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There are early references in the Old Testament to the practice of music (Gen. 4:21; 31:27). For instances of its religious use see Ex. 15:20; 2 Sam. 6:5; 1 Chr. 15:16–28; 16:5–6, 42; 25:1–7; 2 Chr. 5:11–14; 7:6; 13:12–14; 20:28; 29:25–28; 30:21; 34:12; 35:15, 25; Neh. 12:35–36. For its secular use see Num. 10:2–9; Josh. 6:4, 8; Judg. 7:8–19; 11:34; 1 Sam. 18:6; Isa. 16:10; Jer. 48:33. The building of the temple gave an impetus to the study of music and led to the formation of a large choir for the proper performance of services (1 Chr. 15:16; 23:5–6; 25:1–6).

Little is known about the form or character of Hebrew music. Possibly the Jews were ignorant of the principles of harmony and of methods of forming harmonic chords. Their instrumental music would sound noisy and harsh to our ears. The Psalms were probably sung to simple melodies and accompanied by instruments (2 Sam. 6:5). The chief stringed instruments in use were the harp, psaltery, viol, and ten-stringed lute. Wind instruments were the organ, pipe, trumpet, horn, and cornet. Besides these, there were percussion instruments, such as the timbrel or tabret and cymbals.

The Old Testament also mentions certain Babylonish instruments (Dan. 3:5), such as the cornet (or cow’s horn), flute (a Pan’s pipe or small organ), harp, sackbut (also a kind of harp), psaltery (or dulcimer), and the instrument that the KJV translates “dulcimer,” a kind of bagpipe.

The New Testament mentions that angels sang at the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:13–14), and that Jesus and the Twelve sang a hymn after the Last Supper (Matt. 26:30). Latter-day revelation also confirms the spiritual value of good music. The Lord has said, “My soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads” (D&C 25:12). He also specified that a selection of sacred hymns be made for use in the Church (D&C 25:11). See also Rev. 14:2–3; Mosiah 2:28; D&C 45:71; 66:11; 101:18; 109:39; 133:33; 136:28.