I have been in church music ministry for about 24 years. 20 years of that time I served in traditional music churches and we sang primarily hymns. But I love the contemporary worship music and tried to incorporate it when I could. Over this time I saw a need for arrangements of hymns that can be used with contemporary worship. Since need is the mother of invention I decided to do something about it.
I have started producing a series of hymn arrangements that I call Traditional Hymns for Contemporary Worship. I would like to get everyone's opinion about the idea. My idea is to produce arrangements that can be easily incorporated into a contemporary worship set and with a great deal of flexibility.
These arrangements have the following features:
My idea is for you to be able to give a musician (for example a horn player) one sheet that would have everything they need to play the melody, one of two harmonies, or an obligato melody in their own key without having to transpose in their head. They could also improvise using the chords on the lead sheet since they are transposed to their key if they have the knowledge of music theory to do it.
More of my vision is for flexibility, you could have a worship team with any instrumentation (even an orchestra) use these sheets and the director simply tells which instruments play melody, harmony 1, harmony 2, or obligato for verse 1 and then who plays what for verse two, etc. So, with a few simple directions and each instrument having the sheet for their key you would be able to play this hymn with full orchestra or whatever instrumentation you have in any number of ways for unlimited variety in arrangements..
On my website I am selling one of these hymn arrangements for $4.00. This includes a PDF file with all transpositions and permission to copy for worship team use.
OK, so there it is. I would love to hear your thoughts about this idea.
I have attached one of these arrangements -- Away In a Manger. I have also included a computer generated audio file of how it all sounds together--melody, two harmony parts, obligato melody, and a guitar strumming. :-)
Thanks in advance for any comments you might have.
For contemporary worship teams, what we really want is a ONE PAGE representation of the song with just lyrics and chords, so that the team doesn't have to be flipping pages to do the song. By the time we're actually performing it, we'll know the melody well enough. Maybe just a lead sheet with just the melody would work for this song. Make sure the chord symbols are LARGE and easily readable, worship bands don't get to sit quite as still as church pianists / organists do. Additionally, even if the song is "singable" in the original key but the original key is Eb, I would move it down to "D" as a much more playable guitar key.
This one looks okay, but you've probably seen the "C-to-shining-C" discussions on here. Many hymns are written for a choir, meaning that the soprano melody goes up to D, E or higher. For use with contemporary worship teams, it's important (to some of us, anyway) that the melody of the song be lowered into a range where the highest note in the melody is a C or maybe a D if you don't sit there too long.
Personally, I would suggest not even providing any "capo to first fret" sheets. Guitars with light gauge strings go out of tune (with the other instruments, if not with themselves) if capo'd at the first fret. On the various key transposition sheets, you might also want to include a "keyboard transpose to +4 steps" note." Or even just choose one easy-to-play keyboard key (F maybe?) and then always provide chords in that key with a "transpose" note so that a beginning keyboard player could play the whole set in one key and just mess with the transpose knob between songs.
Just some ideas...
Lots of great ideas!
Thanks for the feedback. At the church we attend the worship leader and most of the worship team have pretty low voices so they lower everything 5-7 half steps. It really keeps the guitarists on their toes. Not too bad for me on bass since I use my modified version of the "Nashville number system" and I know the theory for roots and inversions, etc. but the guitarist has only been playing for two years and started playing with the worship team after only playing for about 6 months... I told him if he can keep up with them here he will be the better for it. They really take things too low... a lot of the congregation have trouble singing since it is too low but it's OK we have really good worship so it works.