For Beginning Music Directors
“For Beginning Music Directors,” Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 383–85
Measures, Time Signatures, and Downbeats
A measure is the smallest musical unit bordered by vertical lines:
In the hymnbook, when a measure is carried over from one line of music to the next, the end of the first line is left open to show that the measure continues on to the next line:
The time signature (two numbers, one above the other, such as 2/4) is found at the beginning of each hymn. The top number indicates the number of beats or pulses in each measure. The bottom number tells what kind of note gets a beat or pulse. For example, a 3/4 time signature means there are three beats per measure in the hymn, and a quarter note (
As you direct the music, the first beat of your beat pattern (see beat pattern illustrations) should correspond with the first beat in each measure. This first beat, called the downbeat, is the strongest beat in each measure. You will note that many hymns begin on an upbeat, or pickup note, before the first downbeat.
Standard Beat Patterns
The purpose of beat patterns is to keep the congregation together rhythmically and to communicate the mood and spirit of the hymn. Patterns should be kept simple, but may vary according to the nature and mood of the hymn. The dots on the beat patterns show where the rhythmic pulses of the hymn occur.
The two-beat pattern (used for hymns marked 2/2 or 2/4):
The three-beat pattern (used for hymns marked 3/4 or 3/2):
The four-beat pattern (used for hymns marked 4/4):
The six-beat pattern (used for hymns marked 6/8 or 6/4):
A 6/8 or 6/4 hymn with a slow tempo, such as “Silent Night” (no. 204), may be conducted with either the traditional six-beat pattern or a double three-beat pattern—first a large one, followed by a smaller one:
A 6/8 or 6/4 hymn with a moderate tempo, such as “Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd” (no. 221), may be conducted by omitting the second and fifth beats of the traditional six-beat pattern, and pausing at those points in the pattern:
A 6/8 or 6/4 hymn with a fast tempo, such as “Master, the Tempest Is Raging” (no. 105), may be conducted with a two-beat pattern—the first three beats go with the first stroke, and the last three beats go with the second stroke:
When using the last two beat patterns, be sure to keep the rhythm or pulses of the hymn constant.
Some Hymns That Are Easy to Conduct:
The four-beat pattern: “Abide with Me!”; “As I Search the Holy Scriptures”; “Come, Ye Children of the Lord”; “Did You Think to Pray?”; “For the Beauty of the Earth”; “Hark, All Ye Nations”; “Hope of Israel”; “We Will Sing of Zion.”^ Back to top