non-manmade music from instrument


I have very little knowledge of music-liturgy type things. So I have to ask a question to learn.

Here’s the situation at my parish. We have one organ player. She is usually there, but there are rare times when she’s not there. When she is not there, the organ is played by some sort of electronic device that we have. Basically, the organ has electronic hookups and this thing plugs into it and you push “play” on the device and it causes the organ to play the music for the hymn you’ve selected for it to play.

But…a musically minded friend told me that this was not ordinarily allowed at Mass.

Well, today, the organ player wasn’t there. And the device messed up and the lady operating it had to turn it off at the surge protector because at the end of the song it just kept playing the last note.

It was like “duuuuuuuuuuuuuuu” until she killed the power to it!

So, can anyone direct me to any real Church documents that speak to this issue? Keep in mind, we are not playing songs from a CD through a stereo. It’s an organ making live music, but it’s not played by a person, it’s played by a software program.

Interesting question. Your situation would definitely still qualify as “recorded” or “prerecorded” music. It’s just that instead of being encoded on a CD the music is encoded in a memory system contained in the organ.

I’ve always heard that recorded music is a no-no in the liturgy, but I don’t know where this is stated.

Well our organist was not at Mass today, and we had to sing acapella. :o

I wish we had a device like the OP mentioned!


I was told by the priest that recorded music, including tracks, is not allowed in the Mass.

I don’t read GIRM and all the other litugical SOPs, so I can’t cite a source other than my dear priest.

OK, a little research turns up this, from De Musica Sacra (1958):

Finally, only instruments which are personally played by a performer are to be used in the sacred liturgy, not those which are played mechanically or automatically.

Since AFAIK nothing has superceded this it would seem to still be in force.

Yes, there cannot be recorded music at Mass. If you cant find an organist, sing unaccompanied or dont sing at all.

We had a digital piano in our church until it wore out and died. The pianist could play a piece and record it to a computer disk to be played back later. It was a great convenience for the times when we couldn’t find anyone to play for Mass. It was either the “robo-piano” or having to sing a cappella. It’s not as if we bought a “canned” set of accompaniments, pre-packaged and mass-produced; it was our real pianist playing, just one step removed. But now that the digital piano is gone, we have to hire substitutes from other churches or the local college (several of whom are not Catholic and need someone to instruct them so they don’t mess up the Mass parts), or go without a piano player. At the time of 1958’s De Musica Sacra, digital technology wasn’t yet invented – the first MIDI keyboards didn’t show up until the 1980’s or so. It’s time this was revisited with modern technology in mind.

As a semi-professional woodwind player, I would be the first in line to complain if my parish used recorded accompaniments on any sort of regular basis, esp. if they were mass-produced. But using technology in the manner I described above, as an occasional substitute when a real pianist isn’t available, seems perfectly reasonable, IMHO. And if someone wants to make a real issue about this, I would invite them to go take some piano lessons so they can help out with the shortage of keyboard players. Three or four years should have you in good enough shape to play for Mass, assuming that you have an aptitude for the piano and that you practice at least 30 minutes a day. :thumbsup:

What difference does “digital technology” make to the question?

And BTW, a music box or a player piano from 100 years ago uses digital technology. The term means more than you might think it means.

BTW, modern technology will create all kinds of new issues in this field. For example, an internet-connected organ with camera and microphone, which could be played by the organist sitting at home. All of that technology exists today.

Thanks VociMike,

Are you referring to Pope Pius XII’s Encyclical, De Musica Sacrae? At the Vatican website it’s dated 1955 and I can’t find that particular section that you cite.

And what is AFAIK? I’m not familiar with that.

In my mind, that’s what I assume would be the case, so I tend to agree with you. I’m wanting to learn about it, and give my priest and the Director of Liturgy the benefit of the doubt before I ask them about it.

The priest is very conservative and one of his highest concerns is to maintain the solemness of the Mass. So I’m sure if something wrong is being done, it’s not bad will on his part.

But as of yet, I have no real proof that it’s allowed or not allowed. I’m just trying to learn.

No, it’s this document:

And AFAIK is “as far as I know”

BTW (by the way), the document also says

The use of automatic instruments and machines, such as the automatic organ, phonograph, radio, tape or wire recorders, and other similar machines, is absolutely forbidden in liturgical functions and private devotions, whether they are held inside or outside the church, even if these machines be used only to transmit sermons or sacred music, or to substitute for the singing of the choir or faithful, or even just to support it.

Ok, thanks VociMike!

Since that’s a 1958 document, I’ll be hoping someone can bring up something more recent. But that document at least does explicitly mention what I’m asking about.

You bring up something else that some people get worked up about. Each year, when it comes time for the “Bishop’s Appeal” which is the annual fundraiser the Diocese does for a multiple of causes, the Bishop comes to every Parish.

Only…he does not come in person. He records a short talk, and it is sent out to all parishes to be played on TV. My parish does it like I expect most other parishes do…shows the video of his talk in the Liturgy of the Word.

So…is our Bishop in the wrong by having all parishes do that, or have the rules been modified in the past 40 years?

I think this thread is proving something that I have been saying for years (in the Protestant churches first, and now as a Catholic):

**Mama, let your babies grow up to play keyboard instruments! **

Seriously, there is a real shortage of church keyboardists (organ and/or piano), and we need to encourage (with financial scholarships!) parents to get their kids into piano and organ lessons!

When I hear many of you talking about the TLM and the music, I shake my head. Where are these organists going to come from and how much are you willing to pay for an organist? At the moment, in our city, they’re rarer than diamonds. The few organists around are already contracted by churches. And the few pianists who are willing to play for Mass or Protestant church services are often travelling from church to church on Sunday mornings.

Is an organ a requirement for TLM? I hope not.

No, there is no organ requirement for TLM (they’re now calling it EF or Extraordinary Form, as opposed to OF or Ordinary Form). The people’s parts of a sung EF would most often be sung without any accompaniment.

The linked document was interesting, but I’d need a cannon lawyer to be sure what elements are still applicable, since the document contains at least some provisions that are clearly no longer in force, or which might apply only to the extrordinary form of the mass.

I have seen recorded music used occasionally in liturgy - often before mass where it seems to encourage a meditative silence, during the veneration of the cross, or as a support for a soloist. Always however in support of voices, or during periods that would otherwise be silent, never as a replacement for “normal” sung or spoken parts. In most cases I have observed personally I thought the usage to be dignified and helpful, although it could clearly be abused. But live performance whenever possible is far superior.

Amen to that! And we need to provide our youth with opportunities to practice on a real organ, or they will get nowhere fast. In today’s world, it is not safe to keep the churches open after hours when no one is present to monitor the comings and goings of visitors. And when are students free to practice? In the evening, after normal business hours. Granny’s old spinet organ isn’t sufficient for serious practicing, and the cost of a home organ with AGO specs is prohibitive (and it takes up quite a bit of space in the house). When I was studying organ, my church said out one side of their mouth, “we want more organists” while saying out the other side, “you can’t have a key, and you can’t be here unless someone is in the office.” Sorry, folks, you can’t have it both ways. I hate to see the use of electronic keyboards as substitute organs, but unless and until something is done to provide the resources needed by the organ students, the shortage is only going to get worse.

This has become an interesting topic.

Mike pointed out a document from 1958, which states that nothing other people playing instruments is allowed.

However, from what I remember, tape recorders weren’t even invented yet, or at least, they weren’t on the market. Heck, 45LPs were new technology.

Now today, we have what is called work-station keyboards.

By brother is a professional musician. His band uses three work station keyboards, and one of their specialties is big band swing music. You’d never know that it was key boards playing the add on instruments.

I had thought of using one of these keyboards at Mass, when I would be the only guitar player available, I could use the key board to fill in the violins, organ, you name it. Now, it would still be me playing the add in music, but, it would be technically replayed, as an accompaniment to me, playing live.

Of course there are many in here that want Mass to be a guitar free zone, but thats merely a matter of taste.

Apparently, under the old 1958 document, this would not be allowed.

Looks to me, this document is outdated.


The problem is, I don’t even think they sell the old spinet type organs for the home anymore. Everything is keyboard.

My other brother played accordion for years. When it came time to buy a new one, he learned that accordions manufacturers are so few, and they’re all in Italy, that the cost is extremely high. He ended up converting to a high-quality key-board. Eventually, he got enough money to send his old according to Italy, to have it restored. It took some serious cash to do it, but he didn’t want to lose his skill on the accordion.


That’s not really a “problem” – a real organist can’t do much on one of those things anyway. Those have always been more for home entertainment rather than serious music (not enough keys or pedals to play Bach!), and tastes in entertainment have changed since the advent of the digital keyboard and MIDI technology. If anyone really wanted an old spinet organ, the thrift shops and eBay have an abundant selection, and a “wanted” posting on craigslist would probably yield a bountiful harvest as well.

My other brother played accordion for years. When it came time to buy a new one, he learned that accordions manufacturers are so few, and they’re all in Italy, that the cost is extremely high.

The accordion is a dying art as well, at least here in the U.S. I play the clarinet in a German “oom-pah” band where we have two accordion players who alternate gigs. Both have accordions which are quite old – one guy bought his in an antique shop, and I think the other one inherited his. I don’t know what they do about maintenance, but it’s not as if they can just take it to the local music store, as one can do with other instruments. I’m glad your brother is keeping up his skills. :thumbsup:

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit