We ran a session at a recent training day called “Modern hymns: how are they different? How to (re)write one”.
We’ll run an article in due course on the nuts and bolts of writing a modern hymn but for now here are a few snippets from the session together with some of the new verses composed by our delegates for the hymn “Breathe on me, breath of God”.
4 categories of modern hymn
Modern hymns tend to fall into one of four categories:
- New arrangement such as David Crowder’s All Creatures of Our God and King
- Added chorus such as Chris Tomlin’s Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)
- Completely rewritten tune such as Cornerstone (also adds/changes the chorus) and Stuart Townend’s It is Well With My Soul
- Brand new hymn such as Stuart Townend’s In Christ Alone
How are modern hymns different?
Congregations often love modern hymns. The hymn-like structure suits the “older” clientele who grew up singing Wesley, Watts and Crosby (Fanny Crosby is inexplicably absent from Wikipedia’s list of hymn writers). Features of modern hymns include:
- Theological depth
- Simpler chords
- Added chorus
- Bridge or tag
- Modern language
- Metrical rhythmic structure
- Fewer syncopated rhythms
- Singable melodies
Ideas for re-writing a hymn
One simple way of refreshing a traditional hymn is to add a chorus. Typically a chorus is shorter than the verses and distills the key theme of the hymn into a few lines.
We worked in small groups with the delegates at our training day to add in a new verse or chorus to the hymn “Breath on me, breath of God”. Given that they only had a very short time, the results were most impressive. See below (there’s one tongue-in-cheek funny version in the list too): Read More