Hymm Arrangements for Worship Piano
Very little compares to the experience of walking into a cavernous cathedral
and hearing the majestic reverberations of an organ’s powerful chords that echo off of the ceilings and
vibrate within your own chest.
This is the originally setting for many of today’s most cherished hymns; however, this is not the way many
churches perform hymns today. Because of changes tastes in music and in church architectural styles, the
reverberating hymns are more of a symbol of a bygone era of worship music.
Yet, the powerful lyrics from hymns live on in churches, just in new forms. Although hymns’ original
arrangements are still available, many are choosing to perform different hymn arrangements for the worship piano.
In this piano lesson, we are going to discuss some specific aspects of
playing worship songs.
The vast majority of hymns are considered public domain, which means that any person can take any hymn and
legally compose his own arrangement to it. Hymns original arrangements typically featured a new chord for nearly
every syllable of lyrics. This is very difficult to play on the guitar and piano, and doesn’t quite flow with the
This means that alternative arrangements for hymns on piano are very practical to create. In fact, many new
arrangements take on a similar structure to rock music where the instruments carry background chords and the voices
still sing those same familiar, timeless melodies.
To arrange a hymn for worship piano, the musician should not look chord by chord and melody note by melody note.
Instead, they should use their ears and listen for where the chord wants to change. Many chords share similar
notes, so it is very likely that multiple chords within the same measure appeal to the same sets of notes in the
If a measure has four chords in it – one on each quarter note – then it is
likely that these four chords share similar notes. The arranger then can decide which of those chords
represents the common structure necessary for corresponding with the melody and decrease the number of chords
from four to only one or two.
Many hymns seem overly complex with their frequent chord changes; however, these chord changes are often not
changes at all. Many hymns, like other forms of music, rely on the same three or four lead chords throughout the
song, but with many other chords inserted as mere passing tones that lead up to the next major chord. To become
proficient at distinguishing these main chords from the passing chords, you need to know your standard chord
structures and progressions.
To make new arrangements more exciting, you can also change the style of chords, changing major chords to minor
substitute chords, throwing in sevenths or ninth chords on piano, breaking up
chords into arpeggios, modifying the melody, and including your own personal flairs.
Of course, these suggestions are intended for musicians who intend on singing the original melody and usually
the original rhythm. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous and want to contrive something entirely new, then
you can also try taking the original lyrics but abandoning the melody.
However drastic the changes that you make to hymns ends up being, you still have the opportunity for those
timeless lyrics and message to reverberate off of the caverns of listeners’ souls.