Experienced Church Pianist vs. Inexperienced Leader

If you have been a church pianist for very long or played in different churches as church pianist…then you may have run across this scenario…”playing for an inexperienced leader”.

The intention of this article is not meant to minimize the willingness and faithfulness of the inexperienced leader but rather to give constructive pointers to church pianists on how to deal with such a situation.

My dad, who was my first leader to follow,  emphasized to me the importance of the pianist following the leader.  I’m thankful for his teaching and preparing me for my role as church pianist.  He was the best teacher!

Over time, through experience…I have learned there are exceptions to rules 🙂

I have had to play for at least several different leaders in various situations who  just didn’t know “how” to lead and were doing the best they could.  Not all of them were non-musical people either.  I’ve had the joy of helping some of those leaders along…ONLY because of having a trusting relationship with them; giving me the liberty to do so.

I’ve found it necessary to “lead” as a pianist in some cases IF it was the only way to keep everyone singing together at the same tempo.

On occasion, when a lay person in our church has had to  substitute  for our regular leader…he will ask me before the service… to help him during congregational singing by keeping things moving since he’s not comfortable with leading.

The following video (taken from the 2013 Wild’s Music Conference) contains more discussion about this topic of “The Experienced Church Pianist vs. The Inexperienced Leader.”

My favorite quotes from the video:

“Part of our role is… we’re support, we’re ministry, we’re behind-the-scenes…serving and helping someone else try to do their job effectively…part of the philosophy of being a good church pianist.”  

 ~   ~   Faye Lopez   ~   ~

“You can infuse the service with energy and vitality in the singing…from the keyboard.” 

~   ~   Duane Ream   ~   ~

Enjoy the following brief… yet informative video on:

“The Experienced Church Pianist vs. The Inexperienced Leader”

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4 Responses to “Experienced Church Pianist vs. Inexperienced Leader”

  1. Ana says:

    Thanks for posting, very helpful and encouraging tips.

  2. Victoria says:

    Those are great quotes! Thank you for sharing this. Here in England, my dad leads the singing at our church. He took a class on leading in Bible college, so he’s easy to follow. However, traditionally, churches here don’t have a song leader. Someone will announce the page number and then step back. So it’s basically up to the pianist to ‘lead’ the singing!

    Through experience, I’ve also found that it can often be the pianist who ‘infuses the service with energy and vitality’ as Mr. Ream said. If the pianist plays quietly, the congregation tends to sing more quietly, and etc…

    Great thoughts!

  3. Ashley says:

    At my church the music is mostly pianist-led. In the past, I had to work with a leader who would only swing his arm when he wanted the music to go faster, which was quite often. I don’t mean at a more spirited tempo; I mean so ridiculously and unreasonably fast that no one could even sing and manage to spit out all the words, let alone expect the pianist to keep up. I remember one particular occasion I had reached the point where I could simply could play no faster, and still he kept swinging his arm trying to make it go faster. At this point I had two choices: 1.Stop playing and let him go as fast as he wanted, or 2.Ignore him and continue playing at a speed I could manage. Of course I chose the latter option. Any better suggestions what to do in that sort of situation?

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