The Easy Instructor
Little and Smith, 1802


Anthology of the American Hymn-Tune Repertory


As the Authors are well aware, that whatever has the appearance of novelty is, from this very circumstance, in danger of meeting with an unfavorable reception; they request nothing more than a critical observation of the certificate annexed, and impartial examination of the method proposed, being willing to submit the merit of the performance to the determination of the candid and judicious. As the introduction of the four singing syllables, by characters, shewing, at sight, the names of the notes, may perhaps be considered as subjecting those who are taught in this manner to difficulty in understanding other books, without this assistance. The authors would just observe, that if pupils are made acquainted with the principles here laid down, the objection will be found, by experience, more specious, than solid. To this it might be added, that in the old way, there are not less than seven different ways of applying the four singing syllables to the lines and spaces, which is attended with great difficulty: But this difficulty is entirely removed, upon the present plan; and we know of no objection to this plan, unless that it is not in use; which objection is no abjection at all, or at least, cannot be decisive, rendered so easy, from its improvements, that any person of a tolerable voice might actually learn the art of psalmody without an instructor, if they could but obtain the sounds of the eight notes, which has led its advocates to request a publication of the same. We have, therefore, the pleasure to inform the public, that since subscriptions have been in circulation, for this book, we have been honored with upwards of three thousand subscribers: In consequence of which, we flatter ourselves, that this book will meet with a kind reception.


Philadelphia, August 15th, 1798.

"THE EASY INSTRUCTOR," by William Little,


THAT having carefully examined the same, they find it contains a well digested system of principles and rules, and a judicious collection of tunes: And from the improvement of having only four significant characters, indicating at sight, the names of the notes, and a ---- rule for timing the same, this book is considered easier to be learned than any we have seen. Were it possible to acquire the sounds of the eight notes but by imitation, they verily believe they might be obtained by the help of this book, even without an instructor.

The Committee are of opinion the Author merits the patronage and encouragement of all friends to Church music: -

Which is submitted to



THE song of praise is an act of devotion so becoming, delightful, and excellent, that we find it coeval with the sense of Deity, authorised by the example of all nations, and universally received into the solemnities of public worship. Under the Jewish dispensation, the Holy Spirit of God directed this expression of homage, as peculiarly becoming the place where his honor dwelleth. The book of Psalms, as the name itself imports, was adapted to the voice of song; and the author of those invaluable odes well knew the sweetness, dignity, and animation that were hereby added to the sacred service of the temple. With what rapture do they describe its effects-with what fervor do they call upon their fellow-worshippers to join in this delightful duty. - It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto they name, O thou Most High. Praise ye the Lord for it is good to sing praises unto our God; for it is pleasant, and praise is comely. O sing unto the Lord a new song-sing unto the Lord all the earth-sing unto the Lord-bless his name-shew forth his salvation from day to day. Nor hath christianity dispensed with religious song as an unmeaning ceremony, or an unprofitable sacrifice. It commands us to address the Father in spirit and in truth; but it nevertheless, enjoins those outward acknowledgments that fitly express and cherish the pious temper. Our blessed Lord was pleased to consecrate this act of worship by his own example, under circumstances the most affecting. He concluded the celebration of that supper, which was the memorial of his dying love, by an hymn of priase. And his apostles frequently exhorted to the observance of this duty;-Let the word of God dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs; singing with grace in your hearts unto the Lord.

Divine song is undoubtedly the language of nature: It originates from our frame and constitution: Do lofty contemplation, elevated joy, and fervor of affection, give beauty and dignity to language, and associate with the charms of Poetry, by a kindred law which the Creator hath established-They pleasingly unite with strains of sweet and solemn harmony. And there are two principal views, in which music will appear to render eminent service to the sacrifice of praise:-In the first place, it suitably expresses the sentiments of devotion and the sublime delight which religion is fitted to inspire. Joy is the natural effect of praise, and song the proper accompaniment of joy. Is any merry or glad let him sing psalms; and singing is not only a general indication of delight, but expressive, also, of the prevailing sentiments and passions of the mind-it can accommodate itself to the various modifications of love and joy, the essence of a devotional temper-it hath lofty strains for the sublimity of admiration-plaintive accents, which becomes the tear of penitence and sorrow-it can adopt the humble plea of supplication, or swell the bolder notes of thanksgiving and triumph: Yet it hath been properly remarked, that the influence of song reaches only to the amiable and pleasing affections, and that it hath no expression for malignant and tormenting passions; the sorrow, therefore, to which it is attuned, should be mingled with hope-the penitence which it expresses, cheered with the sense of pardon, and the mournful scenes on which it sometimes dwells, irradiated with the glorious views and consolations of the gospel.

In the second place, music not only decently expresses, but powerfully EXCITES and IMPROVES the devout affections; it is the prerogative of this noble art to cheer and invigorate the mind-to still the tumultuous passions-to calm the troubled thoughts, and to fix the wandering attention: And hereby she happily composes and prepares the heart for the exercise of public worship. But she further boasts a wondrous efficacy in leading to that peculiar temper which becomes the subject of praise, and is favorable to religious impression. She can strike the mind with solemnity and awe, or melt with tenderness and love-can animate with hope and gladness, or call forth the sensations of devout and of affectionate sorrows; even separate and unconnected, she can influence the various passions and movements of the soul; but she naturally seeks an alliance, and must be joined with becoming sentiments and language, in order to produce her full and proper effect; and never is her energy so conspicuous and delightful, as when consecrated to the service of religion, and employed in the courts of the living God-Here she displays her noblest use, and her brightest glory: here alone, she meets with themes that fill the capacity of an immortal mind, and claims its noblest powers and affections. What voice of song so honorable, so elevating and delightful? To whom shall the breath ascend in melodious accents, if not to him who first inspired it? Where shall admiration take her loftiest flight, but to the throne of the everlasting Jehovah? Or what shall awake our glory, and kindle our warmest gratitude, if not the remembrance of his daily mercies, and the praise of redeeming love? When the union of the heart and voice are thus happily, arranged-when sublime subjects of praise are accompanied with expressive harmony, and the pleasures of genuine devotion heightened by the charms of singing, we participate of the most pure, rational, noble and exquisite enjoyments that human nature is capable of receiving:- The soul forgets her confinement with the body, is elevated beyond the cares and tumults of this mortal state, and seems, for a while, transported to the blissful regions of perfect love and joy; and it is worthy of remark, that the sacred writings delight to represent the heavenly felicity under this image: And though such language be allowed to be figurative-though eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive the things God hath prepared for them that love him; yet our most natural-or most just conceptions of the happiness of the heavenly world, is that which we have been describing, viz. sublime devotion accompanied with rapturous delight.

THE human mind is not only capable of extensive knowledge, but is incapable of being entirely in a state of supineness: That thirst for happiness implanted in the human breast, must have some object for its pursuit; therefore, the Almighty has made us capable of enjoying pure and intellectual pleasures; and we find if improvements are neglected among young people, their manners, at once, verge towards heathenism. And since it is impracticable, for any, entirely to separate their children from meeting among young people, those who wish to promote civilization, will see the importance of bending the young mind to something that will ornament and refine society, even if they have a separate design in it. The funds of knowledge in the minds of most young people, are not sufficient to carry on a discourse to any considerable length; therefore, we find that their evenings are often spent in a very simple manner, nothing more will be heard than insignificant jokes, and vulgarism seems to be the highest entertainments; but when they have tasted the more pure pleasures, such as flow from music, the young circle seem to look with contempt on the former manner in which they spent their time, which then seemed to hover them over the summit of bliss. But besides the more immediate propriety and use of divine song in the ordinances of religion, its indirect advantages have a claim to our regard. It is not only in in self delightful and profitable, but it gives animation to the other parts of public worship-it relieves the attention-recruits the exhausted spirits, and begets a happy composure and tranquility. It is peculiarly agreeable as a social act, and that in which every person may be employed. Nor is it the least of its benefits, that it associates pleasing ideas with divine worship, and makes us glad when we go into the house of the Lord. It is also a bond of union in religious societies, promotes the regular attendance of their members, and seldom fails of adding to their numbers: But there seems to be something more in music to unite with our own experience and the wisdom of past ages. The early christians found their account in a remarkable attachment to psalmody, and almost every rising sect have availed themselves of its important delights and advantages. It must be confessed, that where pleasure is the sole attention, the motive is of an inferior nature. But is it not a commendable policy to promote regular attendance upon places of worship, by any means that are not reprehensible? Will not the most beneficial consequences probably ensue? Is there not every reason to expect that persons who frequent the house of God with this view alone, will not be uninterested in the other services of religion?-That they who come to sing may learn to pray-that they whose only wish it was to be entertained, may find themselves instructed and improved? Such is the happy tendency of well regulated song in the house of God; but alas! how seldom is this part of the service accompanied with its proper effect. It was the remark of an eminent writer, too applicable to the present time, that, "The worship in which we should most resemble the inhabitants "of Heaven, is the worst performed upon earth." His pious labors have greatly enriched the matter of song, and hereby contributed to remove one cause of this complaint; but in the manner, there still remains a miserable defect.-Too often does a disgraceful silence prevail to the utter neglect of this duty-too often are dissonance and discord substituted for the charms of melody and harmony, and the singing performed in a way so carelessly and indecently, that, as the same writer observes, "Instead of elevating our devotions to the most divine and delightful sensations, it awakens our regret, and touches all the springs of uneasiness within us." But is this owing to causes that cannot be removed, or doth it not imply reproach and blame? Will not truth oblige us to confess, that the fault rests not in the want of natural taste and abilities, nor of sufficient leisure, but in great carelessness and neglect? Moderate attention and application would surmount every difficulty, and lead to a suitable proficiency in this happy art. An exercise so pleasing and attractive seems only to want regulation and method.


The two first modes in Common Time have four beats in a bar, and may be performed in the following manner, viz. The first beat, strike the end of the fingers on what you beat upon; the second beat, bring down the heel of the hand; the third beat, raise the hand half way up; the fourth beat, raise the hand clear up. The third and fourth modes of Common, and the first and second of Compound time, have but two beats in a bar, and the best method we know of measuring time in these four modes, is by beating with the hand, saying one with it down, and two with it up.

To arrive at exactness in this mode of calculating, the learner may beat by the motion of a pendulum vibrating in a second, without paying any regard to the notes. For by this method he will become habituated to regularity and exact proportion.

BEATING of time should be attended too before any attempt to founding the notes is made. Counting and beating frequently while learning the rules, will be of great service. A large motion of the hand is best at first, but as soon as the learner can beat with accuracy, a small motion is sufficient.

To attain exactness, it will be necessary that the learner should name and beat the time of the notes in each bar, both of the eight notes and a number of the plain tunes in the different modes of time set to the eight notes in this performance, without sounding, until a perfect knowledge of their variety is obtained; after which, he may proceed to those that are more complex and difficult.

HAVING complyed with these directions, the learner will acquire the time of the notes with much greater ease and exactness, than if his attention was directed to three things at once-the name, the time and the sound of the notes.

As much depends on a proper knowledge of time, I would recommend to teachers to make use of a sliding rule, or something that will cover the notes, so as to admit to the view of the pupil only such note, or notes as shall determine the first half of the bar at a time; By which means they will acquire exactness in beating, and give to each to its due proportion.

THIS may be considered by some, as a useless novelty, but we can assure them, from long experience, that the effect will convince them of its being worthy of attention, and much the quickest and easiest method to ascertain the exact time of the notes.

Of Managing the Voice

IF directions, given by ancient and modern critics (for the modulating of the voice) to those who are desirous of excelling in public speaking, are necessary, directions are particularly requisite to enable the student in music, to sing with grace and energy; therefore,
1st. ABOVE all things affectation should be guarded against-for whilst it is contrary to that humility which ever ought to characterise the devout worshipper, it must be an enemy to the natural ease which always distinguishes the judicious performance.
2nd. CARE should be taken to begin with a proper pitch of the voice, otherwise it is impossible to preserve the melodious connection of the notes, or the harmony of the parts; for if at the commencement of a tune the voice is too low, langour must prevail; if too high, an unnatural endeavor to maintain a proportioned elevation throughout the whole performance.
3rd. THE articulation must be as distinct as the sound will possibly admit; for in this, vocal-music has the preference of instrumental-that whilst the the ear is delighted, the mind is informed.
4th. THOUGH it is the opinion of most writers, that the learner should take the part best adapted to their respective voices; let them occasionally try the different parts; not only because it makes them better acquainted with the nature and degrees of sounds, but because it has a tendency to improve the voice, to file off what is too rough, and what is too effeminate to render more energetic; and whereas, otherwise, monotony is apt to take place. By attending to this direction the evil will be greatly guarded against.
5th. THOSE who have but indifferent voices, will find great benefit, if after faithfully trying an easy tune themselves, they can get a good singer to sing with them; therefore, by attending to his performance he will instantly percieve a difference ear will soon experience a pleasing superiority, and the learner, at every succeeding effort, will find that his mechanical sensibility, if we may be allowed the expression, is greatly improved.

Anthology of the American Hymn-Tune Repertory