Welcome to The Latter-day Saint Organist's Resource Blog

The purpose of this blog is to help pianists learn to become true organists. Many individuals believe that if you play the piano you can play the organ, but the instruments differ greatly. While this blog is specifically geared towards members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, much of the information shared can be utilized by all. I hope that the information I share here will help you become an effective organist in your ward, stake, or other congregation.

Feel free to browse and search this blog. It was started in January 2010 and while new posts aren't added very often, this blog contains a wealth of information and is a wonderful resource for all organists. If you're a new reader, you can find the first lesson here: Before We Begin: Acquiring the Essentials. Also, please "like" the corresponding facebook page, which is updated more often. A link is provided on the right sidebar, or you can click here.

Thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Manual-Only Hymns and Transformations

Have you seen these "emergency preparedness kits" for beginning organists? They were transcribed and edited by trained organists and should be an excellent resource for all Church organists.

Manual-Only Hymns for Organists

Manual-Only Hymns for Organ

This set of transcriptions is intended to help new organists play with confidence and accuracy. In the preface we read that, "This book makes it possible for a person with modest keyboard skills to quickly become proficient in hymn accompaniment, as well as opening the door to continuing improvement in organ playing." The introduction further states, "This collection of simplified hymns is intended only to introduce organ playing to the pianist.... The appendix contains a list of ways to continue training with the help of others or on your own. We strongly encourage LDS organists to magnify their calling by further developing their organ-playing skills."

This edition reduces the number of voices from four to three, with fingerings added to help introduce organ technique. Some instructional information is also included.



Transformations contains easy additions to create simple preludes and postludes. The purpose of this edition is to provide musical material, which, when added to the three-voice hymns shared above converts hymns into simple and beautiful preludes and postludes. These introductions and codas are intended to be played without pedals.

Some registration information is included, as well as suggestions for performance.

If you haven't yet seen or acquired these publications, I highly recommend following the above links. They are free online and can be printed at will. Even accomplished organists may wish to use these arrangements occasionally as a simple prelude and/or postlude, or in addition to other arrangements.

What are your thoughts?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sunday Song: Joy to the World

Diane Bish plays her arrangement of Joy to the World at the Onze Lieve Vrowe Church in Mechelen, Belgium.

Saturday, December 25, 2010


"And [Simeon] came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,
"Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,
"Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:
"For mine eyes have seen thy salvation."

We Three Kings

"Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
"Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him."
"And, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
"When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
"And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh."

Adeste Fideles

"And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them."

Ave Maria

"And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child."
"But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart."

Away in a Manger

"And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger."

Angels We Have Heard on High

"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
"And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
"And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people."
"And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
"And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us."

Friday, December 24, 2010

Silent Night

"And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn."


Please join me starting this evening and throughout the day tomorrow as I present the Christmas story through music.

Until then, enjoy this show-stopping virtuoso organ solo, "Good King Wenceslas," performed and arranged by Richard Elliott:

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wassail Salsa

Enjoy this video that the Allen Organ Company posted on YouTube:

Monday, December 20, 2010

Getting the brain out of the way

For the past month I have been preparing for my first official performance on the organ. I've accompanied wards and branches before, but never played a solo in public, not counting prelude and postlude. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to ensure that my technique, notes, and tempo were flawless. I practiced hours each day and felt I was making good progress. Three days before the concert, I left my home organ to practice on my church's organ. That evening I recorded my progress and was unable to play without making major mistakes. When my memory card filled up I was able to once again play the pieces perfectly.

That night, on my facebook page I asked, "How do you get your brain out of the way during performances? I rarely play for anyone other then me and my instructor, and when I need to perform I'm so analytical that I mess everything up. I just want my brain to shut off and let the music come out the way I've practiced it. Any tips (other than playing more in public)?"

Some good advice was shared, including:

"Tell yourself, 'It will be good enough,' and it will!"

"I try to shift the focus off of me. I think about the people who are in the audience and try to play well for them, or the organizer of the event or whoever asked me to play and try to play well for them. It helps me to remember I'm playing for other's enjoyment and not just for my own pride or glory."

I was also referred to the 2008 BYU organ workshop keynote address by Parley L. Belnap called Controlling our Thoughts.

Basically, I needed to tell myself that I had done everything humanly possible to prepare, and whatever happened, happened. As President Monson is fond of saying, "When the time for decision [or in this case, performance] arrives, the time for preparation is past.” I had put in the preparation, and I just needed to trust my efforts and let go so that I could enjoy the ride. I ended up playing my pieces for a branch and a ward prior to the concert, and in both services the pieces went very well and I truly added to the spirit of the meeting. I was playing to worship and enhance worship, it showed, and my congregation sang like I'd never heard them sing before! It was wonderful.

Finally it was time for the concert. There was a mix-up with scheduling so we didn't start for another 35 minutes. It was a lot of fun to listen to and sing with each organist. The pipe organ didn't have any programmable pistons, so we relied on the other organists to change our stops. When it was my turn, I started my hymn a little too fast, in my exuberance to have my turn on the organ, but it went well. When it was time for the final verse, I had a few people changing stops for me--unplanned! I got a little frazzled and not only came in a little late, but totally flubbed the first part of that verse. Surprisingly, it didn't matter! I had a great time, and laughed it off and my husband said that no one even noticed. (I don't know if I believe it, but I bet no one remembers today.)

The audience was appreciative, it was an enjoyable evening, and we played to serve others and to celebrate the Christmas season. Somehow that was enough.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday Song: Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella for Organ

Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella for Organ, arr. Keith Chapman. Played by Rob Stefanussen.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Practice Tip: The Metronome

Image Source

Have you ever found yourself practicing a piece, but feeling like you were just treading water and not making any progress? Don't forget the metronome! If the piece is long, you can segment it into smaller pieces. Use the metronome to help you make measured progress.

First, set the metronome at a speed that is comfortable for you to play with no mistakes. You can set the click to the quarter note, eighth note, or even sixteenth note. Play the section or piece, then gradually increase the speed, making sure you play perfectly every time. When you are done with your practice session, write the tempo at the top of your piece so you know where to come back to it.

Before you know it, you'll have made great progress, and you will have practiced the piece perfectly so many times that when it's time to perform, playing it well will be second nature to you!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Joy to the World Introduction

Look what I have to share with you, today! Just in time for Christmas, I'm sharing a slightly different introduction for Joy to the World:

Here is the arrangement, free to you over at Google Docs.
201 Introduction


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sunday Song: Go Tell it on the Mountain

Richard Elliot's arrangement of Go Tell it on the Mountain. You can purchase the sheet music here:

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sunday Song: Bach's Fugue in g minor

Ton Koopman plays Bach's Fugue in g minor on the greater Silbermann organ (built 1714-18, renovated 1981-83) at St. Marien Cathedral in Freiberg.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

For the Beauty of the Earth, played at St Matthias Church, Berlin.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lesson 25: Leave the piano hands at the piano

Click here for Lesson 24: Creative Introductions for "Now Let Us Rejoice"

Hands at piano
Image Source

I realized as I've reviewed past posts that I never specifically showed what proper hand position is at the organ! Today's lesson will cover this important topic.

Proper Positioning at the Organ
First let's review information that was spread out in the first series of lessons.

When sitting at the organ, keep the head, neck and upper torso aligned as if you were standing. Some like to think their head being pulled towards the ceiling by a string.

Stay relaxed and flexible through then neck, shoulders, upper arms, lower arms, and into the wrists. Keep your elbows close to the body.

Proper Hand Position

According to Don Cook:

"The forearm and back of the hand are aligned in a level forward-back plane, with no sharp protrusion of the knuckles. The back of the hand is level from side to side, guiding the fingertips into the keys with no tipping from left to right. The fingers curve naturally, and the fingertips rest naturally on the keys." I could have lifted my wrist a bit more. (I didn't realize how hard it was to take a picture with one hand while holding the other in proper position!)

Curved hand position

"Nails must be cut short enough to allow fingertips--not nails--to contact the key."

Short nails, curved fingers

Additionally, you should play with your fingers in front of the black keys whenever possible.

Here are some incorrect examples:

Playing between the black keys instead of in front of them:
Playing into the black keys

Sunken hand:
Sunken hand

Straight knuckle/collapsed finger joint:
Straight knuckle

Flat hand:
Flat hand

Video Examples

Many (but not all) of the Sunday Songs I have shared demonstrate proper hand positioning. Here are a few that I like. Please note that the techniques used are not necessarily the legato technique that I've been teaching on this blog.

I love watching Clay Christiansen perform:
Watch how Frederick Hohman pulls his hands back in front of the black keys when he isn't playing accidentals: You can see the curvature of Linda Margett's fingers: Homework Work to improve your posture at the organ, especially as it pertains to hand position. Have someone take a video of your hands and wrists as you play, then watch it to see what they look like. You might be surprised--I certainly was when I started this blog! Once you know what you're doing wrong, work to fix those things that are incorrect, then repeat the process as you continue to improve. In Conclusion As I've really focused on my hand position and keeping my arms and wrists still so that my fingers can move more easily, it's become much easier to play and perfect my technique. Proper posture and positioning at the organ really is essential to playing the organ properly.

Good luck!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday Song: Healey Willian's Passacaglia and Fugue

Ken Cowan at The Victorian Palace Wurlitzer Pipe Organ playing Healey Willian's Passacaglia and Fugue.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Articulated Organ Technique

This may come as a surprise to some readers of my blog, but there are two major types of organ technique that are taught: legato and non-legato. Legato technique is used for literature that is written from 1750 and beyond, and is the technique that I've been teaching on my blog. It is the generally accepted technique for hymn playing.

Non-legato technique, also referred to as articulated, is used for pieces composed before 1750. Many think of it in relation to Bach's works. According to a handout written by Carol Dean, legato technique is connected, like a string of pearls without knots in between. Non-legato is fractured, like a string of pearls with knots in between.

Many organ students struggle when first learning articulated technique. The rules change, and it can be difficult to execute it properly. My struggle was with too much space between the notes. My pearls had knots the size of pearls between them.

Clip art licensed from the Clip Art Gallery on DiscoverySchool.com

Tonight as I was practicing Bach's Prelude and Fugue In G Major, BWV 557 something finally clicked. I've mentioned before that I was a pretty good flautist years ago, and as I practiced, I realized that the sound I'm looking for is simply tongued notes. Legato technique is slurred notes, with breaks when notes repeat. Non-legato technique is simply tongued notes. The sound I'm listening for is the same sound wind instrument players make when they tongue their passages.

Now, getting the releases perfectly timed is much more complex, but the technique itself isn't nearly as difficult for me as it initially seemed.

I hope this help you, too!

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Revisions to the Church Handbook of Instruction

Old Manual

Did you know that the Church Handbook of Instruction has been revised? You can read the new information here:

I wanted to share some of the changes with you.


The old manual had a different format. It began with an introduction, then discussed music in the home, music in church meetings, etc. The new manual begins with the purpose of music in the Church, then outlines the music responsibilities for each calling, instead of having that information buried on page 292 (the fourth page of the old manual). It also is now a numbered document, so it is very easy to be referred to different sections.

Clearer Responsibilities

In the old Handbook, the Bishopric's responsibilities are simply listed as, "Oversees ward music." Now there is a list of things the bishopric should be doing. While much of this information was contained in the previous manual, it was scattered throughout other topics and required a close read to find it.

Some of the responsibilities that were previously assigned to the Ward Music Adviser have been reduced.

Quite a bit of redundant language has been omitted, so it is easier to read.

New Information

A new section entitled, "Adapting Ward Music to Local Conditions and Resources" has been added.

Music in the Ward

There is now a how-to section dedicated to the ward. Before, the ward music chairman was to collect the topics from the ward music adviser, then oversee the ward music director in choosing the hymns, then relaying this information back to the ward music adviser. That has been simplified. Nothing was ever said about a time frame. Now, the manual says, "When feasible, the bishop and his counselors choose meeting topics well in advance. This allows the music chairman, music director, and choir director to plan hymns, special selections, and choir performances that complement and reinforce the meeting topics." The emphasis is mine. I wish this statement was also under the bishopric responsibilities section!

We are reminded that music in our church meetings is "for worship, not performance."

The information under "Congregational Singing" has been expanded to add, among other things, "Congregational singing has a unique and often underused power for unifying members as they worship together."

The information under "Special Musical Selections" has been reduced.

In our Sacrament meetings, we are encouraged to not only use "hymns that are already known and loved," but to also "become acquainted with new or less familiar hymns." We are also told that, "No music should be played during the sacrament prayer, while the sacrament is being passed, or as a postlude after the sacrament is passed."

Under "Choirs" much information has changed. One new additions is, "Ward members may participate voluntarily in the choir, or the bishopric may invite or call them to participate." It also outlines variations for branches and large wards, and how long to hold practice.

A section on using music in the classroom has also been added.

Stake Music

The Stake Music Chairman's responsibilities for providing music have been changed to, "Arrange for music and musicians for stake conference sessions and other stake meetings and events as requested." References to Priesthood meetings have been removed.

Specific mention of calling an optional stake organist has been added.

Under "Music for Stake Conference," we learn that music "should be planned with the purpose of strengthening faith and testimony."

Something new that is mentioned is that standing choirs "should not use references to the Church such as 'LDS,' 'Latter-day Saint,' or 'Mormon' in their names," as they are not authorized to be sponsored by the Church.

Additional Music Policies and Guidelines

A section on cultural and recreational music in the chapels in included, outlining what is and is not appropriate.

Something that was buried in the previous manual that I'm hoping to incorporate in my current stake is now easier to find: "Music that is purchased with budget funds is usually kept in the meetinghouse library and belongs to all units that share the library." Each ward should not have its own collection of choir music. All choir and other music should be kept in the library and be available to all units in that building.

Information on music for funerals and baptismal services has been moved out of this section of the handbook. While the funeral information did not change, the baptismal information has, somewhat.

My Impressions

The largest change in this revision was organizational. Things are much easier to find and read now. Before, I had to read a number of sections to glean bits of information about my calling, and the callings I am a resource for (I'm currently serving as the Stake Music Chairman). Now, things are much easier to find and are organized in a more succinct and effective way. You can request a free manual at a distribution center or online at store.lds.org. Click on Serving in the Church --> Specialists and Committees, then scroll down to Music and click on "Music Handbook." The current picture looks like the old one, so you might want to wait a bit or email the Customer Service representatives at "help @ store . lds . org" before ordering.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

I'm done!

Women at the Well was amazing. I finally have my nights back to myself and my family. I'm hoping to dedicate more of my time to the blog, now. Thanks for hanging in there!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday Song: Toccata from the Suite Gothique

This is the Tocatta from the Suite Gothique by Boellmann, played on a 23 rank Moller pipe organ. Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Sunday Song: Disney's Haunted Mansion Organ

Happy Halloween! This post is a little early. Enjoy!

Monday, October 18, 2010

More great posts coming soon

I have some great posts planned, but I just haven't had the time to sit down and get them written out. I'm directing a stake production and it has been taking most of my free time. The final performance is November 5th, and I'm hoping to have a little more free time after that.

My next lesson will be on proper hand position. I'm really excited to get it written and posted, and it's high on my priority list. I'm hoping to finish it soon. Thanks for sticking with me.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sunday Song: Suite Medievale, 1st Movement

Jean Langlais plays the 1st Movement from the Suite Medievale at St John's RC Cathedral, Salford, on the 4-manual Makin digital organ.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sunday Song: The Stars and Stripes Forever, Duet

Andrew Unsworth & Richard Elliott play The Stars and Stripes Forever by John Philip Sousa; arr. Robert Cundick on the LDS Conference Center Organ.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Hymn 72: Praise to the Lord, the Almighty introduction

When I attended the BYU Organ Workshop, graduate student Yevgeniya Tyltina played an introduction for hymn 72, Praise to the Lord, the Almighty that really excited me. When I came home, I attempted to recreate the feeling behind that introduction, and came up with this, which I used for the adult session of stake conference in my stake:

I wanted to make this piece available to my readers as well. Here is my arrangement, free to you over at Google Docs. 72 Introduction
I hope you get the same joy out of this introduction that I did. If you use it with your congregation, please let me know how it goes.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sunday Song: Come, Ye Children of the Lord

Clay Christiansen, tabernacle organist, playing Come, Ye Children of the Lord arranged by Carolyn Hamlin on the Mormon Tabernacle Organ.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday Song: Handel's Arrival of the Queen of Sheba

This is a fun novelty. Kiyo and Chiemi Watanabe perform "Arrival of the Queen of Sheba" by George Frideric Handel on Ruffatti Pipe Organ at Immanuel Baptist Church, Little Rock, Arkansas, February 18, 2007.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Hymn 119: A Call to Worship

In a recent article I shared some new insights of mine regarding a "Call to Worship."

Here is my arrangement, free to you.

119 Call To Worship

For verse 2 instead of using my version with the pedal point, I instead chose to use the first verse of Douglas Lemmon's arrangement in his book Preludes SAC.

How Did It Go?

I began prelude 20 minutes early, but the chapel was already getting "chatty" as the choir had finished 10 minutes earlier. I began with Larry Beebee's "Father, I Will Reverent Be," but it didn't help much. I wasn't too worried, as a louder congregation would really put my new technique to the test.

Halfway through the chimes introduction of my "Call to Worship" piece, the chapel and cultural hall quieted almost completely. I played through the hymn and second verse before my time was up, and the chapel was completely silent for that entire prelude piece. The music and reverence really invited the Spirit. Then the Stake Presidency member stood to begin the meeting, and commented on how wonderful it was to have time to reflect before the meeting. The meeting began on a spiritual note--it began with reverence.

After writing the previous article, I was unsure of how it this technique would be received, but I felt completely at peace, so I went ahead and tried it. Now that I've used it, I have no hesitation in recommending it--sporadically, of course, or it will lose its effectiveness. It really set the right mood for this meeting and I'm very glad I went ahead with it.

If you decide to use this "Call to Worship," let me know how it goes!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday Song: Fountain Reverie

Organist Justin Hartz plays "Fountain Reverie" by Percy Fletcher on the 10,010-pipe Aeolian organ located in the Grand Ballroom at Longwood Gardens

Friday, September 17, 2010

Real Life: Ollie's Organ Registration

I'm introducing a new feature today! Periodically I will answer questions from my readers in a series I'm calling, "Real Life." Feel free to ask your questions for this new feature via the comments section or by emailing ldsorganistblog at gmail dot com.

Today's question is from Ollie, who has asked me if I can help her figure out some good registration options for her organ. Like the organists before her, she uses the same preset for every hymn and prelude, and her congregation has been resistant to change. She's currently playing the Rodgers Trilliam (variant C000633). Here is her stop list:

Rodger Trillium Stop List

She has been using this registration on the Swell for prelude and postlude:
8' Geigen Principal
4' Prestant
2' Piccolo
IV Plein Jeu
Bass Coupler with 16' principal and 8' octave on the Pedal

For congregational hymn accompaniment, she has been using this registration on the Great:
8' Diapason
4' Octave
2' Super Octave
IV Fourniture
Bass Coupler with 16' principal and 8' octave on the Pedal

Both have a very similar sound. Ollie tried using the 8' Chimney Flute one week for prelude and the congregation didn't know what to do!

She's asked for registration help, which I'm more than happy to offer. I have not heard her organ, so I don't know how these suggestions will sound in person. In theory they should work well, and will at the very least provide a good starting point for her.

Prelude Chorus Registration Options

For a chorus-style prelude, such as playing hymns from the hymnbook, try these combinations. Stops in parentheses are optional and should be applied if needed and/or desired:

On the Swell:

Sw: 8' Viole
    (4' flute)
Ped: 16' Bourdon Doux
    (8' Gedeckt)

Sw: 8' Bourdon
    4' Flute
Ped: 16' Bourdon Doux
    (8' Gedeckt)

Sw: 8' Geigen Principal
Ped: 16' Subbass

Sw: 8' Viole
    8' Bourdon
    (4' Flute)
Ped: 16' Bourdon Doux
    8' Gedeckt

Sw: 8' Bourdon
    4' Flute
    2' Piccolo
Ped: 16' Bourdon Doux
    8' Gedeckt

On the Great

Gt: 8' Gemshorn
    (4' Spitzflote)
Ped: 16' Bourdon Doux or Subbass

Gt: 8' Chimney Flute
Ped: 16' Bourdon Doux

Gt: 8' Harmonic Flute
    (4' Spitzflote)
Ped: 16' Bourdon Doux

Gt: 8' Flute Celeste II
Ped: 16' Bourdon Doux

Gt: 8' Chimney Flute
Sw: 4' Flute
Sw-Gt Coupler
Ped: 16' Bourdon Doux
(Gt-Ped Coupler)

There are so many more options, but this is a start.

Congregational Hymn Accompaniment Registration Options

Softer Registrations
(appropriate for more meditative or sacrament hymns)

Gt: 8' Diapason
    4' Octave
Ped: 16' Principal
    8' Octave
Gt-Ped Coupler

Gt: 8' Diapason
Sw: 8' Bourdon
    4' Flute
Sw-Gt Coupler
Ped: 16' Principal
    (16' Subbass)
    8' Gedeckt
Sw-Ped Coupler
Gt-Ped Coupler

Gt: 8' Diapason
Sw: 8' Bourdon
    4' Flute
    2' Piccolo
Sw-Gt Coupler
Ped: 16' Principal
    (16' Subbass)
    8' Octave
    (8' Gedeckt)

Gt: 8' Diapason
    8' Gemshorn
    4' Octave (and/or 4' Spitzflote)
Ped: 16' Principal
    8' Octave
Gt-Ped Coupler

Gt: 8' Diapason
Sw: 8' Viole
    (8' Bourdon)
    4' Flute
Ped: 16' Principal
    (16' Subbass)
    8' Octave
Sw-Ped Coupler
Gt-Ped Coupler

Again, there are many more options, but this is a good start.

Jubilant Registrations
(Good for more rousing or joyful hymns)

Gt: 8' Diapason
    4' Octave
    2' Super Octave
    (IV Fourniture)
Ped: 16' Principal
    8' Octave

Gt: 8' Diapason
    4' Octave
    2' Super Octave
    IV Fourniture
    8' Trumpet
Ped: 16' Principal
    8' Octave
    (4' Choral Bass)

Gt: 8' Diapason
    4' Octave
    2' Super Octave
Sw: 8' Bourdon
    4' Flute
    2' Piccolo
Ped: 16' Principal
    16' Subbass
    8' Octave
    8' Gedeckt

Gt: 8' Diapason
    8' Gemshorn
    8' Octave
Sw: 8' Bourdon
    4' Prestant
    4' Flute
    2' Piccolo
Ped: 16' Principal
    16' Subbass
    8' Octave
    8' Gedect

Again, there are many more but this is a start.

Transitioning the Congregation

Ollie expressed a desire to ease her congregation into these new sounds, instead of just jumping in with these huge changes.


I would immediately start by playing prelude with this registration:
Sw: 8' Bourdon
    4' Flute
    2' Piccolo
    IV Plein Jeu
Ped: 16' Bourdon Doux (or Subbass)
    8' Gedeckt

It has a similar sound to her current choice, but is composed entirely of flutes, instead of also using principals. I would also start removing the Plein Jeu IV for the first verse of each prelude hymn, or the second verse, increasing the pieces that are played without it until the congregation is used to hearing the organ without this high mixture.

Then use this registration for some prelude pieces:
Sw: 8' Geigen Principal
    4' Prestant
    2' Piccolo
Ped: 16' Subbass
     (8' Octave)

This registration should also sound very familiar to the congregation.

Once the congregations is used to these sounds, try something like:
Sw: 8' Geigen Principal
    4' Prestant
Ped: 16' Subbass

Intersperse a registration without a 2' stop with the registrations the congregation has become familiar with, perhaps using this on the first verse and then adding the 2' piccolo in the next verse.

Once the congregation is used to hearing the organ prelude without stops sounding 2+ octaves higher, Ollie can begin using the registration suggestions I shared above. I recommend changing the registration for every hymn, even between verses, following the direction of the text. I believe these changes help promote reverence and allow the congregation to focus on the text of each prelude hymn.


Ollie has been using a full chorus registration for every hymn. My recommendation is to start the transition by only changing the sacrament hymn. To begin, I'd immediately remove the Fourniture IV from the registration for the sacrament hymn:

Gt: 8' Diapason
    4' Octave
    2' Super Octave
Ped: 16' Principal
    8' Octave

Next try adding the 8' Trumpet to the final verse of a jubilant hymn a couple of times:

Gt: 8' Diapason
    4' Octave
    2' Super Octave
    IV Fourniture
    8' Trumpet
Ped: 16' Principal
    8' Octave

After a few weeks, I'd then remove the Fourniture IV from the more meditative hymns. This can be done by using a full registration such as this while transitioning:

Gt: 8' Diapason
    8' Gemshorn
    4' Octave
    2' Super Octave
Sw: 8' Geigen Principal
    8' Bourdon
    4' Prestant
    4' Flute
    2' Piccolo
Ped: 16' Principal
    16' Subbass
    8' Octave
    (8' Gedeckt)
    (4' Choral Bass)

At this time I would also remove the 2' Super Octave from the sacrament hymn, so that the registration would be:

Gt: 8' Diapason
    4' Octave
Ped: 16' Principal
    8' Octave
Gt-Ped Coupler

After a few weeks, any of the softer accompaniment registrations could be used for the sacrament hymn. Once that happens, it should be no problem to start transitioning the congregation on the jubilant and meditative hymns.

In Conclusion

It is important to continually use a wide variety of registrations so that the congregation doesn't get stuck in another rut. Good luck, Ollie! Keep us posted on your progress.

Attaching .pdf documents

I would like to attach .pdf documents to a lot of my new posts, but the only method I have found is to use scribd.com, which has a lot of advertising and can be confusing to navigate. Do any of my readers know of any alternatives?

Thanks! I'm excited to post my arrangement, but really don't want to have to use scribd this time if another option is available.

Regardless, I will share it next week, so stay tuned!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday Song: Marche Characteristique from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite

Frederick Hohman plays his transcription of Marche Characteristique from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite on the Murray-Harris pipe organ in Stanford University's Memorial Church.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Will be back soon!

I've taken a break right now. My kids just started school, then Labor Day weekend hit. I have stake conference this coming weekend, then I hope to resume posting regularly.

I have a fun prelude "Call to Worship" piece to share with you soon.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sunday Song: Carrillon De Westiminster

Carrillon De Westiminster played by Brian Mathias on the University of Utah Libby Gardner Concert Hall pipe organ.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Call to Worship

Organ Chimes
Image Source

I recently read a presentation by Dr. Robert Cundick from the BYU Organ Workshop in 2006, where he shared his struggles with a very small pipe organ in his ward building and a lack of reverence from his congregation prior to the service. His solution involving the use of chimes was very novel and ingenious, and I will share it here shortly.

Two Different Scenarios

In a past ward of mine, reverence was a huge issue prior to sacrament meeting. The bishopric would chat and visit before the meeting, and the congregation followed suit. I tried everything I could think of to increase reverence, but nothing seemed to work. I created a trio arrangement of all of the reverent songs from the Children's Songbook, but even playing, "Reverently, Quietly" and "The chapel doors seem to say to me, 'Sh, be still,'" didn't help. I never did find a good solution to my problem in that ward before I moved. Traditional prelude music just didn't help.

In my current ward, reverence isn't really an issue. I am not currently serving as ward organist, but the bishopric is in their seats in advance and the congregation is not loud or overly chatty before the meeting. I can hear the prelude music very well as I sit with my family waiting for the service to begin, and I believe it is very effective. I don't see a need to try anything new at this time.

When it is necessary to try something new

If you are in a ward where nothing seems to be working, and your organ has a nice-sounding chimes stop, it might be worth trying Dr. Cundick's approach:
The solution to the prelude reverence problem came from a completely unexpected source: the rarely used organ chimes!

Remembering the "Y" [BYU] carillon sounding of the first phrase of Come, Come Ye Saints on the hour with its inevitable warm rush of heartfelt religiously centered feelings, I play that same phrase expressively on the fully amplified chimes. The congregation can glance at their Sacrament Meeting programs where, in bold type, is printed: "Come, Come Ye Saints, we now will worship God, quietly, reverently". I then play an appropriate, brief, subdued, prelude, usually hymn based, of five minutes maximum length. I time it to conclude at the printed hour for commencement of the service. The member of the Bishopric who is conducting has just arisen and then greets the congregation.

This permits the congregation to engage in the subdued greetings and demonstration of friendship traditionally heard as they enter the chapel prior to the service. The organ music thus serves as a musical Call to Worship. In the absence of chimes I would use a single 8 ft. Diapason to play the signature hymn phrase---loud enough to be clearly heard above the congregation conversation, but not overbearing.
I've decided to try this approach at our adult session of stake conference, if it feels right at the time. While I will be playing prelude for 20 minutes or more prior to the meeting, before I play my last hymn, I am planning to play a very short introduction to hymn #119 "Come, We That Love the Lord," just the melody on the chimes, then play through the hymn with a flute registration on the Swell, play it again with a soprano/tenor switch with the melody soloed on the Great, and play the third verse with a different registration on the Great, timed to end right on the hour.

Making the decision to try something new

If your congregation is as loud as mine was, it might be wise to begin prelude at the short end of the recommendation in the Church Handbook of Instruction and begin only five minutes prior to the meeting with a call to worship, followed by appropriate prelude music until the meeting is to begin.

Remember, the purpose of your calling is not to call attention to yourself. Rather, you are to help invite the Spirit and enhance worship for your congregation. If you choose to use this approach periodically or even every week, make sure you take the time to evaluate how it went, and make any necessary changes for future weeks.

Good luck!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday Song: Widor's Marche Pontificale

Ely Cathedral organist Arthur Wills playing Widor's Marche Pontificale in 1978.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Making Time for Practice


One of the challenges for new organists is finding time to practice on an organ. Most church organists do not own an organ, and need to travel to the church in order to practice, which can usually only happen once to a few times a week.

Practicing Without an Organ

Before I purchased my home organ, I did a lot of practicing on my piano and on my inexpensive electronic keyboard (which has full-sized keys). I was able to practice all of my manual technique on these keyboards. The sound was not the same, however I was still able to work on my attacks and releases, fingerings, etc. without having to go to the church and practice on the organ.

I would also sit at the piano, chair, or couch and visualize the pedalboard on my floor, then work out the pedaling and practice playing the pedals on my carpet. Mental practice can be very effective, especially when combined with the physical motions.

I would then play the piano while moving my feet as if I were at the organ. So much can be accomplished at home.

When to Practice


My favorite time to practice at the church is in the evenings when other activities are going on. I'm not alone in the building, but the chapel is almost always empty. I'm able to spend a couple of hours working on registration and technique, learning hymns, and finalizing everything for the service, without having to worry about unlocking the building or wondering who might show up when I'm there alone.

I've also been known to stay after church on Sundays and practice the organ (when it doesn't conflict with ward choir or another ward's meetings), or show up an hour or two before sacrament meeting begins to practice.

How Often to Practice

Ideally, I would spend two or more hours every day practicing the organ, so that I can work on hymns (including preludes, postludes, free harmonizations, etc.), "classical" pieces, and technique. Realistically, however, I strive for five hours a week at the minimum. You'll quickly learn how much time you'll need to practice in order to play with confidence and at the proper tempo for your worship service. Don't forget: do not underestimate the effectiveness of mental practicing!

Figure Out What Works for You

Ultimately, you will need to figure out what works the best for you. If you're up early, practicing in the morning makes a lot of sense. If your children are at school all day, practicing during the day works well. If you have young children or work full-time, practicing after they are in bed or after dinner might be the best decision for you.

Coming up with a practice schedule will help you make playing the organ a priority in your life. Such a schedule does not have to be rigid, but can serve as a guideline as you plan your week.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Lesson 24: Creative Introductions for "Now Let Us Rejoice"

Click here for Lesson 23: Helpful Resources

A simple but effective way to increase hymn singing in your congregation is to utilize an introduction that will encourage good congregational singing. In a past article I discussed the importance of confidence and preparation, with two listening examples. I highly recommend taking the time to review that article before continuing on with this lesson, as preparation is essential before implementing the techniques taught today.

Begin Simply

The introduction can be a nerve-wracking experience for some organists. After the hymn is announced, everyone waits to begin singing while the organist begins to play an introduction. One way to counter-act these nerves is to begin simply. Here are three different ways to begin simply in playing an introduction for hymn #3 Now Let Us Rejoice.

1: Begin with the soprano line for a phrase; add the alto line for a phrase; add the tenor line for a phrase; add the bass line for a phrase.

2: Play the first phrase in unison, the second phrase in parts (either wholly on manuals or with pedal), the third phrase in unison, and the final phrase in parts with pedal.

3: Begin with a solo melody and move away stepwise to add in the remaining voices:
Now Let Us Rejoice Intro

In this example I kept all four parts in the manuals until the last phrase. The eighth notes can be changed to dotted eighth/sixteenth note rhythms instead, if desired. Click on the above example to view it larger. For demonstration purposes, I played the first part of this introduction under tempo, but in a worship service it should be played at tempo:

Moving Away From the Hymnal

 If you choose, it is also possible to use an introduction written by someone else. Many volumes of organ introductions and free accompaniments/harmonizations are available for purchase. When choosing this route, it is important to note which key the introduction is in! Playing the introduction in the key of Eb when the hymn is in the key of D would end in disaster. Remember--using this approach is more difficult that using the simple approaches outlined above. Good preparation is essential. Two examples of other introductions for this hymn are:

1: The Choirbook. A choir arrangement of Now Let Us Rejoice is available in The Choirbook. A suitable introduction can be pulled from this arrangement. However, please note the key signature: Either the introduction or the hymn will need to be transposed. At the Church music website, in the hymn player, this hymn can be transposed to any key necessary, then printed. Just make sure it is within the comfortable singing range of your congregation.

2: David L. Bytheway has a free (no-cost) free accompaniment available for this hymn. An introduction can also be pulled from his arrangement.    


Choose one of the five methods outlined above and prepare a creative (but not too creative) hymn introduction for hymn #3, Now Let Us Rejoice. Remember to keep in mind the text and melody. Simplicity is often more effective than complexity, but take care that the introduction is not too short (or overly long). Continue with music theory, practicing organ technique, and playing through pieces you've learned in the past, reviewing past lessons on this blog as necessary.    

In Conclusion

When done properly, using creative introductions can encourage members of the congregation to sing. Hearing something different can spark an interest in them to sit up and sing out. When done improperly, creative introductions call attention to themselves. If the organist is not well-prepared, members of the congregation will feel unsure about singing, afraid the organist will not support their voices. When the introduction is overly elaborate or ornamented, members of the congregation will focus on the organist and the introduction instead of preparing to sing the hymn. Using care when choosing an introduction, then listening to and following the Spirit is key. Help your congregation become excited about singing the hymns!

Continue on to Lesson 25: Leave the piano hands at the piano.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday Song: Elgar's Imperial March

Brink Bush performs the Imperial March by Edward Elgar in concert at Washington National Cathedral.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hymn Singing Should Not Be Boring

congregation singing

There are many times during sacrament meeting when a hymn I know begins, and instead of pulling out my hymnbook, I sing from memory, holding a baby with one hand while I stop two of my other children from fighting with the other. I sing without thinking--I've sung the hymn so many times, it's become easy for my brain to focus on other things while my lips form the words.

A New Experience Every Time

congregation singing

How many organists, in choosing the registration for any given Sunday, pick the same preset every single week? Prelude is always #1. The opening hymn is always preset #6, the sacrament hymn is always #3, and the closing hymn cycles between #3 and #6? How effective is this approach?

What is the weekly hymn singing experience for this congregation? What is the weekly hymn singing experience for your congregation?

Something I learned recently is that we need to make singing the hymns a new experience for our congregation every single Sunday--a new experience every single time they sing a hymn.

This new experience can be something as simple as varying the registrations each week, and/or changing registrations on certain verses. Instead of using the same registration for every sacrament hymn, one week use just a principal 8' and 4'; another week use a principal 8' with a flute 8' and 4' (maybe even adding a 2' flute for the final verse); another week use a principal 8' and strings or gemshorn, maybe with a flute or two); and so on...

On a familiar hymn, you could try playing all of the voices on one manual the second-to-last verse, then add the pedal back on the final verse (remove the bass coupler for one verse, then add it back for the last if you don't play pedals). Or, you can alter the introduction, which I'll be teaching in the next few lessons, so that members feel excited to sing a hymn that they've sung hundreds of times before.

Another method is to solo the soprano or tenor on one manual while playing the other voices on a slightly softer manual, with the bass in the pedal. On an unfamiliar hymn, soloing the soprano on the first verse helps the congregation better hear and sing the melody. On a hymn with a beautiful tenor line, soloing the tenor up an octave on the second or third verse adds melodic interest without diverting from the written harmonies in the hymn.

Add a pedal point for part of a hymn while playing all four voices on one manual. Some hymns, such as Joy to the World, have a pedal point already written in, which adds a nice depth to the hymn.

At times, change keys up or down a half- or whole-step for the final verse (ensuring that the notes stay within the comfortable singing range of each voice). This may necessitate beginning the hymn in a different key than in the hymnbook, and ensuring the congregation will hear and recognize the new key before beginning to sing.

On occasion, and only on occasion, use a free accompaniment on the final verse of a familiar hymn, announcing ahead of time for all members to sing the final verse in unison.

Seek the Spirit, and humbly strive to make each hymn you play a new singing experience for your congregation.

Don't Go Overboard

organist and music director

Be careful, however, that you don't draw undue attention to yourself, or detract from the hymn itself. Everything you do as organist should be to share the message of the hymns more fully with your congregation. Nothing should be showy or unnecessarily elaborate. If you do your job correctly, most members of the congregation won't even know that you did anything out of the ordinary--they'll just feel more excited to sing, or will feel the Spirit more strongly during the hymns. This is the desired outcome.

If you ever have the slightest doubt about whether or not something is appropriate, or if you're not sure it is the best way to go, DON'T DO IT! That little bit of doubt is the Spirit telling you the answer is, "No!"

Begin Slowly

person singing

Don't immediately rush in and start playing a free accompaniment every week! Make a small change here and there, always evaluating whether or not it was effective, if the congregation responded favorably or not, and what you could have done to better share the Spirit of each hymn.

Take special care with the sacrament hymn. I, personally, don't feel a free accompaniment is ever appropriate for this hymn, and I believe great care should be taken during this hymn to make sure the congregation remains focused on the sacrifice of the Savior and the symbols of the sacrament.

Before choosing to use a free accompaniment, clear it with your Priesthood leaders, and only use one if they are okay with it.

Line Upon Line

pioneers singing

Remember: "Line upon line; here a little, and there a little." Begin slowly, listen to and follow the Spirit, and always strive to enhance the spirit of the hymn as you accompany your congregation. Never draw attention to yourself.

"Sing praises to God, sing praises:
sing praises unto our King, sing praises.
For God is the King of all the earth:
sing ye praises with understanding."
Psalms 47:6-7.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Lesson 23: Helpful Resources

Click here for Lesson 22: More technique (Don't forget the piano!)

As I contemplated the topic for today's lesson, I decided to share a number of available resources with you. As I mentioned before, a good, solid foundation is essential in order to progress further on the organ. Next week I'll share some creative hymn techniques, starting with hymn introductions, but first, here are some excellent resources. It is really important that you have this foundation before continuing, as I explain later in this lesson.

Music Theory

I mentioned in lesson 22 that it's a good idea to brush up on music theory, for as we continue through the lessons it would be nice to have that background. If you don't have access to a music theory book, you can look online for lessons. I haven't looked into these extensively, but here are two that I found with a quick Google search that appear to be well done:

Ricci Theory
Ricci Adams' MusicTheory.net

8notes Theory
Music Theory on 8notes.com

Organ History

Organ History

In lesson 21 I shared a brief history of the organ. An excellent site to learn more about organ history is:


There you can find a section dedicated to the organ and how it works, organ history, and a geographical tour through organ history. If you are interested in learning more than I was able to cover in lesson 21, this is an excellent resource for you.

Organ Tutor 101

Organ Tutor

Dr. Don Cook developed an interactive, multimedia approach to learning the organ. His Organ Tutor is used at BYU to teach students to play the organ. More information can be found here, including sample lessons:


If you feel you need more help with organ technique than I'm able to give on this website, I recommend trying the sample lessons that are available, and if they help, it might be wise to purchase Organ Tutor.

Self-Study Organ Courses

BYU Organ Study

BYU Independent Study offers two free organ performance courses. You can find them here (scroll down to "music"):


These are another great resource and can be taken online.

Why is a foundation important?

I've mentioned the importance of a solid foundation before, but I never explained why.

In order to use some of the creative techniques for the organ, you will need to know the following:
  • What key the hymn is in, and what the tonic and dominant of that key is, in order to add a pedal point.
  • How to add passing, neighbor tones, and/or suspensions to a hymn.
  • How to play a hymn with the soprano, alto,and tenor in the manuals with the bass on pedal, and also how to play a hymn with proper legato technique entirely on the manuals.
  • How to solo out the tenor and/or soprano while playing the remaining notes in one hand with good legato technique.
  • How to play the alto line an octave higher (above the soprano line)
  • How to switch the soprano and tenor lines (so the soprano is played an octave lower and the tenor is played an octave higher)
  • How to play the soprano as a pedal solo while playing the alto, tenor, and bass on the manuals.
  • By looking at the date the composer lived, knowing whether to play the piece in the legato style, or whether to play the piece non-legato (which will be explained in the future)
  • How to transpose a hymn in your head, even to keys with six flats or five sharps.
  • And more...
We are about to get into a lot of really fun techniques. I don't want you to get overwhelmed, or to begin learning these techniques before you are ready, technically.


Begin working on hymn #3, Now Let Us Rejoice. Mark in the fingerings and pedaling. Read through the text and decide where to breathe and where not to breathe. Choose your registration. Learn the hymn as outlined in lesson 9. We will be using this hymn in our lesson next week.

Continue reviewing major scales and arpeggios and working through a piano technique book (on the piano).

Review the past lessons on this blog, keeping track of areas you need to work on.

Continue working through an organ technique book, such as Organ Tutor or the books discussed in lesson 22.

Continue playing through pieces you have previously learned, so that your progress is not lost.

Brush up on music theory using a music theory book you currently own or the websites listed above.

In Conclusion

Moving forward from this point is a lot of fun, but it also requires a commitment to proper organ technique and theory. I'm very excited to continue on this course with you!

Continue on to Lesson 24.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday Song: Jesus Once of Humble Birth

"Jesus Once of Humble Birth" played by Alena Hall at the University of Utah Libby Gardner Concert Hall.

I had the opportunity to take a daily class from Alena at the BYU Organ Workshop earlier this month and really enjoyed getting to know her.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Poetry of Hymns

At the BYU Organ Workshop, Linda Margetts shared the following information in one of the workshop classes. Much of the information was taken from The Anatomy of Hymnody by Austin C. Lovelace, but the examples of LDS Hymns are hers.

Linda Margetts

A hymn can be defined as a poetic statement of a personal religious encounter or insight, universal in its truth, and suitable for corporate expression when sung in stanzas to a hymn tune. Perhaps a few forms of poetry are so widely known and used, and so generally misunderstood and unappreciated. They hymn is one of the most difficult of all poetic forms to master, for its small palette and vast subject matter make demands on technique which give pause to the great poets.

Like the human body, a hymn has a skeleton (which can be called the metrical design) and characteristics determined by the choice of poetic "foot."

Iambic _/ for example, How Great the Wisdom and the Love #195
Trochaic /_ for example, Jesus, Once of Humble Birth #196
Dactylic /_ _ for example, Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd #221
Anapaaestic _ _/ for example, Have I Done Any Good in the world today? #223

It is a complete body, made up of several parts (stanzas), each with its definite function. Its visage or physiognomy is determined by the poetic devices the poet chooses. Underlying all the physical features, however, is the soul of the hymn--man's response to God.

Poetic Devices

Allegory: Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd #221
The Shepherd finding the lost sheep is likened to our Savior's caring of us.

Alliteration: Repetition of the same first letter or sound in a group of words. "Some sheltering shade where sin and striving cease."
"Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation." #72
"He has loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword." #60

Anadiplosis (Ana/di/plo'/sis): Using words or ideas, which end one stanza as the start of the next.

An Angel from on High #13:

"An Angel from on high
The long, long silence broke;
Descending from the sky,
These gracious words he spoke:
Lo! In Cumorah's lonely hill
A scared record lies concealed
Lo! In cumorah's lonely hill
A sacred record lies concealed.

"Sealed by Moroni's hand,
It has for ages lain
To wait the Lord's command,
From dust to speak again."

Anaphora: Repetition of a word at the start of successive lines.

Beautiful Zion Built Above #44:

"Beautiful Zion, built above;
Beautiful city that I love;
Beautiful gates of pearly white;
Beautiful temple-- God is light;"

Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd #221:

"Dear to the heart of the Shepherd,
Dear are the sheep of his fold;
Dear is the love that he gives them,
Dearer than silver or gold.
Dear to the heart of the shepherd,
Dear are his 'other' lost sheep;"

If You Could Hie to Kolob #284:

"There is no end to virtue;
There is no end to might;
There is no end to wisdom;
There is no end to light.
There is no end to union;
There is no end to youth;
There is no end to priesthood;
There is no end to truth.
There is no end to glory;
There is no end to love;
There is no end to being;
There is no death above."

Come Home (from August Ensign)

"Come Home, the Father calls,
Come home, my child, to me.
Come Home."

Antithesis: Sharply contrasted ideas set in balance.

Come, Come Ye Saints #30 contrasts the hardships of life with God's perspective and aid.

"Come, come, ye Saints, no toil nor labor fear;
But with joy wend your way.
Though hard to you this journey may appear,
Grace shall be as your day."

"Why should we mourn or think our lot is hard?
'Tis not so; all is right."

"And should we die before our journey's through,
Happy day!, All is well!"

Epizeuxis: Immediate repetition of a word or phrase in the same line.

Beautiful Zion Built Above #44

"Zion, Zion, lovely Zion; Beautiful Zion; Zion, city of our God!"

Lord Accept Our True Devotion#107

"Never leave us, never leave us. Help us, Lord, to win the race."

Echphonesis: The use of exclamation point for emphasis.

Master the Tempest is Raging #105

"Master, the tempest is raging! The billows are tossing high!"

Epistrophe: Repetition of a word or words at the end of lines or phrases.

God Speed the Right #106

"Now to heav'n our prayer ascending, God speed the right;
In a noble cause contending, God speed the right.
Be our zeal in heav'n recorded, with success on earth rewarded.
God speed the right."

Epimone: A refrain.

Rejoice the Lord is King #66

"Lift up your heart! Lift up your voice! Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!"

Verse and refrain or chorus.

Example: Battle Hymn of the Republic #60. What is this refrain doing? How can we convey that with registration?

Example: Praise to the Man #27. The refrain can be different. How? Louder? Different pedal?

Hypotyposis: A vivid description designed to bring a scene clearly before the eyes.

With All the Power of Heart and Tongue #79

"Amidst a thousand snares I stand,
Upheld and guided by thy hand.
They words my fainting soul revive
And keep my dying faith alive."

...and More

In addition to all of these poetic devices, there are also examples of simile, paradox, personification, rhetorical question, hyperbole, and many more.


Singing praise to God is a matter of no small importance.

"Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all."

Unless the hymns we sing become our personal expressions, and the thoughts expressed become our own thoughts, our worship will be vain before God.

In 1 Corinthians 14:15 Paul holds up the ideal toward which all must strive:

"I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also."

Monday, August 9, 2010

Lesson 22: More technique (Don't forget the piano!)

Click here for Lesson 21: The History of the Organ

I just took some time to review the 21 lessons which are currently on this website. I think they provide a solid basis for organ playing. In the next series of lessons, we'll begin branching out from this foundation.

It is now a good idea to begin working from a technique book. If you are interested in pursuing certification through BYU Independent Study, you might wish to use one of the books listed on their materials page:
  • Cook, OrganTutor Workbook ($17.50) or OrganTutor Organ 101 ($65-67.50).
  • Davis, The Organist’s Manual ($56) or
  • Gleason, Method of Organ Playing ($67) or
  • Keeler/Blackham, Basic Organ Techniques ($16)
It's also a good idea to brush up on music theory if you want to learn creative hymn techniques. The music theory book that is recommended for BYU certifications is:
  • Harder, Paul, and Greg A. Steinke. Basic Materials in Music Theory. ($59) (an old version works perfectly well)
Now that we've covered the basics in organ playing, we can start expanding from here. I reviewed all of the lessons on July 12th, and hope that you've taken the opportunity to go through the series of lessons again.


In order to play the organ well, a good background on the piano really helps. If you don't already, I recommend starting to play and practice all of the major scales and arpeggios with the proper fingerings. Many online resources are available with this information. Here are three I found through a quick Google search:
Additionally, a Hanon, Czerny, or similar piano technique book is also recommended.


This week take some time to review your major scales and arpeggios. Pull out an old piano technique book and review the exercises found there. While not necessary, a good piano background does enhance organ playing.

Review the past lessons on this blog and do some self-evaluation. Keep track of areas you need to work on, and continue perfecting your organ technique.

Purchase an organ technique book and begin working through it.

Continue playing through pieces you have previously learned, so that your progress is not lost.

In Conclusion

While the organ is a completely different instrument than the piano, some of the techniques do remain the same. The fingerings of scales and arpeggios, and the skills learned through piano scales, arpeggios, broken chords, and chords technical studies will greatly benefit your organ playing.

Continue on to Lesson 23.