Resources for Psalm Singing

This is a list of resources intended to help first-time Psalm-singers in their endeavors. Many of these are print resources, but I’ve also included some online and mobile stuff.

First, resources to do with The Psalms of David in Metre, which we’ll be using at Alta Vista Bible Church.

  • The Psalms of David in Metre (hardback) – large print, $6.50, purchase here; pocket size, $4.50, purchase here. This edition of the Psalms, also called the Scottish Psalter or Scottish Metrical Version (SMV), was approved for use in the Church of Scotland in 1650, and remained the only approved songbook for use in those churches for over 200 years. Its longevity as a translation is surpassed only by the King James Version of the Bible, with which it shares many similarities. It is widely regarded as the most accurate metrical version of the Psalter available. Each of the Psalms is rendered into Common Meter, or four lines of 8 syllables, 6 syllables, 8 syllables, and 6 syllables each (, with 13 psalms having alternate versions in other meters (Psalms 6, 25, 45, 50, 67, 70, 100, 102, 124, 136, 143, 145, 148). This makes it simple to use any well-known common meter tune (e.g. Amazing Grace, O for a Thousand Tongues, I Sing the Mighty Power of God, etc.) for any of the Psalms, thus making it easy to simply take up and sing!
  • A Brief Guide to the 1650 Psalter – see here. I wrote this short introduction to the 1650 to help those who are new to it. Hopefully it helps explain some of its quirks and helps in your use of it.
  • 1650 Psalter app – free, iPhone and Google Play. Complete text of the 1650 SMV in a “split-leaf” format, where the music can be chosen independently of the words. Each tune has an included recording so that you can hear how it goes and sing along. Highly recommended and easy to use.
  • The 1650 Online – see here. This website, “The Westminster Standard,” is a great repository of resources pertaining to the Westminster Confession and its associated documents, one of which is the 1650 Scottish Psalter. The full text of the psalter with devotional material is hosted on the site.
  • The Scottish Psalmody – $40, purchase here (free shipping). While not inexpensive, this edition of the 1650 Psalter is arranged in a “split-leaf” format, where the pages are split such that the top and bottom portions can turn independently (like a Dutch door). The top portion contains the tunes while the bottom portion contains the psalm text, allowing the matching of psalm texts with appropriate tunes. This edition also has suggested tunes for each psalm (some of which we’ll be using in church). Very helpful if you can read music.
  • TBS Windsor Text Bible with Metrical Psalms (hardback) – purchase here (the website is closed on Sundays). This is an edition of the King James Version of the Bible with the 1650 SMV in the rear of the volume. Thus, you get a two-in-one Bible and metrical Psalter for convenience. It is only available in the King James Version, however. Also available in black calfskin leather here.

Second, some general resources for Psalm singing.

  • Why Should We Sing the Psalms? – book by Joel Beeke, eBook ($2.89) or paperback ($3.00). This great little book is a wonderful introduction to why we ought to sing the Psalms. It’s not very long, so it won’t take much effort to read through it, but it is soaked in Scripture and hopefully provides a persuasive case that we should be singing the Psalms as Christians, and gives a glimpse into the many practical benefits of doing so. Read this if you are unsure about singing the Psalms and whether it’ll do you any good (trust me, it will!).
  • Learning to Love the Psalms – book by W. Robert Godfrey, available in various formats here. An excellent introduction to the Psalter as a whole, with overviews of each of the five books within the Psalter and smaller studies on select psalms within each book. Overall, an excellent resource to enflame your love for the Psalter.
  • Trinity Psalter (red paperback, words only) – $8.50, purchase here. This complete Psalter includes metrical versions for all 150 psalms in various meters. More updated language than the SMV, but with many more meters, making it not as simple to use. Suggested tunes are found at the bottom of each psalm.
  • Trinity Psalter (spiral bound, music included) – $24.00, purchase here. This edition of the Trinity Psalter has the music included, should you desire that.
  • Trinity Psalter (online) – see here. This online resource contains the full Psalter and is accessible from your phone as well as your computer. Anyone can sign up for as little as $1 a month or $9 a year to access the full text and music of four different Psalters. Crown and Covenant is incredibly generous in providing this resource for such a small price.
  • Psalms of the Trinity Psalter (album) – Spotify. A wonderful recording of many of the Psalms in the Trinity Psalter. Some have different tunes than those suggested in the book itself, but each has the tune mentioned in the song title, so those should be easy to spot. Nevertheless, a good resource for listening to the Psalms.
  • The Book of Psalms for Worship (hardback) – $21.00, purchase here. This hymnal-style Psalter shares many similarities to the Trinity Psalter, only with updated language and many more versions of the Psalms; while the Trinity Psalter only has one version of most psalms (some have two), the BoPfW has several selections for almost every psalm (except a few that only have one). Thus, there are several melodies and meters to choose from, giving a greater musical variety. This Psalter was produced by the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America, one of the last remaining churches in America practicing exclusive psalmody.
  • The Book of Psalms for Worship app – $9.99, iPhone and Android. If you don’t want to purchase a physical copy of the BoPfW, you can always get the app. When the phone is held in portrait mode, it has the words only, but when turned to landscape mode, the music appears. The app also includes a recording of each tune. An excellent resource for on-the-go singing of Psalms. (Folks who pay for access to can use the BoPfW from there as well.)

So, there you have it. Those are my most highly recommended tools for Psalm singing.

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