I love watching ‘behind the scenes’ videos for movies.

If there are ‘DVD Extras’, I am watching them.

And as a composer and arranger, WHENEVER there is a behind the scenes on the making of movie music, I WILL WATCH IT!  (Here’s John Williams recording Star Wars – Episode 1 behind the scenes)

While I was tracking the rhythm and then recording horns, I did some live video streams on Facebook and had some pretty great response. Now, when I say ‘pretty great response’, I do not mean like Candace and the Chewbacca Mask. I mean, seriously, NO ONE, has had a response like that. Ever. And quite honestly, having talked to a number of friends who know her, I’m so happy for her.


So I figured if I like behind the scenes things, maybe other folks will as well. So for the next 5 blog posts, I’m going to be sharing ‘Behind The Scenes’ of creating Retro Hymns 2.

In this first post, I’m looking at song selection.

For Retro Hymns 2, I am following up with the popular Retro Hymns (1) collection I did awhile back. As I looked at songs to choose for this collection, I couldn’t pick any songs I had used in RH1 (obviously).

Here’s what I looked for in choosing songs:

     •  Public Domain hymns

          In the last series of blogs I talked about Retro Hymns 2 – It’s For You –  Because it’s familiar. I felt like for this particular project, I wanted to choose a collection of songs that would be familiar by the largest group of folks possible within the church. There are some great worship songs out there, but I felt like for familiarity sake, to reach the largest group of folks, well known hymns would work the best. And, as a publisher, choosing public domain hymns works well in regards to royalties (there are no royalties with public domain hymns). What songs are public domain? There are a TON of places to look online for public domain hymns. Click here for one. For a very brief (and not to be considered ‘official legal advice’) overview of public domain works, here’s the idea: For works created before Jan 1, 1978, the original length of copyright was 28 years. It could be renewed for an additional 28 years. The copyright law of 1976 extended the second renewal term to 47 years.  The 1998 amendment to the 1976 Copyright Act extended the renewal for an additional 20 years, thus giving all music protected by copyright on that date a total of 95 years protection from their original date. All of the above is from this link. So if a song was 1920 or before, you ‘should’ be good to go in regards to in being in the public domain. BUT BUT BUT…MAKE SURE before you proceed if you’re looking at using public domain (PD) works.

     •  They feel like they could work instrumentally in this retro, horn band style

          There are some songs out there that could be familiar, but I wanted to pick ones I felt I could make instrumental versions and they wouldn’t feel forced. It would feel fairly natural doing them as instrumentals.  There are some songs that have a ‘square peg, round hole’ feel when you do them as instrumentals.  And for the record, I don’t just mean that I think “Could I hear these in an elevator?”  🙂    So once I had what I believed to be a good option for a song, I would be driving around (often with audio/video turned on on the iPhone) singing the ideas of the horn licks to see if they felt like they worked with the horns or if they felt forced. Once I felt like I could hear a horn section playing it, it made the shorter list.

     •  Do I have a groove, feel, inspiration, direction to go with the songs

          Once I had a pretty good list of songs that I thought would be possible (20-30 tunes), I started thinking through them with groove ideas. I’ve found a great reference is from grooves from the past. That’s where inspiration comes from often times. I’m not looking at lyrics and I’m certainly not looking at the melody of the songs (because I have the hymns that dictate the melody). I’m just looking for drum patterns, grooves and general vibes.


rh2 song list handwritten

Here’s my list of songs as I was narrowing it down. You’ll see that I had ‘To God Be the Glory’ on here and I was wanting to do it in a Latin style. I ran in to two issues with it. The “Blessed Assurance” arrangement that I’d already mapped out was in a Latin style and I was hearing a very similar style. And the second issue was that Aaron Weitekamp (the ‘Kamp’ in AnderKamp) had written a KILLER Latin arrangement of “To God Be the Glory” in the Jericho Horns Series and I was having a hard time getting away from how he did it (I REALLY love his arrangement!). So, I looked for another song, and came up with ‘The Old Rugged Cross” and, I think, it turned out to be a GREAT addition to the series.

          Side note: When we recorded the horns for the record, I actually played 2nd trumpet on “The Old Rugged Cross”. Steve played lead and I decided, “I’m paying for this record. Doggone it. I’m going to play one song in the studio with these guys.”

          Very. Very. Fun!

The other note on this page, is the bottom song ‘I Have Decided’ for Big Band. I created this arrangement a little while back and I had planned on recording it if we had time. I had it on the list to make sure I didn’t forget IF we had time. And we didn’t. So sometime in the future, you’ll see an arrangement of ‘I Have Decided’ for big band become available on the site.

This is meant to be just an introductory look at how I went about song selection for Retro Hymns 2. The next blog post, I’ll be looking at the arranging process. More details to come as we go ‘Behind the Scenes’ with Retro Hymns 2!

It's Here - Retro Hymns 2


If you want more information about the arrangements, click here




Retro Hymns 2 is now available on iTunes! Click here to go to iTunes to preview AND purchase (and then post a review) of the record