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Before I even ask this question, let me set up a little background. I am the new pastor of a little Baptist church in the North West. When I say "little", there were 6 active members when we arrived. We have a piano, and a piano player, but we are not using them at this time, simply because I have to lead singing and I have a deep voice with very limited range. The hymns are written too high, and the piano player can not transpose. So we sing out of the hymnal with no music. And it's pretty bad. I can't sing.

Within 6 weeks, we've grown surprisingly. There were almost 30 here last Sunday. Today promises to be good too, if everyone shows up. The issue is, 75% of those coming have little or no background in church, and certainly not in old hymns. The words and phrases in these old hymns are a foreign language to them, and the musical arrangements are often complex, although very beautiful, in the extreme. A 17 year old raised on Justin Bieber is lost.

I will not have CCM in church. So settle down, some of you, and put your self-righteous sword away. That is not my question. I will not use canned music (cassette tapes / CD's) either. I believe that singing and worship needs to be organic and from the heart to be real. So is there an alternative? Are there music choices that are Biblical, conservative and lovely while still being fairly simple and accessible to those not musically inclined?

And the first pharisee that gets on here and tries to accuse me somehow of compromise is gonna really stir me up.

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I don't know why anyone would accuse you of compromise!  This is a very real issue. We face it somewhat ourselves, although we do use our pianist (she is in her 80s and has requested that we begin praying for another piano player...there are many evenings she is not able to be here). 

Our son is the song leader, and he also is not fond of the high notes (it seems like most of the songs we sing get pretty high!). I am a natural alto, but due to the lack of many to carry a tune, I have to sing the melody...and the songs get high for me, too! LOL  I'm thinking we need to specify with our prayer for a new pianist that she (or he) be able to transpose!

A friend of our son's visited and, while she said she liked us, she told him that our church is not her cup of tea...and the music was a good part of that. She attends (when she isn't working) a much more, shall we say, musically energetic church.

Anyway,  we have some friends who spent several years in Wales as missionaries. None of them could play, nor could they sing very well (according to them). They had an electric piano that had hymns recorded in it. Their son was their "pianist" and would hit the proper hymn when it was time to sing it. Good quality music, not CCM or anything. Some might think that is close to canned music, but I don't. It was a great help to them.

A church we know of in CA uses a psalter form which to sing. Rather than hymns, it is the Psalms. There isn't any music written, so I'm not sure how they get the tune - and that might be more complicated than needed.

Would you consider using Youtube instrumental videos as canned? If you chose your songs, and then found the hymn on Youtube, you could download it, and then play it while folks sing. It might be too close to canned, though, I don't know.

If you come up with a solution, please share it. I'm sure it will be a blessing to others!

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  • Independent Fundamental Baptist

A word of encouragement.

At our last church we started, in Taiwan, in the Chinese language, with just me and my wife, and no piano player, with me as the song leader.

We sang traditional Baptist hymns every Sunday. Most of the folks who came, one by one, did not know any of the songs and a lot of them learned new words every service. A lot of the Bible words, and expressions, were new to them as well as the tune they were sung in. So, every month or so we sang some of the same songs until the folks started to learn them and the meanings. After awhile, a long while, Rebecca came and helped with the piano playing and the songs got more better. After a while one of the young adults felt led to take piano lessons. The church paid for the piano lessons and then another young person (very young), also took lessons. Eventually, the young people took over the piano playing and, at the same time, the folks took over the whole service. 

All in all, the church, Victory Baptist Church, has three young people who play on a rotating schedule (that they set up themselves and not me).

In the photo below the song leader is one of our converts and the piano player is also one of our converts.

 

1279296958_LiangPianoSophia.thumb.jpg.5fae52eea16de07a2e56030481f6bea3.jpg

Here is my word of encouragement and my suggestion.

Keep on singing the same hymns out of the traditional song book. Yes, most do not know the words nor the meaning of the words. Yes, you do not have a piano player. So, you just sing the best you can and if you have grace to bear the members mistakes they will bear your mistakes. By the way, my mistakes in the song services, and my preaching, were the mistakes I made was not only in my lack of singing ability but also in the language. So, I had to endure smiles of folks holding down a laugh at my language mistakes besides my lack of singing ability. Eventually, God, will move your converts, or folks moving from one church to your church, to play the piano.

God bless.

Edited by Alan
grammar
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  • Independent Fundamental Baptist

I'd like to add a suggestion. At the church I attended during Bible college, occasionally the song leader would bring out an interesting fact about the hymn we were about to sing, whether about the song itself or the author of the song. It really helps with the understanding or appreciation of the hymn. It would take some effort on your part to do some research about one of the hymns, but if you do this than the folks who know nothing about the hymns will grow in their understanding and appreciation of why we sing the traditional hymns. It's not something you need to do for every song and not needed every service, but just once in awhile bring something interesting out about what you are singing. Nothing more than a minute or two of talking, especially if you just had the people stand for the song!

I would also like to encourage you not to worry about whether or not you have a singing talent. Just keep up what you are doing and some day God will lead someone to help lead the singing. With the way the church is growing, it's possible God has already put this on someone's heart, they just might not be ready yet. 

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I appreciate all of the advice and encouragement. We had 28 present again yesterday. I chose "O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing" because of its very short verses and modest range. And with 6 verses, there was opportunity for them to kind of learn it by the time we were done. It went much better...no one's ears were bleeding by the time we finished. 🙂

It all actually is a blessing in a way. We sing the one song, I rattle through 1/2 dozen announcements and then go straight into the preaching.

As you might imagine from reading my posts on here over the years, my preaching is not what one might call  fluffy and light. It's not harsh or mean, and I'm definitely not a screaming wind-sucker, but it is very direct and to the point, so a 30 minute message is usually enough. We then dismiss and go downstairs for a church family Sunday dinner every week. So the timing is working out well.

The weekly meal after church? It's our version of "breaking bread" together, and Im finding that the benefits of this to the people individually, and to the cohesion of the church as a whole, are so much more than I ever imagined. Have you ever noticed how many important things in scripture Christ did with the disciples were done over a meal?

Edited by weary warrior
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  • Independent Fundamental Baptist

Are you open to a woman leading the congregational singing. We were in a similar church and the pastors wife led music until someone could be trained 

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  • Independent Fundamental Baptist
1 hour ago, Pastorj said:

Are you open to a woman leading the congregational singing. We were in a similar church and the pastors wife led music until someone could be trained 

I'm not sure how comfortable I would be with that, although I would not confront someone else over it. I'm sure it's just a culture thing. 🙂

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Meal after service each Sun morning - quite normal for Hispanic churches even in the States.

Our home church lacks a pianist (some learning but a long way from ready). We have recorded piano hymns on computer - maybe a larger church has a pianist who can do that. Most hymnals have the songs written about a step to a step and a half (also called either a tone or a tone and a semi-tone) too high for most people's comfort (as a high tenor - male alto I'm fine with them). If you find a capable and willing pianist just ask them to transpose down 1 to 1 1/2 steps. I also wouldn't have a female song leader but if you have a lady with a prominent and distinctive voice singing load enough for people to natural attune to during the singing, it will accomplish the same thing without having her chose or "direct" the singing (I don't know if that made sense).

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I do know some churches that has had people record piano recordings for them that they use. I don't know if that is something that you would consider.

Thankfully, God gave me 4 girls, a wife, and a mother to play the piano. I lead the congregational myself and I feel for ya. I can't do it without a piano player. lol

Praise the Lord for the church growth.

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My pastor, bless his heart, cannot carry a note in a bucket. He is a true monotone. But he doesn't let that keep him from leading. The congregation does well with it, mainly because they know the songs. We do have a young man and wife who have recently started leading songs. She plays piano, and is very good at it. He player guitar and leads. Unfortunately he and she cannot be there every Sunday because of his work schedule, he is a police officer. When they are not there we sing a-capella.

We do have one other young lady that plays guitar,  and she is there for most services. She doesn't lead, but plays and picks the songs.

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  • Independent Fundamental Baptist
On 1/13/2020 at 10:20 PM, weary warrior said:

I'm not sure how comfortable I would be with that, although I would not confront someone else over it. I'm sure it's just a culture thing. 🙂

I understand. It's not something that I would have done early on,  but I don't see a scriptural reason not to so I would do it now 

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  • Independent Fundamental Baptist
On 1/12/2020 at 10:44 AM, weary warrior said:

Before I even ask this question, let me set up a little background. I am the new pastor of a little Baptist church in the North West. When I say "little", there were 6 active members when we arrived. We have a piano, and a piano player, but we are not using them at this time, simply because I have to lead singing and I have a deep voice with very limited range. The hymns are written too high, and the piano player can not transpose. So we sing out of the hymnal with no music. And it's pretty bad. I can't sing.

Within 6 weeks, we've grown surprisingly. There were almost 30 here last Sunday. Today promises to be good too, if everyone shows up. The issue is, 75% of those coming have little or no background in church, and certainly not in old hymns. The words and phrases in these old hymns are a foreign language to them, and the musical arrangements are often complex, although very beautiful, in the extreme. A 17 year old raised on Justin Bieber is lost.

I will not have CCM in church. So settle down, some of you, and put your self-righteous sword away. That is not my question. I will not use canned music (cassette tapes / CD's) either. I believe that singing and worship needs to be organic and from the heart to be real. So is there an alternative? Are there music choices that are Biblical, conservative and lovely while still being fairly simple and accessible to those not musically inclined?

And the first pharisee that gets on here and tries to accuse me somehow of compromise is gonna really stir me up.

Weary Warrior,

         Is your music situation improving, or are you still facing the same problems? If you are interested I think I can help. Sit down with your pianist, and go through the your singing range, have her hit a note and you sing it. Tell her I need to know your highest note and lowest note in relation to middle C. When you get that, send me a list of twenty songs, and I will transpose them into a key that you can sing in.

Edited by Musician4God1611
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I have to say that I'm not in favor of transposing music - in the long run, it prevents congregations from learning to sing in good, four-part harmony. This is because if you're trying to transpose a piece down so the melody is at the comfort level of a natural alto or bass, it becomes too low to actually sing alto or bass!  There are also very, very few church musicians who can play harmony well while transposing - either you get sight readers (like me) who can't transpose on demand, or you get ear players who can transpose but don't actually get the correct harmonies (again, making it hard to learn four-part singing).  Hymns have a much more complicated chord structure than guitar scores account for. 

If you have a low voice, can you sing the melody an octave lower?

The simplest option, if you want to transpose, is to invest in an electric piano (not keyboard) with a transposition option.  We just picked one up for our youth camp; it's missing an octave, but it's okay for occasional use (the camp we use has a very old, very out of key acoustic piano!).  This one was only $450 CAD (second hand). I strongly dislike electric pianos, but they have their uses.

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  • Independent Fundamental Baptist

Normally I would agree with you, Salyan, but in this case I don’t think his church is ready to approach harmony. I think the best option would be to get the Hymns transposed into a workable key until such time as he can get someone he feels comfortable turning the song leading over to.

Believe me, I believe in doing things in the key they are written in. In our church orchestra, one of the rules I set down was no transposing: if they want to play in orchestra, they have to play in all 12 keys. But in this case, I think you would be better in the long run having your song leader comfortable enough with what he is singing to encourage others to want to sing.

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My experience shadows yours-I am baritone, so setting music for all to sing is hard. As well, none of our folks can carry a tune in a bucket. 

Before I became a pastor, and was working toward that end, I decided to learn an instrument so I could use it for music. I chose the ukulele, (in case you didn't guess that from my name). It is simple, easy to learn, and very portable. 

Also my wife downloads hymns in piano online and has a program to adjust the key and tempo, as well as add or remove numbers of verses, so it is very versatile.

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  • Independent Fundamental Baptist

I appreciate all of the sugestions. I am still leading the singing, as there is no one else. We're still singing sans music in whatever key I can handle, but its doing better. Our numbers are increasing, which helps. But more importantly, singing without a piano to cover up the vocals has actualy helped, as I keep encouraging them to sing stronger and livelier. They can hear the weaknesses, and are working to improve it themselves. I am pretty pleased with how things are progressing.

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