Perhaps the most common yearning we hear from both congregations and families is, “How can we improve our singing?” They understand the blessing of singing the Psalms, but they are not professional singers and often sing in small groups. This is a passion of ours too, that’s the reason we launched Psalter.org many years ago! The site offered for free what, in pre-web days, used to be sold on disks and sent through the mail. You could listen to the tune for every selection in the psalter. You still can.
I’ve used Psalter.org when preparing to sing with my children during devotions and when preparing to preside in a worship service. Since my congregation sends out the psalm selections prior to each worship service, I’m able to listen to the tunes in advance so I’m less distracted by unfamiliar music during the service.
At first this tune library was only available for The Book of Psalms for Singing (red book). Then it was made available for the Trinity Psalter. When The Book of Psalms for Worship was published, and then the ARP Psalter, those libraries were added to Psalter.org. Now there is also a tune library to help Baptists get accustomed to the psalter, focusing on tunes that likely will be familiar to them.
The newest addition to Psalter.org multiplies the value of the site for those who want to improve their singing. In addition to the basic Tune Player, we’ve added the Parts Player. This new player can be customized in several ways, so it is like having multiple players in one. Let’s say you have been singing Psalm 126A and you’re ready to learn the tenor part. On Psalter.org, you go to Psalm 126 and hear the tune played with all the parts together. Then you select just the tenor part and become familiar with that vocal part by itself. Now you’re ready to hear all the parts, but you still want help with the tenor part; so you select the option that will emphasize that one part while the others are played more softly. And finally you go back to hearing all played together. You have additional options too, like looping the audio so it will play 4 times for a 4-stanza psalm.
Because not all web browsers support “simultaneous playback,” some features might not work smoothly in, say, a Macintosh Safari browser. In the case of Macs, for example, you could use a Firefox or Chrome browser instead since they already support simultaneous playback. And in any browser you can play the individual parts. The site is designed for use on a phone or tablet as well.
We’ve quietly upgraded the Search feature on Psalter.org so that it has become a powerful concordance and search engine.
Have a few words of a psalm stuck in your mind but can’t remember which psalm selection that is? Just type those words into the search box. Want to see all the tunes for Psalm 119 on one page? Type “119” into the search box. Are you looking for psalms about mercy? Looking for which psalm selection the tune Scarborough Fair is set to? Looking for uses of the phrase “sing praise”? All these things can be done quickly and for free, wherever you have access to a phone or computer. Let’s say your devotional focus is Psalm 16. You type “16” into the search engine and see the selections available in the psalter. You choose Psalm 16D and hear the tune Sterling and listen to it before singing. Then you select NASB from Related Resources and read Psalm 16 in the New American Standard Bible. You also note that you can hear this tune sung on a couple of different albums by Crown & Covenant, including the album Messiah.
At the top of Psalter.org is a section called Printables that also helps in further exploration of the psalter. There are indexes of familiar hymn tunes in the psalters. There’s a helpful how-to article by Pastor Brad Johnston on “Arranging the Psalter in Your Head.” And more. Note that most of these resources are available for all the psalters, but some resources are only available for certain psalters. And we’re not finished.
We’d like to continue to find ways to answer the question, “How can we improve our singing?” We know that singing with meaning and confidence brings great blessing, because this is the singing of God’s effective Word. Thank you for continuing to help this ministry in that endeavor.
*Drew Gordon is editor of the Reformed Presbyterian Witness and co-director of Crown & Covenant Publications.*