Posts Tagged ‘hymnal’

Easy Choir Arranging by Mac & Beth Lynch

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015


Here are some great ideas for easy choir arrangements! Please keep in mind…these are my personal notes taken from a recent workshop entitled, “On the Spot Arranging” by Mac & Beth Lynch.

Mac and Beth are working with a small church choir of their own and shared a lot of excellent; practical ideas for using the hymnal to sing like a choir and not like the congregation 🙂

I know of more than one church pianist who fills the role of pianist and choir leader….or assists the choir leader with choosing choir specials.  I hope these few arranging ideas will get your own creative juices going.

Refer to a hymnal for the following arranging suggestions:

“When I See the Blood” 

Have men sing the echos in unison (melody only) during the chorus for a change! Why? Gives less of a “chuncky”  or “monotone” sound.  Singing the melody for the echos gives a more shapely tone.  (singing the echos in parts as written is fine…but the unison just provides a nice; refreshing change for an easy-to-sing arrangement).


“Nearer Still Nearer”   (A lot of hymns can be utilized as SAB by deleting the bass)

Use as SAB (men on tenor)


“I Surrender All” 

Verses: SAB

Chorus: Men on melody; Ladies on alto (1st line of chorus)
SATB on 4th line (final line of song)


“Burdens Are Lifted”

Nice SAB! As written (men sing tenor line throughout)

*Extra information:

Close harmony on: line one and last phrase of line two thru four)
Open harmony on first half of lines 2 through 4
Close harmony means less than an octave between soprano and tenor
Open harmony is more than an octave between soprano and tenor


“When I See the Blood Medley”

Verses: Men on melody; Ladies on alto
Chorus: Men on melody; Ladies on alto (no echos)
*At end of chorus…go into “The Cleansing Wave”
SAB throughout (men on tenor) Could go to 4 parts on chorus.


“I Know Whom I Have Believed” Nice  SB Arrangement!

1st half of line one: men on tenor, ladies on soprano (parallel 6ths)
2nd half of line one: men on alto, ladies on soprano (parallel 3rds)
1st half of line two: men on tenor, ladies on soprano (parallel 6ths)
2nd half of line two: unison (written harmony not as feasible for two-parts)


Men on melody, Ladies on alto throughout or go to unison on last phrase of
chorus on word “Unto” then split into 4 parts on “…Him against that day.”

My thoughts:  Input these simple hymn arrangements in finale (vocal score only) to have for quickie choir arrangements…instead of having choir members mark up their hymnals and to save on choir practice time since we only practice for half an hour.

Which reminds me….I need to make copies for our choir of “Jesus Loves Me” quickie arrangement which I shared in a recent post.  We’re never too old to sing this hymn.

Using the Hymnal for Easy Choir Arrangements!

Thursday, August 13th, 2015

Using the Hymnal to Sing Like the Choir and Not Like the Congregation

Not everyone can arrange on the spot for choir but with a little advance planning, a simple yet beautiful choir arrangement can be created!

This post will cover how to create a two-part  choir arrangement for ladies and men.

Materials needed:

Several minutes

Pencil or pen

Slightly enlarged copy of a hymn from the hymnal.  (the enlarged copy allows room for the arranging marks; or you can can type them in)


1. Look for a hymn with close harmony (3rds) in the treble clef…like this:


2.  Harmony possibilities:

Men on melody (top note)  Ladies on alto (bottom note)

Ladies 2 parts on line one and Men 2 parts for line two

Unison line one then 2 parts line two

Children’s choir sing melody and adult choir sings alto for verse & chorus

Flute plays alto (octave higher)  while children or ladies sing unison for

a verse.

As you can see….SO many ways to dress up a simple hymn without it sounding like a regular congregational hymn!

Since we only have a half hour choir practice…we prefer to pre-arrange these simple hymns ahead of time instead of having the choir pencil in the layout in their hymnals.  So…I’m sharing this simple hymn arrangement with you for “Jesus Loves Me” below for free 🙂  (Sorry it doesn’t include piano accompaniment…not enough minutes in the day for that)  🙂

Oh!  But wait a minute!  Go on a hunt in your hymnal to find more hymns with close harmony (3rds) in either the verse or chorus and start arranging!

Couple suggestions:  When I See the Blood, Standing on the Promises

*Click on the title below this picture of music… for free PDF download of  Jesus Loves Me



*I want to thank Mac & Beth Lynch for their wonderful, practical workshop entitled “On the Spot Arranging” for choir.  They are also working with a small church choir of their own and the information was very relative for me as well as others.   (Majesty MusiCarolina Conference occured July 30-31, 2015 in Raleigha, NC)

Using the Hymnal for Ladies’ Specials

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

Using the hymnal for specials can be done but does take some planning.  Why?  The songs in the hymnal were written for four different voice parts that rely on each other to create a complete harmonic sound.  Omitting any of the parts can result in unbalanced harmony, with the exception of the melody which can stand alone.  Most hymnals do contain some ready-made duets or trios but are usually mentioned in the topical index if available.

Say I was wanting to use “Day by Day” for a female vocal duet.  The alto would lack a close harmony part  because the tenor contains the closer harmony for the first two lines…then the bass takes on the closer harmony for a bit before returning it to the tenor for the last line of the song. (see hymnal excerpt below). Notice how the alto basically sings a B flat for the majority of the first line.  Not a problem…IF the other voice parts are singing; creating a more shapely harmonic structure.


Now, for the fun part!  In order to create a more pleasing harmony the following alterations would work nicely:  I simply kept the parts in 3rds as much as possible for a closer harmony.  You’ll notice the soprano (top note) began with harmony and flowed back to melody near the middle and then back to harmony toward the end.  This type of part swapping created an easier note transition for sopranos and altos.

*See clickable link at bottom of this article


Click here to download “Day by Day”









Following the Leader

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

Following the song director is a challenge for a lot of church pianists.  Since I’m ancient…and have memorized the majority of the hymnal…I’m more free to look away from the hymnal and watch the director.

Seriously,  the church pianist must learn the hymns well enough  in order to  look away from the music at the song leader or at least have the leader’s arm  within your peripheral vision.

How does the pianist get comfortable playing “by feel”?  Try playing a familiar song in the dark.  I’m serious!  Playing in the dark is an excellent way to sharpen your senses/skills…just as a blind person may have a more keen sense than the average person because they are avidly “tuning in” to the situation at hand.

At least ten years ago…I was playing the prelude  in the Charlotte coliseum at a teacher’s convention.  It was right after 9/11.  All of a sudden, the lights went out!  A sudden rush of anxious, whispered voices stirred through the auditorium.  My thoughts…”Now what?!”

Thankfully I knew the hymns I was playing from “many” years of practice 🙂   The Lord just guided my fingers and I just played  soothing hymns to hopefully calm the concerned crowed (considering we had guards around due to the 9/11 event.  I remember hearing people singing along with several of the hymns.   A little over ten minutes went by before the lights came on.  It seemed like an eternity to me.

Battle Hymn of the Republic: Free Congregational Arrangement (Part One)

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

It’s hard to believe that July 4th is so close!  Since I’ve been so busy…it takes less time for me to write an arrangement as opposed to a strict “teaching” article.  Today’s free piano arrangement of “Battle Hymn of the Republic” is arranged for congregational singing.

The hymnal version (voice parts) contain a lot of repeated notes making it necessary for the church pianist to create a more interesting sound to bring it to life!

In part one of this free arrangement…I added the vocal score above the piano score… so you could see what I’m playing as opposed to the written voice parts from the hymnal. I’ll provide an audio after I share the entire arrangement with you.

Click here for free congregational piano arrangement of: Battle Hymn of the Republic (Part One)

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