Hymns on the Harp

Although this blog and website is fairly new, there is a relatively good chance that you already know that I enjoy playing hymns on the harp. In this post we will explore why I enjoy playing hymns, how I arrange them, what harp hymn books I would recommend! 

Why Hymns?

While there is much to be said about modern Christian music and a lot of it is wonderful, I believe the beautiful treasure of hymn-writing has largely fallen by the wayside in main-stream Christianity (with the exception, of course, of a few artists such as Keith and Kristyn Getty).

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For a long time, I used to actually dislike the idea of hymns. I thought they were old, repetitive, and boring. I enjoyed many of the more mainstream, modern Christian songs. But it wasn’t until I began looking into the lyrics of some old hymns that I began to realize what I was missing!

Without going into an extensive amount of detail, upon looking up the lyrics to several hymns that have been sung for many years, I began to see the immense theological richness that the lyrics these hymns had to offer. They had been within arms reach of me the whole time – the only barrier being my bias against them.

When I realized the value of hymns, I began to enjoy playing and arranging them on the harp. Then, a little while ago (before Covid-19) I went to a local retirement home with a friend from church to participate in some hymn-sings. I would play the harp and she would play the piano. It was a wonderful time and the folks who participated were very appreciative of the music.

Today, I still play and hope to arrange more hymns for the harp!

How I Arrange Hymns on the Harp

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Long before I whip out my Finale Notepad and start tapping notes onto my computer screen, I do a bit of research.

First, I will listen to a few arrangements of the hymn (not always harp arrangements) and hear how they are played and whether I like how they sound.

Then, I will find the basic melody of the hymn on the harp by plucking several strings that I think are relevant to the piece. 

Finally, I find the lyrics to the hymn and try to evaluate the emotions behind the hymn (gratefulness, sorrow, joy, etc.) and what each stanza of the hymn is about.

Once I have done these three things, I will begin to play the hymn on the harp and experiment with notes and chords. When I finally conclude how I want to play the hymn, I grab my computer and start writing the piece through my music software. 

Harp Hymn Books

If you are looking for hymns that have already been written, there are two wonderful harp hymn books that I have personally used and would recommend. 

Both of these books are relatively simply written, so you do not have to be an advanced harpist to use them. I usually use them for inspiration for my own arrangements or just for fun.

The first book is called “Hymns and Sacred Songs for the Celtic Harp” by Star Edwards (linked below). I like this book because there are alot of hymn arrangements in it (46 according to my math). Also, they are relatively easy to learn. If you are creative and do not want to follow the left hand patterns, there are chord letter markings so you can simply play an A, G, or whatever chord is marked along with your right hand melody.

The other book that I use and adore is called “Hymns and Wedding Music for All Harps” by Sylvia Woods. There are many reasons why I like this book. It is similar to Star Edward’s book (above) in that the chord markings are available for those who like to be creative with the left hand patterns. This book contains the lyrics to most of the music within it, and it has a simple and more advanced version of the hymns side-by-side, so you can be almost any level of harp expertise to play the songs.

Hymns and Sacred Songs for the Celtic Harp:

Hymns and Wedding Music for All Harps:

Thanks for reading this post!

Enjoy your day 🙂

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