When I started playing gospel piano for my ministry, I was super excited. I was at the skill level that I could figure out the main chords to a song without too much difficulty, and I had learned the common patterns and progressions found in gospel music. One evening, eager to improve my skills, I asked my husband for his opinion on how I played the piano during the church service. I was crushed and disappointed when he told me that I played well, but that all my songs sounded the same and were kind of boring. Looking back on it, he was absolutely right. When I played a song, I played it the exact same way every time. What’s worse is that oftentimes, I would start playing a popular song, and the congregation would have no clue what I was playing unless I started singing the lyrics. Once, I even started playing a song, and the congregation started singing something completely different because they were confused about what I was playing. (Talk about embarrassing). I played well, but I still didn’t have that it factor that more advanced musicians seemed to have. Determined to overcome these problems, I analyzed the way that more seasoned musicians play gospel piano. It didn’t take long for me to learn these must-have strategies for playing gospel piano like a pro: 1. When playing contemporary songs, learn song intros the way they are recorded on albums. Most songs are made of the same chord progressions, so of course, they will sound similar to each other. What makes songs sound more unique are the song intros. Once I started doing this, the district choir director announced to the entire choir, “you know Carol is getting good – she is playing song intros like on the albums!” 2. By using the circle of 5ths, I was able to start using passing movements to help me make songs more interesting while maintaining their integrity. 3. Play the melody so people can quickly and accurately identify what songs you are playing. Start implementing these strategies, and you’ll be on your way to sounding more advanced in no time.
-Carol Bonner, CEO & Founder