Talk:Hymn tune

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Hymn tune article[edit]

One reason for a separate "hymn tune" article is to clarify the distinction between "hymn" (which means the text only) and "hymn tune". As it is, many people who sing hymns have no idea that each traditional hymn tune has its own history, which typically involves several different hymns.

Excellent to have the "hymn tune" article!!! 24.7.251.127 (talk) 16:53, 15 January 2010 (UTC)hymnlover 1-15-2010

Another reason for treating "hymn tune" on its own it that it is a special musical form - special for being of minimal length and minimal complexity. Perhaps the only form even simpler would be the children's play-song, which, unlike the hymn tune, is usually associated with only one text. As musical forms go, some folk tunes are also among the simplest, and it could be mentioned in the hymn tune article that many hymn tunes were originally folk tunes - this is another distinctive (and interesting) feature of hymn tunes which has no counterpart for hymn texts.

Not sure what children's play-song tunes you have in mind, but I think they tend to be associated with multiple texts, too. "Twinkle, twinkle little star" is also "The alphabet song" and "Baa, baa, black sheep", and that's just the three most obvious texts in English; Mozart's variations inspired by a French text, and its use for Dutch and Hungarian Christmas songs, illustrates the tendency for simple tunes to accrete textual applications. --Haruo 08:02, 4 June 2007 (UTC)


Wouldn't it be great to find a source for the "oral tradition" behind hymn tunes? I don't know of any good reference re singing the psalms in early Hebrew synagogues, etc.; does anyone know of a discussion somewhere? But with the book of Psalms being regarded as the "first hymnal", and seeing the musical instructions included (or implied) at the head of some of the psalms, it's obvious they were sung to something.... And by the way, we currently include versified psalms in hymnals as "hymns", but originally they were recognized as "psalms", rather than "hymns", because they were taken directly from the scriptural psalms, and stayed close to the originals as much as possible in the psalters that were published. Calvin said that Biblically sourced texts were the only things that should be sung in the service.... 24.7.251.127 (talk) 17:04, 15 January 2010 (UTC)hymnlover 1-15-2010

Another note regarding the specialness of the hymn tune among all musical forms was stated by Ralph Vaughan Williams in the Preface to The English Hymnal: "A large body of voices singing together makes a distinctly artistic effect, though that of each individual voice might be the opposite."

Another reason hymn tunes deserve their own article is the vastness of literature which treats hymn tunes separately - such as the enormous hymn tune indexes by Temperley and Wasson, not to mention the use of hymn tunes within major orchestral musical works, without singing.

The ideal, I think, is for separate articles, with "hymn tune" cited early in the hymn article and "hymn" cited early in the "hymn tune" article.Clark Kimberling 02:07, 13 February 2007 (UTC)

Agreed. Also, if this article were incorporated into "Hymn" and the contents of each component adequately expanded, the result would be longer than a single article generally ought to be. --Haruo 23:07, 21 March 2007 (UTC)

Another reason for maintaining the separation between the "hymn" page and the "hymn tune" page is that while there were some tunes that were closely linked with particular texts, a significant number of tunes were used with large numbers of texts. -- User:þorsHammer 0917 GMT 12 March, 2007.

This is certainly a very important point, and one not yet well addressed in this article. Indeed, this is also a reason why there should be separate articles on some of the more important hymn tunes. For example, there is an article on "Eternal Father, Strong to Save" and an article on Kipling's "Recessional", yet no article on "MELITA", to which both hymns are commonly (in UK/US and ANZAC contexts respectively) sung. --Haruo 23:07, 21 March 2007 (UTC)

I submit that the assertion that "Names of hymn tunes are spelled in capital letters." overstates the case. It is true that it is a typographical convention in some, or even many, traditions to spell the names of hymn tunes on pages in hymnals with capital letters, that in the indices of tune names in the same volumes, that the initial letters of the tune name are capitalized, but the remaining letters are lower case. And at least two hymnals (Hymns Ancient and Modern, Revised, and The Hymnal, 1982) print tune names in both upper and lower case. I would note, too, that even hymnals which print the hymn tune name in all capitals, also use the same convention on hymn tune pages for the composer of the tune, and just as the indices use standard upper / lower case conventions for tune names, they do for composer names as well. In Alan Gray's A Book of Descants published in 1926 by Cambridge University press, hymn tune names are in upper and lower case, as they are in the Tenor Tune Book, published by The Faith Press in 1917 et seq.

I also question the assertion that "Congregational singing started within the Calvinist movement and later spread to other groups." Within Lutheranism, congregational singing began with Luther's German Mass of 1526, some tunes of which, for example, "All Glory be to God on High" remain in use to this day as congregational song.

--User:þorsHammer 1125 GMT 12 March, 2007.

I have just been listening to an audiobook by Erik Routley, and he says Luther set up having half an hour of hymn singing by the congregation in the church services, after the (Lutheran) Mass. He also said that when Calvin got going, he permitted unison singing of the psalms ONLY, and with no accompaniment. Also that before Calvin got going in Geneva, he had been called to a church in Strassburg which is where he learned of the congregational singing, and where he met Marot, who was versifying psalms (in French), sung to traditional (?) ballads, as more worthy entertainment in the court (royal?). But it was an audiobook and I couldn't write the information down; I'll have to confirm elsewhere and/or listen again. I was surprised to learn of the interaction in Strassburg (not sure of that spelling). Hymnlover (talk) 04:31, 26 February 2010 (UTC)Hymnlover 2-15-10.
Agreed on both points. I have just recast the "capital letters" statement in a way that I think is much closer to descriptive of the facts. The "Calvinist origin" assertion I think needs to be completely replaced, since obviously there was congregational hymn-singing in Christian worship from the earliest days—after all, the New Testament states that Jesus and his disciples sang a hymn at the end of the Last Supper before leaving for the Mount of Olives (Mark 14:26)—and since what early Calvinism is most noted for is its refusal (in contradistinction to Lutherans, Moravians and even Roman Catholics) to admit congregational hymn-singing, instead limiting song in worship to the Biblical hymns and canticles in metrical redaction. --Haruo 23:07, 21 March 2007 (UTC)
We must bear in mind the "flexibility" in what words mean through the centuries.... The meaning of "psalm" and "hymn" have flexed over the years, in relation to congregational singing. The citation about Jesus singing a "hymn" is translated in Strong's Corcordance (Greek lexicon Item 5215) and it indicates reference to a psalm. I've heard the Book of Psalms referred to as the "Old Testament Hymnbook." I've read in some Bible commentary that they think Jesus and the disciples sang a version of Psalm 118, I recall. (If a "hymn" is limited to meaning a New Testament-based text, Jesus could not have sung a "hymn"....) Calvin allowed only the singing of psalm-based texts, and the collection of things the Calvinists sang was called a psalter, but by the definition implied in Jesus' singing a "hymn," Calvinists sang "hymns" even though the texts were specifically metrical psalms, and were called "psalms." NOWADAYS, psalters still exist and are used in some denominations (?). But some hymnals include "psalms" in with the "hymns" (undifferentiated) as "hymns." And some hymnals have a section of (a few) psalm-based texts.... The upshot, I would say, is that congregational singing is the important aspect, no matter whether the texts are based on psalms or non-psalms. Calvin brought singing to Calvinist congregations, even though he put stringent limits on what was okay. And for the English speaking world, after the introduction and use of psalters for congregational singing, Isaac Watts was the one who freed up what congregational song was accepted and permitted, and out of which grew.....etc. etc. 24.7.251.127 (talk) 21:57, 21 June 2010 (UTC)hymnlover 6-21-10


I applaud the article on hymn tunes in Wikipedia! Though in common parlance "hymn" is often used for the music as well as the text, it is helpful to use more precise language in discussing the parameters of congregational song. Making a distinction between the hymn poetry and the hymn tune allows for more complete and precise discussion. There is much important information related specifically to the melodies used in our congregational singing, so the article on hymn tunes is an important one.

   Deborah Carlton Loftis, Executive Director
   The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada
   see:   www.thehymnsociety.org

Please note the credentials of the speaker here. 71.201.121.143 (talk) 18:22, 25 June 2011 (UTC)hymnlover 6-25-11



What?! Ridiculous![edit]

It seems to me that, at least at present, the sentence "It is not standard practice in most traditions to print hymn tunes with texts when publishing a hymnal." is arrant nonsense. Certainly there are tunebooks with no texts, and more frequently collections of hymn texts without tunes, but it seems to me obvious that for at least the past century or perhaps two, it has indeed been standard practice in most traditions to print hymn tunes with texts when publishing hymnals. Unless someone steps forward to defend this sentence I shall try to remember to delete it soon. --Haruo 07:56, 4 June 2007 (UTC)

Not printing hymn tunes with texts was standard practice until Hymns Ancient and Modern and others of that era started the practice at about 1860. That's 140 years. PLEASE remember that a hymn (the text) is authored by a poet, and of completely separate origin from the hymn tune, composed by a musician. That's the whole point of recognizing the two entities separately.

24.7.251.127 (talk) 04:00, 18 June 2010 (UTC)hymnlover 6-17-10

CALM DOWN! Nothing arrant about it; just wrong. Go ahead and make the change.
There may be a UK/US (or other) difference here. Here in the UK, the congregational edition is usually words-only, no tune. (True, some books issue 'melody editions', but for most of the people, most of the time, the book in their pew or seat is words-only.) But I understand that the convention in the US is for the congregational version to include melodies. (Can someone confirm?) Feline Hymnic (talk) 23:45, 9 December 2007 (UTC)
There are almost no American denominational "words only" editions available (which fact Routley bemoaned). I know of only one, and I don't recall that Routley got the one he wanted for "Rejoice in the Lord." Pew editions all have some form of the music. It normally used to be (1930s and on) the full music score. Now that unison singing is the norm, some hymnals use the melody only on the hymnal page of the pew edition.
I sing in a choir (Methodist) and every US hymnbook that I've ever seen prints the text between the two staves of music. On the other hand, there is a recent trend to ignore hymnbooks altogether, printing the text in the bulletin or on a screen, and employing a tune that is already known. I suppose you could say that the wheel has come full circle.CharlesTheBold (talk) 18:54, 24 November 2009 (UTC)
Early hymnals did not have music printed on the page. Since Hymns Ancient and Modern (1861) more and more hymnals did present the tunes for singing along with the hymn (text) to be sung. What you find in the pew racks today may not have the full harmonizations of a tune, but may have the melody itself (the unharmonizaed tune). Actually in this day and age, I would be surprised to find a true "words only" used for the entire congregation's singing, even though I know English hymnals have Words Only editions available.... But the organist/accompanist will undoubtedly have an Accompaniment version of the book being used, which supplies the whole harmonization for accompanying the congregation. The point here is that hymnals did not spring into being back in the 16th century with tunes printed next to the texts to be sung.24.7.251.127 (talk) 14:47, 8 January 2010 (UTC)hymnlover 1-8-10
Continuing: Without an actual tally count, I would say that for most of the 20th century (say 1920 and later), the bulk of American denominational hymnals has had hymns (texts) and tunes printed where both could be seen and sung by congregation members. England has maintained printing the hymn in its true poetic form, with the tune nearby (still their presentation, right?) Generally, in American hymnals the texts are interlined (the stanzas taken apart, the words placed under the notes for singing them). Certainly by the 1930s and 1940s I would say that would be true. The music would be the four part harmonization of the tune -- SATB with the soprano singing the melody. In early times, hymns would be sung (generally) in parts, even congregation members joining in the alto, tenor, bass singing (that's why, as unison singing has become more popular, tunes have needed to be in lower keys). Some hymns would specify "In unison" where the composer called for it. Nowadays unison singing is almost always the performance preference. 24.7.251.127 (talk) 16:50, 8 January 2010 (UTC)hymnlover 1-8-10

All Caps[edit]

I'm sorry if this has been discussed before, but the all caps convention just looks out of place here. I think the convention of use in some hymnals is trumped by the Internet convention that all caps is shouting. This is a pleasant topic, after all. All caps on a computer screen looks quite jarring. Thanks.Rockhopper10r (talk) 22:59, 18 October 2008 (UTC)

I agree: not all-caps. Here in the UK hymn books (e.g. NEH, Common Praise) use an all-caps convention when printed above the tune. But in the index (that is, when alongside other text) they print in normal type. Feline Hymnic (talk) 00:22, 19 October 2008 (UTC)
Their equivalent on this side of the pond (The Hymnal, 1982) uses normal, mixed-case lettering everywhere. As for in a Wikipedia article, it just looks better. Rockhopper10r (talk) 03:40, 19 October 2008 (UTC)
My whole discussion of capitals disappeared! I've got a lot to learn here.... The point is to have a hymnal page perfectly clear as to which title / credit / information applies to which item on the page (hymn or hymn tune).
HOW do I look at a preview and then go back to edit mode?????? Twice I retyped my entry, only to have it disappear.... hymnlover 1-6-2010 —Preceding unsigned comment added by Hymnlover (talkcontribs) 15:13, 6 January 2010 (UTC)
An earlier comment pointed out that Hymns Ancienct and Modern revised uses upper and lower case letters for hymn tune names and composers. I checked it out and yes that's true. But note: now the author's name is all caps. The point is to differentiate between the source of the text and the source of the tune. It seems to me a one or two word hymn tune name does not come across as a shout.... 24.7.251.127 (talk) 23:20, 10 January 2010 (UTC)( talk 1-10-10) —Preceding unsigned comment added by 24.7.251.127 (talk) 23:16, 10 January 2010 (UTC)


Some Wording Changes[edit]

I would like to suggest a revision for the first paragraph, as below. I don't want to post it until iy either gathers a response or stands for some time, without response, on the Talk page:

Continuing: the definition need not include a reference to singing in parallel octaves: that is indicated in "unison singing" and is only due to the voice ranges or men and women. Some other wording seems clearer to me: Please see the following paragraph. Hymnlover (talk) 00:04, 21 February 2010 (UTC)hymnlover, 2-20-10.

A hymn tune is a musical composition to which a hymn (text) is sung. The tune includes a melody and a harmonization (if there is one). Unison singing is normal, with or without accompaniment. The harmonization is used as accompaniment, and also for part singing (by a choir). Four part singing is the most common.


Continuing: "Not musically literate" is a pejorative. Can we change it??? When music was sung from handwritten manuscripts by the monks in monasteries, and used only by them in the church services ordinary people attended, it really was not available to ordinary people for them to read, or to know how to read it. They didn't have a chance to be literate. Isn't the point that the 16th century predated published printed music? So ordinary people learned hymn tunes by rote. Hymnlover (talk) 00:04, 21 February 2010 (UTC)hymnlover 2-20-10


HISTORY of tunes[edit]

I have added to the History section, with footnotes which have involved about 12 rounds of editing due to my ineptness. The data should check out, though. Please consider it all. My ineptness also includes not knowing how to sign in (my expert friend is out of town....).

Continuing: the Wikipedia article on psalters is certainly skimpy! I was looking for confirmation that tunes were printed in the Genevan Psalter, but.... nothing....

Continuing; PLEASE NOTE: The paragraph about the number of hymn tunes published needs a footnote, and undoubtedly a change in wording. Tunes published in England and in America would include many tunes printed in both countries. This paragraph sounds like there are 150,000+ tunes all different and unique.... Please clarify! Hymnlover (talk) 18:21, 20 March 2010 (UTC)( talk) —Preceding unsignedcontribs) 13:59, 19 March 2010 (UTC)


re color of type:[edit]

I added some texts that have been married to DIX, and the type is red. Someday when I understand how to change those, I will, so that they're blue like the others (??) Or someone else can edit the change in.... Hymnlover (talk) 19:58, 27 February 2010 (UTC)hymnlover 2-27-10.

Hymns Are Not Hymn Tunes[edit]

Psalm 100, "All People That on Earth Do Dwell," is sometimes sung to an arrangement of the calypso tune also used for the song "Kingston Town," but it's difficult to imagine any coherent merged discussion of both the poem and the tune; for better and worse, hymnology has become the study of the poems, often with little or no reference to the tunes. Francvs (talk) 11:03, 31 March 2011 (UTC)

Merge: Hymn tune and Hymns and hymn tunes[edit]

Why should Hymns and hymn tunes be merged into Hymn tune? Hyacinth (talk) 08:20, 18 February 2012 (UTC)

Mislabeled example?[edit]

The first musical example in the article is identified in its caption as ADESTE FIDELIS. It isn't that. It is OLD 124TH (the setting of Psalm 124 from the Genevan Psalter) if I am not very much mistaken. 72.76.3.90 (talk) 14:49, 14 November 2013 (UTC)

It's also not a good a good example for A hymn tune, because it is a four-part setting, --Gerda Arendt (talk) 12:23, 9 February 2015 (UTC)