How Great Thou Art

How Great Thou Art (WAV) [Dropbox]

When I was a boy I remember being blown away by the power of this traditional hymn when it was played on the pipe organ and sung by an entire congregation. I wanted to see if any of that could be captured with a solo vocal and guitars. This is my arrangement for two guitars, bass, and vocal.

Guitar #1 is my Martin OM-35E playing strummed harmony. It was recorded using the guitar’s internal pickup. The recorded track was doubled in the DAW, with each getting a different EQ profile, and the two tracks panned hard left and hard right.

Guitar #2 is my 1990 Alvarez-Yairi DY-67 playing fingerpicked harmony. It was recorded with a Shure PGA27 positioned near the neck/body joint. This guitar is panned slightly left. EQ and compression applied in the DAW.

The bass was added in the DAW (i.e. a software instrument), and is panned slightly right.

The vocal was sung into a Shure PGA27 mic. Applied a de-esser, EQ, and compression in the DAW.

A Hall reverb is applied to the master to try and bring everything into “one space.”


You’re an artist mate. :clap::clap::clap::clap::clap:

Beautiful hymn, your arrangement is rich and full, a fine vocal, and as always recording and mix spot on … lots to love, Jason

Hi Jason, a wonderful interpretation of the hymn. Although I am not familiar with English speaking hymns I think the instrumentation created the type of sound you were looking for.

Nice! We don’t get enough worship music around here – a lot of Chocolate Jesus though (probably Tom Waits least edgy song to be honest). Show some real nerve and poke fun at a less forgiving deity and flock of followers. See where that gets you? :wink:

Back to the music. Super clean playing with a lot of TLC that comes through – and sending folks to heck. Very well done sir!

Hey, that’s an awesome compliment. Thank you!

Thank you; I’m glad you liked it!

I kind of have a love/hate relationship with worship music. My tastes in sacred music run towards chant, choirs, pipe organs and traditional hymns, and compositions by people like Palestrina. Awesome stuff. Sublime. On the other hand, I tend to dislike worship music that sounds too much like a “main event performance” or that is a sing-a-long with the quacky, plastic tones of an acoustic guitar plugged straight into the board and run through the PA. (I hope no one feels too offended by this; it’s just my subjective opinion. I’m sure there’s value in such music and such approaches, even if they’re not my cup of tea. Also, I draw a distinction between music that is part of a liturgical service and music that is religious, but not part of a liturgical service. What can I say, I’m kind of a grumpy old man…)

Because of my negative experiences and perception of guitar in liturgical worship settings, approaching this hymn was a real experiment for me. I wanted to “redeem” the guitar (in my own mind) by using it as the primary instrumentation for my favorite traditional hymn, hopefully giving it at least some of the power and fullness that I get when I hear it played on a pipe organ.

Anyway, I’ve gone off on a big tangent. You’re correct that we don’t seem to get a lot of worship music being posted here, and it would be cool to hear more of it.


Good job, Jason :smiley:
Your voice and guitar seem to fit really well together here.
We sing this in church sometimes. Tbh, I don’t really mind whether the accompaniment is tacky or not. The belting out of a hymn by a congregation can be a very uplifting experience.
I sing about God, the Devil and worst of all- my fellow man here in the Community.
Always hope to make someone smile in the darkness… :wink:


Yeah, I know I’m being a stick-in-the-mud (and less than charitable) about that. Not sure why it bugs me so much. All fall short, I suppose…

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I’d expect nothing less from such a cool avatar :rofl:


@J.W.C Jason, great arrangement, performance and recording of this hymn. It brought to mind a Nashville session, without the twang or overproduction, just the professionalism. The vocal performance really added to the mix. I enjoyed it.

Hearing it made me go back to Elvis’ version, but that was in his Vegas years and not guitar centric. The closest comparison I could find was a Josh Turner version live from Gaither Studios: Josh Turner - How Great Thou Art (Live From Gaither Studios) - YouTube

This inspires me to get my DAW set up.

Hi Jason,
Nice production. Thanks for spelling out what you did in some detail. Great song and fully appreciative of the power it has when sung in the congregation with the pipe organ thundering underneath… or maybe at times on top. LOL

I tried both formats and expected to hear more of a difference between SC and the DB wav. Maybe the difference is there and my bionic ears just don’t convey it. It could also be you know how to finesse SC to get the best out of it… :slight_smile:

Nice touch here. Another idea on getting into “one space” is more compression on the master track possibly. It can help glue everything together. Maybe both is worth a shot or something to try differing amounts of…

I think the guitars came out good. Though if you were after the pipe organ effect/experience, maybe more low end on guitars and bass could project that. Not sure, it would be something maybe to try.

I think the highlights here are the guitars, overall mix and your vox. In the vox we have the power that captures the spirit of the song. Just a great job all around mate!

Please take any ideas on the mix as just my thoughts as I listened. All you did was wonderful just the way it was done. My input is not meant to be critical. More so the feedback is offered in hopes of sharing to consider and get better, or just plain something to try. I think that is also in the spirit of the Justinguitar site and the forum/community.

Thanks for sharing and great timing at this time of the year! Happy holidays and a merry Christmas to you and yours.

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A lovely arrangement/performance/production of a beautiful hymn.
Wishing you and yours a happy Christmas Jason. :santa:

@J.W.C Jason, you mentioned sublime, so I wanted to share this video. I was blown away a few years back by this classical guitar rendition of the traditional Irish hymn “Be Thou My Vision” online:

There are more recent videos, but this made me want to pull my classical guitar out of the closet and see if my pudgy stubby fingers could handle these chords. The recording quality is pretty good.

Thank you, gentlemen.

Just listened to it. A very nice arrangement. I particularly enjoyed the vocal harmonies during the refrain.

Heck yeah! :slight_smile:

I don’t do anything special with SoundCloud uploads, although I do make a point of uploading high quality WAV files to SoundCloud, which I think they convert to something else. But starting with high quality WAVs might help.

I haven’t tried using compression in that manner. I’ll give it a shot. I tend to be “light” with my use of compression because I don’t really like the idea of reducing the effective dynamic range. But I know compression can make a big difference in the sound. Definitely still learning about all this stuff!

In an earlier mix I tried EQing with more low end, but it was coming out kind of “boomy” and not capturing the sound I wanted. I didn’t spend much time on it, though. Experimenting some more with that (and “notching” out offensive frequencies) would be a worthwhile learning exercise, I think.

Absolutely. I appreciate feedback, suggestions, and criticism: positive or negative and everything in between. Feedback that gives me something to consider, try out, or work on is especially welcome! :slight_smile:

Thank you for sharing that; it’s a beautiful piece, exceptionally well played.

Indeed! Me, too.


@dobleA In the spirit of Justin’s Song Facts that he includes in his recent free songbook for Christmas, “How Great Thou Art” started out as a Swedish hymn “O Store Gut”. I was surprised to discover in Wikipedia that it was translated to German and Russian 13 years before it was translated into English, where it has become the 2nd most popular hymn in the English speaking world. The Spanish version is “Cuan grande es El”


Good point on dynamics. Though I have experimented with compression and even limiters on the master track. To my poor ears I can’t really hear it when using a even a large amount of compression Though with limiters I do tend to use as little as possible. Point was just to try it and see how it works for you.

At least you tried and that is good. Probably not worth fooling with it after that if you did not like it the first time around.

Glad you took it as it was intended and that was my hope!

Take good care, keep rocking and go big in 2023! Looking forward to new offerings from you!

Wow, this was awesome!

You got some serious skills there :+1:

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Thank you, Travis!

Beautifully played, produced, and, especially, sung. You have a marvelous voice reminiscent of Elvis singing gospel. For a smokin’ devil, you play a mean hymn.

Having grown up as the preacher’s step-kid, I’m ambivalent about worship music, though the music was the only good thing about compulsory church attendance. I got ample chance to play grand pianos & pipe organs.

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That was captivating. Wonderful performance.

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