Johann Friedrich Schwencke attended the Johanneum School of Scholars in Hamburg. He received theory and composition lessons from his father as well as lessons in cello , clarinet , piano and organ from various of his father's colleagues and students. His first compositions, Six Songs , appeared in 1820.
In 1829 he became organist at the main church of St. Nikolai in Hamburg and stayed there until the end of his life. During his term of office, the church was destroyed by the Hamburg fire in 1842 and the start of its monumental new building, which he did not live to see completed.
He primarily composed and arranged church music. In 1832 he published the chorale book for the Hamburg hymn book, which he reworked after the new hymn book edition in 1842. It was widely distributed and went through 16 editions until 1898. In 1833 he arranged the melodies for the new Israelite hymnal for the Hamburg reform synagogue, the Israelite Temple . Schwencke's Serenade in C major , which was published in various arrangements until the end of the 19th century, was particularly popular .
When he died in 1852, his son Friedrich Gottlieb Schwencke (1823–1896) succeeded him as organist at St. Nikolai.