Free LDS Music Online
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.