The Power Key Change – by Philip Aguinaga
Christian worship services sometimes use a defining feature that my friend and I have for years called “The Power Key Change” (It doesn’t matter whether the worship is contemporary or otherwise (What is otherwise, you ask? Use your imagination (and yes, this is a side note within a side note within a side note. I saw Inception recently. Can you tell?))).
I know you’ve heard it, most likely in a Power Ballad. The song will suddenly shift a half step or so higher in pitch to a different key for much more dramatic effect. The Power key change happens when the worship leader (using piano, guitar, or maybe even a harmonica) wants to really let you know that “Yes, we are worshiping Holy God, Mighty and Everlasting”. I guess the intent is to mirror His power by kicking the entire worship session up a notch (Yes, like Emeril. You just know the leader is thinking “BAM!” in his/her head every time the key change happens).
By the way, the orchestral master of this is John Williams. Believe me, listen to the Indiana Jones theme sometime and you’ll understand. Kenny G is a close second, but much more annoying.
That said, in any worship service, there are two people that love the Power key change, and two people that really don’t.
2 People that Love the Power Key Change:
1. Worship leaders
I think they usually love it because it shows off their vocal range, especially the male tenor worship leaders. But to me, I always think, “Look, I love that you have the voice of David. I really appreciate that. Listening to you sing is wonderful. You even have the audacity to dance while you sing, as David did, and in front of tons of people. I wish I lived that boldly. But sadly, my voice is more like I believe Boaz’s was. You know that a guy named ‘Boaz’ could not sing. Yeah, that’s me. Do you really have to sing higher now?”
Next time you see a key change happen, watch the drummer start to build up, attempting to hit every drum/cymbal twice in the three seconds before the change. I imagine a little dream cloud creeping out of the drummer’s head at these times, and it definitely has a picture of Animal from the Muppets in it. (Another member of the band who I enjoy watching: the bassist. Whenever someone who usually plays the most boring part in worship songs can get into the song, I believe there is hope for all of us.)
2 People that Aren’t so Happy about the Power Key Change
1. Sound/PowerPoint Guy
Whenever a Power key change happens, all order and reason seem to break loose in worship. Now, that could be good, because I guess we are “out of control for Jesus”. But the guy running the slides with the words is frantically clicking to keep up (“Wait, he’s going back to the second line of the chorus?? Didn’t he just sing that?”). Meanwhile, the person controlling the sound board is merely trying to keep the speakers from emitting that annoying screech that is an emergency brake to any Power key change (You see, singing higher usually means singing louder). And if there is only one person controlling the sound and the slides? My heart goes out to this guy. He needs prayer. And an intern.
Yes, finally we get to the awkward man-worshipper-voice. First of all, I always appreciate when I hear a man struggling with the Power key change, because that means he is actually singing, instead of mouthing the words. He’s made the effort to make a fool of himself. Why do men seem like fools when they follow a Power key change? Because there is a great struggle within men when the key goes higher: “Do I try to sing as high as everyone else, risking vocal injury? I guess it’s kind of cool to say I lost my voice praising God. Or maybe it’s lame. I don’t know. What I could do instead is sing down an octave. But then I stick out considerably. And I sound less enthusiastic. And maybe I sound like I’m trying to impress everyone. I’m really not. I’m being humble in acknowledging that I can’t sing as high as ‘David’ up there on the stage.”
Or it’s possible I’m the only one who thinks of these things. Maybe so, because sometimes I get distracted by my own thoughts.
Have you ever noticed a power key change?