Savior Like a Shepherd – Harmony insight (Part 2)

In the last lesson, I discussed the use of the tritone substitution in this arrangement. While that concept is used in several places, there are some other things I want to point out before we move on to another song.

First, if you need to download the arrangement, you can get it here.

Let’s look first at something simple. Note the progression used in bars (measures) 3-4. This is more typical of what I normally find myself playing–simple movements around the circle of fifths. In this case, I am playing Gmin7 – C7 – Fmin – Bb7. With the exception of the C7, these are chords that naturally fit into the key, and the progression (iii, VI7, ii, V7) is very natural. Using the VI7 rather than the more common vi chord does not affect the progression. Both vi and VI7 naturally resolve down a fifth.

There are two things that are important to note however about this simple progression, and I can assure you that they are important. First, there are color notes added to make the chords more interesting. Note the 9th (A) that is added to the Gmin, the b9 (Db) that is added to the C7, and the b9 (Cb) that is added to the Bb7.

I also want to point out the voicing. I talk a lot about voicing, but wanted to mention it again here. Note that the voicing is open with no doubling. These chords will work or not work based on their voicing. I can’t go into too much detail now, but good voicing is a skill that we all need to focus on more.

The last beat of bar 7 contains my favorite chord in the song. It is a D diminished chord with a color note (Bb) as the melody note. Bb does not normally fit into a Ddim chord and the sound is delicate. I think it works perfectly with the text (the word normally sung at that point is “tender”). To me, if you play that chord softly, it is very tender.

In bar 12, I change the I chord into I7 on the last beat. This is done to create a natural movement toward the IV chord the next phrase starts with. Remember that dominant chords usually resolve down a fifth and you can often change major triads into dominant chords when the next chord is a fifth lower.

Note what happens in bar 19 on the last two beats. On beat 2, I am playing Cmin7 but I change the Bb to Cb on beat 3. This creates a chord I have not talked about murch. It is a Cmin(Maj7) which is simply a minor chord with a major 7th added. This chord works like a more typical minor 7th chord but the sound is a little more exotic. I actually use this progression all three times I play the chorus.

Starting at bar 25, the oboe and violin take the melody and that gives me the opportunity to play what I want. I am not a huge fan of the typical practice of picking a pattern and trying to make it fit through an entire section. I am much more likely to do what I do here–just play random patterns. You might also note I tend to use a lot of grace notes in those kinds of situations.

You don’t have to be complicated in these kinds of sections. Less is more for the most part. Notice that I play more in between phrases where the melody instruments are holding a note.

That is about it for this song. Note that I end it on one of my favorite chords–a major 7th with the 9th added.

I hope you understand that I am not trying to pretend like this piece is an example of great arranging or some masterpiece that everyone should study. But I want to show you personal examples of some of the things I have been talking about for the past year or so on this blog. Just because I do these things do not make them right or best. Take what you like and leave the rest.