How are we singing?

September 9, 2022

The Covid pandemic caused drastic changes, one of which was to silence our singing. When churches were able to gather, listening to song videos was our limit. Over two years later, where are we now? Churches are singing again, the age of the hymnbook and the organ is largely gone, and that may have been helped by having to use new technology during lockdown. At the same time, many churches identify as traditional and contemporary at the same time, and they may not be using all the online options available.

These were the findings of a survey conducted by Praise Trust last autumn and winter. Completed by nearly 300 people, from a range of churches, from FIEC and Grace Baptist to Anglican, Baptist Union, Presbyterian and Brethren, it gives a useful sample of the current scene. While many who took part were ministers, others were keener to be seen as ‘musicians’ than ‘worship leaders.’

What is the most popular instrument used in church? 218 said piano, 131 use an acoustic guitar, and 83 a keyboard. Drum kits (61) have now edged out organs (56), while violins and flutes (both 67) have the lead on electric guitars (42) and bass guitars (59). Only one church uses a double bass!

Praise Trust published our hymnbook Praise! twenty-two years ago, just as the digital projector revolution was about to happen. Today, 252 churches out of 283 said they use projection, while 80 use books and 68 print a sheet, so there is still some overlap, but the days of handing out hymnbooks are largely gone – unless we have a winter of power cuts! Powerpoint still corners the market in projection software, with low uptake for specialist software such as Easyworship.

Where are people getting their music from? Printed music editions are still the go-to destination of choice for musicians (75%), but with a large collection of downloads (61%) as well. Some of these are sourced from the Praise Trust website, but many from SongSelect or paying for individual downloads. 59% still want to have a full piano score.

We are often asked why Praise doesn’t provide a dedicated app. This is because people source their music from many different places. What surprised us, therefore, was that music management apps such as OnSong or Paperless Music aren’t being used in this survey sample. We may come back to this and give you a review of which app people find best.

40% of those completing the survey were not subscribers to the Praise Trust website, and we were glad to have their input to get a wider sense of what is happening. Our website gives you access to our hymnbook collection (999 items), plus over 300 more items published since 2000. We are also publishing Christmas Praise! this autumn, a new music book of over seventy carols and songs for churches. We aim to be a curated collection of trusted songs.

Jim Sayers
Chairman, Praise Trust.

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