How to Sight-Read A Hymn On the Organ With Many Text Lines Inserted Between the Two Staves?

Many organists with little experience in hymn playing or sight-reading struggle while playing an unfamiliar hymn with many text lines inserted between the two staves. With so much text between the music, the staves become so widely separated which makes it very difficult to play such a hymn at sight fluently and without mistakes. In this article, I will give you my personal recommendations which will help you to overcome the problems in sight-reading hymns on the organ.

First of all, let me point out that it is really a rather difficult task for people who have not much experience in hymn playing. Playing a hymn with 2-3 lines of text between the staves is usually fine but when the space between the notes increases it really becomes similar to open score reading. The only difference from playing from an open score and a hymn written in this way is that in open score notation you have at least 4 staves with 4 parts and in hymn playing you have 2 staves.

By the way, perhaps practicing this way hymn playing is even more similar to reading open score because even in open score reading you are supposed to master solo parts, two parts at a time and various combinations of three parts before progressing to the complete four-part texture.

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There are a few things which help me to play hymns written in this complicated way. This techniques may be useful to you as well:

1) My ability to harmonize the soprano line. You see, when I look at the hymn melody, in my mind I see the right chords which go well with the soprano part. In other words, I see the various chords (Tonic, Subdominant, Dominant, their inversions, seventh chords of various kinds etc.) which fit well with the melody. The skill at harmonization the melody allows me to naturally guess what notes will be written in the lower stave. Obviously there are usually many options available in harmonizing each particular measure but in many places, the most straightforward solution is the most common.

Getting a high score on the TOEFL iBT integrated writing task is challenging, but, before taking the exam, you can complete some reading and writing exercises which will help you to use academic English more proficiently.

First of all, engage in a regular routine of reading for about 45 to 60 minutes daily. You will be more likely to follow a regular routine of reading if you choose books in which you have an interest, so choose fascinating magazines, newspapers, and longer books. As you read, get in the habit writing down the main and supporting points of these reading passages. Your note-taking will be skimpy at first, but, as you practice, you will notes will become more and more complete.

Second of all, spend about 45 to 60 minutes of listening practice each day. Like your reading practice, find listening programs matching your personal interest. If you have access to television programs, focus on news, documentary, history, and science programs, all of which will contain challenging academic vocabulary to help you get used to college-level English. If you use the Internet, try practicing at National Public Radio and at Ted Talks Web Sites, each containing college-level listening to help you improve. As you listen, get into the habit of getting down in note form the main and supporting points. In addition, test-takers mainly score low on integrated writing because they have omitted at least one key point from the listening passage, so you should always double check your listening comprehension for accuracy to make sure you are not missing important points.

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