In my last article here I discussed harmonic options you and I have when we’re playing modern worship songs. Please refer to that article for details I won’t duplicate here.
The essence of the article was that there are chords we can add to songs to support specific harmonies. In particular, I described how effective it can be to precede a minor triad with its 5 chord. Since I presented the article, I’ve made an exciting discovery. Students at The King’s University/Gateway Church, where I teach songwriting classes, introduced me to a recording on the Speak Revival project from Elevation Worship of their great song, “Resurrecting”. The arrangement is quite distinct from the arrangement on their first release of the song.
This discovery was exciting for me because the specific things I’d talked about in my last article were used to delightful effect in this new arrangement. Because I trust that some of you will share my students’ interest in what harmonies are used, I’ll look in detail at it. First, here’s a phrase from the bridge using the chords from the original arrangement.
Now, check out what happens the next time this phrase is sung. Notice the extra chord above “resurrecting”?
That chord was chosen because it has a very significant relationship with the Bm chord used over the word “me”. F# is the 5 chord of B minor. Play the two phrases back to back, noticing the momentum created in the 2nd example with the addition of the F#/A#. The takeaway from this example is that it can be very effective to precede a minor chord with its 5 chord. Notice that the arranger chose to use an inversion of the chord, placing something other than the root of the F# in the bass. The result of this choice is a nice movement in the bass line from A to A# to B. Had the arranger not chosen to use the inversion of the F# chord, the bass line would have moved from A to F# to B. The choice made to use the A, A#, B results in nice chromatic movement that enhances the momentum created by this added chord.
There’s another nice surprise in the next few bars, and it’s an additional example of preceding a chord with its 5 chord. The first time the bridge is heard, the chords are Bm, D/F# G over the lyric “By Your Spirit I will rise from the ashes of defeat”.
Look at what’s done the next time we hear this phrase in the bridge:
What’s different about these two examples? The chord in the 2nd measure changes. In the second example, a C/D takes the place of D/F#. It’s important to see that this C/D is functioning as 5 of the G chord. Strictly speaking a D is 5 of G, but C/D gives a similar effect moving to the G chord. In case you’re not sure what C/D means, please note that this simply indicates that a C chord is played over a D in the bass. Those of you who speak with chord numbers within your teams will find it useful to call this chord 4/5, “four over five”.
There’s one final moment in this arrangement I want to examine. As the bridge is ending the lyric “Our God has robbed the grave” is sung. Here’s what the original arrangement presented:
D Dsus D Dsus
Our God has robbed the grave
The new arrangement instead presents:
D C/D D C/D
Our God has robbed the grave
As in the earlier example from the bridge, C/D is serving as 4/5 of the G chord that starts the chorus. What a powerful moment in the song AND the arrangement when the chorus returns.
As I mentioned in my last article about this topic, these harmonic choices don’t fit the usual chord limits in modern worship. Regardless, apply these principles in songs your worship team uses and you may discover some similarly powerful moments.