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.

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Real Life: Playing Dotted Notes

Schmath asked a question the other day that I wanted to share and answer here:

"When you play a hymn like We Are All Enlisted, with tons of dotted 16ths, do you actually play them as dotted 16ths? It sounds weird to play them correctly because most everyone plays them more like triplets with the first two notes tied."

That is a very good question! My guess is that the majority of ward organists play dotted eighth to sixteenth notes with a triplet feel, and the majority of congregations sing them the same way.

However, I strongly believe that hymns should be played as written. When a hymn contains a dotted eighth to a sixteenth note, I believe the hymn should be played that way.


As Carol Dean says, "[The hymns] have more rhythmic energy that way, and that is what the hymn tune composer intended." I agree with her.

When I practice from the hymnal, I set my metronome to either the sixteenth note or the eighth note, generally at half-tempo, and make sure my rhythm is absolutely precise. I then slowly increase the metronome until I can play the hymn correctly at the proper tempo.

At first it might seem odd to play the hymns with precise rhythm when you and your congregation are used to hearing them with a more relaxed rhythm. However, in most congregations there are at least a few people who are trained musicians, who try to sing the hymns as written, and they will certainly appreciate your efforts. Conversely, in every congregation there are also people who are not musically trained, and they probably won't consciously notice either way. Surprisingly, from my experience, these non-musicians will sing with more enthusiasm if the rhythm is crisp and precise.

Thank you for your question. I hope my answer has helped you and any others who have the same question. Remember, "Be filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
-- Ephesians 5:18–20


  1. Good! Cuz that's what I did! And someone came up afterwards and said he appreciated my crisp rhythm. It was really hard though. I had to subdivide in my head the entire time, otherwise I'd slip. And I had to play quarter notes in the pedals because it was pipe organ, so the bass sounds slightly behind the rest.

  2. I agree with all that's been said on the subject for energetic hymns, but I lean more toward playing the dotted eighth/sixteenths as triplets in slower hymns such as "Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me." Try it; it's nice! And it creates a more comfortable flow. ----Mike Carson