What Makes A Great Worship Song?

I recently saw three questions asked on a Facebook ‘Worship Leaders +’ group. Brent Milligan asked: What qualities or attributes of a worship song make it something that people love to sing and can really get into? Why does EVERYBODY sing on 10,000 Reasons? Why do Tomlin’s songs go over so well in so many churches?

Great Worship Song

I thought some of the responses were particularly good. So I wanted to repost some of them. Which of these posts resonates with you?

Dave Duncan: Digging into my notes from a past conference where Don Moen spoke about what makes a “good worship song”:
Catchy, memorable, true, emotional, culturally accessible, original, universal theme.
“10,000 Reasons” and many Tomlin songs fit that criteria. So do many others, but culture plays a big part in what works and what doesn’t at any given church.
Delivery plays a part, too. The same song played two very different ways can be very differently received by the same congregation.

Peter Hamm: Andy Piercy at the NWLC last year said a lot of stuff that I thought was golden in the songwriting seminar.
He talked about the balance between the 3 elements of song – words, tune, beat (rhythm and cadence of words)…
But here’s the thing… people can only concentrate on two at once. Words and tune, or words and beat or beat and tune.
A lot of the “bad” worship songs I’ve heard don’t understand that.

Derek Charles Johnson: 10,000 Reasons has a hymn-like quality to it…that’s why I think it goes over well in my church. They like hymns.

Dave Duncan: Think of the common denominators for many of the popular worship songs: it’s easy to listen to and remember the melody, it has words that flow in a somewhat consistent meter, it contains words that are true/Scriptural, it’s in a singable range (this is a bit of a moving target, but generally speaking…) and the arrangement is probably not too complex and follows one of but a few common patterns. In other words, the popular songs probably don’t challenge the listener to do more than just listen AND is inviting them to maybe join in.
It’s that simple to me.

Erick Bieger: From a purely musical perspective it’s all about the hook. You nail down that one melody that you can’t get out of your head and you build around that. Throw in lyrics with theological depth that are easily singable – you win.

Curtis Kent Toneworks: yes. everything must be accessible. The melody, the key, the lyrics, rhythm of the words, everything. IF this is present and the theology is sound. THEN you have a great congregational song.

Bill Horn: I would also add that there are certain songs that resonate or ring true within believers. Most often it is something that is directly from Scripture or very connected with Scripture, but you know it as soon as you sing it together. I like to describe those statements or phrases as “very true.” There is no question or hesitation for any of us that it is something we should be singing together.

Roz Jeffcoat Garland: Just one more comment… what we as worship musicians and leaders sometimes forget is that we learned the song by reading the music or a chart… other than seeing the words on screens, or in a bulletin, we are asking the congregation to learn the song by ear (rote) which is a lot to ask. How many times does it take doing it (considering that we have a week between Sundays) before they can really “lose” themselves in the music, in the worship experience and just SING it from the heart? I think it’s hard to really get into the music as a congregation member if you are still struggling with 15 different melodies, hooks, turnarounds, tags, pre-choruses, bridges, etc and all you have to lead you is your ear and the words. Just remember how it feels to be in a church where you Don’t know the music and are just standing there.

Mark Cole: I also think God’s anointing on the song and songwriter is a major factor in the success of a song, but that is harder to quantify. 

Question: So what do you think makes a great worship song? What elevates a song to making a congregation want to sing it again and again? Why do some songs thrive and others fail?


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One Response to What Makes A Great Worship Song?

  1. To me, the ultimate worship song (not to be simple) is a song of worship ~ a song that elevates Jesus, extols the Father…..takes us into the MOST HOLY PLACE. I enjoy songs about Him loving us, or working mightily in us, but as far as I am concerned the song that puts Christ in the Highest Place…is the one that.brings the most anointing and breakthrough and power!! Holy, holy, holy is the Lamb; the Lamb who sits on the throne I would rather hear a song 20 yrs old that does that than the most popular hit of the day. Songs like “Him who sits on the Throne; and We Place You in the Highest place, and Whisper His Name”….but we still need the joyful songs like, Greater is the One living Inside of me!!!!!

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