Welcome to The LDS Organist 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.

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Lesson 10: More Techniques in Hymns

Click here for Lesson 9: Playing Your First Hymn

I apologize for the lack of pictures and videos this week. We have an unwelcome stomach bug running through our house! I'll try to add them at a future date.

This lesson we will study hymn number 4, "Truth Eternal." This hymn is short, but has a lot of technique packed into its eight measures. Again, we will be using Carol Dean's Hymns from the L.D.S. Hymnal Marked for the Organ (my copy is the 1996 version--yours may be slightly different). If you need a copy, email her at carolorg1111(at)gmail(dot)com for more information. me at ldsorganistblog at gmail dot com for more information.


The pedal part of this hymn is fairly straight forward. When playing, remember to keep your ankles together for intervals through a fourth and your knees together for intervals through an octave.

Prelocate notes. For example in measure 1, play the D, E, F#, F# with the left foot. As soon as the right foot plays the G, prelocate the D with your left foot so that it is ready for beat 3. As soon as the left foot plays that D, prelocate the A with the right foot (it's just one note higher than the G). When the left foot plays D, the right foot's heel can cozy up to the arch and feel the E that is played on beat 2 of measure 4. Continue in this manner throughout the rest of the song. Prelocating is key in playing the pedals.

Feel free to review Lesson 6 if you need a refresher. Work slowly, keep a good legato technique throughout, lifting in rhythm for an eighth rest when the notes repeat. Using a metronome is a very good idea.

Common tones and repeated notes

In measure 2 the soprano D is followed by a D in the alto. Since the melody needs to remain unbroken, that D needs to be tied, then lifted and repeated for beat 3.

In measure 6, the D in the alto is followed by a D in the tenor. A general rule to follow here is that when a note changes from the alto voice to the same note in the tenor voice, break the notes (but when the reverse is true--tenor to alto--tie the notes).

There are a couple of places in the song where tying notes will contribute to a smooth legato. In measure 1, beat 3 is strong and 4 is weak, three of the four notes repeat, so tying the D is an option. (When the hymn is fast one part needs to connect. In slower hymns it's better to have two notes carry through.)

In measure 7 from beat 3 to 4 the exact same notes are being played, so again tying the D makes sense.


Through redistribution of the inner part, much of this hymn can be played with direct fingering. In the right hand, measure 3 is the only measure that is tricky--with finger crossing and a finger substitution. In finger substitution, one finger is replaced by another during the same note so that the first finger is free to play another note. The C# is played with the fourth finger, then the 5th finger is substituted so that fingers 4 and 2 can play the B and F# in measure 4.

The left hand has two finger glissandos in measures 5 and 6 and a finger crossing in measure 8. Remember: the finger or thumb slides from one note to another, from a black key to a white key in rhythm without breaking legato.

Learning the Hymn

Take a minute to read the text and decide where the breaks should and should not be. See Breathing for more information. Mark the hymn accordingly. Now let's use the 15-step method that we discussed last lesson.

1--Begin with just the soprano line. Use proper fingering, crossing, substitution, and breaks for the text.

2--Now play just the alto part, using the left and right hands according the redistribution of the alto part, tying the Ds as mentioned above.

3--The tenor part is next. Practice the glissandos until they are flawless.

4--Learn just the pedals. In measure 3 there's a minor 3rd that might be tricky. Practice prelocating--especially the A in measure 8 several beats before it's time to play it.

5--Play the soprano and bass lines together.

6--Play the soprano and tenor lines together.

7--Play the alto and tenor lines together, remembering to redistribute the alto part where indicated.

8--Play the soprano and alto lines together, again redistributing the alto part as needed.

9--Play the alto and bass lines together, again redistributing as needed.

10--Play the tenor and bass lines together. This is one of the most difficult combinations to play.

11--Play the soprano, alto, and bass lines together, redistributing as needed.

12--Play all the manuals together--the soprano, alto, and tenor lines.

13--Play the soprano, tenor, and bass lines.

14--Play the alto, tenor, and bass lines.

15--Play all four parts together very slowly with a metronome, then gradually increase the tempo until you reach your desired tempo. Do not play faster than you can play perfectly.


Using the 15-step method, learn to play hymn number 4, "Truth Eternal," at tempo. Read through the text and, using the Breathing article, decide how you'd like to follow the text of each verse of this hymn and practice accordingly.

Once the hymn is learned, choose your registrations for congregational accompaniment. Include registration changes between verses. Practice the hymn with these registrations changes. Work to ensure they are smooth, effortless, and in tempo.

If you have someone available who leads music, practice following them as they lead and sing as if you were playing for a congregation.

In Conclusion

Now that you've learned two simple hymns, it's time to discuss prelude and postlude pieces. In the next two lessons we'll discuss these important aspects of Sunday worship. Then we'll delve into playing slightly more complex hymns.

Continue on to Lesson 11: Prelude Registration.


  1. Dear Jennifer, I'm so glad that I've found your blog! Your comments about how difficult it is to learn to play the tenor line (left hand) with the pedals describes my problem exactly. I started using Organ 101 (BYU) in June of this year, and that left hand just does not want to play nicely with the feet! Your blog is the first writing that's mentioned this problem, and that certainly makes me feel better! How long might it take for me to get past this problem? I practice at the organ 4 hours /week plus additional time at my keyboard at home, plus playing on Sundays.

    1. You'll have that tendency for a very long time, but with practice you'll be able to overcome it. Even now, sometimes, when starting a new piece my tendency is to have the left hand and feet move the same direction, but it's not a strong tendency, any more.

      Hopefully by now you're seeing less of a problem?