accompanying

Creative and Practical Hymn Harmonization Resources for Church Musicians

Creative and Practical Hymn Harmonization Resources for Church Musicians

Hymn harmonizations are a great way to add musical interest to your hymn-playing and congregational singing. Use them to highlight particular verses, create a certain mood or expression, or heighten an important point in the worship service.

The trouble is, where do you find these hymn harmonizations?

Your denomination may have a few hymnal supplements available, offering some re-harmonizations, but these can be expensive and sometimes, not all that exciting.

13 Ways to Continue Developing Your Keyboard Skills This Year

13 Ways to Continue Developing Your Keyboard Skills This Year

I wasn’t really familiar with the term keyboard skills until I was in grad school, flipping through the course catalog one semester. The course description piqued my interest:

"Practical experience in score reading, figured bass realization, transposition, melody harmonization, and pop symbols.”

Needless to say, I signed up.

How to Read Lead Sheets and Chord Charts

How to Read Lead Sheets and Chord Charts

You want me to play that? Where is the left hand part? Where is the time signature? Why aren't there any barlines?

If you haven't guessed it by now, I'm talking about lead sheets and chord charts.

Last year, I put together a free online workshop on this topic (watch it here). Today, I want to share the transcript, for those of you that may prefer to read it. I’ll talk about chord types, chord symbols, lead sheets and chord charts, accompaniment styles, and variation techniques you can start using right away.

A Quick Tip for Transposing at Sight (for Piano Accompanists Everywhere)

A Quick Tip for Transposing at Sight (for Piano Accompanists Everywhere)

Have you ever been rehearsing an anthem with your choir and thought, "If only this were a half-step lower,"or practicing a song for Sunday and thought, "This feels a little low. I wish I had it in a higher key.”?

Chances are, if you’ve been in ministry long enough, you’ve had moments like these.

Transposing, or playing/singing something in another key (e.g. moving the notes of a piece up or down by a certain interval) is a practical and at times, very useful skill for all church musicians, teachers, and accompanists to have.

Creating Unique Musical Underscores for Worship: My Step-By-Step Approach

Creating Unique Musical Underscores for Worship: My Step-By-Step Approach

You know when you go see a movie and you get a feeling for what’s about to happen before it happens? It’s not the dialogue that does that, it’s the musical underscoring.

A musical underscore is music played underneath dialogue or acting of some kind, often to help set the scene or create a mood. (source)

In movies, it heightens our emotions and helps us connect to the story and the characters in a more personal way.

The same is true for worship.

"Come, Christians, Join to Play!" and 12 Other Piano Duet Books for Worship

"Come, Christians, Join to Play!" and 12 Other Piano Duet Books for Worship

Piano duets are a fun way to include other pianists from your congregation and add something special to your worship services. Plus, they’re just fun in general, am I right?

In my experience, even small churches have at least one person in the congregation who has some playing experience. Often, they just need to be asked and invited to participate.

Reach out to a few people in your choir or congregation who you know play the piano and ask if they’d be interested in playing a duet with you in worship sometime. If so, choose a collection (I recommend purchasing two copies so you can each have one to practice with). 

Find a time when you can get together to practice.

If the person you’re playing with is fairly accomplished and feels comfortable sight-reading, spend some time reading through some of the pieces to get a feel for what they sound like with both parts. If that’s not realistic, choose a few pieces to begin working on, decide who will play what part, and set up a few rehearsals in the coming weeks.

What I Purchased This Summer: New Piano and Organ Books

What I Purchased This Summer: New Piano and Organ Books

What will I play on Sunday?

As all church musicians know, it can be a struggle to find interesting but accessible arrangements that are well-written to play in worship week after week. 

A few years ago, I wrote these posts about some of my favorite organ and piano books:

10 Practical Collections for the Church Organist
Tried-and-True Favorite Collections for the Church Pianist

These collections are still great, but I’ve since updated my own library a bit and come across some new books I thought I’d recommend. So, in case you’re looking for some fresh new music for this year, here are my newest organ and piano books:

New! Online Keyboard Skills Class for Church Musicians

New! Online Keyboard Skills Class for Church Musicians

Music school is great, but if you want to be a church musician in the 21st century, there are lots of things you're left to figure out on your own - things that simply aren't taught in most schools or private studios.

This includes:

  • playing and singing or playing and conducting at the same time
  • accompanying and supporting choral and congregational singing
  • harmonizing melodies (with and without chord symbols)
  • finding cadence points and vamping in the moment
  • creating modulations and transposing at sight
  • improvising transitions and creating musical underscores
  • playing 5-finger patterns in all 24 keys (12 major, 12 minor)

And the list goes on. Where do you start? How do you learn and develop these skills?

If you can relate to any of this, then this course is for you.

How to Read Lead Sheets and Chord Charts [Video]

How to Read Lead Sheets and Chord Charts [Video]

You want me to play that? Where is the left hand part? Where is the time signature? Why aren't there any barlines?

If you haven't guessed it by now, I'm talking about lead sheets and chord charts.

I'm mixing things up today and offering this post as a mini online workshop!

So, grab a pen and a piece of paper (or better yet, print out the corresponding practice files - there's a notes page at the end of the packet) and get ready for a crash course in how to read lead sheets and chord charts.

This will be especially relevant to those of you in more contemporary church settings, but I think you’ll find that the skills used in playing lead sheets and chord charts are skills we can all use - these are just basic musicianship skills, for the most part.

So even if you’re not in a situation where you're playing from lead sheets on a regular basis, I think you’ll find the skills useful in the work you do - from harmonizing to composing to playing more by ear to developing flexibility, and more.

Enjoy! (And P.S. Be sure to watch to the end for an exciting announcement!)

Must-Have Skills for the 21st Century Church Musician

Must-Have Skills for the 21st Century Church Musician

I started my first "real" church job when I was 17. It was a small Methodist church in south Georgia with one Sunday morning service, an adult choir of about 12 and a children's choir of about six. I was still learning to play the organ at the time and played most of the service from the upright piano in the front of the church. I dove head-first into worship planning, liturgy, and choir anthems and loved every minute of it.

My next job was as a Music Intern at a large Methodist church in north Georgia. I did administrative work for the children's choir program; accompanied the youth choir and women's choir, and adult choir, on occasion; played hymns and solo music in three weekly services; and substitute taught handbells, children's choir, and children's chime choir. I learned so much and gained so much practical experience during those two years.

Since then, I've served four other congregations as Organist/Accompanist, Music Director, Handbell Director, and now Director of Worship Arts.

All that to say - as church musicians, we wear lots of hats.