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Playing it by ear

“Turn your hymnal to page number…” you used to hear in church services every Sunday. But these days, you don’t see too many people opening up hymnals.

We have hymnals in the backs of the pews in our church sanctuary, but rarely do people use them. It is also a rarity to hear anyone say what page number a hymn can be found on.

Of course, if your church sings a blend of traditional hymns and contemporary choruses (which I love), many of them won’t be listed in a hymnal.

For several years, larger churches have displayed lyrics to songs on projector screens, which rarely include music along with the lyrics.

This makes sense, I guess, because I would assume most church laypeople don’t read music. Like me, they just play it by ear. But sometimes I take a little extra time to look up a hymn in the index so I can follow along the bass notes and do a little “sight reading” with the help of my ear.

I still wish they would announce the hymn numbers in church services because there are probably others like me who want to follow along. But, like everything else in the information age, churches are moving away from the paper medium.

There could be unfortunate side effects to this, however. Even if you don’t know anything about music, just following along with a song helps you somewhat understand how it works.

With less people seeing the music, there could be less people interested in learning about music.

There again, worship, not music, is the primary goal of a church service. But music is a God-given gift we should employ to its fullest.