Psalm Singing Help

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Grant

Puritan Board Senior
Our family uses the blue Book of Psalms for Worship. I made the decision for us to use this version because I found the 1650 Psalter‘s older language created an even larger barrier for my wife and children to begin a relatively new practice of Psalm singing. I am looking for some practical advise on some of the longer Psalms (ex. Psalm 18 and Psalm 119). Of course I prefer if possible to sing the entire Psalm with a single tune. However, the Blue book will often split them up. Still generally it is easy to use the Psalm tune we learned to sing for the first half of the psalm for the second half even if the book splits it up (ex. 85A & 85B) Or having to learn 2 tunes for a single Psalm is not too bad (ex. 9A & 9B).

However I am seeing that because of the organization of some of the Psalms (17, 18, 119), that this method is not as feasible because of the structure. Now to be clear, I do not mind learning 4-5 tunes to sing Psalm 18, but I was looking for some practical advise from more experienced Psalm singers. Ideally, we would like to sing a Psalm all the way through with a single tune. This of course is a strength of the 1650 Scottish Psaslter, but I am trying to see if there are other options.

P.S. If the 1650 would be my only other option for Psalm 18 and 119, can you provide good tune recommendations for singing those all the way through?
 
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Taylor

Puritan Board Senior
If I understand your desire correctly, this would probably be an issue with the blue book. The problem would be the meter and scansion of the text for each portion. For example, many psalms are written in a way where each verse has four lines, following a syllable count of 8.6.8.6., starting with a weak syllable. You can often find the meter of a psalm text in the lower righthand corner of the page. Any song with an 8.6.8.6. meter can be sung to the tune of "Amazing Grace," for example. The problem is that each tune is only set up for one, maybe two, possible text meters. So switching texts but keeping the same tune in many instances would be very, very awkward.

Others can weigh in, but from a musical and textual perspective (my forte), it doesn't seem like the blue book, as awesome as it is, will do what you're asking, except in cases where every portion of a Psalm is set in the same meter.
 

Logan

Puritan Board Senior
Grant, this is one of the weaknesses of the "Blue" psalter. If I remember correctly, there are 15 psalms that do not have the same meter for the entirety of the psalm. This was probably an oversight of the translation committee since its predecessor (the "burgandy" or Book of Psalms for Singing) did not have that issue.

There are two other psalters with modern language that have the words all in the same meter. They are both split leaf, one from the Free Church of Scotland (Sing Psalms) and the other from the Irish RP churches (Psalm Singing in the 21st Century). The downside is that there isn't nearly as many resources for learning the tunes (Psalter.org is a wonderful resource of the blue or the "burgandy" psalter).

I too prefer to sing a psalm through in its entirety if possible, so you get the complete context and progression of the psalm rather than the "cheerful portion" and the "sad portion". But for the blue (which really does have some nice features) I don't think you should have to learn more than two tunes for any of those 15 psalms, 119 excepted. However, 119 is pretty naturally divided so multiple tunes for that one makes sense.
 

Grant

Puritan Board Senior
Grant, this is one of the weaknesses of the "Blue" psalter. If I remember correctly, there are 15 psalms that do not have the same meter for the entirety of the psalm. This was probably an oversight of the translation committee since its predecessor (the "burgandy" or Book of Psalms for Singing) did not have that issue.

There are two other psalters with modern language that have the words all in the same meter. They are both split leaf, one from the Free Church of Scotland (Sing Psalms) and the other from the Irish RP churches (Psalm Singing in the 21st Century). The downside is that there isn't nearly as many resources for learning the tunes (Psalter.org is a wonderful resource of the blue or the "burgandy" psalter).

I too prefer to sing a psalm through in its entirety if possible, so you get the complete context and progression of the psalm rather than the "cheerful portion" and the "sad portion". But for the blue (which really does have some nice features) I don't think you should have to learn more than two tunes for any of those 15 psalms, 119 excepted. However, 119 is pretty naturally divided so multiple tunes for that one makes sense.
So is the burgundy version a better route as a whole?
 
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Logan

Puritan Board Senior
So is the burgundy version a better routes as a whole?

Well, it's all going to be tradeoffs. The Book of Psalms for Singing has the same resources for tune help on psalter.org, but the language is slightly more archaic. Think of hymns language, where "thou" and "thy" is used pretty regularly. But it is vastly less convoluted than the 1650. I like lots of things about the 1650 but even people who sing it regularly admit to difficulty understanding the rendering of things like Psalm 18:26

"Pure to the pure, thou froward kyth'st
unto the froward wight."

The burgandy psalter puts this as
"With all the pure You show Yourself as pure;
With crafty ones You cunning show Yourself"

And as comparison, the KJV puts it as:
"With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure;
and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward."

The blue psalter renders it
"And with the pure You, too, are pure;
But with the crooked You are shrewd."

There's just not going to be a perfect psalter, just as there isn't a perfect translation. The above example from the 1650 contains another thing that I find to be very difficult to understand while singing: the second part of the first line and the second line are meant to be the second line, as shown in the other examples. But splitting it across lines makes it much harder for most people to understand and sometimes makes it seem to say something entirely different. Line breaks convey meaningful pauses to our ear, and I feel like the Scottish ministers were a bit tone deaf about that.

I'll attach a series of reviews I did for a number of psalters. I don't know if that's helpful or not.
I think the blue psalter is fine. It's not perfect and I hope some of its flaws are addressed in a later edition, but it's the one I'm currently using for family worship and the one my church uses.
 

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Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
If you get the book of psalms for worship app, you can play the tunes on it before you sing.
 

Jeri Tanner

Moderator
Staff member
Grant, this is one of the weaknesses of the "Blue" psalter. If I remember correctly, there are 15 psalms that do not have the same meter for the entirety of the psalm. This was probably an oversight of the translation committee since its predecessor (the "burgandy" or Book of Psalms for Singing) did not have that issue.
The meter of Psalm 119 in the red book does vary between selections, I think. Is this correct, Logan?

@G, there is a great resource for the 1650 at https://psalterapp.com/ for Psalm lyrics that can be integrated with different tunes. See the link at top for their alpha page at https://alpha.psalterapp.com/, where you can play the tune to accompany. This is under construction and I haven't checked it out thoroughly for bugs. They deserve some support!
 

Grant

Puritan Board Senior
The meter of Psalm 119 in the red book does vary between selections, I think. Is this correct, Logan?

@G, there is a great resource for the 1650 at https://psalterapp.com/ for Psalm lyrics that can be integrated with different tunes. See the link at top for their alpha page at https://alpha.psalterapp.com/, where you can play the tune to accompany. This is under construction and I haven't checked it out thoroughly for bugs. They deserve some support!
Thanks Jeri. We actually still us the 1650 Psalter App for the brief commentary on each Psalm. I generally will read that commentary aloud just prior to our family singing the related Psalm (blue book version).
 

Jeri Tanner

Moderator
Staff member
Thanks Jeri. We actually still us the 1650 Psalter App for the brief commentary on each Psalm. I generally will read that commentary aloud just prior to our family singing the related Psalm (blue book version).
This is something a little different than the mobile Psalter app; similar though.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Thanks Jeri. We actually still us the 1650 Psalter App for the brief commentary on each Psalm. I generally will read that commentary aloud just prior to our family singing the related Psalm (blue book version).
The Lakewood Psalter has all the sections of Psalm 119 set to Tudor. I'm not suggesting an eclectic approach is ideal but if it would of interest these settings are LPC ones so I can inquire if it is kosher to share the files with you to print out and use.
 

Jeri Tanner

Moderator
Staff member
The Lakewood psalter approach is excellent, I think. Do I understand that y’all are going to revise it where needed?
 

Grant

Puritan Board Senior
The Lakewood Psalter has all the sections of Psalm 119 set to Tudor. I'm not suggesting an eclectic approach is ideal but if it would of interest these settings are LPC ones so I can inquire if it is kosher to share the files with you to print out and use.
That would be great!
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
The Lakewood psalter approach is excellent, I think. Do I understand that y’all are going to revise it where needed?
I'm not sure if the end product will replace what we use or not but I think that is the idea. The difference is he is suggesting this as a Naphtali Project but whether that or formally a church project, the idea is not to have something as limited from being sold as what we have. We'll see. He's moving fast but I'm not keeping up on reviewing the changes. Main ones we are changing are some of he RP and all of the Genevan or many of them. The latter really are much looser than our guiding principles and the tunes have been a struggle. I don't think we are revising any of the LPC ones like those for Psalm 119 aside from typos.
 

Jeri Tanner

Moderator
Staff member
I'm not sure if the end product will replace what we use or not but I think that is the idea. The difference is he is suggesting this as a Naphtali Project but whether that or formally a church project, the idea is not to have something as limited from being sold as what we have. We'll see. He's moving fast but I'm not keeping up on reviewing the changes. Main ones we are changing are some of he RP and all of the Genevan or many of them. The latter really are much looser than our guiding principles and the tunes have been a struggle. I don't think we are revising any of the LPC ones like those for Psalm 119 aside from typos.
Sounds good. I’ll sponsor :)
 

Logan

Puritan Board Senior
The meter of Psalm 119 in the red book does vary between selections, I think. Is this correct, Logan?
That is correct...but I don't think Psalm 119 was ever meant to be sung all the way through with the same tune. It's structured quite differently from any of the other psalms into separate sub-psalms with their own self-contained themes and alliteration.

The 1650 puts every psalm (at least a version) into common meter, including 119 (whether they intended it to be sung in its entirety is debatable). All songs being common meter is both a good thing and a bad thing. There are tradeoffs. On the one hand, you technically only need to know one tune. On the other hand, it tends to drag quite a bit and not fit the pace of the words very well in many spots. The text has to be shoehorned rather unnaturally into common meter when a different meter would have been much more natural. Thankfully the many online resources for learning tunes has made it easier to get around only knowing/needing a couple of tunes.
 
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