Music Home Page          < Three Hymn Playing Techniques        Transposition >


Beginning to Read Hymns

You should have learned music basics, how to read notes, scales, how to form chords, and practiced chords and the three hymn playing techniques.


Now let's begin to look at some hymns. 


Below is a section of the hymn "No Other Plea".


                                       No Other Plea


The four notes stacked vertically are known as 4-part harmony.  The four notes very often are the notes of a chord.


The first thing you do is look at the key signature then read the notes.   Then by your knowledge of chords, you figure out what chords are being used and write the chord symbols above the staff.  Use pencil.  Buy a good non-abrasive eraser.


See if you can figure the chords for the above section of music before looking at the answers below.  If you have to, write out the notes from bottom to top for each word of the hymn,   Then figure what chord it is.   What key is the hymn in?


Here are the notes from bottom to top for each word of the hymn.   The hymn is in the key of C.


My           CCEG

faith         CCEG

has          CAFA

found       CCEG

a              CGEC

rest-        GGGB

ing           FCFA

place,     CFFA

Not          FCFA

in             DAAF

de-          DAAD

vice        CGGC

nor         GDGB

creed     CGGC

I              CCEG


Do you know the chords being used?  The answers are below.


My           CCEG         C chord

faith         CCEG         C chord

has          CAFA          F chord

found      CCEG         C chord

a              CGEC        C chord

rest-        GGGB         G chord

ing           FCFA          F chord

place,     CFFA           F chord

Not          FCFA          F chord

in             DAAF         Dm chord

de-          DAAD         Dm chord

vice        CGGC         C chord

nor          GDGB         G chord

creed;     CGGC        C chord

I               CCEG        C chord


Now how would you write the chord symbols in the hymn.  Look at the C scale below.  Find the letter name of the chord.  Then use the scale degree number to name the chord.


1        2       3       4       5       6       7       8

C       D       E      F       G      A      B       C         


C chord -1        F chord - 4       G chord - 5        Dm chord - 2m

The numbers would be written like this:


When The Notes Don't Add Up To A Chord

When the four notes don't form a chord, typically you would use the two top notes and use a chord that has those notes in it.   But here is where a little musical artistic ability comes in handy.  When the notes don't add up to a chord, and using a chord with the two top notes doesn't seem to sound right, then play the hymn through several times with all the chords that you have, leaving out the ones you don't have.  Get the feeling or mood of the hymn.  When you come to the missing chord, play the four notes written in the hymn book and try to find a chord that sounds similar and fits the hymn.  You can even change the melody note sometimes and still have the basic sound of the hymn.   I try to stay with the written tune, but you can change hymns if you feel like it.   I say it's like getting two hymns for the price of one.  You have the original and your new version.   Your new version might even be better than the old.


You would play the hymn using a combination of the Three Hymn Playing Techniques.


Well now you will have to practice from the hymn book using the basics you have learned here.

Music Home Page           < Three Hymn Playing Techniques        Transposition >