Cool ArrangementS of Amazing Grace

I have to say I’ve heard some really gaudy and over the top performances from overzealous tech-savvy guitarists and their loop machines. But I love this version. You can tell he’s not showing off how many ways he can break down the beat or show off his expensive technology, just an exciting and pretty fresh take on a hymn that is sometimes overdone.


And while I’m at it, I’ll post a few other clips of great arrangements of Amazing Grace, examples of fresh arrangements IMHO.

Roby Duke

Roby Duke, who’s gotten shout outs on this blog b4. What I love about this it is a total harmonic and rhythmic inversion of the melody… and it brings out a totally new quality to the hymn. Bravo!

Victor Wooten

Victor Wooten, not sure if I would call thsi an arrangement as much as a spontaneous explosion of harmony and awesome delight. I love how throws in some Ave Maria in there just for shiggles.

When he actually gets into the song, he didn’t necessarily change things around harmonically like Roby did, but shows us the incredible versatility and beauty of the bass. But some simple chord alterations… I think this could work with a full band too.

Rule of thumb: if you are good at your craft and invest time an energy into practice, you have a less possibility of a crappy arrangement of a song.


Other Noteworthy Amazing Grace renditions I can think of

Tommy Emmanuel

Once again, talent goes a long way.

Wintley Phipps

He doesn’t do anything fancy, but lets the hymn and the history speak for itself. Powerful stuff.

Two examples I have mixed/somewhat negative feelings towards

This is a great arrangement for CCM worship. I guess its pretty. But I don’t know, sometimes I feel like by stretching it out like so, drains the life a little bit. And it definitely adds a little bit of fluffiness, which I should say isn’t ALWAYS a bad thing, but sometimes I just can’t do fluffy CCM.

OK, let me just say. I think Todd Agnew’s version is decent. I don’t mind it. I think the Chorus is pretty good. But I’ve heard this song butchered by SO Many praise bands, I can’t even appreciate Agnew’s contribution.

I’ve heard this song played TOO fast and it sounds more like the final example on this blog. If this song is not in the pocket and has a good groove both from the band and the vocals… if there is even a hint of rushing it just sounds frantic and is painful. So yea, I will never do this arrangement, even if this particular recording sounds good.

Probably the worst, most god awful example I can think about

Techno – please kill me now. You know, wish I could tell you I’ve never heard church praise bands try to do somethign like this, but I can’t. [shudders]


What I’ve learned 

1. Groove is very important: If the band can’t get into a solid pocket, all is lost. But also, the rhythm of the melody, whether an arrangement or a facsimile of the traditional one, needs to also fit into the pocket so that the lyrics can really breathe.

2. Slow down: I can’t really think of an example where arranging a hymn faster made things better. Every time, slower was better.


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