Worship Piano/Keyboard Workshop

Worship Piano/Keyboard Workshop

Don't feel obligated to play anything to begin with.  Listen to the music and search for your part. “Be still and know that I am God..” Psalm 46:10 
-       If you're nervous and don't know what to play – take a deep breathe, wait, and enjoy the music. Let it come to you.  Keep it simple

Playing keys in a worship service - keep it simple!
 What is the keyboard's 'place' in the context of worship music?  “For the body is not made up of one part, but of many...  But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be”  I Corinthians 12:14,18
-       Is the worship in your church mostly guitar led, or keyboard led?  If its guitar led, pick little ditties or play passing notes here and there to fill things in.
-       When there is free worship or sharing, be sensitive to providing a quiet background wash – simple chords with no recognizable melody.  Change chords slowly, with precision.
-       Watch your posture.   Don’t stand with your hand on your hip.  Don’t make faces when you make a mistake if you can help it

Less is more  “I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Mark 10:15
-       Let notes sing their allotted time. Think of the notes as voices. Don't be concerned about trying to play too much. 
-       Rest, stillness, peace - 23rd Psalm.  How can we help people hear God (especially if He's talking with a still small voice)?

Be Prepared
-       I like to have 3 different ideas of how to play each song.  
-       A full band keyboard part (minimal – find motifs to fill in ‘blank’ areas)
-       An ensemble keyboard part (fuller keys, but not super busy)
-       Keys alone – you’re covering all the instrumental parts
-       (chords & rhythm)
-       upper RH plays melody
-       Are you prepared to switch keys?
-       Do you know which patches you want to use?
-       How will you manage dynamics/intensity changes?
-       Which arrangement of the song are you playing?  Do you know your part for that arrangement?
-       Try to learn the obvious keyboard parts or the arrangement by ear or by YouTube
-       Technique (scales, chording, arpeggios)
-       Helps with accuracy
-       Simple scales
-       Alternate short/long notes, strengthen fingers
-       Solid and broken chords
-       Alternate broken chord patterns
-       Alternate short/long notes
-       Arpeggios
-       Regular 1,3,5,1
-       Dominant 7:  13,5,7,1
-       Technical Considerations
-       Roland RD700GX, RD800, RD2000
-       Nord Stage3 or Action5
-       They compete in the same market
-       Stereo output, layered patches
-       I’ve seen hardware issues with both

-       Sound immensely better if output to stereo
Song Transitions
Playing with Technology (click, Ableton)

Keep it as simple as you can.
-       Octaves
-       Motifs
-       Dynamics
-       Rhythm
-       Tension with passing notes – accentuate them by stressing them louder and longer

How to play simply to almost any song
I've been playing keys in church for over 3 decades and tried lots of different ways to sound good.  Surprisingly, one can actually sound quite good by playing 2 notes in the Right Hand that never move, and follow the chords of the song with a single bass note (or octaves) in the Left Hand.  The two notes in the Right Hand that don't have to move are the I and the V (or a simple 5th interval in the key your playing.  Line them up in the charts below.  Sometimes the RH can change to use the 4th interval instead of the 5th.

Doodle notes (or passing notes) can be played in the spaces.  Experiment with different patters with them: octaves, hitting them twice in a row, different intensities, etc.  They can be super effective as well.  I have charts for most of the common keys that songs are played in below.

Key of C
                                  I                II                III                 IV                V                VI               VII
Song Sheet Chord
C
Dm
C/E
F
G
Am
G/B
RH
G
F
G
G
G
G
G
C
C
D or C
C
D
C
D
LH
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
Doodle notes
B,C,D,G
E,F,G,C
B,C,D,G
E,F,G,C
B,C,D,G
B,C,D,G
B,C,D,G

Key of D
                                  I                II                III                 IV                V                VI               VII
Song Sheet Chord
D
Em
D/F#
G
A
Bm
A/C#
RH
A
G
A
A
A
A
A
D
D
E or D
D
E
D
E
LH
D
E
F#
G
A
B
C#
Doodle notes
C#,D,E,A
F#,G,A D
C#,D,E,A
F#,G,A,D
C#,D,E,A
C#,D,E,A
C#,D,E,A

Key of E
                               I                  II                III                  IV                 V                VI                VII
Song Sheet Chord
E
F#m
E/G#
A
B
C#m
B/D#
RH
B
A
B
B
B
B
B
E
E
F# or E
E
F#
E
F#
LH
E
F#
G#
A
B
C#
D#
Doodle notes
D#,E,F#,B
G#,A,B,E
D#,E,F#,B
G#,A,B,E
D#,E,F#,B
D#,E,F#,B
D#,E,F#,B

Key of G
           
Song Sheet Chord
G
Am
G/B
C
D
Em
D/F#
RH
D
C
D
D
D
D
D
G
G
G or A
G
A
G
A
LH
G
A
B
C
D
E
F#
Doodle notes
F#,G,A,D
B,C,D,G
F#,G,A,D
B,C,D,G
F#,G,A,D
F#,G,A,D
F#,G,A,D

Key of A
                                   I                II                III                 IV                V                VI               VII
Song Sheet Chord
A
Bm
A/C#
D
E
F#m
B/G#
RH
E
D
E
E
E
E
E
A
A
B or A
A
B
A
B
LH
A
B
C#
D
E
F#
G#
Doodle notes
G#,A,B,E
C#,D,E,A
G#,A,B,E
C#,D,E,A
G#,A,B,E
G#,A,B,E
G#,A,B,E

Key of Bb
                                    I                II                III                 IV                V                VI               VII
Song Sheet Chord
Bb
Cm
Bb/D
Eb
F
Gm
F/A
RH
F
Eb
F
F
F
F
F
Bb
Bb
C or Bb
Bb
C
Bb
C
LH
Bb
C
D
Eb
F
G
A
Doodle notes
A,Bb,C,F
D,Eb,F, Bb
A,Bb,C,F
D,Eb,F, Bb
A,Bb,C,F
A,Bb,C,F
A,Bb,C,F

Key of F
                                I                  II                III                  IV                 V                VI                VII
Song Sheet Chord
F
Gm
F/A
Bb
C
Dm
C/E
RH
C
Bb
C
C
C
C
C
F
F
G or F
F
G
F
G
LH
F
G
A
Bb
C
D
E
Doodle notes
E,F,G,C
A,Bb,C,F
E,F,G,C
A,Bb,C,F
E,F,G,C
E,F,G,C
E,F,G,C

Key of Eb
           
Song Sheet Chord
Eb
Fm
Eb/G
Ab
Bb
Cm
Bb/D
RH
Bb
Ab
Bb
Bb
Bb
Bb
Bb
Eb
Eb
Eb or F
Eb
F
Eb
F
LH
Eb
F
G
Ab
Bb
C
D
Doodle notes
D,Eb,F,
Bb
G,Ab,Bb,
Eb
D,Eb,F,
Bb
G,Ab,Bb,
Eb
D,Eb,F,
Bb
D,Eb,F,
Bb
D,Eb,F,
Bb


Songs where Rhythm is important:
-       You Are Good (Israel Houghton)   Key of E
o   Shots are important in this song
o   Syncopated Rhythm between LH and RH in chorus
-       Forever (MWS)  Key of E
o   Certain chords held in verses, certain chords follow vocals
o   Syncopated Rhythm between LH and RH in chorus
-       Everlasting God  Key of G
o   Bridge – syncopated bass in LH with RH keeping straight beat playing 5th's
-       How Great is Our God (Chris Tomlin – live version)  Key of E
o   Simply keyboard rhythm with RH - super powerful


Songs with a strong Key melody (that you should know):
-       No Longer Slaves    Key of D
o   Really important to get the instrumental correct (as that is what people ‘generally’ expect to hear)
o   Use octave key?
-       Our God is Greater (Chris Tomlin)  Key of G
o   Piano with strings layered – again, people are listening for this riff
-       I Will Exalt    Key of D
o   Intro & instrumentals – good learn.
-       Great Are You Lord (Bridge)   Key of E
o   The bridge – keys carry it to begin and can really build intensity
o   Solid low piano notes can really add ‘umph’!
-       This is Amazing Grace   Key of D
o   Intro instrumental and chorus – people will be listening for this
-       At Your Name   Key of E
o   Intro


Songs with space (where you can add your own doodles/motifs):
-       Amazing Grace/My Chains are Gone    Key of E
o   The fantastic scale down in the chorus (listen for counter melodies)
o   Octaves
-       Jesus We Love You     Key of G
o   Passing notes/chords with a rhythm can take this song to another level
o   Special chords and riffs
o   How do I play this on the grand piano?
o   Bridge is key in this song (getting the chords correct)
-       How He Loves (He is jealous for me…)    Key of E
o   The passing note riffs
o   Octave builds
-       Come As You are    Key of C or A
o   Intro – good to learn
o   Lots of space in the chorus – great place for tasteful motifs
-       All Who are Thirsty     Key of E
o   Passing notes in verses
o   Octave scale ups in chorus where there’s space

Fast songs – good for an organ patch
-       Happy Day    Key of D
-       The Happy Song     Key of D
-       You Are Good (Bethel)    Key of G
-       Let God Arise     Key of E
-       General tips for playing with an organ patch:
o   If there is a manual vibrato, USE IT!!  J  It will make your organ sound great!
o   Play higher on the keyboard than you normally would.
o   NEVER use you left hand to play keys on the organ patch
o   NEVER use the pedal on the patch
o   Slide up and down the keys!

Songs with Passing Chords
-       The Stand     Key of G or A
o   In the pre-chorus ‘What can I say…’
-       This is Amazing Grace     Key of D
o   The 70’s version
-       Jesus, We Love You  Key of G
o   The whole song

Other songs
-       Praises     Key of G
o   Falling scale passing notes
o   Lots of space in chorus for adding motifs and riffs
-       I am a Friend of God    Key of A
o   Either use organ patch with a bigger band, or
o   Piano with a smaller band, and tear it up
-       Good Good Father     Key of E
o   Dynamics are important
o   3 note riff in chorus (Chris Tomlin’s version) that sounds great and is quite simple – Just have to master the rhythm.
-       Hosanna (Praise is rising….)    Key of G

-       Agnus Dei (MWS)       Key of A
      I Will Boast (Hillsong)    Key of B

  Simple Chord Charts to Practice
   - I Will Exalt
   - Amazing Love
   - Praises
   - Great Are You Lord


PDF Version of these notes

Click here for a Spotify playlist of the songs above
Note that the keyboard may NOT be the predominant instrument in many of the songs.  The playlist is for reference.  I'll give examples of what I do for many of the songs in the session.


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