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For a young Christian musician, it may feel like there are only two paths to a career in music. Either you go into pop (or some variation of it) or worship music. Both are huge in the CCM market and most secular music is some form of pop, so that’s certainly something of which a young Christian musician should be mindful. Is one better for a young person than the other? What benefits are there to each option? If you or you child are thinking through the different ways to express yourself through music these days or simply want to find some cool songs to learn, here’s what we have to say about worship music and pop.
Skill Level Required in Worship Music and Pop
For a young musician who is at the beginner or intermediate level, it would be a bad choice to only try to play difficult pieces. You may discourage yourself or otherwise frustrate the learning process. There’s a reason why kindergartners aren’t taught chemistry. It’s beyond their learning level and, frankly, it sounds dangerous. Looking at the skill level required in much of worship music and pop, both have a certain draw for a young Christian musician. For starters, worship music is typically not the most complex of musical genres. You might say this naturally flows from the essence of what worship is, since the audience is not there to marvel at the musician playing an instrument, but instead joining with him in praising God. For whatever reason, there are many worship songs that are accessible to younger and more inexperienced players. For a guitar player or drummer, you’ll find there are varying degrees of skill required but plenty of great songs to love closer to the beginner side of the scale. The same can be said for pop music, especially since the genre covers so much ground. A song like “Clocks” by Coldplay can be learned by an inexperienced piano player in short enough time.
Ease of Performance
No matter what skill level you are at, it’s nice to find a variety of songs you can play at a moment’s notice. While this may read like splitting hairs after our first section on skill level, a young Christian musician should also consider the ease of performance when it comes to worship music and pop. What kind of music do you want to make? What kind of performer are you? If you want to show off dance moves and jump around, worship may not be the best fit. Also, you should consider how easy it is to play these songs with what you have. If you’re just one guitarist, you probably don’t want to play something that minimally features guitar and greatly relies on other instruments or voices. This all changes when you find bandmates, but assuming you are all by yourself during this step of your musical journey, keep it simple. Think about what skills you have, how you can execute a performance, and go from there.
Values for a Young Christian Musician
This is where we get into the philosophical part of the discussion. What do you want your music to say? Is it enough to be fun and entertaining or do you feel called to create something more worshipful? There’s no wrong answer, but you’ll want to think about this (and keep thinking on it) as you progress as a musician. It’s important to note that worship music isn’t necessarily the “right” choice here. There are millions of people who have felt encouraged and entertained through pop music. Worship music is a great path for you and your personal calling, but that may not be the music you want to create. Even still, you may find a way to combine both. Some CCM artists produce a sound that could easily belong to either camp.
Building for the Future
You could argue there are two sides of being a musician: the artistry and the business. Both are necessary for a long career in music. Your sound needs to be pure and authentic and you should have some sense in what it takes to make money. The latter does not mean you should dumb down your music or play only what other people want to hear, but you should think about planning for the future. When choosing between pop and worship music, a young Christian musician may feel that praise and worship is more fitting as she has only ever longed to lead the music at church. If your hope is to one day sell out major venues, then pop is likely the option you’ll roll toward. While you may not correlate Christian music with financial stability, there may be more consistent use for a guitarist at church than a pop singer in the secular world. Whatever you decide to lean toward, just be mindful of where you are headed.
The Benefits of Both
We’ve already mentioned how these two genres can in fact go together. The CCM industry is full of artists who are looking to glorify God through their music and only some of those musicians would fit the classification of worship music. Pop essentially boils down to fun, entertaining music that is softer than rock and has more bounce than easy listening. Where a musician takes the genre from there is really up to them. Like anything else in the creative world, these areas of music are amazing outlets for the emotions we feel and the ideas we wish to express. Your hopes and fears and everything in between can be encapsulated by either worship music or pop. This brings us to the last point we would like to discuss.
Which Music Does the Young Christian Musician Prefer?
At the end of the day, music belongs to the musician who is creating it. Someone who wants to play worship music isn’t going to be fully served by making something mainstream pop. The opposite is also true. Studio musicians, worship team members, and other traveling players can easily make a living bouncing around to different genres, but an artist who wants to go out on her own needs to stick with the sound that feels right to her. We can trade ideas back and forth all day, but eventually you’re going to want to make the music you feel in your soul. Otherwise the passion won’t last.
Whether you are a young Christian musician or the parent of one, know that the most important aspect of a musician picking the sound he wants to play is if he loves it himself. The same can be said for choosing an instrument. Keep it simple and go with your gut.
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