Tips for the Church Pianist Part 1

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending the first Grace Music Collective, an instrumental workshop designed to train musicians how to better serve in the church.  The seminar was hosted at Grace Baptist Church, and sessions included acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass guitar, drums, and keyboard.

I was so excited to be able to attend the “Keyboard in Worship” session by John Martin!  While piano was my primary instrument in college, my training was primarily classically focused and, for the most part, did not prepare me to play in a modern worship setting.  I’ve been trying to teach myself, but as playing by ear doesn’t come naturally to me, the task has been daunting.  

The first thing John did was put our role as a church pianist in perspective.

“Our Goal is to strive for undistracted excellence and pursue humility in all that we do so that Christ will be honored”.

As a pianist, our range spans that of the entire band, and we have the ability to “step all over” the other instruments. It’s tempting and often fun to play more complicated parts –  but that’s often not where we’re needed.

“The hardest thing to play well is to play simply and know when not to play.”

When we are playing for congregational worship, our attitude must be one of service.  Our job is to lead the congregation in worship through our excellence in our craft.  Sometimes excellence might mean playing whole notes to add the extra harmonic support.

While John’s focus was making sure our hearts were in the right place, these words lifted a huge weight.  I don’t have to be an improv virtuoso, before I can serve!  It may sound silly, but that was something I’ve often struggled with.  Instead, I can focus on simple techniques that can bring the added support to the band and ultimately to the congregation.

When we covered concepts and practical applications, I was honestly surprised by how much it made sense when John broke down what he was doing.  In the next few posts, I plan to share some of those concepts with you.

Posted with permission from John Martin and the Grace Baptist Leadership

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