Where do you find good Christmas music?
So, it’s Christmas. Again. And if you work with the creative team at your church, then you’re probably hard at work trying to find the perfect mix of Christmas songs for your upcoming services. The question is, where do you find good Christmas music?
Our Christmas services are the biggest, most elaborate services we’ll do all year. For us, Christmas is a bit more like a performance than a service. I realize that might rub some of you the wrong way, but that’s how we roll, and it directly influences the types of songs we select. For instance, while a service comprised entirely of carols might be a home run for you it probably wouldn’t work for us.
So, where do we begin? Well, generally we DON’T start by listening to Christmas music. Instead, we talk about moods, feels and moments that have inspired us, whether they’re related to Christmas or not. From there we begin looking for Christmas songs that fit with the mood or feel we’re trying to create. So, for instance, we might say that we really like the arrangement and feel of Fun’s “Some Nights” and look to see if there’s a Christmas song that we can mash into it (that’s something we’re working on for this year). We feel like this process leads us toward more original and unique material as opposed to covering songs that already exist.
So, what if you don’t have the luxury of creating original arrangements? Well, I’d suggest scouring iTunes, Spotify or MOG for songs that inspire you. Here’s a few suggestions that might help you in your search.
1. Always check the “Listeners Also Bought” list
This has been huge for me because it leads me to artists and songs that I’m not yet familiar with. For example, I might find a really cool song from an artist that I like, but for whatever reason, it doesn’t work for what we’re trying to do, by checking the related albums I can find even more music that’s somewhat similar to the artist and song that I like and oftentimes, I find something that does work.
2. Listen without (much) bias
When I’m searching for Christmas music, I try not to let my bias against certain artists or certain types of music get in the way of finding something cool. I’ll preview hundreds of useless tracks to find one or two good songs and often those good songs don’t come from artists that I like or am familiar with. Two years ago we covered a Smashing Pumpkins Christmas song. If I was picking based off of bias, I never would have even heard that song so try to eliminate your biases.
3. Pick songs that you can do
Aretha Franklin might have the most incredible rendition of Oh Holy Night you’ve ever heard, but if you don’t have someone who can sing it like Aretha Franklin than you probably shouldn’t attempt that version! The point is, learn to play to your strengths. You can make your band sound better right now by simply picking songs they can more easily play. I like to say it like this to our team: it’s arrogant to think that you can do in your spare time what other people have devoted their lives to. In other words, if Adele has spent countless hours working on an album and developing her voice so that she could sing like she does, is it not arrogant to expect the same result with a quick rehearsal and mediocre singer? The bottom line? Pick songs you can play and sing well and everything will sound much better, I promise!
Lastly, I’ve decided to include the set list from our last two Christmas services with links to the songs and arrangements that we either covered or were inspired by. Hope this is useful to you.
2010 Christmas at COTM Set List - Watch on Vimeo
Drummer Boy - Inspired by this version from Jars of Clay - iTunes link
(Hey Rudolph) Deck The Rooftop - Inspired by this version from Glee - iTunes link
The Grinch - It’s a mashup of Beethoven, Phantom of the Opera and Thriller. We made it ourselves.
Carol of the Bells - Covered this version by Sixpence None the Richer - iTunes link
Christmastime - Covered this version by Smashing Pumpkins - iTunes link
Snow Coming Down - Original song by our drummer, John Mitchell - iTunes link
Angels We Have Heard On High - Covered this version by Chris Tomlin - iTunes link
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing - Covered this version by Chris Tomlin - iTunes link
The Father’s Heart - Covered this version by Hillsong Live - iTunes link
Oh Holy Night - Original Arrangement
I Wish It Was Christmas Today - Covered this version by Julian Casablancas - iTunes link
2011 Christmas at COTM Set List - Watch on Vimeo
Joy to the World - Inspired by this version by David Crowder Band - iTunes link
Drummer Boy - This one was completely original but we took some inspiration from Sade’s Soldier of Love among others
Santa Claus is Coming to Town - Another original, but this one was pretty seriously inspired by Show Me How You Burlesque - iTunes link
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen - This one was also original, although you can hear a lot of Mumford influence in there
I’ll Be Home For Christmas - Covered this version by Tift Merritt - iTunes link
O Come Let Us Adore Him - Covered this version by Hillsong - iTunes link
Silent Night - Covered this version by David Crowder Band - iTunes link
Oh Holy Night - Original
Christmas This Year - Covered this version by Toby Mac - iTunes link