Arrangement analysis: “Praise Him, Praise Him”

The problem with discussing your own arrangements is the implied inference that your arrangements are worth discussing in the first place. I am not sure frankly that all of my arrangements are worth discussing, at least in a positive, learning way. I am sort of on the fence on this one to be honest.

Sometimes I write in different styles just to prove to myself that I can. Sometimes, that means taking a step backward from what you are comfortable with and it is also a vulnerable thing because you know that you are exposing yourself to the experts out there in various genres.

For example, I can write jazz. I know exactly how to write jazz or at least something that would pass for jazz to 99% of the world. The problem though is that the other 1% would look at what I did and start laughing uncontrollably. There is a big difference between writing jazz and writing jazz well. If you are writing professionally, you have to write well. The problem is that if you want to learn to write well, you have to write a lot of poor stuff to get to the point where you are writing well. It is necessary but still uncomfortable.

I feel a bit like that with this arrangement of “Praise Him, Praise Him.” This is way outside my wheelhouse. I don’t write this chippy, light stuff very much. There is a different set of tools for it. For example, my normal harmony palette doesn’t work. I have to get back to triads and there are essentially no substitutions. In some ways, it feels like a step in the wrong direction but truthfully, I know it is not. This style is not bad; it is just different.

I probably wrote this piece from start to finish in an hour, including getting it into Finale. Before I went to Finale though, I did two things. First, I came up with an 8-bar progression that I would use to carry the entire arrangement. The 8 bars is really two 4-bar phrases as you see in bars 1-8 below. Second, I scratched out a form on paper that looked sort of like this:

Intro: 8×2 (Note: by this, I mean play the 8-bar progression 2 times)
Interlude: 8×4
Verse (1st line)
Tag: (last line 3x)
Out (2 bars)

From a philosophical standpoint, let me tell you what I am trying to do. My goal is to paint a portrait that is connected to a known hymn. The portrait is a happy one and the utilization of “Praise Him” grounds the portrait in a Christian context. Both of those things are important in church and let me explain why. You could get up in church and play a beautiful portrait of happiness that no one knows and it would sort of work. People would enjoy it but they would probably not connect to it. Likewise, if you play a familiar song without painting a picture, people might connect to it but not be moved by it. In my opinion, you usually need both things for an instrumental to work in church.

This song is 100 bars long and as you can see from the form above, the intro, interlude, and out account for 50 of those bars. In other words, “Praise Him” is only in half of the arrangement but that is more than enough. And by the way, I am doing absolutely nothing interesting during those 50 bars when “Praise Him” is present. Basically I am just playing the melody over the same bass line idea I am using during the intro and interlude.

There is really only one thing going on of real interest in this arrangement and that is the development of the 8-bar concept. That 8 bars is repeated six times in the song and is intentionally developed as we go. The first time is this:

… and the last time is this:

Obviously, there is a big difference between the first and last iteration, and that is the result of developing step by step on each iteration. The development of that idea is what makes the portrait. It is really all there is to hang your hat on. Whether it is enough is up for debate. Like I said, I am on the fence.

I do want to come back and talk about the pedal point in the tag in a few days because I think that is a good little trick to keep in your toolbox. See you then.