Friday, August 16, 2013

Learning Aids for LDS "Hymns Made Easy"

Since posting my Graded List of LDS Hymns For Piano Students, a senior missionary sister serving in Jamaica e-mailed me and requested a list of the easiest simplified hymns, from the Hymns Made Easy book, to help the local members learn to play.  This is something that I have wished I had over the years and have been unable to find, so I decided to make one for her.  There is an index in the back of the book that groups the hymns into three groups, easiest to hardest, but in my 20+ years' experience as a music teacher, and in almost every one of the many method books and leveled student pieces I have used, there are certain elements that make a piece easy to play for a beginner, which do not match this indexing.  These are:

--being in the key of C (no sharps or flats in the key signature)
--having no or very few hand position changes, especially in the left hand
--having no accidentals (sharps and flats in the music)
--having simple rhythms such as quarter notes and half notes only
--having no or few large jumps from one key to another

So here are the ten pieces that I think are the easiest ones in the Hymns Made Easy book and my suggestions for making them easy to learn.  If they are helpful to the saints in Jamaica, maybe they will helpful to others, too.  At the very least, they'll be helpful to my students.

"We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet"
Key of C
No accidentals
Dotted rhythms, but they are not very tricky.
L.H. stays in the same position except twice finger 5 needs to reach down one note for a chord on "days" and "hand."
R.H. only moves a few times:  On Line 2, circle the 1 on "sending" where the thumb crosses under finger 2; On Line 3, circle the 2 on "We" and the 1 on "Bestowed."  The last line is the same as other lines in the piece.

"God's Daily Care"
Key of C
No accidentals
Only one set of eighth notes
L.H. changes position three times:  Circle the finger number 1 on "begun," Line 2 circle the finger number 2 on "I" and the finger number 1 on "That."
R.H. uses a stretched position for most of the first line, with finger 1 on E and finger 2 on G.  Note that it contracts at "has just begun."  It's back to the stretched position on the second line, and then changes altogether on "That" where you should circle the 4/1 fingering notation.

"Now Let Us Rejoice"
Key of C
Two sharps on line 4.  Highlight them.
Dotted rhythms, but if the student is familiar with the hymn, she can probably play them.
L.H. never changes position.  (Hooray!)
It's a longer hymn, but there are only about three and a half lines to actually learn since it repeats itself so much:
"Now let us rejoice in the day of salvation" and "Good tidings are sounding to us and each nation" and "And earth will appear as the Garden of Eden" are all exactly alike.
"No longer as strangers on earth need we roam" and "And none will molest them from morn until ev'n" are exactly the same.
"And shortly the hour of redemption will come" and "And Jesus will say to all Israel, 'Come home'" are exactly the same.
"When all that was promised" and "the Saints will be given" are almost the same.
The R.H. uses a stretched out position at first:  Line 1 circle the 2 on "us."
The R.H. changes position several times:  Line 1 circle the 2 on "the" and the 1 on "of"; Line 2 circle the 4 on "strangers."  The rest of the line is the same as line 1.  Line 4, circle the 3 on "when."  The rest of the piece is the same as parts that have already been learned.

"Lord, I Would Follow Thee"
Key of C
One accidental, an F# on the second line.  Circle it or highlight it.
Point out the parallel motion (both hands moving the same direction) on "learn to love thee" (both times) and on "follow thee" at the very end of the piece.
L.h. position change at the beginning of second line (circle the 2/3 fingering mark), again at the beginning of the third line (the 1/3 fingering), and one more time on the third measure of the last line (1/3).
Cross out the A-flat on the second-to-last measure in the l.h.  It is completely unnecessary.  Just hold the chord and skip that A-flat.
Circle the following finger numbers or notes where the r.h. changes position:  Line 1 "learn" and 4 on "the," Line 2 the 1 on the last syllable of "another," and the last syllable of "beyond," Line 3 the 5 on "Savior", the 4 on "to, and the 3 on "I".

"Count Your Blessings"
Key of C
No accidentals
The eighth notes make it trickier, but if the student can play eighth notes, it's easy in many other ways.
Unlike most hymns this one has a lot of repetition.  Point out to the student that the first six measures of the first line are exactly the same as the second line.
Point out the parallel motion between the hands on the last two measures of every line.
Practice the first five notes in the l.h. which are in a stretched-out hand position.
In the 3rd and 4th lines, the l.h. does not move from C position at all.
The r.h. has to stretch one note for the B played with finger 5 on "discouraged" and "surprise".  Circle that note.
Circle the following finger numbers where the r.h. moves:  Line 2, the 2 that crosses over on "Lord has done;" Line 3 the 3, 5, 3 on "count...blessings", Line 4 the 5 on "Count" and the 3 on "God."

"Jesus, Once of Humble Birth"
Key of C
No accidentals
The l.h. stays mainly in a C position, but if you circle the A and F chord on the word "humble" and again on "grief", that will signal to the student the only place where she has to reach up just one key to get to that A.
The only tricky rhythms are the tied chords in the l.h., but it seriously wouldn't matter at all if the pianist accidentally played them twice instead of holding them.
The r.h. doesn't change position a lot.  Just circle these finger numbers to note changes: the 2 that crosses over the thumb on the second line on "comes," the 1 on "grief," and 3, 2, and 1 that have to stretch on "on earth to."

"Hark, All Ye Nations"
Key of C
The dotted eighth note rhythm is the trickiest thing about this piece, but most students would be able to play it if they hear it played for them.
The r.h. moves a lot, but the first, second and fourth lines are exactly the same for the first three measures of each, so once they learn line one, they've learned most of the piece.  Circle the 4 on "hear", the 1 on "voice, and the 1 on "all" (these are all on line 1)
Then the third line has a sequence:  the second two measures are exactly the same as the first two measures but are played one note lower.
Point out Line 3 uses a stretched-out r.h. hand position.  Circle the places that finger 4 is notated.
The best thing about this piece is the l.h. moves so very little.  There is no change from C position in the first, second and fourth lines.  In the third line, circle the middle C at the beginning of the line, the 1 on "shines" and the 2 on "gospel".  Those are the only deviations.

"I Know That My Redeemer Lives"
This is in the key of F which makes it slightly more difficult, but if you take a highlighter pen and highlight all of the B's in the piece, that will help the student remember to play the black note.
The l.h. plays only a few different chords.
The rhythms are a little tricky with the dotted notes and the eighth notes, but if the student is familiar with the tune, he'll be able to get them right by ear.
There are a few position changes in the r.h.  Circle the finger numbers:  2nd line the 2, 3, 4 on "lives, who once" and 4 on "everlasting."  Third line, the 2 on "He."  Fourth line, the 5 on "He", the 3 on "hungry" and the 3 on "feed."

"O God, the Eternal Father"
Key of C
There are two accidentals in the piece, both on the third line.
The l.h. moves a few times.  Circle the finger numbers when there is a move:  Line 2 the 2 on "bless," line 3 (no finger number marked, but it would be a 5) on "bread", line 4 the 1 on "all" and the final chord.

"I Am a Child of God"
Key of C
Some tricky dotted rhythms and eighth notes, but because most people are very familiar with the tune, they probably won't be thrown off by these.
The L.H. doesn't move a lot.  Circle the 2 on the second measure, and the 1s on the last line.
There are two sharps on the second line.  Highlight them.
R.H. moves a little.  Line 1 circle the finger 2 on "And" and the 4 on "has"; line 2 circle the B, Line 3 circle the 5 on the "help", and Line 4 circle the 5 and 4 on "I must" and the 4 on "live."

You can download all the hymns from On, choose "Resources" at the top of the page. Then choose "Library at the upper left. Then all the hymnbooks appear. I have linked them directly below.

Here is a link for the regular hymns.

​If you are a beginning piano student, you may want to start with the Keyboard Course, which has even easier hymns than the "Hymns Made Easy."

Happy Hymn-Playing!


Malia said...

You are so generous... I don't play but just wanted to tell you how wonderful and kind I think you are. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and insights!

Anonymous said...

Fyi, i think you can use the midi player on the website to switch jyms into whatever key you like. That might help expand your list by a lot.

Kerri said...

Great tips! Thank you for taking time on this.

Amber said...

In the back of my book it actually lists easiest to hardest. Doesn't everyone's?

Nancy Wyatt Jensen said...

There is a list in the back of the book, Amber, but I have set up my list to be more focused on key areas. "Away in a Manger" is listed first in the "Easiest to Play" group, but it is in the key of F with one flat. Most present-day method books stick strictly with the keys of C major and A minor in the first year of teaching and introduce sharps and flats later. The second hymn listed, "Come Unto Jesus," is in the key of B-flat, which is even more difficult for students and most do not see that key until the second or third books. I feel my ordering aligns better with most modern teaching methods.

alli taggart said...

Thank you for this, I have just found it and it will be so helpful!

Heidi's Piano Notes said...

Thank you for posting this! I love how your teaching order matches the skills in the piano method books. I also like using Hymns Made Easy as a lead sheet for primary chord practice. You can read more details here.
My Let's Play Music grad piano students can play primary chords a lot more easily than the "simple" left-hand patterns that move around a bit more. And for intermediate students, the chord symbols are a great tool to help them arrange their own version of hymns.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing your talents and expertise! Your lists have been so valuable to me as I have started my piano journey later in life! Do you have a list like this for the songs in the Children’s Songbook?

Nancy Wyatt Jensen said...

I am so glad this has been beneficial to you all! I am sorry, I haven’t done the children’s songs.