And Can it Be on the acoustic guitar


In the spirit of making old hymns available to the current world of guitar-wielding worship leaders, I recorded a video of Charles Wesley’s great old hymn And Can It Be That I Should Gain.  I personally think this is one of the best hymns ever written, and though the melody is challenging, I have found that by moving it down to E major, it is singable for most voices.  We’ve loved singing it in my congregation.  I hope you might enjoy it, too.

I’ve also got chords here if you would like them: And Can it Be (D,E).


19 Responses to “And Can it Be on the acoustic guitar”

  1. H-m-m… Different strokes for different folks, I guess. But I don’t think the hippy-hop guitar rhythm reflects the majesty and power of this hymn–one of the greatest in the English language. Needs a pipe organ! And “the current world of guitar-wielding worship leaders” fortunately does not describe every congregation. The instrument works okay with some hymns, but even singing a cappella would be better than guitar for others. (Just another point of view.)

    • 2 churchmusicblog

      Thanks for watching and thanks for your comment! Just a couple of thoughts:

      We share the sentiment that And Can it Be is one of the greatest hymns in the English language. And that’s why I want more people to sing it–so they’ll be blessed by its powerful Gospel message and beautiful music.

      But, unfortunately, a basic, used pipe organ costs no less than $10,000. (A decent guitar can be had for $800.) Should churches that can’t afford a pipe organ not be allowed to sing this song? My church in Washington, DC, for example, cannot afford the several million $ it would cost us to purchase our own building. So purchasing and installing a pipe organ is not an option for us. But we love this hymn and would like to sing it. So we’ve arranged it in a way that works with the instruments we have.

      I think it’s a question worth considering: should only churches with pipe organs (and the payroll to afford classically trained musicians) be able to sing the great old hymns? Unfortunately, in practice, this is often what happens. Guitar-players think, “I can’t do this song on the guitar,” so they just write new ones. (But often the new ones are not as rich and powerful as the old.) So, then those old hymns begin to slowly die out and stop being used.

      However, if those hymns are able to be translated into different musical contexts (like a guitar-led band), then hopefully they will survive and flourish and continue to bless the Church. That’s what I’m hoping will happen with And Can it Be.

      Just a thought. Again, thanks for the comment!

      • Amen brother!

        Let us encourage one another in love founded in Christ instead of making discouraging remarks on non-core issues.

        “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” 1 Cor 8:1

  2. Well done, Wendell! It sounds like a rendition I would do! And though it also so good on an organ, the guitar is becoming more and more accessible to upcoming generations. I’ve only found one congregation in Peru that uses an organ.

    Thanks for sharing.!

    Allen Smith

    • 5 churchmusicblog

      Thanks, Allen! Good to hear from you.

  3. Beautiful! Thanks for sharing this old hymn in a new way.


  4. Wendell:

    Thank you for sharing this song. I am a youth worker at a Methodist church, and I also lead worship. I love this hymn, and this is the prefect arrangement for our contemporary service and youth group.

    I love hearing it in our sanctuary with the big pipe organ, but guitar works for me as well. I hope that you continue to share your favorite hymns. This is a great resource for the rest of us who lack the talent.



  5. 8 Hong

    Your music is wonderful. It turned out I had to lead the congregation to sing this hymn last Sunday. I have to spend hours to learn this hymn. We used piano… I wish I can play the guitar like you.

    Please show us more wonder hymns.

    God bless…


  6. 9 mark aquino

    Thank you for sharing the talent God has given you. You are an example of a great steward of God’s blessings. Please share more old time gospel songs…. I love to play and sing for Jesus. Not very good but willing to learn and be used of Him…. to bless others like what you do….

  7. 10 Levi Blatchford

    THANK YOU FOR THIS HYMN I have been trying to play it with no luck can you include the tab I cant make out some of the chords that you are using and would like you to explain the strum if you could I WOULD really like that thank you and God bless

    • 11 churchmusicblog

      Thanks, Levi. Glad you like it. The chords are linked on the blog, just below where the video is embedded. I can try to do a more in-depth demonstration video at some point.

      • Yes please! That would be really helpful. 🙂

  8. 13 Warren

    Great arrangement!!! Could you please break down the strumming patterns a bit? Seems like you have a lot going on there with a bass line, melody, muting, etc.

  9. 14 Randy Westerberg

    I’m so happy I found you on youtube. I love the songs you’re putting together, and I’m going to be using them in my church. I found “Lift Up Your Heads Ye Mighty Gates, ” and I’m going to use it this Palm Sunday. It is so fitting, and the words are so rich. Thank you!

    • 15 churchmusicblog

      Thanks, Randy. So glad you’re finding these songs useful.

  10. Rand, you feel that money is a barrier to organ-purchasing. I have a suggestion that would cost far less and be a delight a lot of folk in your congregation.

    Watch the faces of all those elderly people (and the classical musicians) in the congregation as you announce that, very soon, they will be able to sing the old hymns in the way they were intended to be heard, viz: to an organ accompaniment and to the rhythm that the composer intended. Wait for the hands to clap! The way you achieve this, their heaven on earth, is to round up some audio gear from within the congregation while you browse the net for a volume of MP3 accompaniments. Yes, organ accompaniments – in some cases, a choir or a congregation as well! Wow!

    The cost? Laughable. And there are a great many companies in the USA offering the same.

    (I’m a hymnist – a writer of hymn lyrics with the Jubilate Group –

    • There are also some pretty decent organ sounds on keyboards these days, as well. I’ve sung with some top notch choirs that take advantage of that. It’s possible!

  11. I tend not to drop many responses, however after browsing through a
    few of the comments here And Can it Be on the acoustic guitar | church
    music blog. I actually do have a few questions for you if it’s allright. Is it just me or does it seem like a few of the remarks appear as if they are written by brain dead people? 😛 And, if you are posting at other sites, I’d like to keep up with everything fresh you have to post.
    Would you list of all of your social community sites like your twitter feed, Facebook page or linkedin profile?

  12. I totally get what Robert shared up at the top — it would be GRAND to do this hymn with full regalia of pipe organ…. but in all the different churches I’ve been in and visited, over a few decades now (whew!), I think it’s only happened for me with this song once. It’s always been with piano…. then, just voices in the jungles with other missionaries, and then with guitar when we figured out the chords. It’s a wonderful wonderful message and melody. I personally like a richer strum and a bit slower on this, to catch the majesty of the giant message in the lyrics…. but it’s good no matter what. Keep pickin’, brother!

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