HymnSite.com FAQ

As with many sites, certain questions from HymnSite visitors seem to crop up regularly. Such inquiries have earned a name in cyberspace -- Frequently Asked Questions -- or "FAQs." This page will try to answer as many of them as possible. Keep in mind, though, that I'm not a computer professional, not a professional musician, and not a member of any church staff. I am a Christian who is taking this opportunity to share a site on the internet, and is being blessed daily by God's children who come to listen, to share, and to enjoy.

This is a work in progress, but I am striving toward perfection (isn't that a good Wesleyan attitude?). This FAQ will change continually, so be patient with me if your question hasn't been answered or the response doesn't seem to be complete (it may not be!). Here it goes:

Frequently Asked Questions
at HymnSite.com


Where did HymnSite come from?

HymnSite.com is a one-person operation by me, CARadke. It began when I started posting a site on the internet in 1996 just to see if I could do it. It first appeared under the name of a childhood pet, Bandit the Boston Terrier, and I started posting some midi files on a page called "Bandit's Methodist Hymns." In 1997, I registered this domain name which has a more natural relationship to church music. Bandit's site is gone. Have no fear, though. If you loved Bandit the Boston Terrier, I have given him his own directory again. Please feel free to visit The Bandit Memorial Page, where you can learn more than you wanted to (and certainly more than you will ever need to!) about Bandit the Boston Terrier.

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How is the ministry of HymnSite supported?

I started this online ministry in 1996 and have not requested or accepted donations to support it. I have personally paid all charges for equipment, software, online access, domain registration, and site hosting. As of December 2000, I began selling HymnDiskCDs through the HymnStore. You are more than welcome to use this site whether or not you purchase a CD. Materials that are free today will remain free as long as I can keep this site online. At this time, I plan to use the proceeds to upgrade equipment used to post this site and prepare CDs, acquire additional software to produce more resources such as .pdf files with music scores, and generally support music ministry online and offline.

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Can I put a link to HymnSite on my page?

Yes. You may link to HymnSite.com. To help me keep track of the number of visits, I would appreciate it if you would kindly link to HymnSite's home page at http://www.HymnSite.com. Links to other pages work, but I really prefer that you link to the main home page.

If you like using graphic links or animated gifs, this animated gif was prepared for me by an online acquaintance:

HymnSite logo (animated!)


To use this logo as your link to HymnSite.com, insert the following into your page:

<p>
<center>
Find Free Hymns at<br>
<a href="http://www.HymnSite.com"><img alt="HymnSite.com" src="http://www.HymnSite.com/img/hymnsite.animated.gif"></a>
</center>
<p>

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Can I use music from HymnSite?

Yes! You can use any of the MIDI files that begin with the letters "umh." I have tried to carefully select only that music which has no copyright restrictions at all. I prepared these MIDI files myself in my home on my computer with my keyboard, and I have no desire to restrict the use or distribution of these files in any way. You want to use them for your church? Go ahead. You want to put them on your web pages? Go ahead. You want to arrange parts for instrumentalists? Go ahead. You want to package them up and sell them? Go ahead. Really--NO RESTRICTIONS.

The only request I make is that you do your best to ensure that God is glorified through the gift of music that He has given to all of us. Music is a way that people can share the message of God's love in an enjoyable and memorable way. Visitors to HymnSite have told me that listening to the hymns and following the words on the page reminds them of times gone by when they stood in church with parents singing these great, old hymns. The parents have gone to join their Maker, but the memories are so vivid that they bring tears.

Many more faith stories are associated with music. These files are here on the web without restriction in the hopes that still more faith stories will arise from the witness of the writers and composers who wrote these songs.

I do claim copyright in the HymnDisk arrangements. Please do not use those without permission.

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What else can I do with MIDI files?

There have been so many questions on this, follow this link some "How To" pages to help you edit MIDI files using the Jazz++ midi sequencer, which is available on the web as freeware (at least it is as of February 2002).

MIDI works great on computers because the file size is small and the range of musical instructions is large. But MIDI didn't start out for computers with sound cards. In fact, sound cards like the one you probably have in your computer didn't even exist when MIDI was being developed.

It all began with efforts to make electronic instruments (like synthesizers) communicate with other electronic instruments and with computers. To do this, there had to be a way to interface the devices. The name MIDI is an acronym for the system of equipment and protocols that developed, the Musical Instrument Digital Interface. It is simply a way for electronic musical devices to communicate with each other. It sets up a series of electronic commands and provides a configuration for sending, receiving, and passing those commands to, from, and through different MIDI devices.

It just so happens that computers are very useful when you deal with electronic commands and instructions. You can issue commands from a computer to configure a MIDI instrument. You can set voicing, tempo, volume, pitch, and more. You can turn voices on and off. You can remap channels. Anything that MIDI can do, a computer can direct. Using MIDI, a church organist can change stops faster (and more accurately) than good old Johann Sebastian Bach ever did! (That frees up the organist to concentrate on the finger and foot work. Odds are that Johann could still win in that category!) MIDI can also make that same organ "talk" to a KORG synthesizer in the front row of the choir loft to take advantage of the flexibility and versatility of that instrument, too. And have you seen some of those MIDI equiped drum sets? You can connect and control that part of the system, too.

But we haven't even scratched the surface yet. One of my favorite aspects of MIDI and computers is composition, arranging, and publishing. If you have never had the pleasure of using a stylus and an ink well to prepare music manuscript, you may not share my enthusiasm in this area. Let me tell you--MIDI publishing is great! I can transpose parts for instrumentalists and print them out as quickly and easily as a secretary prepares a letter. I can cut and paste musical notation just like text, add and change notes to utilize the talent range of the musicians available to me, proof my score for parts that I write out of range, and oh, so much more! And what's even better is that all of the musicians can read what I write when I am done. (I never was all that good with a stylus! <g>)

In case you couldn't tell, I am very big on using MIDI to assist in the presentation of music during worship.  I hope that you find good uses for it, too.

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How do I download files from HymnSite?

There are at least a couple of ways that you can download MIDI files from HymnSite.com.

  1. Downloading from a hymn page:
  2. Accessing by URL:
    If you know the number of the hymn, it is simple to go straight to the MIDI file:

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What about copyright?

Excellent question! And one that more people should pay attention to. Copyright law is very important. It helps ensure that people who use their gifts and talents to create music and other "works" are able to profit from them, just like a home builder profits from the sale of a new home.

To exclude copyrighted material from HymnSite, I have relied solely on the notations contained in the 1989 edition of The United Methodist Hymnal. The United Methodist Publishing House conducted some extensive research to identify writers and composers, and has given credit to those it was able to identify. Almost half of the hymns in the UM Hymnal are copyrighted or otherwise restricted. I have omitted music from all of the hymns that show either a copyright notice or an indication that permission was obtained.

Words are often written by someone other than the composer and have their own copyright issues. Some MIDI hymn files appear at HymnSite without words because of the separate copyright issue.

If you would like to learn more about copyright or conduct some searches of your own, here are a few good links for you to visit:

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What about the rest of The United Methodist Hymnal?

HymnSite.com does not include all of the hymns from The United Methodist Hymnal, and it never will. There are a number of reasons for this. Almost half of the hymns are subject to copyright or other restrictions. This is particularly true of recently written materials. Permission to post files at this site could be sought, but I am not planning to request special permission from anyone at this time.

In addition to restrictions on recent songs, some of the old songs and spirituals in the public domain are also restricted. This is because arrangements, adaptations, and harmonizations can be separately copyrighted. These are sometimes referred to as "derivative works," and can be entitled to just as much protection under the copyright law as originals.

Finally, copyright laws in other countries are sometimes more restrictive than those in the US. Because the United States has entered into treaties with other nations regarding protection of copyrights, the copyright laws of those nations are sometimes enforceable in the US (where I happen to live).

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How do the hymns play with different voices?

HymnSite.com does two things. First, it plays a short file with the "voice" (sound) of piano, organ, or bells. If your sound card, drivers, and software work like a "real" MIDI device, that voice assignment should continue to be used until a new voice is designated.

Unfortunately, many sound cards, drivers, and software automatically "reset" to their default voice (usually piano) each time a new file is played. For that reason, HymnSite.com sets a "cookie" in your computer's memory so that it can remember to select the right voice again. No cookies from HymnSite.com are written onto your disk, so you have to make your voice selection each time to start your browser.

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Why won't my computer play the hymns using different voices?

Most sound cards and MIDI devices use piano as the default voice. If you only hear the default voice, it is because your sound card, drivers, or software automatically reset to your system to its default voice each time a new MIDI file is played.

HymnSite.com has tried to work around this problem by using cookies. If you have disabled cookies on your browser, try allowing them to work. Then your system should be able to designate the sound it wants to use, and HymnSite.com will be happy to oblige! <grin>

For quick download of .zip archives of MIDI files in piano, organ, and bell voices, use these links:

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Why can't I play .sht files through my MIDI player?

The simple answer is that .sht files aren't MIDI files. The .sht extension is short for .shtml, which is the normal extension for html files that contain server-side features. Many servers (like the one I use) are configured to work with truncated, three-character extensions to accomodate name length limitations for files prepared in DOS or Win3.x environments (like the one that HymnSite.com was originally prepared with!).

Instead of trying to play an .shtml file as a MIDI file, you need to retrieve the MIDI file itself. Follow this link for instructions.

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How does the random music work?

The random features at HymnSite work by using a cgi (common gateway interface) script.

To create random features like HymnSite's, you need the following:

From this point, all I can say is--follow the instructions for the script. If you are told to put the script in the cgi-bin directory, do it. If it says that the file extension on your page has to be .shtml, add it. If it says to create and post yet another configuration file, follow those instructions carefully.

If you don't have access to scripts at your server and cannot post new scripts, fear not. For those who are willing to experiment with JavaScript on their pages, try inserting script like this one, which I found on a church's home page:

<SCRIPT>
var ver = navigator.appVersion;
var now=new Date();
var status=(now.getSeconds())%11;
  if (ver.indexOf("MSIE") != -1)
  {
    document.write('<bgsound src="hymnfrnt/umh'+status+'.mid" loop=2>');
  }
  else
  {
   document.write('<EMBED SRC="hymnfrnt/umh'+status+'.mid"  height=60 width=145 loop=2 autostart=true>')
   }
</SCRIPT>

This script will randomly select a hymn based on the time that the page is loaded. The %11 at the end of the var status= statement sets a cap on the maximum number that can be generated. In this example, the files will be located in a directory called hymnfrnt, and each MIDI file will use the name umh#.mid, where # is the random number to fill in the blank. MIDI files are posted on the server using each of the file names that might be generated.

This script does another very good thing. Sometimes the <embed> tag causes problems with Microsoft's browsers. This script determines whether the visitor is using Internet Explorer, and the browser only sees the music tag that it needs. Cool, huh!

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How do the searches work?

The hymn searches work using a cgi (common gateway interface) script that I wrote in PERL. They use 1) the script, and 2) a data file or directory to be searched. My search scripts are completely home grown now, so I am the one to blame if they don't work right for you. If you have any problems, please let me know so that I can try to fix them.

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How can I get all of the hymns from HymnSite?

This has been a really popular question! Try downloading the free HymnDisk Floppy from The HymnStore at http://www.HymnSite.com/hymnstor. The HymnDisk is a small version of HymnSite.com that fits on a single floppy disk. It can't search, but the index, text, and music are all there for you.

All of the materials from the HymnDisk Floppy and more are also included on HymnDiskCD#1, which can be ordered online for sales in the United States.

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How can I add music to my own page?

To put background MIDI files into your page, you need 4 things:

1) a MIDI file. You are welcome to use any of the files posted at HymnSite. My materials are all in the public domain, so you won't need any permissions or royalties or anything to use them. If you use files from other sites, make sure that you obtain any necessary authorization.

2) a server that supports MIDI mime types. If your church is using the gbgm server (United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries), you're in good shape. Most other servers are set up to support MIDI, too. The easiest way to figure out that MIDI mime types are not supported is if Windows machines launch media player instead of a MIDI plugin like Crescendo.

3) html support in your page for Internet Explorer. The tag for IE's built in MIDI file background music support is:

<bgsound src="filename.mid" loop=x>

Put the correct file name in the place of filename, and insert a number for x. You can also set this attribute to "infinite".

4) html support for plug-in supported MIDI sound. Do this *in_addition_to* the bgsound tag. It is needed to support plug-in technology, which is how Netscape plays MIDI files. The tag looks like this:

<embed src="filename.mid" height=x width=y autostart=true loop=z>

Again, put the correct file name in the place of filename. You can set how big the embedded plug-in controller will be on the screen by using the height and width attributes. Again, fill in any number for the loop attribute. You can also set this attribute to "true".

For a script routine that will help distinguish between Internet Explorer and other browsers and load only the line that is needed, see the discussion to the random music faq.

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Where can I find more MIDI files?

There are MIDI sites all over the web! Some of my favorite sites are on my links page. You can use any number of search engines to locate more sites than you can ever visit. To find specific songs at other sites, I usually go to Yahoo (http://www.yahoo.com) and use the following search syntax:

+"part of the title" +[writer's last name]

Drop the square brackets, but keep the quotation marks. Use as much of the title as you can, but not more than you are reasonably certain about. If the file is available on the web, it usually shows up in the first 20 sites returned by Google.

Happy searching, and good luck!

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Why the frames?

So you want to know why I use frames? The subjective answer is simple--I like them. I prefer to be able to follow lots of different links without having to backtrack all of the time. By using frames and targets, I am able to set up a list of links in one frame, and display destinations in another. Pretty simple!

Some people don't like frames, though, so I also have an objective answer. Simply put, the frames at HymnSite help control bandwidth usage. Let's consider what is going on here. There are thousands of files at HymnSite which are used to produce the pages that you see, including more than 300 hymns, 150 Psalms, lectionary materials for the three-year cycle of The Revised Common Lectionary, and more. HymnSite.com has thousands of visits to its home page each week. From there, people retrieve random hymns, download HymnDisk Floppy archives, read scriptures from The Revised Common Lectionary, retrieve more hymns, etc. The frame design at this site reduces the demands on the server by a substantial amount. I believe that this should be a significant consideration to anyone designing a web site.

Alas, the times they are a-changin', though.  HymnSite.com will soon be revised to use css and newer versions of HTML.  Wait and see.  It will be the best HymnSite.com ever!

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