Pitch Pipe Starting Note

Discussion in 'A capella Exclusive Psalmody' started by hammondjones, Aug 13, 2019.

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  1. hammondjones

    hammondjones Puritan Board Sophomore

    We are going to go to a church friends' house on Friday for fellowship and some psalm singing. Although they have a piano which they suggested I play, I kind of want to not dothat, since I find it hard to sing and play at the same time. So, supposing a bring a pitch pipe and offer to start us off, what note do I use?

    For example, let's say we sing CRIMOND in F, they first two notes of which are C and A. Which of those do I use? My guess is that conventionally the time the first note is used, but my personal inclination would be to play F.
  2. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    The first note in the tune will be most helpful to nearly all amateur singers, and will be what they expect.

    However, as written, many songs are also set a bit higher than is comfortable for amateur singers, especially the men. Sometimes it's helpful to take it down a step or two.
  3. Logan

    Logan Puritan Board Junior

    I'm not entirely certain I understand your question.

    Are you saying it is in the key of F major? And the first two notes in sequence on the soprano line are C4 and A4?

    If so, play the C on the pitch pipe. That's your starting note. Tapping middle C on the piano works too. :)
  4. hammondjones

    hammondjones Puritan Board Sophomore

    Yes, that's what I'm trying to say. Thanks.

    Thanks, I'll think about doing that, but not if I end up playing the piano, I'm not quite that good. Typically I sing the bass part, although I have a pitiful range.
  5. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    I usually lead our singing.

    If the melody starts on a third or a fifth, sometimes I'll tell folks I'm going to play the tonic note first and then I will play the starting note. It really helps keep the singing from going off into a different key if the first intervals are missed. I only do that on a relatively unfamiliar tune.

    More often, though, I'll just keep in mind the tonic for my own grounding and then pipe the opening note. And then sing real loud if it starts to go astray.
  6. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Senior

    Most contemporary hymnals (take the Trinity Hymnal (Revised) and the Trinity Psalter Hymnal as examples) have revived the lower settings of the hymns. The Trinity Hymnal (1960), for example, reflected the half-step higher setting to which organists in the late nineteenth typically modulated the last stanzas. The original keys have been restored in the more recent hymnals.

    The highest note typically in either of these contemporary hymnals is Eb5 or, rarely, E5. This is the upper range, to be sure, of the amateur voice and not all can hit it, and many cannot without strain. However, it should not be a problem if such notes are relatively few and far between, and they tend to be in both of these hymnals, which have few hymns with a high tessitura (an abundance of high-ranged notes, especially close together).

    The problem, Jack, with your well-meant counsel, and I really do take it to be that, is that songs are carefully crafted and the entire tone and affect will be impacted by lowering a whole step, certainly two.

    First of all, it would punish any music readers seeking to sing parts (surely there are some present) by making them take their parts down accordingly, something some could not easily do and if they could it would land altos and basses unduly in the basement. Secondly, then, it would be letting musical illiteracy set the plate. Why should that be? Why should what's easiest for the least trained singer among us set the standard for how we sing?

    And lastly, what is lost in bringing down the soprano and tenor is worse than what happens to the basses. When you lower songs that are already comparatively low, i.e., singable by untrained voices (and that is true of the hymnals described), they lose their brightness, which not only can render them dirge-like but which dulls praise, diminishes gloriousness of sound, etc.

    I appreciate what you're saying here, Jack, but, as right as such lowering might feel, the better songbooks have done that appropriately and we really should not monkey with what good musicians have given us for beautiful melodies and harmonies.

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  7. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    Well, I was imagining four or five untrained people sitting around a dinner table, none of them able to sing parts. Certainly, I trust that hymnal publishers take much care in selecting the best key for singing by a larger group that includes some trained singers. And perhaps I ought to give casual singers more credit, or let them be challenged. Your word is a good caution.

    On a side note, I'm glad to hear about the new upper limits in the revised Trinity Hymnal. The ones my family uses must be older (the copyright date is 1990) because they routinely reach E5 and sometimes F5, which I and my son can't hit. So I typically try to start us out a step lower than is written. It seems to work for us, as we are a melody-only group. I don't think I'm dulling our praise.
  8. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Senior

    Ah, family singing may be a bit different in that regard, I grant. That isn't what I was perceiving from the OP. Sorry.

    The 1990 edition is the Trinity Hymnal Revised, which does have, as I noted, an occasional E5 (I wouldn't say routinely, though Eb5 would be) and I can't think of any F5 for lead off the top of my head. In any case, one doesn't necessarily wish to judge the whole thing by the high note and thus take it down (this does impact the affect of the whole tune), unless it has a high tessitura that presents a challenge to singers.

    The unison songs have tended to present range problems, since forcing basses and altos to sing higher than accustomed, and we were quite intentional in the new TPH on cutting down on those as much as possible and offering parts more widely than the Trinity Hymnal (Revised).

  9. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    I still think it's a bit more frequent than that. I just opened at random (to number 521) and checked out the next 20 songs, and four of them include either an Fflat5 or an F5. So that's 20 percent that reach above E5.

    But I recognize that I may be a weak singer compared to some people, and that there must be good reasons for setting hymns in the key that's chosen (perhaps a certain tune just requires a lot of range). I accept your cautions as a wise word. And overall, we really like the hymnal. It is an excellent publication!
  10. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    Well, I have been corrected. Upon closer examination, I wrote carelessly and caused confusion. So sorry. I've been looking at E's on the treble scale and calling them F's. My third-grade music teacher would be appalled, and I'm fairly embarrassed. I am also, apparently, an even worse singer than I thought, unable to hit even an E.

    In any event... for the record, I don't find any F5 in the Revised Trinity Hymnal. And my family still likes the book, despite our desire for a slightly lower range.
  11. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Junior

    If I were in that situation, I would play on the piano the chords F-C-F to establish the tonality (I-V-I for us music theory buffs), and then play the notes C-A to give that first major sixth leap (or just tell the people to sing the first two pitches of the "NBC" tune ;) ).

    Whether you give a starting pitch on the pipe or the piano, it is important with the more difficult tunes to demonstrate the first two pitches, or even the first phrase.
  12. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    In my congergation, the precentor usually hums the first bar and then goes back and hums the first note of the tune. That way, the congregation can get a feel for the tune and its early jumps and be ready to sing the first note again.

    Off topic, but if the melody was placed in the tenor or alto like it was once upon a time, it might be easier to sing at the exact key given.
  13. De Jager

    De Jager Puritan Board Freshman

    A pitch pipe? that's an instrument, which is verboten.

  14. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    I don't think many of us actually play the pitch pipe while singing.

    I have used a harmonic sometimes. A blues version as a matter of fact.... But still not during singing. ;)
  15. Kinghezy

    Kinghezy Puritan Board Freshman

    At that point, you might as well just use a jaw harp. ;)
  16. hammondjones

    hammondjones Puritan Board Sophomore

    I thought the very same thing!

    Anyway, it went well, and I think that with some more familiarity with the tunes we could drop the piano. But either way a good time of fellowship was had by all.

    We were singing from the Psalms for Singing. We use the new Psalter-Hymnal at church, and I find it to have very reasonable arrangements.
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