Thursday, 1 September 2016

Painting Masterpieces Through Song

I sometimes cringe when I hear some musicians play at church. Some of these musicians are known as "music taugeh only" musicians. This means that such musicians are unable to play beyond the music notes and chords. Give them a hymn with no proper music notes or chords, and they will go into "Defcon 4" (in other words, they would seriously panic as they may have little idea how to play the song properly, even though it may be a common or easy to pick up after hearing a few times one). Such musicians are unable to play by ear, or have difficulty in doing so.

Another group of musicians I sometimes come across are those who we could classify as "pakai hantam" or "simply play" types. Their chording and melody line is sometimes "messed up" or just plain "out" (a slang for "not sounding right" or played incorrectly). Some of these musicians really butcher the hymn, even to the extend of rendering it unrecognisable. While we do get some of such musicians who are somehow able to "pakai hantam" and sound decent, we should make every effort to get the music and chording right, so that future musicians would be able to pick up the music and play properly accordingly.

When it comes to playing music in church, there is such a thing as art, some science involved, and finesse. One needs to learn the hymn well, and be ready to improvise and give the hymn extra oomph with a combination of proper melody, supporting expressive tones, and where possible, stylo-milo chording. We could get by with basic chords, but it may not bring out the full expression and beauty of the hymn.

That is why playing church hymns should be treated like one is painting a masterpiece. If we want to encourage our faithful to sing with even more gusto, and if we want to do justice to the hymns, we need to go beyond just playing for the sake of playing, or only depending on the written music or a certain fixated style of playing. The songs and hymns can be enhanced and improvised, if one makes the effort to learn the hymn well, and then make effort to enhance the sound with some flowing notes or "flowerly" playing, together with better chording. May our musicians see themselves more and more as artists, with the intention to glorify God through music.

To get an idea of how one could enhance or do justice to the songs or hymns, here is an example of how "Amazing Grace" could be played. This audio file seems to be fine when played on most browsers. If you are unable to hear the audio file, you could try viewing this blog on a different browser (I believe Google Chrome works great).

Also, here is a music notation of Amazing Grace for you to try out:

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