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 8, 2010

Lesson 9: Playing Your First Hymn

Click here for Lesson 8: The Manuals

In the past two lessons, we've tackled the manual and pedal parts of hymn 285, "God Moves in a Mysterious Way," but we haven't put them together yet. There are two methods we can use to do this: the 15-step and the 7-step.

The 15-step method to learning hymns

Hymn Studies for Organists by Belnap

In Hymn Studies for Organists, Parley L. Belnap teaches the 15-step method, also called the "Individual Voice-Part Method."

Step 1: Learn just the soprano line, with proper breaks, ties, and fingering.

Step 2: Learn just the alto part, with proper breaks, ties, and redistribution/fingering.

Step 3: Learn just the tenor part with proper breaks, ties, and fingering.

Step 4: Learn just the bass part with proper breaks, ties, and pedaling.

Step 5: Play the soprano and bass lines together until perfect.

Step 6: Play the soprano and tenor lines together until perfect.

Step 7: Play the alto and tenor lines together until perfect.

Step 8: Play the soprano and alto lines together until perfect.

Step 9: Play the alto and bass lines together until perfect.

Step 10: Play the tenor and bass lines together until perfect (this can be very difficult)

Step 11: Play the soprano, alto, and bass lines together until perfect.

Step 12: Play the manuals, the soprano, alto, and tenor lines, together until perfect.

Step 13: Play the soprano, tenor, and bass lines together until perfect.

Step 14: Play the alto, tenor, and bass lines together until perfect.

Step 15: Play all four parts together until perfect.

This 15-step method seems very long, but it is very effective for a beginning organist. It allows you to focus on each line and the relationship between lines without being distracted by other parts. I highly recommend Dr. Belnap's 15-step method for beginning organists.

The 7-step method to learning hymns

This method is not as involved as the 15-step method, but is very effective for organists who are becoming more familiar with organ technique. At all times make sure the breaks, ties, and fingerings are correct

Step 1: Right hand alone

Step 2: Left hand alone

Step 3: Pedal alone

Step 4: Left hand and pedal (this is probably the hardest step)

Step 5: Right hand and pedal

Step 6: Right hand and left hand

Step 7: Right hand, left hand, and pedal

As you can see, this method does not isolate as many different voice combinations as the 15-step method.

Putting it all together

Using the 15-step method, play through hymn 285, "God Moves in a Mysterious Way." Although you should be able to play the manuals together and the pedals alone, take this time to ensure that your breaks, ties, and fingerings are correct. Play each part with the pedals. Work slowly and with a metronome to ensure that your tempo is steady, albeit very slow. If something sounds off, it's natural to blame the feet, but often the left hand is actually the culprit. For some reason the left hand likes to act up when the pedals are added. You may need to back up and repeat a step or two, and that's okay!

Once you reach step 15, slowly increase the tempo until you can play the hymn flawlessly at the proper tempo.  


This week learn to play hymn 285, "God Moves in a Mysterious Way" up to tempo using the 15-step method and a metronome. Also, review the fingering techniques covered in Lesson 8: The Manuals. If you'd like, practice the Direct Fingering, Finger Crossing, and Finger Substitution examples from the New LDS Organist packet, page 15. Do not practice the thumb glissando exercises--we'll cover this technique at a later time.  

In conclusion

Congratulations on learning to play your first hymn! In the next few lessons we will learn different hymns that utilize the various techniques we covered last week.

 Continue on to Lesson 10: More Techniques in Hymns.


  1. I have tried to email Carol Dean for her marked LDS Hymnal
    the email address I have is carolorg@msn.com it came back undeliverable. Any feedback on the book?

    1. Her email address has changed to:
      carolorg1111 @ gmail . com (remove the spaces).

      Thanks for reading!