How Liturgical Music Should Be Analyzed
This page offers a list of questions one should ask oneself when considering a new (or new to the individual or group) piece of music for the mass. Even some selections that have been sung for years should be re-evaluated from time to time. Liturgical music is not something that should be swayed by sentiments such as "I just like it" or "it's a pretty song" or "this song we always do" etc. An objective analysis is the only way to really see if a piece of music is worthy of the liturgy or not.
Analyzing the Music
Is the music stylistically appropriate for the mass? I.E. without the lyrics, does it sound more like popular music or does it have a distinctive sacred sound?
Does the music contain due reverence for Gregorian Chant or completely ignore it?
Is the music culturally appropriate as it pertains to the body of the faithful it is intended to be listened to?
Is the music overly syncopated or rhythmically challenging for untrained musicians?
If the music is more simple, is it still dignified or does it sound more like children's nursery rhyme music?
Is the music overly repetitive in its motifs or does it use them tastefully?
If there is accompaniment music, is it playable* on the organ (the preferred instrument of the church)?
Is the vocal range of the music a comfortable range for the average amateur singer?
*playability does not simply mean can an organist play it, but that it is stylistically written for the organ without, for example, excessive left-hand arpeggiation like piano music typically has
Analyzing the Lyrics
Is the text about God or a saint or is it self-centered (too many uses of “we” or “I”)?
Do the lyrics contain any questionable teachings that could be construed as heretical?
Is the text poetic even if it doesn't rhyme, or does it use slang, jargon, or casual language?
Is the text based on scripture or an official mass text (a proper) or from the writing of a saint or a well-known Catholic poet?
Are the lyrics written by someone other than the composer? If not, this isn't necessarily an inherently bad thing, but it usually indicates either the music or lyrics or both will be poor.
If intended to be Eucharistic, does it actually mention the body and blood of Christ or does it simply talk about bread and wine or reduce communion to a simple meal or feast?
Are the lyrics instructing in sound Catholic theology or do they merely use common biblical phraseology?
Analyzing the Piece as a Whole
Do the text and music fit well together thematically?
If there is a refrain, is it significantly longer than the verses?
Is this selection overall good as sacred music or is it just preferential or nostalgic for the selector?
Is this selection the best that we are able to give God and his Church?