How to Choose Funeral Music

Listening to music at a funeral can create moments of comfort, levity and healing for those who are grieving. Funeral music can convey feelings that words cannot express; memorial songs can help to set the tone and provide a structure, for the service.

At Bethel, families often ask us about funeral music. We find that although choosing the music to play at a funeral is often one of the more enjoyable tasks associated with funeral planning, it can be difficult to know where to begin. We have created this guide to assist you through the process of choosing funeral songs.

Something important to remember is to consult with either your funeral director or staff at the venue where the service will be held about what format is best to provide the music. Each venue may have different technical requirements so it’s best to find out what these are ahead of time. We also suggest, as with any technical part of a funeral service, that you ensure the music is tested ahead of time to avoid issues on the day.

  1. Think about the way memories are wrapped in music

When you reflect on the happy times enjoyed by your loved one, you might like to ask yourself: are any of these pleasant memories associated with music?

People often have one or two favourite songs that are linked with special memories. Perhaps the song that played when they were courting, a song they danced to at their wedding, a song they sang to their young children or even songs from shows and films the family enjoyed together.

Can you think of any special memories of your loved one that is wrapped in music?

  1. Browse funeral song suggestions

Once you begin to think about the ways music and memory are interconnected, you might be ready to choose some songs for your funeral playlist. We offer this list of popular funeral song suggestions to help guide your selection of memorial songs for the funeral of your loved one.

All I Have to Do is Dream – The Everly Brothers

Angel – Sarah McLachlan

Angels – Robbie Williams

Ave Maria – Sarah Brightman

Because You Loved Me – Celine Dion

Bye Bye Blackbird – Gene Austin

Circle of Life – Elton John

Forever Young – Alphaville

Gloomy Sunday – Billie Holliday

Goodbye My Lover – James Blunt

Hallelujah – Leonard Cohen

I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing – Aerosmith

I Will Always Love You – Whitney Houston

Lullaby (Goodnight My Angel) – Billy Joel

Memories – Barbra Streisand

My Heart Will Go On – Celine Dion

My Way – Frank Sinatra

Over the Rainbow – Judy Garland

Paper Doll – Mills Brothers

Pennies from Heaven – Bing Crosby

Somewhere Over the Rainbow – Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

Stay with Me – Sam Smith

Tears in Heaven – Eric Clapton

The Prayer – Andrea Bocelli & Celine Dion

The Way We Were – Barbra Streisand

Time to say Goodbye – Andrea Bocelli & Sarah Brightman

Unforgettable – Nat “King” Cole

We’ll Meet Again – Vera Lynn

What a Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong

When You’re Smiling – Louis Armstrong

You’ll be in My Heart – Phil Collins

You Raise Me Up – Josh Groban

Further song suggestions for your funeral playlist are included in our Funeral Planning Guide.

keyboard playing a tune

  1. Explore the musical genres and popular artists from different eras

Another way of choosing funeral music is to define the era that was most significant to your loved one, and then explore the musical genres and artists that were popular at the time. You may like to lookup

We have created the following table to offer a framework for your thinking and to remind you of the songs and the styles that have been popular over last few decades.

EraPopular GenresPopular Artists
1920s·      Dance bands

·      Jazz

·      Blues

·      Broadway

Louis Armstrong

Gene Austin

Duke Ellington

Ethel Waters

1930s·      Big Band

·      Swing

·      Jazz

·      Blues

Judy Garland

Bing Crosby

Benny Goodman

Ruth Etting

1940s·      Dance music

·      Bebop

·      Swing

·      A cappella pop

Frank Sinatra

Billie Holliday

Jimmy Dorsey

Glenn Miller

1950s·      Rock’n’Roll

·      Pop

·      Country

·      Rhythm and Blues

Elvis

The Everly Brothers

Vera Lynne

Nina Simone

1960s·      British Invasion

·      Motown

·      Folk

·      Rock ‘n’ Roll

Ben E. King

The Beatles

The Rolling Stones

The Mamas and the Papas

1970s·      Disco

·      Rock

·      Pop

·      Soul

Billy Joel

Roberta Flack

Led Zeppelin

Pink Floyd

1980s·      Pop

·      Hip Hop

·      Rock

Foreigner

U2

Phil Collins

Lionel Ritchie

1990s·      Pop

·      Rock

·      Dance

Bryan Adams

Aerosmith

Celine Dion

Mariah Carey

2000s·      Pop

·      Rock

·      Dance

Savage Garden

Pink

Norah Jones

Cold Play

Further information regarding musical eras, genres and artists can be found on this timeline of music.

  1. Consider hymns, prayers and poems

Choosing to include hymns, prayers and poems in a funeral service can provide mourners with an opportunity to draw strength from their faith, and an invitation to find comfort through communal singing and shared readings.

Our Funeral Planning Guide includes a range of hymns and prayers, and our caring staff are always willing to assist you as you plan the funeral of your loved one.

  1. Create a Spotify playlist

Spotify is a music streaming service. Free and paid subscriptions are available. You can access Spotify by visiting the website, creating an account and downloading the app to your iPhone or iPad.

Spotify gives you access to libraries of music and it could be a useful browsing tool when choosing funeral music. You can create your own playlists, or access the playlists of others, and store them on your iPhone or iPad. You can then play your selection, through your device, at the funeral.

Music plays a significant role in the lives of most people. Funeral music is a wonderful way to celebrate the life of the deceased and to provide inspiration for the living.

Choosing funeral music is an important component of funeral planning. For a step-by-step checklist of the many other tasks associated with arranging a funeral, please refer to our Funeral Planning Checklist.

download funeral planning checklist

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