“Essential Songs” Survey Results

30Nov12
Information about those who participated in the survey.

Information about those who participated in the survey.

After something like 10 hours wrangling with all this data, I think I have some results to share with you.  You can click on the images in this post to see the results, or download the whole thing as a PDF here.  Please, comment, repost, and share with anyone you think might be interested.  Is this information useful to you?  If so, how?

But first, a few words about the survey…

Conducted between September and November 2012, this survey was posted on the internet, open to the public and targeted at worship leaders, choir directors, pastors, or anyone else who regularly selects songs for inclusion in public Christian worship services. The goal of the poll was to compile a list of songs “everyone should know,” for the purpose of training new music leaders, as well as planning ecumenical services.

And few words about the results…

Let’s begin my dismissing all pretense: the poll and its results are as informal and unscientific as they could be.  Questions were posted to the internet, circulated among a Facebook group of 300+ worship leaders, and mentioned on a few blogs.  A total of 45 people responded.  The results produced a list of roughly 1,000 responses, which I then sorted in a spreadsheet and searched (COMMAND+F) to get total counts of songs.  Misspellings and alternate titles were noticed and accounted for in many cases but no doubt missed in others.

In some cases, multiple tunes were reported for one text.  In the charts below, I chose to count all votes for a text together, and indicate the most popular tune where a clear “leader” emerged.  I chose this route because I wanted to give popular texts the credit they deserve, even if there is not consensus about which tune serves it best.   Anyone who wants more specific information about tunes is welcome to search the original survey data.

What this survey lacks in scientific rigor, it hopefully makes up in transparency.  All the data is readily available for anyone who wants to see it.  If you find egregious mistakes in calculation, the author welcomes you to report them.  As well, you are welcome to search and sort the data yourself in whatever fashion you may find useful.  The survey results are available here.  And the original questionnaire is here.

A few notes about how results are represented…

The inclusion of Seasons (Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter) into this survey raised some difficulties when trying to represent the results.  For instance, Christmas songs, clearly recognized as such, easily received high vote counts in their season and no votes outside of their season.  The top Lenten songs, by contrast, often received as many votes in the Ordinary Time answers as they did under Lent.  In order to reflect both sets of results, what you see in the Lent chart is songs ranked by the number of “Lent votes,” but with their total vote counts included in the graph to the right.  For example, “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us” is overall more popular than “O Sacred Head Now Wounded,” but the latter received the most “Lent votes.”  Likewise, the Top 40 Ordinary Time (non-seasonal) Songs chart also includes representation of the additional season-specific votes songs received.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to fill out the survey.  Many of you remarked on how difficult it was to narrow your lists down.  I hope the results are helpful and informative for you.

Top Songs by SeasonTop 50 Across All Seasons

The top 40 songs that respondents did not consider season-specific.

The top 40 songs that respondents did not consider season-specific.

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2 Responses to ““Essential Songs” Survey Results”

  1. 1 Evan

    Currently part of a church plant’s music ministry. This is very helpful as we build our music “list”. Thanks for your efforts!

  2. Don’t stop your blog 🙂


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