Do Amish enjoy music and singing?

Amish appreciate a variety of song and music

amish musicAmish enjoy music in church, school, work, and at rest. 

In this article we examine the different ways Amish encounter and create song and music.

Amish experience music and song in various ways:

  • church song-singing in church is an expression of praise to God
  • musical instruments-musical instruments are generally not used by Amish (with one or two exceptions)
  • singing at home-Amish may sing after meals, while working, or in the evening
  • singing in school-children sing a variety of songs in Amish schools
  • youth singing-the Amish youth singing is an important social event
  • pop and country music-many Amish enjoy popular music thought they generally do not own iPods, CD players, or radios

Amish church singing

Amish church songs are taken from the High German songbook known as the Ausbund.  The Ausbund contains no musical notes, and tunes are shared from one generation to the next.  Songs in the Ausbund recall the martyr history of Anabaptist forefathers.

Singing in church is typically slow, with drawn-out notes.  Singing may last half-an-hour or more to open the church service.  Read more about Amish church singing.

Do the Amish play musical instruments?

amish harmonica
Amish forbid stringed instruments, but some allow harmonicas

Amish church music is unaccompanied, and generally, the Amish do not play musical instruments.  Stringed musical instruments such as guitars and banjos are seen as avenues for self-expression which call unnecessary attention to the individual.

In some communities, however, small harmonicas or mouthharps may be acceptable.  On a similar note, Amish do not dance to music or song.   A few Amish may write their own songs, though it is not common.

Singing around the house

Amish do enjoy song, and often sing informally.  This may be anything from singing in the shower, the garden, or while working.  Song is seen as a joyful way to pass the time and make the work go quicker.  Songs are typically sung in English.

Church songs are generally not sung alone or informally.  Amish will gather to practice these songs.  Amish married men, for instance, may gather together to practice church singing on a weekday.  Christian hymns may also be sung in English at breakfast or at the end of the day.

School songs

Amish children sing many songs at school, typically in English.  Songs sung in Amish schools typically have an uplifting religious theme.  A song is usually sung before beginning the day’s lessons.  Children eagerly perform the songs they learn in school at home for their parents, or visitors to the school.

The Youth Singing

amish ausbund songs
Songs from the Ausbund recall Anabaptist martyr history

Amish youth also gather together to sing both church songs from the Ausbund and other books, as well as other hymns, both in German and in some cases English.

The Amish youth singing is typically held at the home of the family which held church that Sunday, and includes dinner and often games of volleyball.  It is an important event for youth to socialize and to meet potential marriage partners.  Singings are an important part of the Amish youth period Rumspringa.

Do Amish listen to pop music?

It sometimes surprises people to learn that Amish enjoy forms of popular music.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that Amish have stacks of compact discs and iPods stashed away (though some Amish youth might).

However, Amish don’t necessarily mind some forms of pop music.   Country music in particular is popular among Amish, and Amish may be quite familiar with artists such as Johnny Cash or local favorites, such as country/gospel musician John Schmid, popular in his heavily Amish “hometown” of Holmes County, Ohio.

Where do Amish hear pop music?  There are a number of venues.  With the rise of Amish businesses, more and more Amish travel by car to work, such as construction workers.  Often, a driver will play music and may fill requests for particular stations.

Amish may encounter music on the job site as well, as was heard in a produce co-op consisting mainly of Amish farmers but which employs both non-Amish and Amish at its electrically-equipped warehouse.  A stereo system plays songs as young Amish move vegetable about the floor space.

amish youth music
Some Amish youth install stereos in their carriages

Amish, of course, enter into public spaces such as banks and stores like Walmart, and will hear whatever music those venues pipe in for their patrons.  Amish may even occasionally have a chance to hear live music during outdoor concerts that may take place during community auctions, or other events.

Amish often have preferences for certain types of popular music, such as country, bluegrass, gospel, or even rock.  Amish youth are understandably more likely to have experience with popular music.  A teenager is likely to be acquainted with a wide range of music and may have an iPod or access to music on a cellphone.

Some Amish teens install stereos and speakers in their buggies.  Amish parents take different views of these practices and, like any parents, don’t necessarily condone their children’s behavior.  Others see less of a danger in youthful indulgence in pop music.

The Amish experience with music

The Amish experience with music is varied, ranging from the solemn traditional High German hymns sung in church, through to more popular hymns sung while working and relaxing, and even pop music heard in a variety of venues.

Amish enjoy music as any others do, and enjoy both listening to and creating song.  Music is a means of expression acceptable in Amish society, though it is more often performed in group contexts rather than in solo situations.

For further information, see:

The Riddle of Amish Culture, Donald B. Kraybill

Amish Society, John A. Hostetler

“The History of Our Amish Church Tunes”, David Wagler, Family Life December 1985

Get the Amish in your inbox

Join 15,000 email subscribers. No spam. 100% free

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


    1. Keith B. Johnston

      Do Amish enjoy music and singing?

      Recently small booklets have been printed with the tunes for the Ausbund hymns, so they can be studied now by songleaders. The best book on the Ausbund is a well written one by an Amish man Ben Blank, The Amazing Story of the Ausbund. There is also an English translation of the most commonly used hymns called Songs of the Ausbund (although many hymnals used outside of Sunday morning worship by the Amish and Plain Mennonites contain some Ausbund hymns translated). Both of these can be found in most Amish stores or ordered from Pathways.

    2. Thanks Keith, I appreciate you sharing good info here and on other posts. I’ve at least once used the translated hymnals, and I’ve often seen Ben Blank’s books in Amish homes. Interesting to hear about the booklets.

    3. kate


      I am doing a project for school and this article has been very helpful thanks.

    4. Pam M.

      Amish dances in the late 40's?

      My uncle tells me that he and my dad went to Amish dances in Pennsylvania when they were in their late teens/early twenties. Can anyone shed any light on this topic? Thanks

    5. PRINZ

      Recherche CD des chants Amish

      Je recherche un CD des principaux chants des Amish aux Etats Unis.
      Quelqu’un peut-il me conseiller ?

    6. Slightly-handled-Order-man

      I am unaware that there are any CDs of Amish church music, for one thing, producing a recording of songs sung from Amish church services for the sake of profit may (most likely) be regarded as sacrilegious to the Amish community, generally.

      However, various youtube videos exist of Amish and Mennonites singing spirituals and hymns from various sources. One of the nicest in my opinion, although, given the circumstance of where the video was made, of a “choir” of Amish girls singing at an Amish funeral.

      But, although other people maybe be aware of CDs of Amish music, I am not, and if they are available, I am sure a lot of people would want to know how to get them too.

      1. Shom a belated thanks for the French language help 🙂 I am assuming French is more commonly taught in Canada. I guess I could have used Google Translate but you did a nice job here.

      2. I own a CD of songs by some Amish young ladies in Holmes County. They were all (3 or 4) unbaptized at the time and sang at benefits and such in their area. I believe proceeds from the sale of the CDs went to help someone in need.

        When we visited later with one of the girls, she had moved on from singing as much because she had been baptized.

    7. John Nozum

      Thanks for the article on Amish music!

      I had questions about Amish and music for around 15 years! I really enjoyed your article on Amish music!

      May God’s peace be with ya–in the name of JESUS!

      From John Nozum

    8. Rev. J. Alexander

      The Ausbund

      I am a minister in the Christian Church(Disciples of Christ) who just recently moved to Wooster, Ohio. I am a musician and collect hymnals. Any idea if it would be possible to get a copy of the Ausbund?

      1. Carol


        In the 2016 Pathway Publishers the Ausbund is listed @ $6.50.

      2. Mark -- Holmes Co.

        If you’re in Wooster, you are not far from The Amish & Mennonite Heritage Center. (Address: 5798 County Road 77, Millersburg, OH, 44654; phone: 330-893-3192). Though the address is Millersburg, they are just outside of Berlin, maybe a 40 min. drive from Wooster. They sell Ausbunds both the original (like we use in church) and the newer translated ones that have the German with the English translation underneath.) I’m not sure of the price of either one, but you could easily find out. They also have a display of copies of the Ausbund from the original printing in 1564 all the way up to today, though one of the books is a copy and a few editions are missing and have been marked with a wooden-block the size of the missing book. The display gives a lot of information. They have books related to the Ausbund also, maybe a half dozen titles. There is a CD that has some selected singing from the Ausbund also. I hope this helps.

    9. Indra

      I heard that the amish think that music is a sin, why listen to them on music then?

      1. Mark -- Holmes Co.

        Indra, don’t believe everything you hear. In the village of Berlin there is the”music on the square” event Friday evenings through the warm weather with various singers or bands playing. You’ll see a lot of Amish folks there enjoying the singing.

        This evening the Heritage Center has their annual banquet and there will be a few hundred Amish & Mennonite people there to enjoy the meal, the speaker, AND the singer. This year the singer will be John Schmid, a local non-Amish man who is a very popular singer in this area, with both Amish & non-Amish.