Monday, November 3, 2008

The Church Pianist: Easy Vocal Duets from the Church Hymnal

I will preface this article by stating: The church

hymnal is basically arranged for four-part harmony.

If a couple wants to sing a duet from the hymnal...

you may have to alter the alto or tenor in order

to have the proper (close) harmony.

Harmony for a duet means (alto or tenor).
Close harmony is generally made up of 3rds or
6ths above or below the melody. (depending on
melody range of the hymn).

If it's a male & female duet: (vocal range is an important factor!)

For a female with a low voice: (she will sing harmony in the
alto range). A baritone or tenor male will sing melody.

If a female has a high voice: (she will sing melody).
The male bartitone or tenor will sing harmony.

Some of the songs in the hymnal are well-suited for duets.
Keep in mind, the vocal range of the singers determines
what key is most comfortable for them.

The following hymnals list "duet" hymns in their topical index:

"Soul Stirring Songs & Hymns" (Sword of the Lord Publishers)
"Living Hymns" (Al Smith Ministries).

The next two hymnals do not supply a list of possible duets but I
will list a few from each:

Great Hymns of the Faith: (Brentwood Benson Pub.)

Away in a Manger
Silent Night
Tell Me the Story of Jesus
The Old Rugged Cross
Blessed Redeemer
Jesus Paid it All
Nor Silver or Gold
Lead Me, Savior
Stepping in the Light

Majesty Hymns: (Majesy Music, Inc.)

Brethren We Have Met to Worship (Key of A flat)
(nice for men on melody and women on alto)

Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us (E flat)
(beautiful for two part ladies group or duet!)

Under His Wings (D flat)
(great for a tenor on melody and lady on alto
as written).

No One Ever Cared For Me Like Jesus (D flat)
(nice for two part ladies group or duet
with one minor change: look at last measure...)

Altos sing:

F on "much He"
G flat on "cared"
melody on "for me"

Sapranos sing harmony on last two words:

G flat on "cared"
F on "me"

Oops! Getting involved there on the last list of songs.
It helps to have some easy arrangements in mind;
especially for the smaller church with a limited
supply of music.

Special note: Remember that each hymnal differs in
four-part arrangements.

This means that the same duet in one hymnal may
not be geared for a duet in another hymnal.

Just remember...close harmony is the key!

I hope this list will be helpful to the church pianist in
need of some special music resoures for duets.

Time is precious to us all! Make use of these easy
vocal duets already at your fingertips!


Centsible Savings said...

Hi Mrs. Cook,
This is MaryEllen Bream; I am one of the pianists at Maranatha where your sons go, and I've been to your church several times with various groups from Ambassador.
I just found your blog today on the Music Matters Blog. This is such a great idea as I meet so many people who desire to learn how to play for their church, but don't know how and don't have anyone to teach them. I'll be sure to pass your blog along to others.

Jenifer Cook said...

Hi MaryEllen!
Thanks for passing the blog to others that may benefit.

Hope you and your family are doing well.

Anonymous said...

Jennifer, We use the Great Hymns of the Faith songbook at church. I saw you listed some possible duets from that book. Can those songs be sung as a duet just as they are written in the songbook or do they require a special arrangement, like if I tried to learn a part and my wife sang the melody??
Thanks, Michael Rains.

Jenifer Cook said...


Sorry for late response. This is my older blog and only pay occasional visits.

Yes, the list I gave for the duet hymns from the Great Hymns of Faith can be sung as is. You would be singing the alto an octave lower :)