Music is a big part of Amish life. It's not uncommon to hear some Amish ladies singing as they hand-wash a pile of dishes after dinner. But, for most Amish, the only "instrument" needed is one you don't buy: the human voice.
Hymns are a big part of Amish church life and the Amish hymnal, known as the Ausbund, is the oldest continuously used hymnal. But the hymns are all sung a capella. Men take part in singing in the Amish church and Amish culture just as much, if not more, than women.
And "Sunday evening singings" are a cornerstone of Amish culture, a place for young single Amish people to gather and many courtships begin here. But despite the music, there are no instruments at any of these occasions.
📜 Reasons Why The Amish Don't Play Instruments
Many Amish will embrace traditions without exactly knowing why, but some of the ideological underpinnings against not using instruments are:
- The Amish believe that musical instruments can lead to pride and vanity. They believe that it is important to focus on humility and simplicity, and that musical instruments can distract from these values.
- The Amish also believe that musical instruments can be a distraction from work. They believe that people should focus on their work and their families, and that musical instruments can take away from this focus.
- Finally, the Amish believe that musical instruments are not mentioned in the Bible, and therefore they should not be used.
🎹 The History of Amish and Instruments: the Piano That Divided a Community
Chrisholm is the immaculately preserved grounds of a former Amish settlement in southwest Ohio about 30 miles north of Cincinnati. You can keep up with happenings at Chrisholm by liking their Facebook page.
While I was exploring the preserved original farmstead of one the community's founders I came across a fascinating tidbit I thought I'd share about a piano the ideological divide in created between a faction of more progressive and more traditionalist Amish. Those divides still play out today.
Instruments are not generally used by the Amish. They view one's voice as God's only instrument and anything else interferes with that relationship. Over the years I have heard of Amish people playing harmonicas, but that's been it. I have a vague memory once of seeing a guitar somewhere, but it was owned by an Amish boy and I think he had to get rid of it.
Anyway, while at Chrisholm, I was drawn to a small square piano which has a fascinating history. Since musical instruments are generally not tolerated in Amish churches this family's piano caused quite the division in the community. The anti-piano forces (read the above photo for the whole story) eventually won out and the piano was dissembled. But the love of music didn't die over the generations and one of the descendants, who was no longer Amish, but Mennonite, eventually reassembled and restored the piano where it now sits for all to enjoy!
🙋♂️ Amish and Instruments FAQ
As a general rule, no. As with anything regarding the Amish there are nuances and variations by community and sect, but the vast majority of Plain/horse-and-buggy Amish do not play instruments, believing that interfere's with God's preferred instrument: the voice.
No. All singing is done acapella.
This is a very broad question and will vary by individual, but many Amish would enjoy watching or listening to musical instruments played by non-Amish.
📋Variations Among Amish Sects
On rare occasions, I've seen harmonicas and accordions in Amish homes, but as you move across the Amish ideological spectrum you will see more variety in opinion concerning instruments. New Order Amish are more open to instruments. And as you get into the Mennonites you'll see a much bigger embrace of instruments to the point that you'll see some progressive but Plain Mennonites playing instruments.
It seems if you do see an Amish person with an instrument, it's a string instrument or a harmonica. No tubas. No French horns. Although, in Amish bakeries you found plenty of delicious creme horns!