What you Should Know about Gospel Music

Thursday, May 30th, 2013
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What you Should Know about Gospel Music

Classical music is an unfortunate term used to describe music usually played by orchestras, or using orchestra-type instruments. It’s an attempt to use a blanket term for many different styles of music. It’s not much different from coining the term, “radio music” for any type of music that you can hear on the radio.

The reason it’s important is because many types of music receive blanket labels. Jazz, pop (or popular), and Eastern are just a few. Today, let’s look at gospel music—another victim of the blanket label.

Gospel music generally refers to Christian music written for or about God. Gospel does not refer to music of other religions like Buddhist or even Judaism. Like all of these musical labels, the exact definition largely depends on who you ask. Within the category of gospel, there are many different styles. Here are a few:

Gospel Music
Gospel music is often considered music played in churches predominantly made up of African-American attendees. It’s written for live, praise and worship settings and is largely influenced by R&B and modern jazz. Gospel music might be charismatic, involve large choirs, and some of the genre’s artists are also known by secular music fans. Notable gospel musicians include CeCe Winans and Yolanda Adams and the incredible Take Six group.

Christian Metal
Every type of pop music genre also has a Christian based equivalent. In the 80s, when “hair band” heavy music was popular, Christian heavy metal which, at that time, was referred to as Christian Rock, was popular. Bands like Petra and Stryper brought heavy metal to the mainstream for Christian music fans.
Today, the genre is no longer as popular as it was in the 80s but some metal bands still exist. Keith Green was dominant in this era, and understandably so.

Contemporary Christian
Contemporary Christian music is inspired by today’s mainstream pop music. It has a simple chord structure, memorable and recognizable lyrics, and a similar and predictable form. The secular equivalent of the style might be Bruno Mars, Taylor Swift, or Maroon 5.

Popular contemporary Christian artists include Chris Tomlin, MercyMe, and Big Daddy Weave.

Contemporary Worship
Contemporary Worship is similar to contemporary Christian except that it’s written primarily for use in church worship settings. (Although many churches record studio albums) The two genres sound much the same although worship music often has simple lyrics and melodies so listeners can easily sing along, and the lyrics more overtly speak to praising God.
Popular Contemporary Worship names aren’t often artists, but instead, Churches. The most notable is Hillsong Church but others like Gateway, and Bethel are also well known. Michael W. Smith produced two wonderful worship CD’s that define the style.

Other Genres
Others include Christian Bluegrass, R&B, Children’s gospel, and, of course, the more traditional hymns. Each of these genres has notable artists who may not be in the mainstream but have a following nonetheless. And of course George Beverly Shea singing with the Billy Graham crusades for 50 years must be included in any list of gospel music singers.

Finally…
Categorizing music is difficult and subjective and is often based on the knowledge and experience of the person categorizing. If you’re a music lover, move out of your comfort zone and listen to a new style of music. Regardless of the genre, you might wonder what you were missing for so long.

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Gospel Music: Some of the Most Popular Songs

Friday, April 27th, 2012
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With such a rich history supporting it, it’s difficult to pick a list of the best gospel songs. Any attempt to claim being the definitive list will no doubt meet spirited debate. That’s why a “top-ten”, or whatever other size list, is fun to create. They encourage debate and give fans a chance to add their own favorites to the discussion. It proves how popular gospel music is worldwide.

Songwriters compose gospel music to convey a personal or a community way of thinking regarding their Christian beliefs. The styles of gospel music vary as much as the creators of it do. That’s why it has such a diverse audience. Today, there’s gospel music targeted to the younger set. In addition, there are adult contemporary as well as the traditional offerings.

Regardless of the styles that are out there, a canon of standard popular gospel songs does exist. The following are some of the songs that traditionally make it onto a list of the most popular songs in the gospel genre. You will probably recognize many of them.

Amazing Grace

John Newton, an Englishman wrote the lyrics to this song. It first appeared in print in 1779 in Newton’s Olney Hymns. A plethora of artists from decade to decade has performed their versions of this much-loved work. The music of the song is a variant of an earlier written tune called “New Britain.”

Because He Lives

Bill and Gloria Gaither wrote this gospel song in 1970. Their inspiration for this song was the birth of healthy son Benjamin that year.

Daddy Sang Bass

Carl Perkins wrote this tune in 1968. Johnny Cash recorded the song that year and it went to number one on the charts. It enjoyed a several month stay there. It still enjoys consideration as a beloved gospel song to this day.

Peace in the Valley

Thomas A. Dorsey, originally wrote Peace in the Valley in 1939. He wrote it for Mahalia Jackson. The song was a hit for Red Foley and the Sunshine Boys in 1951.

Just a Little Talk with Jesus

This song is also a cherished gospel favorite. The likes of Brenda Lee, The Oak Ridge Boys, and Loretta Lynn have their versions of this song. In addition, so do The Statler Brothers and Elvis Presley.

Wings of a Dove

Bob Ferguson wrote this gospel song in1958. It became his first multi-million seller song. Ferlin first recorded the song, and a host of artists has since recorded it in many languages. In 1987, Wings of a Dove received BMI’s “One million airplays” Award.

How Great Thou Art

This song is a Christian hymn based on a Swedish poem written by Carl Gustav Boberg. Elvis Presley performed this piece, as did Tennessee Ernie Ford, Roy Rogers, and Connie Smith.

I Saw the Light

In 1948, Hank Williams Sr. wrote and first performed this gospel song. Crystal Gayle, Jerry Reed, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Earl Scruggs, and Hank Williams Jr. have also set forth their renditions of this popular tune.

Oh Happy Day

Oh Happy Day is a gospel arrangement of an 18th century hymn, composed in 1967. The Edwin Hawkins Singers recorded it and in 1969, it became an international hit.

Just a Closer Walk With Thee

The first known recording of this gospel song was on October 8, 1941. The performers were the Selah Jubilee Singers. The song is one of the more popular ones to find use in the hymn and dirge section of jazz funerals in New Orleans.

Gospel songs are a way for devotees to manifest their deep spiritual feelings. They’re also the backdrop for celebrations, services, ceremonies and the like in the Christian community. It’s easy for a sheet of gospel music, a piano player, and a piano, to get a group of people singing whole-heartedly. That’s the beauty of this type of music.

The above list is a representation of those deemed in the upper echelon of favorites. The most popular songs of all time in gospel music certainly inspire a legion of fans. You may have your own favorites to add to the list as well. With more gospel music recorded each year, the list will continue to be one of variety and change.

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What Do I Need To Know To “Freshen Up” Old Hymns?

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011
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It’s fine if you WANT to play old hymns just as they are written in the hymnbook, but you certainly don’t have to. Most hymnbooks are written in 4 parts: soprano, alto, tenor and bass. But you as a piano player have 10 fingers and 88 keys — way more than just 4-part harmony. So what do you need to know to be able to arrange your own version of old hymns and gospel songs? Watch this short video and you’ll see.

Click here for info on Best-Loved Hymns & Gospel Songs

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You don’t have to play the same old hymns the same old way! Watch this video.

Friday, September 2nd, 2011
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1x1.trans You dont have to play the same old hymns the same old way! Watch this video.If you want to play hymns straight out of the hymnbook as is, go to it. But most hymnbooks are written for 4-part voices — not for piano — and it’s a shame to waste all those 10 fingers of yours on just 4 part harmony when you could be getting such a much bigger and more flavorful sound! When sopranos, altos, tenors and basses sing those four parts, it sounds great. But you as a pianist have a MUCH bigger range. You have 88 keys, from the lowest A to the highest C. So why not use many of those to create more interest and color in your gospel songs and hymns? Watch this short little video I made to demonstrate some of the ways that can be done:

For a complete course on arranging hymns and gospel songs, come on over to “The Best-Loved Gospel Hymns Of All Time!”

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The “Walk On Up” Blues/Gospel Chord Progression (Watch Short Video)

Thursday, August 4th, 2011
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The “Walk On Up Blues/Gospel Chord Progression” is an obvious but useful technique in the toolbox of the pianist. After all, the I to IV progression is used all the time in music, so there are multiple times in most songs where this technique — or some variety of it — can be used.

For more good stuff like this, come on over to Praise & Gospel Piano!

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