An analysis of performance practices in African American gospel music: Rhythm, lyric treatment and structures in improvisation and accompaniment Academic Article uri icon


  • African American gospel music is a unique and distinctive idiom that has had a pervasive influence upon the development of contemporary popular music. While there are now many sources available on African American gospel music, the focus of the vast majority of these studies is on the sociological, historical and stylistic aspects of the genre, rather than on identifying and codifying specific musical characteristics and performance practices. This paper extends the discussion of gospel singing techniques in Andrew Legg's 2010 article A taxonomy of musical gesture in African American gospel music' (Popular Music, 29/1) by examining some of the key performance practices associated with rhythm and lyric treatment in African American gospel music, as well as common structures in gospel music improvisation and accompaniment. Through analysis of selected recordings, this research proposes a codified frame of reference for the definition and discussion of terminologies and performance practice techniques inherent within African American gospel music.

publication date

  • 2015

published in

  • Popular Music


  • Cambridge University Press