WelcomeSing with Understanding Book cover

The name of this web site is based on a familiar verse from the letters of the Apostle Paul:
“I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.” (I Corinthians 14:15)

It is also the name of a best selling textbook about hymns:
Sing with Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Hymnology by Harry Eskew and Hugh T. McElrath (1980, 1995, with a 3rd edition expected in 2012) The current edition can be purchased from LifeWay for $29.95.

The basic purpose of this web site is to contribute to a greater understanding of hymns and enable
individuals and congregations to sing with greater spirit and understanding.

Let’s start with a few basic definitions:

Hymn—St. Augustine of Hippo referred to hymns as “praises to God with singing.” Although this is an excellent definition, it is incomplete. Not all hymns are concerned with praise, nor are they all addressed to God. Hymns may be expressions of prayer, belief, personal experience, or exhortation to one another.

A more comprehensive definition of the hymn that also includes desirable qualities has been published as an “official” definition of the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada:

A Christian Hymn is a lyric poem, reverently and devotionally conceived, which is designed to be sung and which expresses the worshipper’s attitude toward God or God’s purposes in human life. It should be simple and metrical in form, genuinely emotional, poetic and literary in style, spiritual in quality, and in its ideas so direct and so immediately apparent as to unify a congregation while singing it.
Yet another Hymn Society definition that aims at simplicity states “that for a working definition, the hymn may be regarded as a congregational song.”

Hymnody is the collective term for hymns. It may also refer to branches of this body of song, for example, German hymnody and Methodist hymnody.

Hymnology is the comprehensive study of hymnody. It is concerned not only with the origins and development of hymns, but also with their appreciation and use.

Stanza and Verse. A stanza is a division of a hymn consisting of a series of lines arranged together in a recurring pattern of meter and rhyme; Verse refers to a line of poetry, but it is often used to refer to a stanza.

Hymn Meter refers to the number of syllables per line and the number of lines per stanza.

Hymn Tune refers to the music for a hymn text. Hymn tunes are known by their names, and frequently a hymn tune may be associated with more than one hymn text or a hymn text with more than one hymn tune.