5 Ways To Simplify Christmas Songs for Worship

It’s Christmas time, and your pastor comes to you with a question: could you all play “Hark The Herald Angels” with the praise band? 


Traditional christmas tunes are wonderful, but sometimes they don’t translate well into band situations. Here are 5 tips on creating a great modern arrangement of a holiday classic:


1. Only change chords every two beats.  


Most traditional holiday tunes are filled with chords, and often sound a bit busy when translated to a modern worship band. Simplifying will make it easier for your less experienced musicians, while maintaining the structure of the song. 


2. Extend any measures that have just two beats. 


Traditional christmas music has quite a few two beat measures, and keeping them consistently in 4/4 will help the congregation stay on track. 


3. Substitute 6m chords for 3 chords, and occasionally for 1 chords. 


Again, this will help keep things a bit simpler, and give a more modern feel to the song. Don’t be afraid to tweak out some chords using chord substitutions to add a bit of interest. 


4. Transpose up a whole step to keep simplified chords interesting. 


It’s an old trick, but still works- when you’ve repeated a phrase a few times, do a modulation up to a half or whole step to keep the congregation engaged. 


5. Substitute 4 chords for 2m chords. 


2m chords can feel a bit traditional in some tunes, and switching them out with four chords will modernize it a bit. Again, keep things simple for a big impact. 

The stage on a Christmas tour I did with CCM singer/songwriter Lindsay McCaul. 

The stage on a Christmas tour I did with CCM singer/songwriter Lindsay McCaul.