19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; 20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; (Ephesians 5:19-20 KJV)
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 is an illustration of shape notation 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.
Praise for the Lord – This book is used at the East Main Street congregation in Stockton, California and the church that meets in Pacifica, California.
Sacred Songs of the Church – Available from Psallo Publications. Click the word “products” in the left margin for more information. This book is used at the East Hill congregation in Pulaski, Tennessee.
Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs – Available from CEI Books.
I invite you to explore these links:
Religious Favorites – Piano book that contains many of the hymns we sing a cappella in worship. A great tool for learning and singing the hymns.