Singing Hymns in Parts With Guitars?

May 3rd, 2018

hymn-book-with-guitarI get nervous when I hear someone say something like “I don’t care for that instrument” or “I don’t like that genre.” There is merit in every genre and beauty in every instrument. To discount such a broad category of culture without a good deal of explanation indicates an insufficient understanding of the subject. These situations prevent great opportunities. For example, singing hymns in parts with contemporary accompaniment. It is a powerful idea that I wish I had more time to develop, but an individual who both plays guitar and sings using traditional harmonies is a rare find. These people have little time or opportunity to merge the two skills.

Singing Hymns in Parts with Contemporary Accompaniment is 100% Feasible

We have an easy place to begin for putting this vision into practice.  A modern contemporary arrangement of Be Thou My Vision that I’ve heard has a drone chord peddling throughout the first half of the verses (scale degrees 1, 2, and 5). If we sang in parts to this version over that pedal tone, it would be very lovely. This technique is not unprecedented in the least. Much classical literature uses pedal tones. They are a powerful way to create more pull toward resolution when used underneath a progression. Since these drone chords are common in both contemporary and traditional music, we have a very simple common denominator. We could use this idea to get people interested and begin developing the concept.

But They Changed the Harmonies!

It is important to consider technical objections when singing in parts with contemporary versions of hymns. For example, take this version of Be Thou My Vision. A common technique in contemporary versions is to substitute the relative minor chord in place of the tonic somewhere in the middle of a verse. When we are singing traditional harmonies with this change, we end up with a minor 7 chord, which is fine for either genre. However, the bass is likely playing the root of that minor chord. Traditional ears will likely consider this incorrect, and justifiably so since it destabilizes the harmony during a strong moment. The bass should be playing the 3rd of that chord, which is also the tonic. A properly balanced minor 7 chord would actually please everyone. This is just one example of how we can merge the two genres. There are solutions to every harmonic conflict; we simply must educate each other about the two genres.

The melody can be accompanied by multiple harmonizations and there is no “correct” solution. Any chord progression is likely to work with contemporary arrangements if the arrangement is orchestrated with the original harmonization in mind. Since the types of musicians that play contemporary styles well are masterful improvisers, they can adapt their playing to appropriately interact with their audience/congregation. All we need is an openness to hearing and understanding extended tertian harmony (i.e. that 7 chord we just talked about). I suspect that this opportunity rarely manifests since others who know only the old version are likely not singing.

Let Yourself Be Changed; Keep Singing Hymns in Parts

This beautiful merging of traditional worship with contemporary worship is completely workable. But we need a cultural shift toward singing hymns in parts from the congregation to make it happen. So next time you hear guitar and drums accompanying your favorite hymn, educate others with your singing.

The accompaniment can change you if you allow it the chance. If we soften ourselves, stay ourselves, and insert ourselves, artistic musical expression during worship will deepen in ways you can’t imagined.

 


Harmony App – Kickstarter – How to Sing in Parts

October 24th, 2014

harmony-appThe How to Sing Harmony app is currently in development, but we need a hand with getting it launched ad-free. We are doing this Kickstarter so that you can help us make it happen! The $25 song sponsorship (with a link or dedications at the end of playback) will be first come first serve, so don’t wait to jump on that! Other rewards are also available in both directions of pledge amount.

There is a long tradition of singing hymns in four part harmony; it is quickly dying away. Our purpose with this harmony app is to make it fun and easy for people to come and learn how to sing these songs in parts again. It’s actually not a hard skill to develop and with a little effort the tradition can be revitalized before it dies away.

But we don’t want to limit this harmony app to religion. National anthems, old folk songs, and other music should be included in this project too (i.e. Jingle Bells, O Canada, etc). And we plan to do this through sponsorships.

Here are some of the features we plan to put into the harmony app:

-An app that can isolate each part (soprano, alto, tenor, and bass) so that people can easily learn a part individually.
-Traditional music notation for those who read music. Those who don’t can quickly learn.
-Each part will be mutable. The user can implement a variety of methods to master the music.
-Adjust the tempo at any time while practicing–even in the middle of a song.
-Pause, rewind, and retry a segment you just can’t get.
-Efficient programming that uses the same sounds for each song.
This will take up as little space on your phone as possible. –Option of vocal synths and/or piano sounds.
-Clean distraction-free design.
-75 songs already lined up before sponsorships.
-15 free songs (Including Amazing Grace, It Is Well with My Soul, and other popular tunes).
Unlocking all songs will be a small, one-time in app purchase.
-Available for Android and iPhone.

With this harmony app, when people get together to sing songs, whether it be Easter, Christmas, or an event where you sing a national anthem, they will all know their part and sing beautifully.

This is a link to the home page for the project. On the right sidebar is a list of the songs that have already been put onto the website. Try learning a song or two and you will see how effortlessly you yourself can learn a part using the embedded videos (even if you’re not a musician). Imagine how useful a tool like this will be as an app!

We want this to be ad free. The software we are using requires a $299 fee in order to release apps without the ads. If funded, we’ll be able to release this harmony app without ads, include the most popular songs for free, and include any other public domain songs through the $25 sponsorships.

Pledges start at just $1. Thanks so much for supporting this Kickstarter!


App Features – How to Sing Harmony – Kickstarter

October 22nd, 2014

app-featuresA new app is officially in production! It will help both musicians and non-musicians learn How to Sing Harmony. Here is a list of some of the app features we are including:

App Features:

-An app that can isolate each part (soprano, alto, tenor, and bass) so that people can easily learn a part individually.
Traditional music notation for those who read music. Those who don’t can quickly learn.
-Each part will be mutable. The user can implement a variety of methods to master the music.
-Adjust the tempo at any time while practicing–even in the middle of a song.
-Pause, rewind, and retry a segment you just can’t get.
-Efficient programming that uses the same sounds for each song. This will take up as little space on your phone as possible.
–Option of vocal synths and/or piano sounds.
-Clean distraction-free design.
-75 songs already lined up before sponsorships.
-15 free songs (Including Amazing Grace, It Is Well with My Soul, and other popular tunes). Unlocking all songs will be a small, one-time in app purchase.
-Available for Android and iPhone.

When people get together to sing songs, whether it be Easter, Christmas, or an event where you sing a national anthem, they will all know their part and sing beautifully.

Apps cost money to make and distribute. In this case, it’s software related, and we could use your help to make sure this app features an ad-free design. Starting on Friday, we are going to be running a Kickstarter for 30 days. If all goes well, this will be ready in plenty of time for caroling season!


Inverted Major Seven Chord Is Actually Minor

August 28th, 2014

Some chords are just like that. You change the bass, and the whole chord is completely different. An easy example is when the bass changes to the root of the relative minor (the 6th scale degree) underneath the tonic triad. Chances are that you’ve heard this tonic prolongation technique before. Maybe even used it!

(Take note that I’ve added the 7th scales degree in the example. This simply make the chords M7 and m9. Also, in the image I’ve added a C on the top of the chord when going to the m9. This is to replace the C that has been left vacant in the bass.)

The inverted major seven chord is actually a minor add 6 chord.

inverted-major-seven-chordAll you change is the bass, but all of a sudden you have a minor seven chord. While this is neat and useful, the relationships that occur when the bass plays the third scale degree reveal much more exciting possibilities. The same four notes reorchestrated can literally form a completely new chord. So new, in fact, that an inverted major seven chord should actually be analyzed as a minor chord with an added sixth.

Changing the bass to the third of the chord means that we have not added or subtracted any notes from the tonic major seven. Simply reorganized. This is more exciting because our previous example added a note to get that minor sound. That’s just a boring regular ol’ chord change!  This is different.

Here is a major seven chord:

Here is an “inverted major seven chord” (first inversion) that is actually a minor add 6 chord:

Now listen to the chords interact with one another. Hear how they are the exact same chord, but the bass position entirely changes your perception of it. Also listen for the delicious ambiguity at the end; which is it!?

M7 to m9

This shift in cognition occurs because when the bass moves to the third of the chord, a fifth is formed between the seventh and the bass. This fifth relationship is a simpler proportion than the third relationship formed with the root. This, in turn, outlines the fifth of the inverted major seven chord and our brains reinturpret the fifth as the third in a new chord. This redefines the chord as a minor chord to our ears. Now the minor triad on the top of the inverted major seven chord is perceived as the most important feature of the sonority. What was formerly the root is now simply a spicy treat added on to the new chord.


Drum Rudiment Game – Progression to Paradiddles

August 24th, 2014

Paradiddlesdrum-rudiment-game are difficult for beginners. When I was little, I asked a guy to show me a few things on the drum set. He showed me paradiddles. I didn’t practice them because they were hard and didn’t sound cool. Those are very good reasons for a kid not to practice something! There are more efficient ways of leaning the monotonous skill. So I made a drum rudiment game that includes paradiddles.

A Drum Rudiment Game Makes it More Fun

Rudiment Rock-It starts the player off with the single stroke roll. Back and forth; right to left. But there’s a rocket, and you want it to get to the top of the screen. Now there’s motivation to keep your taps even! Once the player has begun to develop this basic percussive skill, the drum rudiment game then directs the player towards the double stroke roll. Same story there. The player is motivated to keep their taps even.

Something important to notice when learning these drum rudiments is that the single stroke roll and the double stroke roll form a paradiddle when put next to each other. The single stroke roll and the double stroke roll are the most basic patterns possible when you only have two hands to work with. Think about it. Two strokes and two hands. Either you do the same hand twice or you do one stroke with each hand. Important skills to learn on both sides of your body if you want to be a drummer! Paradiddles take the combination of these skills and cause a musician to think about the patterns on a higher level. This reinforces effective sticking reflexes and makes more difficult patterns easier to achieve.

But achieving this ability doesn’t happen intuitively. It used to be a rigorous and monotonous process of R L and L R and L L and R R and L R L L and R L R R. But now you can just play a drum rudiment game. You’re welcome.

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