Psalms don’t have a strict meter that allow them to be song. So if we are to sing them, we have two options:
- Change the words to fit a tune
- Change the tune to fit the words
Change the Words to Fit a Tune
Metrical Psalms are one option. They are often changed to the common meter (22.214.171.124). Here are some examples of common meter tunes.
- Amazing Grace
- O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing
- O God Our Help in Ages Past
- There is a Fountain
- All Hail the Power
- Oh Little Town of Bethlehem
- Joy to the World
There are a number of metrical psalters (wikipedia provides a number of examples). These flourished around the time when Psalms were the main songs sung in churches.
One such metrical Psalter is “The Psalms of David in Metre” by Robert Dickie which you can preview on Amazon. Here is a sample from Psalm 1:
(1) That man hath perfect blessedness
who walketh not astray
In counsel of Ungodly men
Nor Stands in Sinners way
(2) Nor sitteth in the scorner’s chair
But placeth his delight
Upon God’s law and meditates
On his law day and night.
Here are a few more Psalters available on Amazon
- Scottish Metrical Psalter
- A New Metrical Psalter
- The Book of Psalms for Singing
- Trinity Psalter
- Psalms Reader: For Teaching Twenty-First Century Children to Read Fluently and Worship Their Creator
Change the Tunes to Fit the Words
In this case, the Psalms keep the original forms, but the tunes are created in such a way as to adapt. This is typically done through chants. There are a variety of types of chants:
- Plainsong. Also called Plainchant – Gregorian Chant is a form of plain chant. Suitable for individual prayer because there are no harmonies or instrumental accompaniment and the range of notes is narrow. There are nine different basic tunes called Psalm Tones.
- Anglican Chant. This is like Plainsong, but it built for four part harmony.
Read more about these various options here.
The easiest way I have found to sing is to use St. Paul’s Cathedral Psalter:
- Online version of the words are here.
- Music is available for preview and purchase here.
- But you may need a roman numeral converter to find your Psalm in the text.
- Someone who has spent their lives singing the psalms and has compiled incredible library of links.
- A one page overview that is interesting
- The Lutheran Service Book (Concordia Publishing House, 2006) has all 150 Psalms in ESV translation pointed for chanting, with various tones included.
- Psalm Tone 4 on youtube.
- All 8 Psalm Tones on youtube.
- Here is an enormous index of Anglican Chant.
Psalms from Youtube