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I am barely an organist, but occasionally cover for the real organist at my church. The next time I am doing this is three weeks from now, and because I'm a novice, I already have the hymns for that Sunday. In my church, if the last verse of a hymn is a doxology, then typically the organist modulates up a step for the last verse.

I'm not good enough to transpose, so when I have to play such a hymn, I usually repeat the last measure or measure and a half of the penultimate verse, often with a little tweak here and there to make it sound smooth.

However, for my next gig, the one hymn is in some mode. The key signature is two flats, but the hymn begins and ends on F-major chords. The hymn tune is Komm, Gott Schöpfer.

Komm, Gott Schöpfer score

I'm looking for ideas for 4 or 6 chords that would sound like a false modulation and yet preserve the modal flavor of the hymn. So I guess my question is pretty vague, but any ideas?

If you're curious, I took a couple years of piano as a kid. I could play a Clementi Sonatina competently. I don't know what insanity hit me at age 55, but I decided to learn to play pipe organ. 5 years later, I can...sort of. I can play one hymn every Sunday while the real organist goes up for communion, and, as I said, given enough lead time, I can do the whole service if she's going to be out of town. So that's why I know very little about music and could really use some chords here.

For the record, I searched this site and others. What I found caused me to try F-maj to G-minor, to C7, back to F-maj. But...ick. The C really needs the 7th but then the modal flavor is lost.

  • 1
    How about something like F - F/A - C - G ... and then come back with Eb - Eb/G - Bb - F? – piiperi May 20 at 22:13
  • 1
    A suggestion. It seems to be in F Mixolydian - based on F, but using notes from Bb. If your reading is good enough, pretend the key sig. is 5#, keep all the dots as is, and you'll be playing a semitone higher, in F# Mixolydian, using the notes from key B major. – Tim May 21 at 8:00
  • @piiperi I think that will work well. Thanks much. – B. Goddard May 21 at 15:18
  • @B.Goddard no problem. I've done quite a lot of church hymn accompaniment gigs myself, but just on the piano. I suck at sight-reading the carefully thought-out voicings in hymnals, so usually I just read the melody and improvise all the rest. ;) Interesting to hear that Lutheran organists do modulations for the final verse. What country is this? I'm from Finland, and doing last-verse modulations isn't common around here, definitely not a regularly done thing. – piiperi May 21 at 17:52
  • @piiperi I'm in Texas. The tradition is that if the last verse is a Trinitarian doxology (The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all mentioned) then the congregation stands for that verse. The short interlude gives everyone a chance to stand. A real organist modulates up a step or a half-step to heighten the mood a bit. This hymn has seven verses. You can see the last one here: www2.cpdl.org/wiki/index.php/Komm,_Gott_Schöpfer – B. Goddard May 21 at 18:09
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The key is F mixolydian. You can think of it as Bb major starting and ending on the dominant, which gives this piece a special flavour.

The key to understanding: Modes. Each scale degree in a major scale has a certain character and a special name:

ionian, dorian, phyrygian, lydian, mixolydian, aeolian, locrian.

Here we find mixolydian (F is fifth degree in Bb major). The last chord called Finalis, gives the piece its mode.

Now:

I)Analysis:

If you look at the score, there are no additional flats or sharps at any point (maybe a f# in second line, no matter!!). Keep this in mind when checking out some ideas, do not add any other sharps or flats to the tonal material (Bb major scale). At least for the short sequence you are looking for.

So the chords you can use here - and are used by the composer - are deriven from the Bb major tonal material:

Bb c d Eb F g (a°: very rarely)

II) melodic frame / jamming:

Write a melody first. Compose only (one) little variation(s) on the given melody. Maybe you have to even let it unchanged. Write your chord names above the melody first. This helps your improvisational approach you intend.

III) Fine tuning your progression(s):

Change the chords under your melody as you like to feel confident with them. Notice: A melody note is a chord tone in the style we find here. Use Bb and Eb and minor chords c,d,g in the first place. Occasionally you might use F/A (no root position) to keep the Finalis uncertain inside the piece for letting it shine at the very ending only. Mix the chords up and check the sound you like and/or that fits into the musical style at all.

You will hear the right choices, so trust your ears, but experiment. It´s fun. Write some variations that you get into your fingers.

IV) The overall ending should get the formula Bb-F (both in root position) to maintain the sound of F-mixolydian (not Bb major!)

V) For Modulations up:

1/2-step:

F# mixolydian = B major notes. Chords: B c# d# E F# (Finalis) g# (a#°)

whole-step:

G mixolydian = C major notes. Chords: C d e F G (Finalis) a (b°)
  • Since the piece is in F mixolydian, it will be an E natural in the second line, not an F#. – phoog Jun 24 at 22:00
  • I did not see that its a quarter note rest at the beginning of stave 2, not some additional accidental as I mentined it in the answer. F mixo uses eb on the 7th scale degree nonetheless. – HiDuEi Jun 24 at 22:44

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