Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Church hymn help

Ok thanks In no small part to this website I’ve been asked to play and, for lack of a better term, help arrange hymns for a more bluegrass/acoustic bunch of players at my church. I have a basic knowledge of theory but sometimes when given sheet music with chords on it, the chords don’t feel right or are changing too quickly to make sense, like a G, D, Em, Bm, Em/D in a fast 4/4 Measure…it works on piano but not banjo/guitar/mando.

So is there a way to get rid of chords (when you don’t have time to play it out at home) on the spot by looking at the underlying notes??


Hey Pedar,

Not sure I understand your question, but I might suggest getting a lead sheet for your song. This will show all the chords above the staff lines, and see what chords you can “get away” with not playing.

eg. if you see a C with a C7 as the next chord, just keep playing the C, and skip the C7, so you won’t have to focus on switching to the C7.

For all intents and purposes, just stay with the major chords when you can.

Knowing what chords to use and not use by following the melody line, (if that’s what your asking about), would more likely be something for Ben, or Dr Guitar (Mike) to address.

Hope you find that helpful.



Hey Peder! Welcome to the board!

I think it might help if you could post an example of what you’re talking about. I don’t think there are any hard rules that would help, but if we could rearrange a specific song you’re working on, it may help you apply the changes to other songs.


Hello Pedar, welcome to the board!

I hope the below helps, if that is what you are looking for. Same song, but 2 different versions with more and less chords. You can catch chords for each note like the first one, or you can stay on a chord if the subsequent notes would fall within the chord like the second one.

O Come, All Ye Faithful
Words: Frederick Oakley (in 1852)
Music: John Francis Wade
  G            D 
O come, all ye faithful, 
G  D   G   D7 G D 
Joyful and triumphant, 
Em Em6  D   A D  Em7 D  G  D A7  D 
O  come ye, O co-me  ye to Bethlehem 
G    D7  G D7   G    D    G   Em   A  D 
Come and behold Him, born the King of Angels. 

(no chords) 
O come let us adore Him, 
G      D   G  D7  G    D 
O come let us a - dore Him,  
G D7   G   D  Em7 D D7 G C 
O come let us a - dore Him,  
G  D7   G 
Christ, the Lord. 

Another version…

`  G           D
O Come All Ye Faithful
G             D
Joyful and triumphant,
  Em         D          A     D
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.
G          C    G
Come and behold Him,
Em       C       D
Born the King of Angels;
O come, let us adore Him,
  G            Em    D
O come, let us adore Him,
  Em        Am  D    C
O come, let us adore Him,
G  D       G
Christ the Lord.`

If you take this phrase for example,
The notes for these verses are these: D, C, B, C, B
The chords formed around these notes can be these: G* (G with second string 3 fret), Am11, Em7/B, D7, G.
Or in a simpler version: G*, G*, G*, D7, G.



Thanks that’s what I was looking for. And that answers the question. Here is an example that I was dealing with. It just seemed too chordy.


OK in that case you can make it like this…

All people that on earth do dwell

G                         D7 G
All people that on earth do dwell
G             D     Em   C     G   D 
Sing out your faith with cheer ful voice
Em  (D)   Em (D) Em    C      D7  Em  
De- light in God whose praise you tell
Em7/B          D7    (Am11) G  D7 G 
Whose presence calls you    to re-joice.

(Am11) - like D7 but leave 1st string open. Optional.  
This is instead of A which sounds odd.
(D) - optional.
Em7/B - G can be used instead.

Good work John!


You rock! So in the give a man a fish teach a man to fish idea, I understand you took chord tones in the melody (and bass) and let that dictate the chord (excluding passing tones) and defaulted to the tonic 5th 4th and to some extent the minor 6th.


Thanks Jack, Peder. I’m learning theory from practice, so whatever you said is what I did or worked in my mind as I gather after reading your post! :slight_smile: I thought I missed mentioning excluding the passing notes/tones in my earlier post, but you correctly noticed it. Btw I used to play these type of hymns for a small church choir including this song, so I’m somewhat familiar with these songs/chords.


It also depends on how fast you’re playing this, @Verneq1, but yes, it is very common to simplify the hymn arrangements.


I’m also interested in learning how to make chords from hymnal songs. I use the notes for the melody but haven’t learned how to see the chords from the notes on the page. can anyone help explain this?


Until I get more time to help you with this, you really need to watch this lesson, particularly the “Assessing the Song” vid segment:


Here you go… in the meanwhile…

Btw, you can leave out Gmaj7/B, C/G, Gmaj13/E chords and remain on the previous chords if you find it tough.
Am11/G, G/D are simple chords requiring just one note with all other notes from open strings.
A7/E = A7.

G   Am11/G  G  Gmaj7/B  C   C/E  C/G  G 
'Tis  so   sweet to   trust  in  Je- sus,
G    G   G    G  D/F#  A7   D
Just to take Him  at   his word;
G   Am11/G  G  Gmaj7/B  C   C/E  C/G    G 
Just  to   rest  up-    on  His  prom- ise
G    G   C      C6   G/D   D   G
Just to know, "Thus saith the Lord."
G    G   G    G   D7 Gmaj13/E G/D   D
Je- sus, Je- sus, how   I  trust Him!
G   G       G    G  Gsus2 A7/E  D
How I've proved Him o'er  and  o'er!
G  Am11/G  G   G    C     C  C/G   G
Je- sus,  Je- sus, pre- cious Je- sus!
G G     C   C6  G/D  D7   G
O for grace to trust Him more!

Thanks so much Ben I’m very excited to dig into this lesson. God bless you!