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  • Playing Hynms

    Can somebody help please ? I have been playing the organ for many years, but have never played hynms before. A few days ago I was looking through items in a secondhand/junk shop, Amongst piles of old sheet music I came across an organists sized copy of "Hynms Ancient & Modern", which I purchased. Most of the hymns are written in four parts, which I understand is usual..

    My query is how exacrly do I play it, or more precisely,what do I play on the pedals? I can play the four parts on one keyboard by playing the bass and tenor parts with my left hand, and the alto and treble parts with my right, as you would on a piano. So what do I play on the pedals? Do I just double the bass part? Or should I play the bass part on the pedals and the upper three parts on the keyboard. I am sure there many who subscribe to this website, who have been playing hymns for years. I'd be much obliged for any guidance in this matter.

    Regards

    Salicet.

  • #2
    As a church organist myself, I normally play the alto and soprano with the right hand, tenor with the left and bass with the feet. For variety I play the odd verse without pedals in which case I take the tenor and bass with the left hand. There is no need to double the bass if playing with pedals as the manual to pedal coupler will be doing that anyway.

    Best Wishes,
    Fettler

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    • #3
      For accentuating the melody, it is possible to play the soprano in the right hand, the alto/tenor in the left, and the bass note on the pedals.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by OrgansR4Me View Post
        For accentuating the melody, it is possible to play the soprano in the right hand, the alto/tenor in the left, and the bass note on the pedals.
        Yes, and in this case, to highlight the melody, it would be played on it's own manual, with a distinctive registration - something that sets it apart from the accompaniment. A great skill to have!

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        • #5
          Alternate methods like "soloing" the melody (on a second manual) must always be the exception, not the norm. You can do very good work just dividing S, A and T between the hands and taking B in the pedals. Then, when you do a fun thing like soloing, it is all the more striking. Never play B in both the hands and feet--it's a total waste of motion. If you have fingers available to do this, you should really be using those fingers to improve your legato in all voices. It will be so much more useful. There are of course circumstances when a little non-legato is very handy (in directing the congregation to keep at tempo), but again, this should be the exception, not the norm. The pedal must always be connected and perfectly legato, unless you are making a clear break in all voices. This will ensure a solid sound. There is nothing more uncomfortable than listening to a hymn played with a slightly non-legato pedal; besides sounding amateur and undignified, it makes the congregation very afraid that a split note is coming soon. Even in a big cathedral, the sound of a non-legato pedal cuts through the texture like a knife through butter, and it's not exactly a happy sound.
          As of 7/16/2013, no longer active on forum.
          Practice hard, practice well.

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          • #6
            Salicet,

            Playing hymns is normally as follows:
            RH--Soprano and Alto
            LH--Tenor (& some Alto notes if the RH cannot play them--voice leading)
            Feet--Bass (bottom note)

            Of course, there are always exceptions to this, but the above are the generally accepted rules.

            Michael
            Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
            • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
            • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
            • 10 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 6 Pianos

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            • #7
              I have a question regarding phrasing in hymn playing. For example in the hymn "Hyfrydol" there are several places whe the phrase marks are in all the voices . In fact, there is a consistent pattern of phrasing the 1st and 2nd beat together. Should I up space in all the voices when this happens? It starts to feel very "choppy" when I do this. Perhaps just on the melody line?

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              • #8
                The pedal must always be connected and perfectly legato, unless you are making a clear break in all voices. This will ensure a solid sound. There is nothing more uncomfortable than listening to a hymn played with a slightly non-legato pedal; besides sounding amateur and undignified, it makes the congregation very afraid that a split note is coming soon. Even in a big cathedral, the sound of a non-legato pedal cuts through the texture like a knife through butter, and it's not exactly a happy sound.
                Maybe you don't run into these problems in liturgical churches, but quite a few hymns in the Baptist tradition-such as "Standing on the Promises"-may use the same pedal note for several measures. In these cases, I often break the pedal at the barline. There are times when I break on the third beat in common time to help keep the rhythm moving, especially if there are no breaks in the upper voices.
                Mike

                My home organ is a circa 1990 Galanti Praeludium III, with Wicks/Viscount CM-100 module supplying extra voices. I also have an Allen MDS Theatre II (princess pedalboard!) with an MDS II MIDI Expander.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Bf098 View Post
                  I have a question regarding phrasing in hymn playing. For example in the hymn "Hyfrydol" there are several places where the phrase marks are in all the voices . In fact, there is a consistent pattern of phrasing the 1st and 2nd beat together. Should I up space in all the voices when this happens? It starts to feel very "choppy" when I do this. Perhaps just on the melody line?
                  Generally, you do not break more than two voices at a time, unless there is a good reason to do otherwise. I must confess that, if a hymn begins on a pickup note, I sometimes repeat three or all four notes, just to get the congregation moving. One example that comes to mind is "We Gather Together to Ask the Lord's Blessing", in which the pickup chord is repeated exactly on the first beat of the next measure.
                  Mike

                  My home organ is a circa 1990 Galanti Praeludium III, with Wicks/Viscount CM-100 module supplying extra voices. I also have an Allen MDS Theatre II (princess pedalboard!) with an MDS II MIDI Expander.

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                  • #10
                    Is there a preferred way to phrase those two note groups? On the piano I could accentuate the first of the two notes slightly giving that slightly lilting feel that the hymn has. What' s the best way to accomplish that on the organ?

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                    • #11
                      On the organ, in contrast to the piano, you only have the option of lengthening or shortening notes for accent purposes. I'm a "practical" hymn player and can't say that I adhere to a particular rule. However, the general concept of detaching notes when repeated holds up well for me. When the vocal line is in motion, I try to keep it legato.

                      As to the two-note phrase markings in Hyfrydol, I think those are of more importance to the singers than to the organist, indicating that the vowel sound remains the same for the two notes while the pitch changes. I see no reason for the organ to make any particular accommodation to these marks. Since the notes change under these phrase marks, I would keep them legato throughout.

                      In Hyfrydol, the only measure that contains repeated chords is the first measure of the third line, and here I would detach them by the length of an eighth note, though probably not the pedal part (bass note). In those places where the MELODY (soprano) note repeats while the underlying parts do not, as in measure six and other places, I would probably make a very subtle detachment so as to keep the tempo moving and prevent the congregation from lagging. After all, if there is no detachment at all, repeated notes simply sound like tied notes, and that is of no use to the congregation at all.

                      My cousin Yvonna (who is well-known to some members of this forum) was taught to play as if the keys were covered with molasses, to NEVER lift her fingers from the keys until the hymn is over, and then only after fading away and hearing the piano tones die away. Of course, she uses the organ in an entirely different manner from most of us, and Aunt Minnie is pounding away the tempo on the piano to keep things moving. So don't do like Yvonna!

                      Truth is, it's hard to give hard and fast advice on hymn playing. But the more you do it, the more experience you gain and the more empathy you develop with the singers, the more confident you feel. In fact, singing along with the people is very good practice, or at least following the words and imagining that you're singing.

                      So do your best and keep working at it!
                      John
                      ----------
                      *** Please post your questions about technical service or repair matters ON THE FORUM. Do not send your questions to me or another member by private message. Information shared is for the benefit of the entire organ community, but other folks will not be helped by information we exchange in private messages!

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                      • #12
                        Thanks. It seems like good hymn playing is an art form in itself. Every time I practice a hymn I come up with a new question. I guess that if you get tired of answering my questions you'll just stop responding! Ha, ha!

                        Two questions tonight.

                        1. I usually give the congregation a "space" to breath at the end of phrases by lifting off the last note a little early. Is this appropriate?

                        2. In the Taize' hymn "Eat This Bread" the chords are repeated over several beats. To make this feel more legato I often hold the chord in all the voices except the soprano

                        - - - Updated - - -

                        Sorry. I lost the last part of that post.

                        On question #2. Is there a better way to play that hymn?

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                        • #13
                          1. Yes, the organ should "breathe" with the singers, so do insert a little space at the end of phrases. I do this "most" of the time, but occasionally, just for variety and interest, I'll carry over from one phrase to another. This works well for me on the final verse of a hymn where I'm building to a tutti. It takes some rehearsal, but you can master the art of adding a mixture or reed at just the right moment so that the stop comes in on the first beat of a new phrase for a dramatic effect.

                          2. What you are doing seems right to me. That hymn is entirely different from Hyfrydol, more like a typical "gospel song" in the sense of having entire measures that contain the same chord throughout. So yes, keeping the lower parts legato while detaching the melody note is probably your best approach. Listen carefully when you practice and see if what you are doing is helpful to the singers, if it delineates the rhythm and movement of the song without making it choppy.
                          John
                          ----------
                          *** Please post your questions about technical service or repair matters ON THE FORUM. Do not send your questions to me or another member by private message. Information shared is for the benefit of the entire organ community, but other folks will not be helped by information we exchange in private messages!

                          https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by m&m's View Post
                            Maybe you don't run into these problems in liturgical churches, but quite a few hymns in the Baptist tradition-such as "Standing on the Promises"-may use the same pedal note for several measures. In these cases, I often break the pedal at the barline. There are times when I break on the third beat in common time to help keep the rhythm moving, especially if there are no breaks in the upper voices.
                            I usually do 1-5-1-5 on these situations
                            Allen 5300-DK, Hammond A-105, Conn Custom 905-DK

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                            • #15
                              On "Standing on the Promises" I have been known to beat out the rhythm on the pedals as if I were playing an acoustic bass!
                              John
                              ----------
                              *** Please post your questions about technical service or repair matters ON THE FORUM. Do not send your questions to me or another member by private message. Information shared is for the benefit of the entire organ community, but other folks will not be helped by information we exchange in private messages!

                              https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

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