Free LDS Music Online

Posted on July 29, 2011. Filed under: Choir Music, General Church Music |

No need for a ward music budget…there’s free LDS music on the internet!

NOT SO FAST.

I have spent hours, days, weeks, months even, pouring over the free LDS music available on the internet. No doubt the composers of this music have the best intentions. They have made their compositions available to the LDS public for free out of the goodness of their hearts, as a service to the Saints. Or perhaps some of this music is free because it just isn’t good enough for a publishing company to pick it up?

I’m not saying that ALL free music is worthless, quite the contrary. There are a few “gems” out there. For example, check out this winning arrangement of “Rock of Ages” by Brett Stewart, in which he has composed a completely new melody with gorgeous lush harmonies. I also love this SSAA arrangement of “How Can I Keep From Singing” by Diane Tuiofu, the SATB arrangement of “Come Thou Fount” by Sally DeFord, an SATB arrangement of “Praise to the Man” by Craig Petrie (great for a stake choir), or one of my personal favorites, a simple primary song composed to absolute perfection “Jesus is My Shepherd” by Tammy Simister Robinson. Yes, there are some quality pieces available for free. But, there aren’t many.

Here’s what I’m finding…elementary writing by musically undereducated composers.  Read their online biographies and you’ll see right away that many lack formal training and music degrees. The first sign I look for is in the piano accompaniments. As an professional pianist myself, I can tell in an instant if the composer even knows how to really play the piano. As soon as I see the same old arpeggiated left hand I know they have no idea what they’re doing and I dismiss the song immediately. Next I look at the melody. Is it beautiful and memorable, or will I forget it right after I’ve heard it? I listen to the harmonies. Do they make sense, are they following correct music writing rules, are they singable and interesting? I look at the text to see if it matches with the melody. A pet peeve of mine is when there are too many words crammed into one measure. Elementary composers assign a word to every note, sometimes with more than 6 syllables, or worse, words per measure. Educated composers often have many notes assigned to one word which enhances the text.

The old saying “the best things in life are free” doesn’t really apply to LDS music. Perhaps the most well-known, and I dare say the very best choral music arranger in the LDS church today is Mormon Tabernacle Choir director, Mack Wilberg. None of his music is free. He doesn’t have to give it out for free. His arrangements are so good choir directors all over the world are buying them.

Every ward and stake should have a music budget. Use it. Do your research and find the very best, highest quality hymn arrangements and original choral music for your choirs.

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16 Responses to “Free LDS Music Online”

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Where did you get the link to the Jesus Shepherd song? Where’s it linked from?
Thanks!
-roger-

Jesus is My Shepherd can be found on LDS.org/music under submissions. The website has been undergoing changes lately so it may be unavailable.

I so agree about Mack Wilberg! However, I can only find a handful of his arrangements available for purchase online. There are many that I would love to get my hands on that don’t seem to be available. Do you know how or where to purchase more of his music?

JW Pepper, http://www.jwpepper.com is the best place to find all music currently in print. Type in “Wilberg” for the keyword. If you can’t find it there it’s either unpublished (which is the case with most of Wilberg’s latest arrangements) or it’s out of print (I’m not aware of any of Wilberg’s music that’s out of print). If you are desperate to perform a particular arrangement of his that is unpublished try contacting the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and see if you can get through to Wilberg’s secretary. I know a couple of choir directors who have received permission to borrow copies of his unpublished works, some of which are hand-written.

I heartily agree that most free music is not very good and am glad to see a few free arrangements that ARE good.
I do not care for very much of Mack Wilberg’s arrangements. His accompaniment seems to wander all over the meadow looking for the lane the melody is in. I’d much rather use Crawford Gates’ work or that of John Rutter.

Mack Wilberg composes for choir and orchestra, not choir and piano. So, his piano accompaniments, which are really orchestral reductions, can be quite difficult to play and may not sound fabulous as they are missing elements. I believe many of his arrangements sound better with organ accompaniment which can better mimic the full sound of an orchestra. Also, much of his music is too difficult for a ward choir and is better suited for a stake choir.

do you have any sacred piano duets, appropriate for Sacrament Mtg. I am interested in getting a few if you do.

Here’s what I have: http://freeldssheetmusic.org/Piano_Duet%2FPiano_Ensemble there may be more out there :)

I just looked at all the duets on the link and there are actually only 3 piano duets. The others are piano ensembles with other instruments.

I like Sally DeFord’s “My Heavenly Father Loves Me” but I alter a few of the jazz chords at the end so it doesn’t have such a schmaltzy feel. It is a late intermediate, early advanced level. Brent Jorgensen has a few piano duet books available online through Deseret Book. I haven’t looked at the books so I don’t even know what level they are but if they’re anything like his Hymnplicity arrangements they’d be appropriate for Sacrament Meeting.

You can get “O Divine Redeemer” for free because it is in the public domain. Thanks to Andrew Hawryluk for typesetting it.
http://www.musicbyandrew.ca/odivine.html

Lds.org has recently been publishing some really highly quality pieces, church music competition winners, in an easy to search format. Great stuff on there. I do like Petrie, Tuiofu, a few Deford arrangements. I was up until recently in a branch that truly had no money but a surprisingly talented choir. I was amazed to find what was out there if you looked carefully.

I find your dismissal of those who make their choral hymn arrangements available online rather snobbish.

I have made much use of Pratt, Deford, Tuiofu, and others music and have found their offerings to have lovely simple accompaniments, beautiful harmonies and published in a professional way. They have made my job as a ward choir director stress-free and joyful.

Our desire as a ward choir, is to bring the spirit into our sacrament meetings and I find that this can be accomplished without complicated arrangements and accompaniments. In fact, a simple arrangement, well done, is more of a blessing to those who perform and those who listen than is a difficult piece written/arranged by the most educated and musically talented composer/arranger but beyond the ability of the normal ward choir.

Ward choirs are not a professional body, nor should their members be expected to put in the time and practice to do complicated songs or arrangements on a month to month basis.

I find the free online resources for LDS music to be a gift of love and goodwill and they should be received as such. Shame on you for criticizing what is offered freely with the sacrifice of hours of work.

Perhaps we ought to be asking ourselves the question, am I using the free music online because it is is quality writing and is the perfect song for my ward or stake choir, or am I only using it because it was free and easily accessible to me? If the answer is the former, than by all means, use the piece. If you’re sticking with the free music because you or your ward are trying to do music on the cheap, then you’re missing out on some extremely powerful sacred choral music. Good music does not mean “complex”. Simple can be good when well-composed just as complex can be really awful. A novel may be 1000 pages long and poorly written and a children’s book can be a great literary work. The same is true with music. I have come across far too many complex choral works online, for free, that no publisher would ever touch because they are so poorly composed. I am coming from the perspective of an educated, trained musician, so what I look for in ward or stake choir music is excellent music writing. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of good writing in the free music online, especially in the accompaniments. I have found some, but most of the writing is just mediocre by well-meaning church members who do not have the music education or background to create fabulous music. And most of the free music out there is actually very complex, but not in a good way. There are exceptions of course. I know of a couple who actually have music degrees in composition and have free music online because they want to share their talents with others. Most good composers, however, would never put their music online for free because they don’t have to. Their music is good enough to get published. Wilberg, for example, is one of the Church’s greatest composers/arrangers and nothing he composes is free online. Currently, my ward choir is working on “Brother James’s Air” arranged by Wilberg, “Jesus, Savior” (Ave Verum) by Mozart, and “He is Not Here”, by Crawford Gates. These are all pretty simple pieces, easily accessible for most ward choirs, yet extremely well composed. Show me a free piece of online music by an LDS composer that can hold a candle to these simple yet masterful works.

By dismissing quality music and those who promote it as “snobbish” you are also dismissing music education, those with music degrees, and those who have worked for years to achieve the proper training necessary to compose well. Why don’t you give quality music a chance? When my ward choir performed Wilberg’s 2-part, very simple, arrangement of “Still, Still, Still” in December, we, the choir members, had the most amazing spiritual experiences. Good music, quality music will do that. If you are unsure where to start looking for music, call Day Murray Music in Salt Lake City and ask the sales reps to help you find some simple but quality music for your ward choir.

As I’ve thought about your comment, I was reminded of a quote by Spencer W. Kimball, “If we strive for perfection- the best and greatest- and are never satisfied with mediocrity, we can excel.”


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