Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 4, 1968
NUMBER 47, PAGE 13b-14a

Song Leaders Should Study Harmony

Austin Taylor

(The following is a portion of a transcript from one of brother Taylor's lectures at the Texas Normal Singing School in June of 1965.)

The harmony of some songs is very pretty, but it is difficult to sing. So many people are just singers but not good singers; that is, they can only sing songs that are very simple. These members of the church would like to have a part in the singing, but if the song is too difficult they cannot participate. So, in order to accommodate all the members of the church and all the common people, you must have songs that they are able to sing. That is why "What A Friend We Have In Jesus" and "Nearer My God To Thee" and other such songs are sung all over the world. If they had been a little more difficult and contained a few difficult chords in them, then they never could have reached the people. Any person who is writing a song needs to know this, and all good song leaders need to know this.

If a song leader sees that the writer of a song has put too many difficult chords in it, and if he tries to lead the song, he'll soon realize that the people cannot cooperate with him and cannot sing with him. The leader that wants to hear everybody sing must be careful not to lead any songs that are difficult. If you do not stay away from songs like that, the people will consider you a poor judge of songs.

To know harmony means that you will know songs. A lot of leaders do not know what is wrong with some songs when the people are not singing with them. If they understood harmony they would realize that it takes only three or four difficult chords to make a song unpopular and unuseful, and they would be able to recognize those chords in the song. A song with difficult chords can have a good thought, a good melody, and it can start with beauty, but those difficult chords will cause the song to lose its usefulness.

We need some songs that people can sing and that you can sing. If the leader of a song cannot sing it, then do not expect anybody else to sing. People cannot sing with a leader that is off the tune and confused.

People have sung with me without song books in great crowds of several thousand; but if I had led something difficult, then the audiences would have been small and those present would have considered the singing very poor. If you lead the right kind of songs, people who come from a distance will hear you and will want you to come to their congregation to lead. Several times I have led in Nashville, Saint Louis, and Memphis, and people would tell me, "As soon as you can, we want you to come over to our place and lead singing." It wasn't me they especially wanted - it was the kind of singing they heard.