What is your go- to Christmas album? What did your parents put in the tape or CD player while you decorated the tree or drove around the neighborhood looking at Christmas lights?
I’ll bet you have a couple favorite songs or artists that you go back to every single year once the holidays season arrives.
Christmas music has the potential to become a part of family traditions, something that is brought back out and listened to year after year throughout your whole life, and even the lives of your kids!
I’ve been a part of the learning and recording process of around 15 Christmas songs over the years, and every year am faced with the challenge of choosing the right songs and arranging them to fit with our Gardiner Sisters acoustic sound.
Here are a few things to think about when working Christmas songs into your repertoire:
Pay tribute to your childhood favorites.
One of my favorite Christmas albums from my childhood that I listened to all year long was Jump5’s “All The Joy in The World”
I remember rocking out to “Joy To The World” with Allie and Mandi in the back seat of our family van on our summer road trip through Canada. Bless our parents’ hearts!
We loved that album so much that years later, we released our own version of Jump5’s arrangement of “A Strange Way to Save the World”.
Another of our family staples is SheDaisy’s Brand New Year album. We covered their version of “Jingle Bells” because it’s just BRILLIANT. It doesn’t sound anything like the Jingle Bells we know and love, and I think that’s what makes it so special!
I remember decorating Christmas cookies with my sisters while jamming out to Donny Osmond’s Christmas at Home album when we were kids (I could only find it on YouTube here…looks like we’ve got an heirloom! ha!). My love for Mr. Donny Osmond led me to draw inspiration from his upbeat version of “Angels We Have Heard on High” for our own that I arranged a couple years ago.
Show traditional and public domain Christmas songs some love.
The beautiful thing about songs like Angels We Have Heard on High , Joy to the World, and The First Noel is that they were written so long ago that there’s no record label, publishing company or songwriter who owns the license, meaning they are public domain. You don’t have to pay a percentage or a royalty to anyone, so you get to keep a greater share of the revenue.
And as an artist, you get the chance to refresh a song that everyone already knows and make it yours.
That’s what I call a WIN WIN!
Capture the Christmas magic.
You can get away with sounds in Christmas music that maybe wouldn’t fit into your original music. I’m all about adding the sparkling chimes, the choir background vocals, and jingling bells, as long as it’s not too over the top. Listen back to some of your favorite Christmas songs and pick out elements in the production that make it feel seasonal and festive, then add those into your own arrangements.
It’s still my dream to one day arrange and produce a Christmas album full of our favorite classic songs that families can pull out and listen to year after year together. I love Michael Buble’s Christmas album for that very reason- it feels absolutely magical with all the orchestration, horn section and dreamy harmonies. I’ll be putting that on my Christmas wish list every year until it happens!