After sight reading The Scottish Hymnal I am now sight reading The Revivalist and played this one today...

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...I ran into a bunch of surprises and I just want to check that I've identified things correctly and have not just made reading errors. In order I see:

  • a passing IΔ7
  • a V7/sus4, that quasi-quartal sound
  • open fifth (triad with no third)
  • another open fifth
  • a root position, retograde V IV V (could try to call it some kind of passing/prolongation motion, but it isn't like V IV6 V6)
  • another open fifth
  • a ticket of passing motion including two IΔ7, the second is a full beat, not passing

All these little things are interesting, because it's a change from the stylistic patterns I was getting used to in the more traditional, common practice style in The Scottish Hymnal. It's interesting to be aware of sight reading training for both common patterns, but also the unconventional surprises.

Also, I'm interested in the stylistic points that make what I believe is the unique American style found in The Revivalist. I want to understand that American style better. Some of the settings are just two parts and very pentatonic, lots of chord arpeggiation, open fifths, relative chord changes, plagal cadences, etc. But some settings seem to very deliberately follow a traditional European harmonization.

Anyway, while sight reading I end up stopping, wondering if I've made a mistake. Like am I misreading the key signature, missed a clef change, or some other dumb reading mistake?

  • 1
    Have you read enough of the other hymns to be confident in the edition's accuracy? I.e., Can it be reasonably assumed that there aren't accidentals missing from the score, or notes written in the wrong staff positions?
    – Aaron
    Commented Oct 27, 2021 at 15:14
  • @Aaron, I think so. Some of the hymns are very traditional harmonization. I do get the sense that some of the hymns, like this one, switch style and the "oddities" are deliberate. In other words the traditional ones all seem very proper. Commented Oct 27, 2021 at 16:01
  • Have you ever been sight reading, play something odd, but not obviously wrong, double check and find you just made a dumb reading mistake? A mistake that might even sound interesting, like some rare moment of modernism... all because you mis-read! I should read better, but mistakes like that happen to me sometimes. Before I commit these highlights to the memory banks, I want to know I'm not making some dumb blunders. Commented Oct 27, 2021 at 16:08
  • If you're asking if you identified interesting things correctly, I'd say yes (It would be easier to see if you labeled them in the score). It's hard to explain missing third with a key signature. I think the other question you asked is more interesting, about the origins of the style. Commented Oct 27, 2021 at 16:12
  • @user1079505, for missing thirds, the first example is bar 4, beat 2, E3 E4 E4 B4, there is no G. I agree the more interesting question is about the style itself, but that's why I'm asking about the technical check first. I don't want to start noting characteristics of the style just to find a made a dumb mistake. Commented Oct 27, 2021 at 16:35

2 Answers 2


You are reading correctly, and also correct to recognize that the sound is unusual compared to more traditionally harmonized hymns. Allowing you might be reading at a slow tempo or even out of time, that will exaggerate the "strange" sounds. It does "make sense" when played at a regular, singing tempo — the chords you've identified are still unexpected, but they do make sense to the ear.


Yes, your descriptions seem accurate. Not exactly according to the textbook rules based on Bach's chorale writing is it!

There's a freshness to the style. Maybe an untutored freshness. Comparable to the 'American Primitive' school of art.

  • It's been enjoyable reading. I play through each several times. After my first - usually mangled - reading, I try to focus on both reading/fingering certain passages, in hopes to re-apply in other sight reading. I'm realizing how important it is to practice sight reading a variety of styles. Commented Oct 28, 2021 at 21:56

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