Hymn Books and Music Theory

by Jason

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 can help us address one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and make melody to the Lord with our hearts? 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 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.

Finding the Right Pitch

Finding the Right Pitch author David Nivans writes three books on music fundamentals, basic harmony and advanced harmony. I endorse these books and invite you to purchase them on Amazon.

Theory and Practice

Faber Piano Adventures

Alfred Music

Neil A. Kjos Music Company

Paul Hindemith is the author of these textbooks, originally published in the 1940’s:

Another textbook is Harmonization at the Piano by Arthur Frackenpohl. Used copies are available on Amazon and other websites.


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