Accompanying a Hymn

Posted on May 13, 2011. Filed under: Organ Music, Piano Music |

Hymns are the basic musical element of our Latter-day Saint meetings.  “The hymns invite the spirit of the Lord, create a feeling of reverence, unify us as members, and provide a way for us to offer praises to the Lord.” (First Presidency preface to the hymnbook)  Good piano and organ accompanying techniques will help the members sing the hymns with ease, with enjoyment, and with the spirit.  Below are some helpful suggestions and examples for accompanists.  These exerpts come from pp.379-386 of the 1985 LDS hymnbook.

Mood and Tempo Markings

“The mood markings, such as “Prayerfully” or “Resolutely,” suggest the general feeling or spirit of a hymn, although the mood of some hymns may vary according to the occasion or local preferences. Metronomic markings indicate a tempo range (such as  = 69–76) and are also given as general guidelines; the locale and context in which a hymn is used may suggest greater flexibility.

Introduction Brackets for Pianists and Organists

“Brackets     on each hymn suggest a suitable piano or organ introduction. Before playing a hymn, scan it to make sure you see the complete introduction. You may want to highlight the brackets in your personal hymnbook, especially if the final phrase of an introduction does not happen to be at the end of the hymn.

“You may also wish to shorten or lengthen the suggested introduction. If the hymn is unfamiliar, playing it completely through as an introduction can help the congregation feel more comfortable with it. If the hymn is well known, the last line or phrase may be a sufficient introduction. When using a short introduction, you may want to slow the tempo at the end to express a sense of completion.

For Beginning Organists and Pianists

Adapting Hymn Accompaniment

“Some hymns may have notes or passages that are difficult to play. Feel free to adapt such passages to your own ability by dropping less-important notes from chords. You may want to mark your own hymnbook for this purpose.

“Hymns frequently have a space between the tenor and bass notes that is too wide to reach with the left hand. Often the right hand can include the tenor note quite easily. You may want to mark such notes with a bracket to remind yourself to play them with your right hand:

“Some hymns and children’s songs are written with the piano in mind. If the organ is used for these songs, it is sometimes preferable to use manuals only, without pedals.

“A cue note, or small note, means that the note is optional. Following are examples of how cue notes may be used:

1. A cue note may indicate that the notes are to be played and sung with some verses and not with others, depending on the text of each verse:

2. Sometimes the music is complete even if the cue note is left out:

3. Cue notes may also indicate music to be played by the pianist or organist but not to be sung:

Some Hymns That Are Easy to Play:

Come, Follow Me; Do What Is Right; God Be with You Till We Meet Again; How Gentle God’s Commands; I Stand All Amazed; Keep the Commandments; Let the Holy Spirit Guide; Now Let Us Rejoice; Redeemer of Israel;Sweet Is the Work; Sweet Hour of Prayer; Teach Me to Walk in the Light; We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet.”

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