This type of music is wonderful for children, older adults, and intergenerational gatherings because you do not need to have learned to read, or to be able to decipher small print, in order to participate.
Paperless music is any music that can be sung without accompaniment and without needing to give people notes or lyrics. Songs are generally taught by a songleader (cantor), with the singers listening and echoing back. These are songs sung “by heart” — no screens, hymnals, or bulletins required! They use simple, memorable melodies, often repeating to create a meditative or a joyful mood.
There are many advantages to paperless music. These songs can be used any time, any place, without preparation or printing — all you need is a leader who knows a song “by heart” and the willingness to sing. Paperless music allows people to be fully present without worrying about finding page numbers or hitting exact notes. This type of music is wonderful for children, older adults, and intergenerational gatherings because you do not need to have learned to read, or to be able to decipher small print, in order to participate. It’s also easy to include gestures, steps, or movement to paperless singing.
Gathering songs are great for beginning worship, meetings, or Christian formation gatherings such as a Bible study or Godly Play session. Here are a few to try (youtube links):
Blessing and Thanksgiving Songs
Many families and communities sing a “grace” before meals, ranging from silly to serious. These songs work well for potlucks, picnics, camp settings, or even the offertory at informal communion services. The music below comes from Music That Makes Community.
Closing songs are perfect for concluding worship, a meeting, a potluck, or any Christian formation gathering. Here are some suggestions:
Sources for Paperless Music
To find more paperless music for all occasions, check out:
- Music that Makes Community
- Music from Taizé
- Music By Heart
- Singing In Community: Paperless Music for Worship
AnnaMarie Hoos holds an MDiv from Virginia Theological Seminary, where she led music for the weekly Intergenerational Eucharist. A native Californian, she has led evening and intergenerational worship services at Grace Cathedral and St. Gregory of Nyssa, both in San Francisco. She is passionate about liturgy, formation, paperless music, preserving the bounty of her local farmer’s market, and the intersection of food and faith.
Photo Credit: Richard Allred