Shout (Black gospel music)

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A shout (or praise break) is a kind of fast-paced, celebratory Black gospel music most often seen in the Black Church and in Pentecostal churches, played by a standard church band or by a specialized "shout band".


The shout music tradition originated within the church music of the Black Church, parts of which derive from the ring shout tradition of West Africa. As slaves, who were concentrated in the southeastern United States, incorporated West African shout traditions into their newfound Christianity, the Black Christian shout tradition emerged—later developing into the more crystallized form seen today.

The United House of Prayer For All People (UHOP), an African-American denomination founded in 1919 in Massachusetts, is particularly known for its shout bands and distinctive form of shout music: brass players, predominantly trombone-based, inspired by jazz, blues and Dixieland, gospel and old-time spirituals: a more soulful/spiritual version of a New Orleans brass band.


In its most standard form, shout music is characterized by very fast tempo, chromatic basslines, snare hits and hand claps on the upbeat of each beat. The organ typically plays dominant 7 chords while improvising over blues riffs. The pianist typically plays counter rhythms to the established rhythmic structure. There are many variations of this particular style of music. Often bands will break into shout music at the end of a song or as a finale, or at a particularly high emotional point during a church service or sermon—often cued by the pastor or speaker themselves.

Shout music is used as a bed for vocal riffing and calling out of exclamatory catch phrases, or "shouts" (e.g. "Hallelujah!" or "Thank you, Lord!").

In the more brass-based type of shout music (which is less common in mainstream Black churches but often seen in parades, clubs, UHOP churches, and elsewhere), there are usually three sections: the recitive and call, which involves a musical statement from the trombones; the aria, which develops the melody and tempo; and the shout, the ending call-and-response. As the song progresses, the sound intensifies from a whisper at the beginning to an exuberant crescendo during the shout.


The actual sound that is produced by playing is different from the strict and predesignated sound of most music.

In its brass-based forms, shout music is made to closely emulate the exact sound and techniques used by the voices of singers and choirs, including but not limited to vibratos, slurs, and glissandi. This is the primary reason that a trombone is typically found as the lead instrument.


The structure of Black Church bands varies greatly, but all typically have a few basic instruments in common: a basic drum kit, bass guitar, and an organ and/or piano.

Specialized "shout bands" are more brass-based, led by trombones, baritone(s), a snare drum and bass drum combination, and a sousaphone. Though they are not usually seen, other instruments are also utilized in such shout bands, including trumpets, flugelhorns, saxophones, clarinets, flutes, washboards and more.

Differences from jazz bands

The specialized, brass-based shout bands are often mistaken for trad jazz bands due to similarities in instrumentation and style, but the differences in them are just as great. The following differences also apply to standard Black Church bands.

The first and most noticeable difference is the lack of sheet music. The musical selection of a band playing shout music can vary from 30 seconds to as much as over 1 hour and may span many different songs. In contrast, a jazz band plays melodies and choruses from pop music and features individual solos.

The second noticeable difference lies within the leaders. In a jazz band, there is usually one leader, known as the conductor who directs the band. In a band playing shout music, there are as many as eight different leaders controlling different aspects of the band. There is, however, a player-conductor that does control everything that happens but he or she is normally listening to the band as a whole where the other leaders are listening to specific parts that they are assigned to.

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