Welcome to another edition of Arrangement Thievery Case Study! I go to this from time to time to pick apart the arrangement of a song, specifically listening for parts that your Worship Team’s mandolin player can claim as her own. Often our songs don’t have parts purpose-built for the mandolin, but with a little preparation and creativity we can seamlessly integrate with even the biggest modern worship sounds.
For this issue I’ve chosen Crowder’s song “My Victory”.
This is not only an excellent song for worship—it is also a great example of how Arrangement Thievery can work in multiple directions. We’ll explore the different elements of the song that are potential parts you can play on your mandolin and add them to our grid. Then, when we arrive at worship practice, we can determine which of those parts are open and available in our band’s arrangement for us to play. Easy as pie!
We can’t get far into the discussion of this song without running into what I will call “The Theme,” so I can easily refer to it in the grid. This Theme is a four-note, repeating riff that shows up all over the song. The notes in the riff are C-D-E-G and are easily fingered on the G and D strings of your mandolin. Make sure your fingers can play that riff up to tempo because you will be coming back to it often.
The Theme appears first when you hear the mandolin playing it during the song’s intro. It can also be played during the turn-arounds after choruses. If your worship team has another instrument (like piano) playing the Theme during any given section of the song you can fall back to playing the lead hook on your mandolin—or even playing a rhythm (I’d suggest sharp accents on the 2 and 4 beats during that Intro and the turn-arounds.)
During the first verse you’ll likely back off to give the song some dynamic variety, but you’ll hear The Theme come back very prominently in Verse 2. In fact, you can even hear another mandolin play an octave higher alongside of it. That can be replicated on your worship team with mando/guitar, mando/piano, mando/sax, whatever. Play that part on your own, or find a friend to play it with! If you must play a rhythm on the verses, the recording has a very clear acoustic guitar rhythm with accents on 2 & 4 that you can pattern your mandolin rhythm after.
As with most Crowder songs, as we move into the choruses the song’s dynamics increase significantly. The Theme comes back in again, but is played by a banjo, which is unlikely to be an instrument on most of your worship stages. Fret not! (See what I did there?) You can cover that part on your mandolin too! For the sake of variety, consider moving up an octave to play it. Or, for even more variety, go ahead and pass this part off to a keyboard or other instrument. If you do that you can play a pad-like tremolo based around the ‘E’ note through the chorus. You also could help the drums feel bigger with some well-placed rhythm accents. I would recommend accents on the beats 1, 3, and “3-and.” Listen closely to the kick drum to hear where those accents fall.
The bridge in “My Victory” gives us a palette of options as well. Starting off is that lovely melodic movement that the piano plays as the song’s dynamics fall out of the big chorus into the bridge. If your piano player is unwilling or unable to play that part, it could easily be covered by a mandolin as a riff based around the chord changes. As the vocals come in on the recording you can hear the acoustic guitar start a drone cross-picking pattern centered around the ‘C’ and ‘G’ notes. That’s a great part for mandolin, either by itself or, if the acoustic guitar is playing it too, then up an octave to double the guitar. Finally, if neither of those two options suits your band’s arrangement this Sunday, come in strong with the kick drum during the second half of the bridge. Use sharp, precise accents on each beat to help emphasize the rhythm.
I love this song because it has built-in parts for your mando, but it also lets us trade those parts with other instruments. It is a great lesson that in any arrangement a given part does not ever have to belong to only one instrument. We can shake things up and let different instruments trade back and forth, which gives your audience something new to listen to.
Listen carefully. Play passionately. Happy Thieving!