Hymn Books and Music Theory

Ephesians 5:19-20

19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Eph 5:19). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

What tools can we use to help us become proficient in singing “a cappella”? If you look at the notes in our hymn book, you may notice the notes have different shapes. These shape notes help us to get a sense of the pitch each note should have. For example, in a hymn written in the C Major scale, the first and last note will be the “C” note. Each note in a musical scale has a special name, referred to as a scale degree. Each scale degree will have a different shape. The first (and last) note of any scale is referred to as the tonic note. The tonic note in the C Major scale is “C” and is in the shape of an equilateral triangle. Here are two examples of shape note singing from Encyclopedia Britannica. If you compare the note “fa” in the treble and bass clef in our hymn books, you will see the right triangle shape is flipped over in the bass clef. The full article on shape notes can be found here.

The hymns are usually arranged in four parts. The highest note, found in the treble clef is the soprano part. The second highest note in the treble clef is the alto. In the bass clef, the second note from the lowest is the tenor. The lowest note in the bass clef is the bass.


Available for Purchase

Praise for the LORD

Sacred Songs of the Church

Songs of Faith and Praise


Music Theory Books

World Bet Books