These days we can see many churches using latest musical instruments to worship God in the church, example - Assembly of God.

Once I attended a Catholic church. Some sisters were sitting at the front and singing songs from a hymn book. There was no music, no musical instruments. I wonder if this is how they worship always.

Does the Catholic Church allow latest musical instruments(guitars, drum set, piano etc.) to be played while worshiping in the church?

  • I've visited a Sunday worship service at a Catholic church before. I don't even know where the sound was coming from, though.
    – Double U
    Commented Oct 26, 2013 at 14:01
  • 3
    Having done a little research, I suspect what instructions there are more honoured in the breach than the observance. Commented Oct 26, 2013 at 14:32
  • 1
    Ever heard of a polka Mass?
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Oct 27, 2013 at 3:13

6 Answers 6


Pope Pius X issued a motu proprio in 1903, Tra le Sollecitudini:

15. Although the music proper to the Church is purely vocal music, music with the accompaniment of the organ is also permitted. In some special cases, within due limits and with proper safeguards, other instruments may be allowed, but never without the special permission of the Ordinary, according to prescriptions of the Caeremoniale Episcoporum.

19. The employment of the piano is forbidden in church, as is also that of noisy or frivolous instruments such as drums, cymbals, bells and the like.

20. It is strictly forbidden to have bands play in church, and only in special cases with the consent of the Ordinary will it be permissible to admit wind instruments, limited in number, judiciously used, and proportioned to the size of the place provided the composition and accompaniment be written in grave and suitable style, and conform in all respects to that proper to the organ.

This formed the basis for De musica sacra et sacra liturgia issued by the Sacred Congregation of Rites in 1958:

68. Other instruments besides the organ, especially the smaller bowed instruments, may be used during the liturgical functions, particularly on days of greater solemnity. These may be used together with the organ or without it, for instrumental numbers of for accompanying the singing. However, the following rules ... are to strictly observed:

a) the instruments are truly suitable for sacred use;

b) they are to be played with such seriousness, and religious devotion that every suggestion of raucous secular music is avoided, and the devotion of the faithful is fostered;

c) the director, organist, and other instrumentalists should be well trained in instrumental techniques, and the laws of sacred music.

70. Musical instruments which by common acception, and use are suitable only for secular music must be entirely excluded from all liturgical functions, and private devotions.

The use of bands and particularly drums may suggest "raucous secular music", so they are to be avoided.

Musicam Sacram was promulgated by the Second Vatican Council in 1967.

63. In permitting and using musical instruments, the culture and traditions of individual peoples must be taken into account. However, those instruments which are, by common opinion and use, suitable for secular music only, are to be altogether prohibited from every liturgical celebration and from popular devotions.[De music sacra etc n.70 [above]]

This Vatican II Constitution allows a little more leeway by permitting appeal to local culture and tradition and whether a particular instrument is suitable only for secular music. This decision would be made by the local bishop or Bishops' Conference. However, the earlier documents indicate the direction that decision should go.

Despite the 1903 rules, the use of the piano and acoustic guitar is not uncommon in the UK.


We recently hired a new music director who has fired up this debate in our parish. As a result I did some research:

Musicam Sacram section VI, 63 states that any instruments can be approved if

  1. the bishop is okay with it,
  2. the instrument can add to the sanctity of the music, not bringing to mind secular subjects, and
  3. it is commonly accepted.

I read this to mean the local bishop has final say in each region, in the absence of direct orders from the Vatican. This allows the mass to best serve each locale, even under a larger global umbrella of authority.

  • 1
    Welcome! Thanks for contributing. If you haven't already done so, I hope you'll take a minute to take the tour and learn how this site is different from others. Regarding this answer, it would be helpful if you added a link to Musicam Sacram. Also, it appears that VI-63 does not say everything you say here: some of your points are covered elsewhere in the document. Commented Dec 13, 2015 at 17:57
  • Welcome to Christianity.SE. For a quick overview of what this site is about, please take the Site Tour. I've fixed up the formatting on your question to make it a little easier to read. If you could add a link to the source of this information, that would greatly improve your answer. It is a very good answer. It just needs to cite its source, if possible. I do hope you'll stick around, and browse some of the other questions and answers here. Commented Dec 13, 2015 at 18:17

I can't speak for countries out side of the U. S., but here in the States any type of musical instrument is permitted as long as:

A. They are approved by the right authority.

B. They are played in a manner that is edifying.

Sacrosanctum Concilium 120:

"The use of other instruments may also be admitted in divine worship, given the decision and consent of the competent territorial authority, provided that the instruments are suitable for sacred use, or can be adapted to it, that they are in keeping with the dignity of the temple, and truly contribute to the edification of the faithful."

I, myself, have been actively involved in liturgical services for 20 years. I have either personally played or attended many Masses in multiple states. The majority of the liturgical services I have attended have been in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, and Louisiana.

About 80% of these Masses included (but is not limited to) the following instruments for the various elements of the Mass (responsorial Psalms, etc.):

  1. Acoustic/electric guitar

  2. Percussive drum sets.

  3. Other types of percussion instruments including bongos, xylophones, tambourines, etc.

  4. Acoustic/electric/amplified guitar.

  5. All instruments included in an orchestra.

  6. Keyboards/pianos

enter image description here

enter image description here

enter image description here

enter image description here

I have participated in a youth retreat held every year throughout the U. S. that incorparates very intense praise and worship music in order to appeal to teenagers.

The dramatic change of liturgical music in the U. S. is one of the major topics of debate.

  • I note the picture of Matt Maher at Steubenville. Is his ministry (via music) controversial? Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 0:36

//Does the Catholic Church allow latest musical instruments(guitars, drum set, piano etc.) to be played while worshiping in the church?//

No. Modern musical instruments are not allowed unless permitted by the local bishop. Guitars and Drums are explicitly forbidden for Liturgical use. I am not a musical student so I don't know the difference between a Organ, Keyboard and a Piano. But an Organ is the standard liturgical instrument. (Any instrument that can replicate organ's sound in a similar way will be permitted)

Liturgical services are not parties, but are celebrations of the Church. Center of the liturgy is Christ but these instruments put the player in the center. And that is the main reason why these instruments are banned.

  • 62 The pipe organ is to be held in high esteem in the Latin Church,.
  • 63 ... Any musical instrument permitted in divine worship should be used in such a way that it meets the needs of the liturgical elebration, and is in the interests both of the beauty of worship and the edification of the faithful.
  • 64 The use of musical instruments to accompany the singing can act as a support to the voices, render participation easier, and achieve a deeper union in the assembly. However, their sound should not so overwhelm the voices that it is difficult to make out the text; and when some part is proclaimed aloud by the priest or a minister by virtue of his role, they should be silent.
  • 66 The playing of these same instruments as solos is not permitted in Advent, Lent, during the Sacred Triduum and in the Offices and Masses of the Dead. From MUSICAM SACRAM - Instruction on Music In The Liturgy

//Once I attended a Catholic church. ... There was no music, no musical instruments. I wonder if this is how they worship always.//

No it is not without music always. Music is an integral part of liturgy. And musical instruments have aided in the liturgy for ages. The problem is with the modern music and instruments. For instance solemnities like Easter and Christmas people are strongly advised/urged to celebrate mass with proper music and choir. They both exercises its own liturgical function among the faithful by law.


Organ is the most common instrument in Catholic churches (almost all, even the smaller ones, got one): in general, it's the only instrument allowed BUT... the local bishop could allow other instruments.

Generally, classic guitars are allowed. My Bishop allows basses, bongos and flutes too (but every one knows that he doesn't really like bongos, so no one use them). My bishop also listed songs that are allowed during celebrations-


I joined this group specially to answer this question.

I am not a Catholic (or a deist of any kind) but as a musician in a local brass band I often play in church, for all kinds of services. This is in South Germany, a very Catholic area.

We play all usual brass band instruments, and for modern pieces we will even add a drum set (though the first time we did that that it did set the grandmas whispering).

No-one has ever complained, and it must be approved, because we have a special book of hymns set for brass band, issued by the diocese.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .