Arranging a hymn can be a challenging thing to do. You want to arrange something that sounds nice, but in a way that it doesn’t take away from the hymn. You don’t want it to sound to simple, but you don’t want it to be ‘too much’ or overdone. The listener should be able to listen to and enjoy the song, not concentrate on trying to pick out the melody in the midst of a million other notes. Now, that being said, I LOVE playing and writing arrangements where you are using almost all of the 88 keys on the piano. BUT, the best arrangements to play and to listen to, are the ones that no matter how many extra notes there are, you can still very clearly hear the melody.
1. Choose a Song
This is a fun but surprisingly difficult step in writing your own arrangement. It is great to learn new songs, but if you choose a song that people know, there is usually a lot better response.
2. Make An Outline
This can be written, or just in your head. This is usually the basic outline that I use;
Ending / Tag / 2nd Chorus
This is just a very basic outline. You can then decide where to add key changes and other things. I have found that for most songs, two verses is plenty long enough. If you feel it is necessary, you can repeat the chorus or add additional verses. * Do NOT play all of the verses the same exact way. It needs to be consistent, but also have variety.
3. Start Playing
This is the fun part but it can also be the hardest. This could take 20 minutes, or it could take weeks. Some songs are definitely easier to arrange than others. For your first arrangement you might want to choose a song like Amazing Grace or Jesus Loves Me, that has the same 3 or 4 chords throughout the entire song. After you have the main idea of what your arrangement should sound like, it’s time to practice! If you are playing and it sounds like a certain part could be improved, than improve it. Don’t take any shortcuts and keep improving upon your original arrangement. If something isn’t working, it’s ok to change it, or to completely remove and replace it!
I know this is hard work, but it doesn’t have to seem like it! SMILE, have FUN, and LAUGH at your mistakes! It’s music, and music should be enjoyable!!
O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.