By Curt Taipale
Curt Taipale addresses the question, “What music do you play before and after the worship service?”
I hear this question asked often. “What music do you play before and after the worship service?”
I might as well make you feel bad right from the start. The best choice of music to play is NOT your favorite Christian CD, not that new cool song that you want everyone to hear, not what is the most requested artist on the local Christian radio station, or anything of the sort.
Nope. You actually have to think this through. Why do we want music playing in the background as people are assembling before the service? And why do we want music playing in the background after the service as people start to leave? And how long should the music play anyway?
It may be that the best music to play before and after the service is no music at all. Why? Watch the crowd. What are they doing? Longtime members of your church are most likely engaged in visiting with their friends and people sitting nearby. They long for that ever so brief moment to interact and catch up on the past week’s events. After the service they may be praying for one another, or inviting them to lunch that afternoon, or setting a time to meet later in the week, and so on.
Any music chosen for pre-service or post-service should not interrupt or detract from that social moment. Always remember that it is “background” music. It’s not supposed to attract attention to itself. After investing many years of my career driving the FOH console for worship services large and small, I’ve learned to never choose background music that has vocals in it.
Again, think about it from your congregation’s perspective. They are trying to visit with their friends. They are interested in what they have to say.
If the music track that you’re playing has vocals in it, it instantly becomes a distraction for those engaged in conversation. Everyone has to constantly determine which conversation they are going to focus on. Do they listen intently to what their friend is sharing, or do they take momentary timeouts to focus on the story the singer is singing about? And that process is continually updated throughout each background song.
The solution? Use instrumental music instead. It can set a nice peaceful mood, give those not engaged in conversation something to listen to, and in general create a welcoming environment.
If you’ve not gone down this road before, you may be asking where to find such things. Many years ago my choice of pre/post service music were the instrumental CD’s produced by Integrity Music. You may still be able to find those early ones (e.g., “Grace” or “Peace”). Maranatha has also released a couple of CD’s that have instrumental versions of popular Praise & Worship songs.
There is a ton of very nicely arranged, well-played light jazz arrangements of Christian songs available, including contemporary P&W songs as well as older hymns that work perfectly in this application. Do an iTunes search for Kevin Madill, Juju Song, of course Phil Keaggy, or the Christian Jazz Artists Network for starters, and expand your search from there. While not specifically a Christian artist, check out some tracks by Ken Navarro. They fit perfectly with this light “SoCal” jazz feel.
Playing pre/post background music isn’t for everyone. I have been in a few churches where pre/post service music just wasn’t a good idea to start with. And in those settings, it really may be best just to leave things as they are. There’s nothing wrong with that. But in the right application, using instrumental background music with a contemporary arrangement does a great job of setting the stage for what comes next.
If on the other hand your church leadership wants to liven up the mood and keep things rockin’, that’s up to you. At that point, it’s no longer background music and that music becomes the center of attention – not what members of your congregation are trying to communicate to their friends. Your choice. Remember, it’s not about you. So I ask is that you carefully think it through, and don’t let it just happen.
Remember that the pre/post service background music is intended to be subtle, to stay in the background, to not attract attention to itself. As you choose the songs to play, do be sensitive to the style of songs that would appeal to the majority of your congregation.
Copyright 2015. Taipale Media Systems, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Curt Taipale enjoys over 30 years of experience in audio as a church tech team leader, recording and live sound engineer, consultant, AVL system designer, design/build contractor, educator, author, and professional musician. He is the founder of ChurchSoundcheck.com, author of “The Heart of Technical Excellence”, author of three chapters in Yamaha’s “Guide to Sound Systems for Worship”, and a contributing author to several prominent trade magazines.
Curt has taught literally thousands of church sound team volunteers, technical staff, worship pastors and musicians. Having made his living as a professional musician for 12 years, earning a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Engineering from the University of Miami, serving 11 years full time on the production staff of three churches as Audio Director and Technical Director, plus several more years as a sought-after freelance sound engineer, and now focusing his career on designing state of the art sound, video and theatrical lighting systems for churches nationwide, Curt brings a unique perspective and depth of knowledge to every AVL system he designs and every workshop he teaches.