PSA: How to Read a Hymnal

A helpful post for churchgoers like me, who have had the experience of opening a hymnal, feeling a bit lost, and looking around surreptitiously to see how everyone else is doing it. Hopefully, next Sunday everyone can join the chorus of worshipers with confidence!

citizens & sons

I attend Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, CA (aka John MacArthur’s church).  Recently, my church unveiled a new hymnal.  I’ve met a great number of people who had never opened a hymnal before coming to Grace.  There was one time I was having a conversation with a worship leader and mentioned that I sometimes followed the bass line of the four part harmony.  When he said he’d never noticed more than two voices in a hymnal, we realized he’d never noticed that there was music written BELOW the words as well as above them.  As a result, I figured I’d put together this guide to help understand hymnals.

A hymnal is a book of hymns.  Unlike a powerpoint slide, it shows you musical notation to help you follow the song.  This is the hymnal’s greatest quality, and one of several reasons using powerpoint instead of a hymnal is like playing…

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