Prelude Music for Free, Please?

From a reader in Brazil:

Hi. I’ve read your blog. I am the organist of my ward, do you know where can i find free or cheap hymns preludes to play? Sorry for the spelling i don’t speak english.

First off, kudos to you for even attempting English. It’s such a nightmare to learn as a second language. Good job!

As for the prelude question, let’s start with the freebies:
I highly recommend the LDS church’s publication of Transformations for Organ: Easy additions to create simple preludes and postludes used in conjunction with Manual Only Hymns for Organ. (Both are available for download here.) These are great arrangements of hymns that sound lovely with or without foot pedals.

If you’re the creative type but don’t know where to start, check out this re-post on Creating Preludes from Hymns.

On to the the cheap option:
Cheap is a relative term. I have listed some of my favorite preludes under the Music/Published Arrangements tab. Most of those are fairly inexpensive and easy to find in the US, but I have no idea what happens when you cross the border.

WardOrganist.com sells downloadable sheet music for LDS organists. Buying arrangements individually is generally more expensive per piece than buying a book. But WardOrganist.com allows you to view and hear the piece before you buy.

Hopefully that will give you some direction.

Boa sorte 🙂

Musical Notation Software—Is there life beyond Finale?

Here’s a question that I received from a fellow organist:

Do you have a music-writing software program that you would recommend for organ music? I tried the 30-day free download from Finale and I was just starting to learn how to use the program when my trial period expired.  I would like to be able to continue writing duets and special arrangements for my students, but I can’t afford $600 for the Finale program.

My experience with music notation software is limited. I used NotePad, the freebie version of Finale for awhile and then upgraded to their PrintMusic product. It gives me pretty much everything I need for creating musical compositions…and the off-the-shelf price is only $120. But if that is still more money than you want to put out, you can go the ultra-cheap route and check out the free versions like NotePadMuseScore, M C Music Editor, and Notation Software. The price is great, but you know how it goes—you get what you pay for. I found NotePad awkward and limiting—only a slight step up from hand writing my musical compositions.

In searching the internet I found a music notation software review that rated 10 programs under $125. The front page looked promising, but the reviews were skimpy and extremely non-informative. (And am I being too cynical to say that I don’t trust everything I find on the internet?)

So, my wonderful readers, help me out here. I may be considered foolish, but I trust a random reader much more than a random site with lots of advertising, so please submit your response to any or all of the following questions:

How has your experience been using music notation software?

Which program(s) have you used?

How much did it cost?

Was it worth it to you?

When it comes to music notation software, what’s your recommendation?

. . .

You can leave your comment below or at the Discussion page

SALSA: Mike Nield

Here’s a big welcome for our newest addition to SALSA (Society of Awesome Latter-day Saint Accompanists): Mike Nield
 from the Shelley Idaho South Stake, Jameston Ward.

Mike has some great things to share with us about his experience as a self-described late-blooming organist who has worked his way from piano-player-at-the-organ up to almost-mediocre-organist! (Can anyone else relate to that? Yes!!!)

Check out his unique story, then go to Questionnaire and tell us yours!

. . .

Mike Nield—Idaho

What was the first musical calling you received? How was that experience? My first music calling was as Primary Chorister. That was probably the funnest calling I have ever had. The spirit is so strong in Primary. Since then I have been Assistant Organist, Ward Music Chairman, Ward Music Director, Choir Director, Stake Choir Director, Stake Music Specialist over Priesthood Meetings, and now Stake Music Chairman.

Do you play any other instruments? If so, which instrument do you prefer? I play piano, trumpet, french horn, guitar, and organ. Organ is my favorite. I can also play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on a 3/4 violin nearly as well as my 9-year-old daughter, who has just started lessons.

What is your favorite hymn? How can I pick just one? Be Still My Soul
, Saints, Behold How Great Jehovah
, Come Sing to the Lord.

What sort of things do you enjoy doing in your spare time? Organ practice pretty takes care of my spare time. I love, and I mean really love, going to the chapel late at night and playing on the organ.

What is one of the challenges you face as an LDS organist? Overcoming stage fright. I can play perfectly Saturday night but fall apart Sunday.

What is one thing you have learned that has helped you in your calling? One of the biggest lessons I learned was the effect proper registration has on congregational singing. I would go in late at night Saturday to an empty chapel and work up a really nice registration for a hymn, one that sounded really nice to my ears. But then Sunday when I would play the hymn in the chapel full of singing people the registration sounded so weak, and nobody sang. Turns out I was using a registration too weak to support the congregation.

Tell us about how you got started playing the organ. I’m a late bloomer. I took piano briefly as a youth until I got to be tougher than my Mom, then quit. Music didn’t do much for me back then. Sometime in my early 20’s some life-changing things happened to me musically. I got placed (by revelation, I’m convinced, as I had never even played in an orchestra before in my life) as 2nd Trumpet in the Symphony Orchestra at BYU. I sang (for the first time) in a choir at the MTC-Provo at Christmas. I had some very spiritual experiences on my mission to Tokyo that involved music.

Then I came home and went to Veterinary School, and life got really busy. Ten years passed. I got married, graduated, became a Veterinarian, a small business owner, and then divorced. I was in Scouting at this point, and was very involved with that and not so much with music. It was at this point that I had another life-changer. I went to a Regional Music Workshop for no apparent reason. I don’t know why I decided to go. I don’t remember much about it except for one class where they told us that we could write our own music. That struck a chord, so I went home, sat down at the piano, and said to myself “now what?” I had never written anything before, and had no clue how to do it. But then I heard a choir piece playing like an mp3 in my mind, complete with piano and organ accompaniment.

It took only a few hours to write down the basics of the music. It took only 30 minutes to write the words. That was 1998. We sang the piece in ward choir for Christmas that year, and have every year since. The arrangement changes a bit each year as I get more proficient in my arranging skills, and it is only recently that I have learned enough about organ registration and repertoire to really get the organ part to sound like I heard it that day 14 years ago.

After that, I began arranging hymns. I learned to love conducting. It was six years ago when I was serving as Executive Secretary that our best ward organist moved away, leaving only one other Sister who could play, and she had several other callings. I remember listening to the Bishopric’s discussion about who on earth they were going to get to play the organ when I felt a prompting that I should learn.

I set a trap for our Ward Music Chairman. I picked a time when I knew that she would be in the chapel, and I just happened to be sitting at the organ playing my heart out when she walked in. She immediately walked over and offered to let me play on Fast Sundays.

I was really bad. I thought the organ was a big piano. It took me four years to learn that I didn’t know anything about playing the organ, and I’ve been learning line upon line ever since. Soon I’ll be up to mediocre, and I’m pretty excited about that!

. . .

Are you or someone you know ready to join SALSA? Just go to the SALSA Questionnaire, fill it out and submit. No cost, no obligation, no contract and no fine print. Just a wonderful opportunity for lds organists to get acquainted!
btw If you accepted the call to sit on that organ bench, you are awesome!  If you think you’re not, please see The Calling.