Go Back   Christian Guitar Forum > Hobbies & Entertainment > Christian Music
Register FAQ Members List Calendar Arcade Mark Forums Read

Reply
LinkBack Thread Tools Display Modes
Unread 11-23-2014, 09:29 AM   #1
Registered User
 

Joined: Sep 2012
Posts: 21
Why do so many worship songs just use the same 4 chords?

Seems as though the majority of worship songs in the last few years use some combination of G - D - Em - C.

Why is that? It's really not that hard/difficult to write songs that contain other chords/progressions.

Seems as though the children of God - who is the ultimate Creator - would be a little more creative.

The benefit I do see in only using these 4 chords for almost every song is that someone can become a worship leader after 2 or 3 guitar lessons and have hundreds of songs they can play.

The downside is the predictability and lack of imagination which does not seem to mesh with the ways of God.

Thoughts?

DavidDeLoach is offline   Reply With Quote
Sponsored Links
Unread 11-23-2014, 10:18 AM   #2
and you were wondering??
Administrator
 
Uptown Thrunk's Avatar
 

Joined: Aug 2004
Location: In the bedrock of Being.
Posts: 14,714
paid
I think you are on the right track when you hypothesize that it is because it allows someone who is generally new to playing the opportunity to have a large repertoire of songs to play.

Sent from my XT1039 using CGR Forum
__________________
Hello! Come visit my blog! http://taylormweaver.wordpress.com/

Yes... I am the official "Knight Who Will Write Something On Derrida".
Bask in the wonderful glory.

"outside of a dog a book is a man's best friend... inside a dog it is too dark to read."
-groucho marx

Quote:
Originally Posted by Demon_Hunter View Post
Taylor, you just got drive-by theologied.
Uptown Thrunk is offline   Reply With Quote
Unread 11-23-2014, 01:36 PM   #3
...
Administrator
 
thesteve's Avatar
 

Joined: Apr 2001
Location: San Diego, CA
Posts: 30,107
Send a message via AIM to thesteve
And it's not just worship music. It's all pop music
__________________
We've all got ideas. We are the music makers. We make money to buy things, and write down words.

I'm a podcaster
thesteve is offline   Reply With Quote
Unread 11-23-2014, 01:41 PM   #4
...more machine than man.
 
S.B.Nichols's Avatar
 

Joined: Jun 2005
Location: Melissa, TX
Posts: 3,303
Modern worship music is written with the end user in mind. It's not necessarily about the worship leader needing it to be easy; it's often about the other musicians needing to be able to play it, and the congregation needing to be able to sing it.

Also, the simplicity is indicative of modern pop and rock genre.
__________________
"Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important." - C.S. Lewis

Add me on FaceBook

S.B.Nichols is offline   Reply With Quote
Unread 11-23-2014, 02:38 PM   #5
\_(ツ)_/
 
Giuseppe's Avatar
 

Joined: Oct 2011
Location: Now look at this net!
Posts: 1,579
Makes impromptu worship sessions very easy... But it also makes it boring and monotonous playing the same chord progression every Sunday
__________________
Giuseppe is offline   Reply With Quote
Unread 11-23-2014, 04:37 PM   #6
Person
 
to_be_released's Avatar
 

Joined: Aug 2010
Location: Auckland, New Zealand
Posts: 1,114
From the player's perspective - keeping chords simple maximises the number of people that can play the song.

From the listener's perspective - people generally respond best to "familiar" music. A shortcut to having a new song sound familiar is to use similar/the same chord progressions as well known songs.

As a keen musician, I would love for there to be more chord progressions utilised in worship music, but I am also aware of some of the limiting factors. I might enjoy the dissonance of tritones for instance, but your average person in the congregation would not find such musical intervals conducive to worship.

If you stick to a major key (which we tend to for p&w, as on the whole we like music that feels happy), and avoid key changes, you end up with 3 major chords and 3 minor chords that fit into your scale. It's common to maximise use of the major chords (to maximise that happy feel), so songs having three major chords and only one of the minor chords are the norm in p&w music. Based on musical theory, and the general demands for a modern p&w song, this is a somewhat sensible approach. It suits the non-musicians in our congregations well, at the cost of boring the musicians.

There are some good comedic takes on this phenomenon in secular music. This clip relates lots of songs to the progression in Pachelbel's canon in D. This clip (language warning) relates more specifically to songs with the same four chord progression.

Personally, I think a shift to more use of different chords in p&w music should be driven by a shift in theological focus of our p&w music. I would like to see more lament, for which it would be appropriate to use more minor chords and keys. I would like to see songs addressing deeper theological tensions, for which some of the more dissonant musical intervals would be appropriate. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be much demand for this in our churches, so I don't envisage it happening any time soon.
__________________
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheProdigalModern View Post
"Don't worry," to_be_released said. "I'm in the future, and I know what will happen."
to_be_released is offline   Reply With Quote
Unread 11-23-2014, 05:07 PM   #7
Chur Bro
 
dogfood's Avatar
 

Joined: Feb 2004
Location: New Zealand, Fiji
Posts: 13,328
Send a message via MSN to dogfood
Yesterday I had our worship leader put his capo on capo 4. G#m. Simple for him as he just played the normal Em C D G.

I was playing Eb saxophone, and transposing by ear as I went.

Want something different. . Don't use a capo.
__________________
dogfood is offline   Reply With Quote
Unread 11-23-2014, 07:23 PM   #8
Old School
Administrator
 
Leboman's Avatar
 

Joined: Aug 2003
Location: Geezerville
Posts: 55,903
Quote:
Originally Posted by DavidDeLoach View Post
Seems as though the majority of worship songs in the last few years use some combination of G - D - Em - C.

Why is that? It's really not that hard/difficult to write songs that contain other chords/progressions.

Seems as though the children of God - who is the ultimate Creator - would be a little more creative.

The benefit I do see in only using these 4 chords for almost every song is that someone can become a worship leader after 2 or 3 guitar lessons and have hundreds of songs they can play.

The downside is the predictability and lack of imagination which does not seem to mesh with the ways of God.

Thoughts?

As others have said...this isn't limited to worship music.

Just listen to the last 50 years of pop music.

As far as it being not difficult to write with other chords...not all of us are accomplished musicians. I don't know how to play that many and trust me...I have tried.
__________________
Nothing (Without You)
Granville Center Church of Christ Sermons
YouTube
My German is pre-industrial and mostly religious.
Leboman is offline   Reply With Quote
Unread 11-23-2014, 07:48 PM   #9
Registered User
 
mathminnick31's Avatar
 

Joined: Aug 2011
Location: Newton Falls, OH
Posts: 372
One artist: Israel Houghton
No simple 4 chord progressions there.
__________________
Love to play for Him
mathminnick31 is offline   Reply With Quote
Unread 11-24-2014, 07:13 AM   #10
Registered User
 

Joined: Sep 2012
Posts: 21
Good responses all. Thanks!

Sometimes constraining gifted musicians/songwriters to the same 4 chords in almost every song seems like taking a gifted painter/artist and asking him to only paint-by-numbers using only 4 colors. Even if other beginning artists were not able to paint as well as the gifted artist/painter, something doesn't seem right in limiting the gifted painted to the level of the beginners. We don't expect preachers and teachers to preach/teach on the level of a beginner - but instead we expect them to use their gifts to the maximum.

I live in Nashville where you can shake a tree and 10 great musicians fall out. I have a lot of friends and work with a lot of musicians who are believers, who play/record with the big name artists, and who have to keep the car in 1st gear when playing in church. Believe me, they share the same sentiment I'm sharing here. A desire to serve and glorify God with their gift, but finding it rare to actually utilize their gift in a church setting.

A wonderful exception to the 4 chord constraint is the keyboard music found in many black churches today. Very wonderful from a musician's perspective to hear a gift being used in that way.

Just seems weird that most "contemporary" worship is so unoriginal.

But hey, the bottom line is the presence of God in our hearts, not the chord progressions used or not used.
DavidDeLoach is offline   Reply With Quote
Unread 11-24-2014, 08:19 AM   #11
Registered User
 

Joined: Sep 2012
Posts: 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. RM View Post
As others have said...this isn't limited to worship music.

Just listen to the last 50 years of pop music.
Having been alive to hear (and play) the music of the last 50 years I have to make a point to the contrary.

While MANY pop songs over the last 50 years use the 1-4-5-6m (G-C-D-Em) chords, MANY MORE don't. Pop music in the 60s included the rich harmonic songs of The Beatles, Henry Mancini, Jimmy Webb, etc. The hits of the 70s included the likes of Yes, Rush, Eric Clapton, Earth WInd & Fire, Stevie Wonder, Steely Dan, etc. Look at the top 100 pop songs for the 1980s and you will see more songs than don't deviate from the same 4 chord template. The 1990s - well, not much really happened in the 1990s. The 21st century saw the implosion of the music biz and has moved into the era of the common man's song being able to become "viral" via the internet with no label momentum, and as a result more and more original and creative music is there to be found if you know where to look.

Sure, there will always be musical garbage being forced down the public's throat (e.g. Kay Perry/Miley Cyrus), but the lowest denominator of creativity in pop music should not set the standard for church worship.
DavidDeLoach is offline   Reply With Quote
Unread 11-24-2014, 08:51 AM   #12
Moderator
 
Sean's Avatar
 

Joined: Sep 2002
Location: Austin, Tx
Posts: 23,760
Send a message via AIM to Sean Send a message via MSN to Sean
Quote:
Originally Posted by DavidDeLoach View Post
Having been alive to hear (and play) the music of the last 50 years I have to make a point to the contrary.

While MANY pop songs over the last 50 years use the 1-4-5-6m (G-C-D-Em) chords, MANY MORE don't. Pop music in the 60s included the rich harmonic songs of The Beatles, Henry Mancini, Jimmy Webb, etc. The hits of the 70s included the likes of Yes, Rush, Eric Clapton, Earth WInd & Fire, Stevie Wonder, Steely Dan, etc. Look at the top 100 pop songs for the 1980s and you will see more songs than don't deviate from the same 4 chord template. The 1990s - well, not much really happened in the 1990s. The 21st century saw the implosion of the music biz and has moved into the era of the common man's song being able to become "viral" via the internet with no label momentum, and as a result more and more original and creative music is there to be found if you know where to look.

Sure, there will always be musical garbage being forced down the public's throat (e.g. Kay Perry/Miley Cyrus), but the lowest denominator of creativity in pop music should not set the standard for church worship.
I guess I just don't agree with most of your assumptions, statements, and conclusions.


Most recorded worship songs AREN'T in G major (though many are). The vast majority of popular worship songs ARE in a major key. Therefore guitarists frequently use a capo to convert them to G.

The majority of songs using the same major chord progressions doesn't mean they aren't creative (though many aren't). Creativity is when you do something interesting with what you have. You can be extremely creative with a very limited set of chords and progressions.


There's no shortage of worship songs which use more complex chord progressions and beats. However, the songs which gain mass acceptance are those which can be played by the most bands. Since the vast majority of churches have bands filled with volunteers with extremely limited time to practice, of course songs which can be learned with excellence quickly will become the most popular. If you look deeper you'll find tons of worship music which is very complex. It's out there. But the common worship band doesn't have the time to learn.

Even from the most mainstream of worship bands like Hillsong United, there's so many songs by them I would love to attempt, but it would be foolish. They have multiple drummers, guitarists and synths going. It's in a major key, but it's extremely complex music. As a local church we could never pull it off.



Lastly, it's really unfair to compare local church musicians to national level recording artists of any decade. They're just not comparable at all.
__________________
FIND ME ONLINE

Modern Ministry Blog | My thoughts on life and faith
The Sean Chandler Blog | My thoughts on culture and politics
YouTube | My thoughts on movies and TV
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
Sean is offline   Reply With Quote
Unread 11-24-2014, 09:46 AM   #13
Harmonica, guitars, bass
 
gospelbluesman's Avatar
 

Joined: Jun 2008
Location: N. Ontario Canada
Posts: 480
I think 4 chords is actually 1 too many. I much prefer just the 1 4 5 and leave out that 6m chord! In fact lets just groove out on a E chord or maybe an A.

It is the rhythmn , the groove, the beat, that really sets the song and not the chord as much. As a guitarist you can slightly muff the left hand but don't muff the right.
I talking more about band situation here.

As a bass, no capo here, often Christian worship song is not much more than playing the root note of each chord. There of course is exceptions. Kutless has some challenging bass and some Third Day has some nice bass.

Back to chord progression, sometimes we see that 2m added , Am in Key of G.
It not very often you ever see the 3 chord in worship because its a heavy rock sound.

I would love to hear more song in a minor key or at least use the dominant 7th chords.
C7 and D7 .

When playing ectric guitar I almost never use a capo (some exception though). A creative musician here can added interest to an otherwise less interesting song.

When playing harmonica I am often adding something creative not even in the original although it sometimes replaces the violin part.

My point is that even in that limiting 1 4 5 6m chords the band can added flavor to make the song more interesting.

("It is Not about your feeling so Stand Up and be a Man of God") ™ GBM
__________________
Its not about feelings, Stand Up and be a Man of God!
gospelbluesman is offline   Reply With Quote
Unread 11-24-2014, 10:03 AM   #14
Old School
Administrator
 
Leboman's Avatar
 

Joined: Aug 2003
Location: Geezerville
Posts: 55,903
Quote:
Originally Posted by DavidDeLoach View Post
Having been alive to hear (and play) the music of the last 50 years I have to make a point to the contrary.
I would respectfully disagree.

FWIW...I'm not a little teeny bopper. I've been around the block once or twice myself.

I wouldn't exactly call Rush and Yes pop music either.

Even Stevie Wonder wrote mindless pablum from time to time.
__________________
Nothing (Without You)
Granville Center Church of Christ Sermons
YouTube
My German is pre-industrial and mostly religious.
Leboman is offline   Reply With Quote
Unread 11-24-2014, 11:44 AM   #15
Registered User
 
darfaz's Avatar
 

Joined: Dec 2004
Location: Coal City, IL
Posts: 566
Quote:
Originally Posted by DavidDeLoach View Post
Pop music in the 60s included the rich harmonic songs of The Beatles,
I will preemptively apologize for cherry picking your post, but the early Beatles fit right up there with basic chord progressions you were criticizing.

I do understand about simplicity in worship music, but I think there is a certain elegance to it. I think a lot of worship leaders play and sing at the same time, and if the chord progressions got more difficult, the song book would get smaller and smaller.
darfaz is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are On



All times are GMT -6. The time now is 02:43 AM.


Search Engine Friendly URLs by vBSEO 3.6.0 PL2