What's wrong with guitars?

Hello everyone! I have only been Catholic for a little while so I am still learning things. Recently I have heard a lot of people complaining about guitars in mass. I thought it was just older parishioners who didn’t like the style, but several of them seem to think that it is against Cannon law. I have no idea. I always thought it was a taste thing. What is the truth of the matter?

I like what His Eminence Cardinal Arinze has to say about liturgical music

For music in the liturgy, we should start by saying that Gregorian music is the Church’s precious heritage. It should stay. It should not be banished. If therefore in a particular diocese or country, no one hears Gregorian music anymore, then somebody has made a mistake somewhere.

But, the Church is not saying that everything should be Gregorian music. There is room for music which respects that language, that culture, that people. There is room for that too, and the present books say that is a matter for the Bishops Conference, because it generally goes beyond the boundaries of one diocese.

The ideal thing is that the bishops would have a Liturgical Music Comission which looks at the wording and the music of the hymns. And when the commission is satisfied, judgement is brought to the bishops for approval, in the name of the rest of the conference.

But not individuals just composing anything and singing it in church. This is not right at all. No matter how talented the individual is. That brings us to the question of the instrument to be used. The local church should be conscious that church worship is not really the same as what we sing in a bar, or what we sing in a convention for youth. Therefore it should influence the type of instrument used, the type of music used.

I will not now pronounce and say never guitar. That would be rather severe. But much of guitar music may not be suitable at all for the Mass. Yet, it is possible to think of some guitar music that would be suitable, not as the ordinary one we get every time, the visit of a special group, etc.

The judgement would be left to the bishops o the area. It is wiser that way. Also, because there are other instruments in many countries which are not used in Italy or in Ireland, for instance.

But music should nourish faith, burst from our faith and should lead back to the faith. It should be a prayer. Entertainment is quite another matter. We have the parish hall for that, and the theater. People don’t come to Mass in order to be entertained. They come to Mass to adore God, to thank him, to ask pardon for sins, and to ask for other things that they need. Those are the reasons for Mass. When they want entertainment, they know where to go: Parish hall, theater, presuming that their entertainment is acceptable from a moral theological point of view.

  • Cardinal Arinze

I agree. I don’t have a problem with guitars if it is done reverently such as classical guitar. But usually guitars means folk songs and a cheerful form of entertainment for the laity, instead of prayer for God.

One Mass I attended, they had a violinist accompany the organist and it was very beautiful and reverent. I had no problems with it…except for the applaud afterwards :frowning:

I in-fact thought it was very beautiful and touchy…but I still long for the Gregorian chant

The main problem with a guitar is that a) it is not an organ and b) it is very much associated with secular music. Sacred music is to be distinguishable from secular music–which is fine in its place–and sometimes it is difficult for a person with rudimentary skills on a guitar to accomplish that.

This is a small excerpt from the section on sacred music from the Vatican II document Sacrosanctum Consilium, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.
**120. ***In the Latin Church the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendor to the Church’s ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man’s mind to God and to higher things.

But other instruments also may be admitted for use in divine worship, with the knowledge and consent of the competent territorial authority, as laid down in Art. 22, 52, 37, and 40. This may be done, however, only on condition that the instruments are suitable, or can be made suitable, for sacred use, accord with the dignity of the temple, and truly contribute to the edification of the faithful.*

I don’t find anything wrong with guitars as long as it is in reverence and not entertainment.

I’m more in favor of acoustic guitars only and not rock electric guitars.

Sometimes just an organ and a few singers at least in my opinion sometimes doesn’t fulfill reverence to the lord.

For example in my parish we have an organ player a singer and a clarinet player. During liturgy of the Eucharist instrument stops and it is just chant.

At one parish I went to they had an organ player, choir, guitar player (acoustic), and a trumpet player and it seemed to be more reverential than if it was just an organ.

Of course Gregorian chant should stay not go away.

If memory serves me… “Silent Night” was written for guitar since the organ was broke.

I think the main objection to guitar music at Mass is the use of an amplified electric guitar, especially when accompanied with a trap drum set. Such music is not only loud, it is usually based on rock n’ roll or jazz; both of which are completely inappropriate for Mass according to Vatican musical precepts.
I know that many of you post Vatican II young people may object to this, but music that is normally heard in bars, taverns and other places of of secular amusement should not be played at Mass. As someone else said, Mass is for the worship of G*d and the uplifting of ones soul and not for amusement!

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the instrument per se. It’s the way in which it is typically played, e.g. dancey, rhythmic strumming. One of my local churches has a guitarist who plays classical style arpeggios and it sounds beautiful. I think that should be the standard for any guitar playing during Mass.

It’s déjà vu all over again. Search the forums for guitar and mass, and you will find plenty. Is there anything new to be said about it? :frowning:

There’s nothing wrong with guitars. As has already been stated, the Church “officially” prefers an organ to all other forms of instrumentation, but I was brought up on the “Gather” books with composers like David Haas and Marty Haugen et. al. who wrote very prayerful guitar/piano music (and also some very folksy “uplifting music”). But music is also chosen for its appropriateness at different parts of the Mass, so that one would never hear an uptempo song during, say, the Communion reflection.

Now when I was a seminarian years ago, I learned first hand that different communities have different needs. The link I’m providing is to a website for the Hispanic composer Cuco Chavez. Once you go to this site you hear his music which is not something that many “traditional white” parishes would ever be accustomed to, or find prayerful in the slightest. But I’ve played in the Mexican and the Puerto Rican communities for Mass, and the guitar parts were often very very vigorous.

For non-Hispanics, imagine showing up to Mass and hearing this: cucochavez.com/

The first mass produced electric guitar (by Fender) was originally played like any acoustic (Spanish) guitar. It can be played in a way that imitates a harp that has its sound amplified to reach a wider audience. And we know that harps go well with the Psalms. :).

It can also be played rock and roll style, which is where the problem lies …

I was trained (bel canto) as a classical singer and brought up in the Latin rite where a guitar - had it appeared - would have been ushered out in a hurry. I find guitar playing at Mass quite offensive, personally, even though it (I believe Vatican II) was introduced for some bizarre reason (bringing the commonplace into sacred setting, maybe, dunno). The church for which I sing the 5PM Mass has a “music director” who plays guitar in a very amateurish way, cannot read music, cannot sight sing, has no vocal training, and the main Mass on Sunday at 10:30 is a travesty in my opinion, I can’t even sit through it (even though I usually serve as Eucharistic Minister in another parish at 11AM Mass on Sunday).

Classical guitar is an art; it requires serious and intense study for years. There is no folk singing by children with untrained voices and no organist to direct/educate them. They turn the Mass into a street festival. I detest it. Sorry, even when a young woman and this all started, I detested it. Won’t deliberately attend any Mass that is so “musically” led.

Thanks everyone! Clears up a lot.

For many years John Michael Talbot has given us a good model of how a guitar can be used reverently for praising God.

This is very true. There is nothing wrong with the guitar itself, but when the processional hymn makes me think Father will walk by wearing a cowboy hat, something is wrong.

Since you were trained as a classical singer, and this other “music director” has no music training–why aren’t you the music director?

Why did the parish hire a person who is not trained in music to be the music director, anyway?

Classical guitar is an art; it requires serious and intense study for years. There is no folk singing by children with untrained voices and no organist to direct/educate them. They turn the Mass into a street festival. I detest it. Sorry, even when a young woman and this all started, I detested it. Won’t deliberately attend any Mass that is so “musically” led.

Have you considered learning to play the organ so that the guitar would not have to provide the accompaniment during the Masses? You do have a classical music background, so you’re ahead of most people. (I started learning to play the organ 2 years ago, BTW, at age 54, so it’s never too late.)

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