Technical analysis of “Come Ye Thankful People Come”

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Yesterday, I posted a new free arrangement Come Ye Thankful People Come. If you have not downloaded it yet, just click on that link and you will get it instantly.

There are a few things going on in this arrangement that I want to talk about really quickly. One is a harmonic idea and one is a rhythmic thing.

First the harmony. You will note that I continually go to a few unusual chords for the key of F. Those chords are DbMaj7, Eb7, and GbMaj7. The hook used in the intro, interludes and ending are all based on those three chords.

If you were labelling these chords with Roman numerals, DbMaj7 would be bVIMaj7, Eb7 would be bVII7 and GbMaj7 would be bIIMaj7. While not overly common, you do see these chords in  church music.

The Eb7 is especially used a lot as a replacement for a V7 in an ending. In other words, rather than ending a song on V – I, you see bVII7 – I. The bVIMaj7 is often used as a precursor to the bVII7, making a progression that looks like this: bVIMaj7 – bVII7 – I. Sometimes, you hear these two chords referred to as “borrowed” chords referring to the fact that they exist in the parallel minor of the key.

In the context I am using here, those three chords are subdominant minor chords and are substitutes for other subdominant chords (such as the IV chord). Basically, within the modern school of theory, any chord classified as subdominant can substitute for any other subdominant chord (if the melody permits).

All three of those chords are basically interchangeable to me within the context of that hook and I just came up with an interesting pattern for them. I also use those chords underneath the melody itself (bar 10 is an example).


Now let’s move on to the rhythmic thing that I am utilizing. It is deceptively simple: essentially, I am playing patterns of 3 notes in 16th note patterns (which rhythmically group notes into sets of 4). Here is an obvious example of that. Note how the pattern is played just over 5 times across 4 beats.


Note how playing a simple 3-note pattern (F, C, G) as 16th notes creates a situation where different notes are at the top of each beat each time. That is what gives those patterns an interesting sound. The ending is built the same way.


Again we are using the same pattern (G, C, and F) but playing them as steady 16th notes. This ending is actually quite simple but sounds sophisticated if you play it in time, slightly accenting the first of every beat.

The pattern of G, C, and F is all over this song and you might notice that I use it interchangeably across the F, DbMaj7, and Eb7 chords. There is a simple reason for that: those notes work well in all three of those chords. Here is how it looks.

F chord: G is the 9th, C is the 5th, and F is root
DbMaj7 chord: G is the #11th, C is 7th, and F is the 3rd
Eb7 chord: G is the 3rd, C is the 13th, and F is the 9th