Special Qualities of a Worship Song

Featuring Paul Baloche Posted on January 18, 2010

A good worship song shares the same qualities as any well written song, but it has certain specific characteristics not necessarily found in some of the others.  A worship song  is like a greeting card to the Lord from all of us. It speaks not just to us, but for us, providing a way to express ourselves to the Lord together. So a worship song, more than almost any other type of song, needs to express a universal sentiment, something we can all agree on as our own expression of love to Him. 

Lord, let my songs flow 

out of a clean, pure, 

worshiping spirit. 

When Your 

people hear 

them, I want 

them to think,


That’s exactly 

what I would say 

to God if I could 

write a song to Him.” 

Let me be the voice 

of their hearts. 



Lord we lift our faces to You 

As the flowers greet the dawn 

Let Your glory shine upon us 

Till the cares of earth are gone 

As our hearts unfold before You 

Like the petals in the rain 

May the wonder of Your presence 

Give us joy and strength again 

(Flower Song, by Jimmy Owens) 

 Praise and Worship songs fall into three categories: 

• Songs sung directly to the Lord (such as “Lord, I Lift Your Name on High,” “ I Love You Lord,” and  “Open the Eyes of My Heart”) 

• Songs about the Lord (“Awesome God,” ” Great is the Lord,” and “He is Exalted”) 

• Exhortations to praise or worship the Lord (“Shout to the Lord,” 

“Give Thanks” and “Majesty”) 

The first category is sometimes referred to as “vertical songs” and the latter two as “horizontal songs.” 

There are certain definable qualities that make a song effective. So it stands to reason that a list of the 25 most used worship songs would be a good thing to study.  Christian Copyright Licensing International publishes such a list, updating it regularly as churches report their use. We won’t print the current list here because it would quickly be out of date, but the list is always updated on CCLI.com. Look  it up and analyze the songs. You can probably already sing at least the title lines of most of them. The list changes little from year to year, but songs shift positions and each time a few drop off and new ones appear. We want to help you recognize the qualities that make these songs successful, so you can compare your own worship songs to them and see how you can improve your writing. Log on to CCLI.com. 

We analyzed the current CCLI Top 25 worship songs just before we went to print, and here’s what we noticed: 

• Almost three quarters of these songs are addressed directly to the Lord. 

• Almost all are in major keys. 

• Most of them have a “built-in cry.” 

A “built-in cry” is important in a worship song. Usually this happens when key words that express heartfelt worship, longing, or yearning occur on long tones, especially in the higher register, as if reaching out or upward. See how many you can find in your favorite worship songs. 


“As the Deer.”The first three syllables of the chorus stretch out in long tones on the octave: You … a … lone .

“I Love You Lord”: to wor …ship …you … 

“Breathe”(This is the air I breathe). This song has two cries, the title line with its high note on air, and the even more emotional cry on I in the first two lines of the chorus. 

“Shine Jesus Shine.”This cry is especially effective because the verse has been moving around with lots of short notes in the low range before suddenly leaping up to the high, open-sounding, long “Shine” on the chorus. 

“Lord, I Lift Your Name on High.”The chorus is full of reaching-up words. 

“He is Exalted” and “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever” are other examples. 

{include god-songs]


Tags: ,