Some examples of what you can do to make an old hymn sound more contemporary using Revive Us Again, originally attributed John Jenkins Husband and William Paton MacKay.

Performed and recorded on my Roland RD-700NX in the key of G (no I normally wouldn't sing it up here!).
I can't call this a tutorial or instructional video as I'm not really teaching. Informational? Inspirational? You can pick a word after you've watched it! : )

A hot topic in worship right now is how to rearrange an old hymn into something that fits into a contemporary worship setting. A lot of the older hymns have some great words to them; but because they were meant for 4-part harmony (SATB), there are chord changes all over the place and they can really make the flow of the song sound rather jumbled and busy.

So, here I present some tips/guidelines/thoughts/whatever that might help to explain how to take hymns and turn them into contemporary arrangements-- without touching the melody!

Original time - The hymn as it's in the hymnal
First Repeat - Illustration of simplifying the chord changes (Point 1 below)
Second Repeat - Illustration of making the chording more interesting (Point 2 below)
Third Repeat - Illustration of contrasting dynamics and instrumental bridges (Point 3 below)
Fourth Repeat - Illustration of changing the arrangement of the verses and choruses (Point 4 below)
Fifth Repeat - Illustration of additional improvisation and a new vocal bridge (Point 5 below)

1) Increase the flow of the song! You can easily do this by reducing the number of times you change chords (or at least the bass notes). Depending on the meter of the song, try to change only on beat 1 or beat 1 and 3. You can still voice chords on your right hand), but often times it's fine to have your left hand (and guitar and bass and whatever else) just change chords on beat 1.

2) Give depth to the chord structure! Like many, many, many old hymns, you can play Revive Us Again with just three chords (I played the above in G, meaning G, C, and D are all that are necessary). However, this keeps the feel of the song pretty boring-- especially without a single minor key. I expanded the simple chord progression to a regular eight-bar phrase of G, Em7, CM9, D (and then G at the end). Play this progression once for the verse and once for the chorus. One neat thing about this chord progression is that a G chord is G-B-D; Em7 is E-G-B-D; CM9 is C-D-G-B. Why is that neat? Because it means you can essentially just play a G chord in your right hand over any of it! This lets you invent counter-melodies and such without really trying.

3) Don't be afraid to experiment with contrasting dynamics. Go from a loud chorus to a little tiny instrumental bridge (like the Am, G/B, C, D I did at the end of the third verse) and then a nice quiet verse that forces the group to focus on the words. You can then go from a tiny verse to a loud chorus. Don't be afraid to experiment!

4) You are allowed to even mess with the arrangement itself. The above song contains an 8-bar verse and an 8-bar chorus. That's not a lot of space to build upon before having to change gears. In this example (and in our services), we'll sing Verse 1, Verse 2, Chorus, Chorus, Verse 3 very small, Chorus very small, Verse 3 (yes again) bigger, Verse 4 bigger still, Chorus, Chorus, Chorus. This gives us more space to build phrases and is a common tool used by many artists when doing this kind of transformation. Feel free to experiment with this kind of rearrangement!

5) Don't stop creating! I know you didn't write the song, but you're playing it. Make it yours. As you saw near the end of this version, I created a new bridge that repeated the "Hallelujah, Thine the glory, Hallelujah, Amen" part a bunch of times. We built through that and then used that same Am, G/B, C construct to bring us back into the core chord structure. As long as your group or congregation has the words available to them, they'll figure it out. It's always a balance between keeping the song familiar and reverent (which we've done because we've not changed the words or melody) and keeping the song fresh and relevant.

I hope this is helpful to someone! And if anyone has any specific questions, please let me know! Thanks!
We praise Thee, O God
For the Son of Thy love
For Jesus who died
And is now gone above

Hallelujah, Thine the glory
Hallelujah, amen
Hallelujah, Thine the glory
Revive us again

We praise Thee, O God
For Thy Spirit of light
Who has shown us our Savior
And scattered our night

All glory and praise
To the Lamb that was slain
Who has borne all our sins
And has cleansed every stain

Revive us again
Fill each heart with Thy love
May each soul be rekindled
With fire from above

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