Explaining "I Will Arise"

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There are some teaching moments in the 15-minute arrangement I published here yesterday and I thought it was worth a post to discuss a few things.  This may get a bit technical so hang on.

When I say 15-minute arrangements, I am referring to how much time I spend on them and also how much time I hope it will take you to learn them.  Fifteen minutes is probably a stretch for how much time I spent actually arranging this though I spent a few hours getting it into Finale.

The reason the arranging was so quick is because there is really only one critical idea being used here and it is an idea I go to often.  Let’s talk about what it is.

Note that we are in the key of G minor and then note how often I repeat the bass line pattern of stepping down from Gm7 to D7 (or Dm7).  This pattern can completely replace the harmony of the song if you want it to and you will note that I use it exclusively in the intro, interlude and ending.

Really, I only use other harmony on the second half of the song and I lifted it right from the hymnal.  Yes, it is rare that I use harmony right out of the hymnal but I found its harmonic choices for this song to be interesting enough to use.  No, it is not brilliant harmony, but I like that it is interesting and a bit different.

Let’s put aside the hymnal harmony a second and focus on the repetitive descending bass line.  These are the chords:

Gm7 – Gm7/F – EbM7 – D7 (or Dm7)

In order to get colorful harmony in this arrangement, the D7 is critical.  Note all the F#’s in this arrangement.  Every time you see one, you see me making a decision to play D7 rather than Dm7.  It is important to understand that substituting D7 is not just about a slightly different sound.  Rather, using D7 allows me to use a lot more color tones.

Just in the intro, you can see me going for different colors with different color notes.  By the way, in case you have forgotten, a chord that is labeled “alt” means it is altered with a b13 and either a b9 or #9 (or both).


Really, this use of color on the D7 is the theme of this arrangement and the key to its sound.  You might be wondering about the right hand patterns I play during the intro, interlude and ending.  Those are also largely based on coloring the D7.

For example, the last run contains notes that work with a D7alt.  Here is a diagram that shows how I think when I play this kind of thing.  Note that the run contains the notes that belong to a D7alt chord.

Really, there is little more to this arrangement than this concept.  But then again, what do you expect for 15 minutes of arranging?