Five Ideas for Creative Hymn-Playing

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As church musicians, we have many opportunities to use hymn arrangements in worship but published resources are not always available.  Here are five simple ideas for more creative hymn-playing, recently published by The Fellowship in their "Five on the Fifth" series:

1. Add passing tones and neighbor tones. In the lower three voices,connect intervals of a 3rd with passing tonesand intervals of a 5th with passing tones or the middle third. Also, tryadding neighbor tones between repeated notes.

2. Add suspensions at the end of phrases. Use 9-8 or 4-3 suspensions with root position chords and 7-6 with chords in inversion. A 2-3 suspension in the lowest voice works well underneath first inversion chords.

3. Use the tenor line as a descant. If leading the hymn from the organ, try playing the tenor line up an octave on its own manual (be sure the melody is still audible). You could also have the sopranos in your choir sing the tenor line on the last verse while everyone else sings the melody.

4. Substitute new chords. Use V/IV to lead to predominant and V/V to lead to dominant harmonies or try using vii° instead of V and ii instead of IV. You can also delay the tonic resolution with a deceptive cadence in the middle of the hymn.

5. Modulate to a new key for the last verse. On the final chord of the verse, keep the accompaniment moving as you modulate to a new key and find a way to recap the last phrase (this establishes the new key and serves as introduction for the last verse). You could also establish the new key and cadence on I or V (a half cadence is a nice cue for the last verse).

Happy hymn-playing!

Image Credit: personal