‘We can’t sing up there’

‘We can’t sing up there’ is a comment made after far too many church services. And it’s true: research shows that for various reasons the human singing voice has dropped over the last century.

I play for a service at a care home for the elderly where they really know their hymns (often by heart) and they complain that they can no longer sing along to Songs of Praise because the hymns are too high.

And after Christmas I met a large number of people who had been forced to drop out of the carols for the same reason.

Carols especially – think of Christians, awake! Hark, the herald-angels sing, Once in royal David’s city and even Silent night – have not just got very high notes but the tunes also hang around up there, which is even worse.

The problem is easily solved: tunes don’t have to be pitched so high and, as a working church musician, I play them in much lower keys and the congregation sings with enthusiasm and comfort.

Some organists can do this themselves as part of their training and the thing to do is to negotiate a comfortable pitch with your own organist.

Others need the music rewritten for them so that they can play lower and this is an area we have been looking at recently, to provide the material they need.

Our book Hymn Tunes in Lower Keys has the tunes for 314 hymns, while Hymns That Aren’t Too High has 400, including a good number of worship songs. These books are suitable for all denominations.

Letters from our customers confirm not only the usefulness of these books but also how much they have improved the singing. One organist wrote: ‘I play for a crematorium and this book is a godsend. Even the men at funerals now join in.’ Another wrote to say that he wished he had had the book from the beginning of his career as a church musician.

So congregations everywhere, keep complaining until your organist brings your hymns down to your level!

Kevin Mayhew

Kevin Mayhew

Taken at Nicholas King’s The Bible Launch

How low can you go? Hymns in lower keys

Chubby Checker Limbo Party

We haven’t been practising the limbo in the KM office this week!…but thinking generally about hymns in lower keys and a resource (Hymn Tunes in Lower Keys) that we published back in 2011 for which we’ve always received postive feedback: I simply had to write to tell you what a phenomenal difference the book has made! The response of church and crematorium congregations has been wonderful. Once they realise they can actually manage ALL the notes of the melody without bursting blood vessels…my word, they have been singing with some oomph!- Without wishing to be blasphemous, this book has become my BIBLE- it never leaves my side during the working day! (Dr David N. Evans)

Hymn tunes in Lower Keys

Do you find that most hymns in today’s hymnals are written in keys too high for the average churchgoer to sing? This (apparently) despite many hymns being in lower keys today than they were in hymnals fifty years ago. Musicians have various theories as to why hymns now seem too high: “Hymns were always too high, but in the past, vocal styles were different. Singers of whatever genre didn’t belt out a song the way American Idol contestants do today. Voices were thinner and more fluid, allowing for a larger range….” Says one Blogger here: http://freelancelibrarian.blogspot.co.uk/2011/08/hymn-keys.html

…I suspect it was and still is a struggle though- for those who are simply more comfortable in the low part of their vocal range, or that have a voice that suits the lower range of notes.

Maybe you are someone who can transpose notes ‘at sight’? Perhaps Kevin Mayhew resources are ideal for you or maybe they are too low or not low enough?! Do you use lower key resources but switch to higher keys once your voice has warmed up? Whatever your experience we’d love to hear from you! Get in touch below or by email, Facebook or Twitter!

50 Hymns in Lower Keys

Both resources are available from all good Music Shops and Christian Bookshops. You can also purchase them direct from the KM website www.kevinmayhew.com/hymn-tunes-in-lower-keys.html (Book) and (CD) www.kevinmayhew.com/top-50-hymns-in-lower-keys-cd.html

Posted by Sarah