The scores in this "hymnbook" resemble those found in most traditional hymnals in that the scoring is not exhaustive, despite the fact that contemporary praise music is often accompanied by more than a single keyboardist. These melody/piano/chord scores attempt to illustrate the heart and the "feel" of the versions we use, and they work with piano alone or as the foundation for an ensemble performance. A full score with drums, bass guitar, additional keyboard, wind or string parts would certainly be possible but my experience has been that many praise teams are accustomed to building their performances around “lead sheets” or piano scores, and so for the sake of simplicity, (and because of limited time!) I have not provided more than these.
In particular it should be noted that while countless singers have learned SATB harmony by singing the four parts found in many traditional hymnbooks, the scores found here provide only the vocal melody. The piano parts concentrate on accompaniment and not voice leading. Our own praise ensemble generally develops their own unwritten harmonies. The guitar chords are useful in determining what harmonies will work for a particular phrase.
Vocal harmonizing by the congregation may be one area where performers may encounter occasional musical “friction” in worship when these arrangements are used, because in some cases the chord progressions - and thus the possible harmonies - may differ from the traditional arrangements. Worshippers for whom these hymns are familiar old “friends” may be used to contributing the SATB vocal harmonies of the traditional hymnbook arrangements, and on occasion these may run awry of the newer arrangements.
As a practical matter, these scores show a single arrangement repeated identically for each verse, but our own ensemble rarely performs them this way. We often play the first verse only with piano, or only with guitar, with the rest of the instruments joining on subsequent verses. Since we are leading congregational singing, the first verse is frequently done without vocal harmony so that all listeners are clear about how the melody may vary in rhythm from the traditional rendition. We frequently will have the instruments either drop out completely or play a reduced accompaniment for some or all of the third or later verse, to emphasize vocal harmonizing in the band and the congregation.
Songs played by our praise team during worship break down into two categories: songs performed as solos without the congregation, generally as preservice, voluntary, offertory, or communion distribution music; and songs sung with the congregation as hymns, in praise medleys, or as liturgy. With these hymn re-arrangements, there is merit to performing them first as solos, to familiarize worshippers with the altered style and rhythms, before using them in subsequent services as communal hymns.
Of course, we would not have developed these arrangements at all if we weren't in the habit of taking inspiration from the original songs and reinterpreting them in styles with which we were familiar. If any of these pieces spark still further re-interpretations or prompt you to take a similar approach to other hymns, may our God be praised!