Gospel musicians play a form of religious music to express their personal Christian beliefs or those of the Christian community. They use a variety of instruments to try to generate intense feelings in those who listen to the music. Gospel music is played as part of the regular Sunday worship service or for the personal enjoyment of the musician. Since its inception, gospel music has become increasingly popular, and an entire genre is devoted to it within the music industry.
The lyrics of the gospel songs they sing are written in a call and answer manner where the singers call out a line and wait for the audience to repeat. Gospel singers often have strong vocal chords and an ability to harmonize with various instruments or other vocalists. They may perform solos, in small groups, or as a part of a choir. Some gospel quartets and groups perform without the aid of backup musicians. Others, like the Blind Boys of Alabama, perform with only one or two other instruments.
In other gospel groups, the melody is played by pianists, organists, drummers, and guitarists. Gospel musicians focus their energy on the feeling behind the musical notes and strive to play more than just what is written on the page. These musicians attempt to create emotion in their audience with the sounds emanating from their instruments. They may play the note louder to create excitement and urgency, or they may play softer to create a feeling of sadness or despair.
Gospel musicians and singers are taught various chord progressions to enhance the feeling of the worship service. They may use shouting and praise chords to encourage parishioners to sing, clap, or dance while shouting praise to God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit. Musicians may use worship chords to infuse feeling into the ceremony. Preaching chords are taught to musicians so that they may use their instrument or voice to enhance the preacher’s sermon.
Traditionally, Gospel musicians were of African-American descent, but they now include people of all backgrounds. The music originated in the early 1800s as a means for African-American slaves to learn the Christian faith. It was also used to reinforce the doctrine of slavery. The music progressed through the holiness-Pentecostal movement, and from there, it was played on the radio. Traces of gospel music are found in a variety of musical genres such as blues, country, jazz, and rock and roll.