Practical Suggestions for Hymn Singing

One aid to a fuller appreciation and understanding of a hymn or psalm text (and we should be singing both) is to read through the text ahead of time; so a printed Order of Worship can be very significant to good preparation. In the case of a Psalm, read the entire psalm and become familiar with its context. Another help is to try to sing stanzas in phrases, according to punctuation, rather than simply singing one word followed by the next. The organist or other participating instrumentalists should attempt to lead the congregation this way, “breathing” with the text and connecting words or thoughts that are not separated by punctuation. This approach is very helpful to greater comprehension of the meaning of a hymn text.

If you do not read music and a piece of worship music is new to you, try your best to sing along with those who are stronger musical readers. But focus on the text rather than struggling with the tune and becoming frustrated. To help learn a new tune, listen carefully to the first stanza as it is sung, and start to join in on the next. Follow the uppermost notes (the soprano or melody notes) in each staff or system (set of staves), if the musical score is available, which will guide as to whether the melody is going to ascend or descend. Look for patterns. Often the first and last lines of a hymn are similar or even identical. Sometimes three out of four lines may be exactly the same. But above all, think about the words you are singing as you sing. Do your best to connect with their meaning—the intellectual part of hymn singing—as well as with the emotional part of making music together, ascribing to God the worth and glory that are due Him.

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