Long before any other people, the Germans began to sing hymns in their native language. This continuous tradition came to full flower under Martin Luther (1483-1546). In conformity with his principle of congregational participation, he favored vernacular texts and simple, tuneful melodies. In his search for suitable texts Luther resorted chiefly to Roman Catholic hymns, may of which he translated into German.
The 17th century saw continued activity in the creation of chorale melodies (monophonic as well as polyphonic or with figured bass). The cantatas, oratorios, and Passions of the late 17th and early 18th centuries (especially those of Bach) contain numerous examples of vocal chorale composition in a simple homophonic style as well as in elaborate contrapuntal texture. Simultaneously, there developed the no less impressive repertory of the organ chorale, or, as it its often called, chorale prelude.