Paul Jehle, in a blog post for the Plymouth Rock Foundation, identified three characteristics of the Ainsworth Psalter:
- · First, its translation (and notes of interpretation) of the Scriptures kept the lyrics as close to the original text as possible. Henry Ainsworth’s challenge was to take the Old Testament Psalms and turn the words into prose that could be set to an easy melody.
- · Second, the prose of Scripture was inseparably connected to the melodies employed by Ainsworth. These were taken from a blend of English, Dutch and French tunes used in the Reformed Churches in Amsterdam. Only the melodies are given in Ainsworth’s Psalm Book, and the C-clef alone is used. There are forty-eight tunes and where there is no tune given, the book refers to a tune already used in another Psalm. Nine are duplicates so that only 39 are needed to be memorized.
- · Third, its rhythm was iambic (first beat on the second syllable). Trochaic (first beat on the first syllable) measures were not common until early in the 18th century. The tunes were often taken from folk songs and thus they were lively.