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What Should You Play For Piano Introductions to Hymns?
Church pianists usually wonder if they are playing the hymn introduction properly. The intro is the “doorway” of the song, so it should be useful and beautiful.
Learning to Follow Worship Leaders
The congregation obeys the leader of worship (the Minister of Music), but the introduction to the hymn should be easily understandable so that everyone knows exactly when to start singing.
In the past, many worship leaders wanted a pianist to play the intro and wait for the worship leader to start singing before stopping. Now more worship leaders count the time when the introduction is played and start singing right after the introduction.
If the first bar is a partial bar, the last bar of the song will also be a partial bar. The first partial bar of the song and the final partial bar of the song together make up one bar.
Example of a hymn that starts with a partial bar: The time signature is 4/4, and the first bar is a partial bar in 1 time. In that case the final bar would contain his three beats. Playing the introduction, Worship his leader counts his three beats, plays the last bar, and begins singing on the fourth beat.
If the first bar is full, the last bar will also be full.
An example of a hymn that starts with a full bar: The time is 4/4, the first and last bars are full. Playing the introduction, the worship leader counts his four beats in the final bar and begins singing on the first beat of the song.
Purpose of Introduction to Hymns
Hymn introductions play an important role in congregational singing in church. Since we serve the living God, the pianist should play an introduction that reflects this message.
We express our emotions through music, so the piano introduction should set the mood for singing during worship.
Introductory Brackets in Modern Hymns
Modern hymns have brackets (horn-shaped) placed above the score to suggest appropriate piano or organ introductions.
Some prominent introductions are either entirely at the beginning of the hymn or entirely at the end of the hymn. These piano introductions are the easiest to play.
Some marked introductions include phrases at the beginning and end of the song. Check the bracket carefully before you start playing. This makes it clear what to play and allows you to jump from the first phrase to the last.
You can easily see the entire introduction by scanning the marked hymn introduction. You may want to emphasize the introduction you marked in your personal hymnbook. This is very useful when the marked introduction is in multiple places, or when the final phrase of the introduction is not at the end of the hymn.
If the jump between the intro parts happens in the middle of the phrase, the intro becomes a little less playable. You should practice this intro until you feel comfortable playing it.
If the hymn is unfamiliar to your congregation, we recommend playing the entire hymn so that the congregation is more comfortable singing it. If the hymn is familiar, the final line or phrase may be a good introduction.
Feel free to shorten or lengthen the introductory suggestions in the hymnbook.
Additional Tips for Playing the Hymn Introduction
1. Let’s get excited for each song we introduce!
2. Keep the intro moving until the end of the song
3. Do not observe the hold while playing the intro
4. Do not slow down as this will break the tempo of the song.
5. Keep the introduction moving
6. Do not play an arpeggio of cascading notes to end the introduction.
7. End the intro with the same chord that the song starts with
8. Give a loud and enthusiastic introduction to encourage the congregation to participate in the song
9. An exuberant song plays an enthusiastic introduction, but you may want to play a more subdued mood in a devotional hymn.
Applying these tips for performing hymn introductions should make a difference in congregational singing in church.
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