A well-crafted hymn tune is essential for expressing the meaning of a text. Composing hymn tunes, then, is an important task that ultimately makes a hymn text singable and “pray-able.” To write an effective tune, the composer must meet poetic, musical, and liturgical criteria.
Hymns are essentially poems set to music. The following article describes the poetic qualities of hymn texts, defines several of the technical terms used to categorize hymns texts, and then discusses how hymn tunes need to be sensitive to the poetic qualities of the text. Studying the examples provided in this article will help the reader to better understand and use hymns for congregational singing.