Hymnal Players... How did you do it?

Posted by: Rollin shoulders

Hymnal Players... How did you do it? - 05/07/13 11:19 PM


I'm looking for all the hymnal players in the forums! (I would of posted this in the Classical thread, but I figured that it'd be more appropriate here)

I would like to ask, how did you get to where you are now regarding skill?

For instance, I'll play through a hymnal once or twice without a metronome and feel semi-good about it.
Then I'll read the tempo markings indicated, set the tempo, and try again..

.. Except I fail miserably. It's just seems so fast.

I don't know what it is, but all the independent movements and voicings are just so difficult. I can't get it down.

I've played through many many hymnals this way, except I don't see that I'm not getting any better. All I really got better at is reading the bass clef because the LH stuff is what throws me off.

So in summary:
- How did you get so good at playing hymnals at the appropriate speed?
- How do you assess a song and sight read it?
- Any special practice methods that would be good for aspiring hymnal players like me and others to know?

I respect pianists who can play hymnals at the appropriate speed. I wish I could do the same.
I want to become a church pianist/organist someday, it'd really help to hear your input.
Thanks for your time
Posted by: DianneB

Re: Hymnal Players... How did you do it? - 05/08/13 05:39 AM

Practice, practice, practice. (See my PM)
Posted by: malkin

Re: Hymnal Players... How did you do it? - 05/08/13 08:05 AM

Find a church where they sing everything slowly.
Posted by: Barb860

Re: Hymnal Players... How did you do it? - 05/08/13 10:22 AM

Lots of hands-separately practice to really hear the different voices and solidify fingering, at slow tempo. Gradually bring up the tempo hands separately, no pedal. Then practice hands together. Play the scales and chord progressions in the keys of the hymns you are learning.
Posted by: Rollin shoulders

Re: Hymnal Players... How did you do it? - 05/08/13 08:14 PM

Thanks for the responses everyone! I will try to practice slowly and work my way up.

I feel discouraged whenever I play slow, but I guess it's all a part of learning! Ha
Posted by: daviel

Re: Hymnal Players... How did you do it? - 05/08/13 09:05 PM

Hymnals are good for sight reading, too. Practicing the hymns, use a metronome.
Posted by: TromboneAl

Re: Hymnal Players... How did you do it? - 05/18/13 08:19 PM

On my own, I read through two hymnals 8-10 times each over the course of a few years, and did not improve as much as I thought I would. Then I got a teacher.

Two things that my teacher had me do that helped:

1. Practice leaving notes out. For example, play only two of the four voices.

2. Understand the harmonic structure. This will help you know what to expect. Learn to see the chords and their harmonic relationships.

Those things helped a lot.

I'm still not great with hymns, but my teacher wants me to avoid them, because in a sense they are too easy. That is, there isn't much rhythmic variety and the range is limited.
Posted by: Roger Ransom

Re: Hymnal Players... How did you do it? - 05/23/13 12:36 PM

Interestingly enough, the last two times I was asked to play some hymns for something (a funeral and a wedding), the organizers had an 'accompanist' version of their regular hymnal. It was a little larger and was loose leaf.

The music was written like regular popular sheet music. Three staffs - the bottom 2 were a piano arrangement and the top one was the melody and chords. Since I am very comfortable with lead sheets, this was a very good thing and greatly lowered my stress level..

I wonder if other hymnal publishers have this type of version. I love it.
Posted by: cmajornine

Re: Hymnal Players... How did you do it? - 05/24/13 04:53 PM

Hymn books are written primarily for singers (it comes in 4 parts, SATB) and in most cases are not designed with piano players in mind.

If you play hymns as they are written, they are not going to sound that good. And the fingering is difficult in a lot of cases.

Most church piano players rearrange the hymns using a variety of techniques e.g Using chords in the right hand for the melody, or bass patterns or chords in the left hand.

There are many commercial courses out there that show you how to do these arrangement techniques with varying degrees of complexity.

Here are two video links that explain the concept a little further.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=uu-IgcmaVI4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ribnpn-ezYA


Peace
Posted by: rocket88

Re: Hymnal Players... How did you do it? - 05/26/13 02:44 PM

Instead of struggling against the metronome all by yourself, which is not working, try playing along with some audio of the hymns...audio of good professional church groups singing the hymn, with a strong rhythmic instrumental base.
Posted by: TimR

Re: Hymnal Players... How did you do it? - 05/26/13 07:07 PM

While you should eventually be able to play SATB hymns, for many purposes it isn't necessary.

A lot of churches no longer have anybody who reads music or sings parts. So you can simplify, simplify, simplify until you're more comfortable.

I started by simplifying down to what I call guitar chords: just the I, IV, and V in close position. As I got comfortable with that i started making the chords more difficult, etc. There are a few hymns where the accompaniment is so familiar you can't get away from it - for example the bass line of Onward Christian Soldiers. Those you just have to learn.

I think (and this is just me, could be way off) that you are making a mistake by reading through a hymnal. Instead, pick a few common hymns, ones likely to be needed in each key, and learn them thoroughly. Memorize it and master it. That will give you many more memory patterns to retrieve when reading other hymns. Hymns in any given key tend to have the same fingering patterns. E.g. in D you will always play A-D in 1,5 followed by A-A in 1,5 followed by G-A etc. It doesn't do you as much good to practice sightreading those as it does to get them ingrained.
Posted by: pelf

Re: Hymnal Players... How did you do it? - 05/27/13 01:44 AM

Hi--I love hymns. I agree, play slowly at first, hands separately if that helps. Write out the fingering. Concentrate on a few hymns at a time; maybe start with some easier ones. Here is a list by tune name in order of estimated difficulty from the National Federation of Music Clubs, Junior Festivals Bulletin, 1998-1999-2000:

Class I:
Amazing Grace
Azmon (O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing)
Dennis (Blest Be the Tie)
Dix (For the Beauty)
Gordon (My Jesus, I Love Thee)
Near the Cross
Olivet (My Faith Looks Up)
Stories of Jesus
St. Anne (O God Our Help)

Class II:
Beecher (Love Divine)
Diademata (Crown Him)
Old 100th (Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow)
Hamburg (When I Survey)
Hymn to Joy (Joyful Joyful)
Italian Hymn (Come Thou Almighty)
Kremser (We Gather)
Lobe den Herren (Praise to the Lord)
Maryton (O Master Let Me Walk)
Morecambe (Spirit of God)
Nettleton (Come Thou Fount)
Rathbun (In the Cross)

Class III:
Aurelia (The Church's One Foundation)
Coronation (All Hail)
Duke Street (Jesus Shall Reign)
Foundation (How Firm)
Lauda Anima (Praise My Soul)
Need (I Need Thee)
Nicaea (Holy Holy Holy)
Royal Oak (All Things Bright)
Slane (Be Thou My Vision)
Spanish Hymn (Come Christians)
St. Gertrude (Onward Christian Soldiers)
Terra Beata (This Is My Father's World)

Class IV:
Alleluia No. 1 (Alleluia, Alleluia, Give Thanks)
CWM Rhonda (God of Grace)
Ein Feste Burg (A Mighty Fortress)
Faithfulness (Great Is Thy Faithfulness)
Lancashire (Lead On, O King)
Mit Freuden Zart (Sing Praise to God)
Nun Danket (Now Thank We)
Sine Nomine (For All the Saints)
St. Christopher (Beneath the Cross)
To God Be the Glory
Unser Herrscher (God of Love)

Class V:
Aberystwyth (Jesus Lover of My Soul)
Crucifer (Lift High the Cross)
Diadem (All Hail)
Easter Hymn (Christ the Lord Is Risen Today)
Ebenezer (Ton-y-Botel) (Once to Every Man)
Gloria (Angels We Have Heard)
Hyfrydol (Come Thou Long Expected Jesus)
Lasst uns Erfreuen (All Creatures)
Passion Chorale (O Sacred Head)
Salve Festa Dies (Hail Thee, Festival Day)

Best wishes!
Posted by: Greg Howlett

Re: Hymnal Players... How did you do it? - 11/03/13 11:19 PM

There is a particular style of improvisation (closely related to early jazz stride) that church pianists have used on hymns for the past 100 years (as long as the piano has been in church). It is alternating between intervals and chords in the left hand and playing chord inversions in the right hand. It is fairly easy to learn but requires an understanding of what is happening in the underlying harmony.
Posted by: Greg Howlett

Re: Hymnal Players... How did you do it? - 11/03/13 11:21 PM

Also, keep in mind that hymn chords are not just I, IV and V. Some are, but usually, there are a few secondary dominants involved. It makes things slightly more complicated.
Posted by: rintincop

Re: Hymnal Players... How did you do it? - 11/03/13 11:25 PM

Originally Posted By: Greg Howlett
There is a particular style of improvisation (closely related to early jazz stride) that church pianists have used on hymns for the past 100 years (as long as the piano has been in church). It is alternating between intervals and chords in the left hand and playing chord inversions in the right hand. It is fairly easy to learn but requires an understanding of what is happening in the underlying harmony.


YouTube link?
Posted by: Greg Howlett

Re: Hymnal Players... How did you do it? - 11/03/13 11:41 PM

Here is a video of me talking about it and demonstrating it a bit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zxvrVJYIar4

(Forgive the fact that I am selling a course in that video).