Congregational Hymn Playing: Part 1

Hymns as you see them in the Hymnal are written for voice. Our job in Congregational Hymn Playing is to adapt this voice arrangement to the piano. So, the first lesson in Hymn playing is to move the tenor voice to the right hand. This will mean you will be playing three voices in one hand. What a brain workout! I promise this gets easier over time.

Moving the tenor to the right hand.

The first step in adapting hymns involves adding the tenor note to the right hand. This will add up to three notes in the right hand (RH) and only the Bass (bottom) note in the left hand (LH).

Keep the tenor below the top note (soprano) wherever it fits best. This may mean that you put the tenor in between the soprano and alto. This is ok. Just don’t put the tenor above the soprano.

Example 1.A is a hymn written in four parts.

Example 1.A

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross arr. Lowell Mason


In Example 1.B I have moved the tenor to the right hand.

Example 1.B When I Survey the Wondrous Cross with tenor in Right Hand



  1. Practice moving the tenor to the right hand on the rest of “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” until you feel confident.
  2. Now find several more hymns on which you can try this new Congregational Hymn Playing technique. Take some time, even weeks on this. You know the saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day?” Well, neither is hymn playing learned in an hour. But I am confident that if you can already play hymns that you can do this! Practice little and often. I’d love to hear how you are getting on, so be sure to comment on your progress in the section below!
  3. Once you are confident in this first lesson in hymn playing, move on to lesson 2, where you will learn what to do with the left hand. Did I mention it’s an easy lesson? 🙂

1 thought on “Congregational Hymn Playing: Part 1”

  1. There’s a tricky spot in “As the Deer”: I think it’s on the word “yield”, but the tenor is in between the soprano and alto, and it just feels WEIRD. ;P It’s also hard to get the nice sound effect of the alto and tenor lines.

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