Arrangement analysis: “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah”

I have a few teaching moments from the arrangement that I published last week. We have already discussed the overall feel of the piece. When you hear this song typically, it is grand and a bit ponderous. I took a sort of wistful approach but it works with the lyrics just as well I think. In fact, I could argue that it fits some of the lyrics better.

In terms of harmony, I used a descending cliche bassline a ton; and I chose to change chords essentially on every beat. Both of these techniques are nothing new in my writing. Here is an example:

You might note all the uses of what I call the #ivm7(b5) chord (built on C#) throughout the arrangement. I used that chord a lot more than normal especially as a starting chord to the descending cliches. It works wonderfully in that way because it resolves so well down a half step to a variation of the IV chord.

Moving on from the style and harmony though, there are a few spots in the piece where I tried to create a special moment using a few of my favorite things. One of my favorite things is what I call inner voice movement which is a counterpoint technique of writing little independent lines that work against the melody. Here is an example of that:

In piano, you don’t really have a tenor line of course but look at what sort of looks like a tenor line here. That is counterpoint or inner voice movement. It always adds depth to writing in a timeless way. I love it.

You might wonder why I don’t do this thing more often. The answer is that it makes the music a tad too difficult to learn quickly, and it also frankly requires a bit more writing time and effort than I can usually put into these arrangements. For those reasons, I am sparing in how much I do this. Through this arrangement, you see a lot of little counterpoint flourishes but this is a more involved one. If you want to see my counterpoint on steroids, check out my “Hiding in Thee” arrangement available on my sheet music page. I consider that some of my better writing but it is also difficult to play.

I want to talk about the hook interlude a second. I did not want to go back to the beginning of the verse out of the interlude. I just wanted to get to the last line and the tricky thing about doing that, is that the line starts on subdominant (preferably the ii7 chord).

There are a number of ways to do that but the key is you need a chord that resolves naturally into that ii7. I chose to use a biii dim chord. The full approach is #ivm7(b5) – iv6 – iii7 – biii dim. I am trying to create sort of a big but painful/plaintive moment here with the big leaps in the melody I play over it. Here is the sequence:

The last thing that I want to discuss is the extension of a phrase found in bar 37:

This is another thing I do a lot. It is simply another way to pause a bit and also a way to go back to that #ivm7(b5) – iv6 progression one more time. Remember that when you are arranging, this kind of manipulation of the flow of the song is well within bounds.

That is it for this one.