by hymncharts arranger Don Chapman:
I’ve never released a “sneak peek” clip before but I’m so excited about this new arrangement of Great Is Thy Faithfulness I can’t keep quiet LOL! I still want to get a few Easter arrangements out so it’ll be a few more weeks until it’s finished – here’s a little teaser: a simple piano/vocal demo of the first verse. Yesterday I finished the vocal and I’ll be recording guitars next.
I thought you also might enjoy an insight into how I go about creating a hymncharts arrangement:
First, I’ll pick a hymn I want to arrange and then sit at my piano or synth and start noodling around until I find something that clicks. I’ll record it live on my phone with a free audio recording app, then listen to it the next day to decide if I still like it. Sometimes I’ll get the idea as I’m driving or riding my bike. I never get writer’s block – many years ago I read “The Inner Game of Music” and similar books on creativity that enable me to turn composing on or off like a light switch. Anybody can do this, you simply have to learn how to unlock your brain and keep it from getting in a rut.
Next I’ll sit at my computer and notate the piano part with Finale, solidifying my improvisation by working out the exact notes I want. I’ll create the midi piano track and email it to my drummer buddy Jon Skaggs – a fantastic drummer who’s played with artists like Brandon Heath, Nichole Nordeman, Casting Crowns and Aaron Shust. Jon will program MIDI drums and email the file back to me.
With just the piano and drum part a vocalist can get a good idea of the “feel” of the song. Pre-Covid I’d fly to Nashville to record vocals but recently have had good success doing it virtually over the Internet with talented producer.
The Right Key:
At this stage I don’t want to record guitars yet because the key and tempo of the song might not be right. I won’t know this until I’m in the studio. That’s why I start with just the piano and drums – the key and/or tempo can easily be changed with MIDI.
I originally arranged Great Is Thy Faithfulness in the key of C (which I think is the optimal congregational key) but the vocalist I used leans more towards the alto range so I dropped it to B. It was also a hair too fast so I slowed it 2 BPMs (Beats Per Measure). B did not sit right with her voice so we tried lowering it another half step to Bb and everything fell right into place. I never cease to be amazed how there seems to be a perfect key for a particular vocalist! Typically I’ll record the hymn in the key I feel is best for a congregation, but in this case I made an exception because I love this singer!
Once the vocals are recorded I’ll add guitars next. Two of my favorite guitarists who’ve played for me are Kendall Combes (he was a part of worship leader Charlie Hall’s band for years) and Micah Nichols from Seacoast Church and Brandon Lake.
Once the recording is finished I’ll start mixing. This might take forever or happen fairly quickly – you never know, every mix is different! I’m a perfectionist so I won’t release it until I’m happy with it.
Then there’s the massive task of getting the sheet music, multitracks and chord charts formatted and ready for download. In the early days of hymncharts I did everything myself, now I have a few people helping with such tasks so I can get an arrangement out a little faster.
Creating a hymnchart is a lot more than just coming up with an idea. Shortly after my mom moved in with me several years ago she exclaimed “I never realized how hard you work!” That cracked me up – I guess my friends and family assume a musician sits around all day playing video games 😂
Download Great Is Thy Faithfulness (Coming Soon)
Download sheet music, chord charts, tracks, multitracks and instrumental parts for Great Is Thy Faithfulness exclusively with a hymncharts subscription. You won’t find this arrangement on any other website.