genre refers to the music, not the artist.

  20. Given that the definition of the word ‘genre’ is “a class or category of artistic endeavor having a particular form, content, technique, or the like”, regardless of style (U2, reggae, scream-o, etc.), what unites worship music from any culture around the globe is a ‘content’ aspect that calls all listeners to acknowledge the Creator. In that regard, worship music is its own genre.

    In my humble opinion, when a musician renders music of any genre from a purely technical/clinical perspective (i.e. “I play the notes and chords written on the chart…”) without that gut-felt connection from the heart, they rob themselves and the listeners of the music’s intent, power, and beauty. As much as we grouse about the degree to which the “U2 dotted eighth feel” and the Hillsong “6m-4-1-5” and similar 4 chord motifs seem to characterize much of contemporary worship music, I believe that the frequency with which those elements are utilized (along with the themes of mercy, grace, deliverance, hope, joy, lament, etc.) could be seen as being consistent with King David’s encouragement that we should “sing to the Lord a new song”, even though many of the Psalms of David seem so similar. In my mind, the differentiating factor in each of David’s Psalms is the heart of the author/worshipper (i.e. the ‘state of mind’ from which the song originated whether it was being written or being rendered by the congregation in corporate worship).

    While as a worship musician, I can’t control other other worshippers’ states of mind, I should be managing the state of my own heart through the quality of the relationship I have with the Lord to ensure that the music I play and sing originates from an authentic place inside of me to such a degree that I disappear from other worshippers’ consideration and become a lens that focuses their attention towards the One who sits on the Throne.

    Given that desired end, I (and our team) rehearse, not because of delusions of grandeur about being the next undiscovered Crowder band; we rehearse to minimize distractions for the benefit of other worshippers. We rehearse to ensure that the point of origination for an offering of music is indeed heartfelt and genuine.

    That’s my $0.02 on this topic… 🙂

      • I recognize the name of the guy who objected to the video on yt as the former worship pastor of a church around here. Small world.

        If it was my friend’s video, I would text him during soundcheck: aargh soundboard lights red AGAIN, pls remedy. 🙂

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